Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dick Cheney

Did Terrorist Detainees’ Lawyers Endanger CIA Agents?

Eli Lake reports:

Covertly taken photos of CIA interrogators that were shown by defense attorneys to al Qaeda inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison represent a more serious security breach than the 2003 outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the agency’s former general counsel said Wednesday.

John Rizzo, who was the agency’s top attorney until December, said in an interview that he initially requested the Justice Department and CIA investigation into the compromise of CIA interrogators’ identities after photographs of the officers were found in the cell of one al Qaeda terrorist in Cuba.

Recall that Guantanamo detainees — some of whom may now have been released back to their home countries (and returned to the battlefield, given the rate of recidivism) — were shown pictures of CIA agents by their attorneys. The danger to these public servants is acute:

“Well I think this is far more serious than Valerie Plame,” Mr. Rizzo said after a breakfast speech. “That was clearly illegal, outing a covert officer. I am not downplaying that. But this is far more serious.”

“This was not leaked to a columnist,” he added. “These were pictures of undercover people who were involved in the interrogations program given for identification purposes to the 9/11 [terrorists].”

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is now investigating the matter. At this stage, we know that “the photographs appeared to have been taken by private investigators for the John Adams Project, which is jointly backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.” As Lake notes, serious violations of law may have occurred:

One possible crime would be the “disclosure of classified information, being the faces of these people, to an enemy foreign power,” Mr. Rizzo said.

Mr. Rizzo said the other possible law the pro-bono attorneys may have violated would be the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), the same law Mr. Fitzgerald initially investigated in Mrs. Plame’s case. No one in the Plame case was prosecuted under that statute. A former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., was convicted of lying to investigators and later partially pardoned.

We will see what Fitzgerald turns up. But the potential that lawyers illegally disclosed materials to terrorists and thereby endangered CIA agents should remind us of the mentality of those who claimed to be defending our “values” as they litigated against the U.S.

Eli Lake reports:

Covertly taken photos of CIA interrogators that were shown by defense attorneys to al Qaeda inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison represent a more serious security breach than the 2003 outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the agency’s former general counsel said Wednesday.

John Rizzo, who was the agency’s top attorney until December, said in an interview that he initially requested the Justice Department and CIA investigation into the compromise of CIA interrogators’ identities after photographs of the officers were found in the cell of one al Qaeda terrorist in Cuba.

Recall that Guantanamo detainees — some of whom may now have been released back to their home countries (and returned to the battlefield, given the rate of recidivism) — were shown pictures of CIA agents by their attorneys. The danger to these public servants is acute:

“Well I think this is far more serious than Valerie Plame,” Mr. Rizzo said after a breakfast speech. “That was clearly illegal, outing a covert officer. I am not downplaying that. But this is far more serious.”

“This was not leaked to a columnist,” he added. “These were pictures of undercover people who were involved in the interrogations program given for identification purposes to the 9/11 [terrorists].”

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is now investigating the matter. At this stage, we know that “the photographs appeared to have been taken by private investigators for the John Adams Project, which is jointly backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.” As Lake notes, serious violations of law may have occurred:

One possible crime would be the “disclosure of classified information, being the faces of these people, to an enemy foreign power,” Mr. Rizzo said.

Mr. Rizzo said the other possible law the pro-bono attorneys may have violated would be the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), the same law Mr. Fitzgerald initially investigated in Mrs. Plame’s case. No one in the Plame case was prosecuted under that statute. A former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., was convicted of lying to investigators and later partially pardoned.

We will see what Fitzgerald turns up. But the potential that lawyers illegally disclosed materials to terrorists and thereby endangered CIA agents should remind us of the mentality of those who claimed to be defending our “values” as they litigated against the U.S.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In case you thought Obama’s anti-Israel bent has gone unnoticed, Elliott Abrams reminds us: “My judgment is that most American Jews at this point think the Obama administration is simply unsympathetic to Israel, the president is unsympathetic to Israel. This has been a kind of sentiment in the community over the past year, though nobody wants to say much about it in public, partly because most Jews are Democrats. … The administration chose to make this a crisis. And the moment you see that is the use of the word condemn. We use condemn in diplomatic parlance almost exclusively for acts of murder and terror. We do not use it for acts of city planning.”

In case you thought the Orthodox Union didn’t have a sense of humor: “[W]e have to wonder — when we all are at Passover Seder Monday, and loudly declare: ‘NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM,’ will we all be subject to censure by the Administration? By the EU? By the UN? And what will they say at The White House seder? ‘Next year in a yet-to-be-negotiated part of Jerusalem?’ We think we should all say ‘next year in Jerusalem’ with a little more intent and oomph this year … and listen for the echoes.” Indeed.

In case you thought only Jews were fed up with Obama’s Jerusalem gambit, Quin Hillyer: “If the Jewish state can’t allow free people to build housing in Jerusalem, then the Irish state may as well not let Irish build in Dublin. And if the American administration tries to tell the Jewish state that it is wrong to merely advance by one mid-range step along a multi-step process towards permitting those buildings, then the Jewish PM has every right to tell the American administration the same thing Dick Cheney told the execrable Patrick Leahy.”

In case you had any doubt, Nick Gillespie shows why ObamaCare isn’t going to cut the deficit.

In case you thought health-care costs would go down, Verizon is already warning its employees to look out for the increase coming their way.

In case you doubted there was a fix for ObamaCare in sight in 2010: “A potential Republican majority may not be able to repeal healthcare reform, but they’d probably refuse to fund it, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today. … ‘It’s going to take appropriated funds to actually come through the process to fund the hiring of new employees to create these new bureaucracies,’ Boehner said. ‘I can’t imagine that a Republican Congress is going to give this president the money to begin this process.’”

In case you thought Obama won the battle for public opinion on health care: “A CBS News poll released Wednesday finds that nearly two in three Americans want Republicans in Congress to continue to challenge parts of the health care reform bill.”

In case you thought emptying Guantanamo was going to make us safer: “A former Guantanamo detainee transferred from the detention facility to Afghanistan on Dec. 19, 2009, has already returned to the Taliban’s ranks. … Despite the fact that Hafiz was implicated in the murder of an [International Red Cross] worker, and alleged to have substantial ties to senior Taliban officials, he was transferred to Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter, Hafiz rejoined the Taliban.”

In case you imagined the Obami anti-terror policies were inspiring confidence: “Confidence that America is winning the war on terror is down slightly this month, and belief that the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11 has hit its lowest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 35% of voters think America is safer now than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

In case you thought Obama’s anti-Israel bent has gone unnoticed, Elliott Abrams reminds us: “My judgment is that most American Jews at this point think the Obama administration is simply unsympathetic to Israel, the president is unsympathetic to Israel. This has been a kind of sentiment in the community over the past year, though nobody wants to say much about it in public, partly because most Jews are Democrats. … The administration chose to make this a crisis. And the moment you see that is the use of the word condemn. We use condemn in diplomatic parlance almost exclusively for acts of murder and terror. We do not use it for acts of city planning.”

In case you thought the Orthodox Union didn’t have a sense of humor: “[W]e have to wonder — when we all are at Passover Seder Monday, and loudly declare: ‘NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM,’ will we all be subject to censure by the Administration? By the EU? By the UN? And what will they say at The White House seder? ‘Next year in a yet-to-be-negotiated part of Jerusalem?’ We think we should all say ‘next year in Jerusalem’ with a little more intent and oomph this year … and listen for the echoes.” Indeed.

In case you thought only Jews were fed up with Obama’s Jerusalem gambit, Quin Hillyer: “If the Jewish state can’t allow free people to build housing in Jerusalem, then the Irish state may as well not let Irish build in Dublin. And if the American administration tries to tell the Jewish state that it is wrong to merely advance by one mid-range step along a multi-step process towards permitting those buildings, then the Jewish PM has every right to tell the American administration the same thing Dick Cheney told the execrable Patrick Leahy.”

In case you had any doubt, Nick Gillespie shows why ObamaCare isn’t going to cut the deficit.

In case you thought health-care costs would go down, Verizon is already warning its employees to look out for the increase coming their way.

In case you doubted there was a fix for ObamaCare in sight in 2010: “A potential Republican majority may not be able to repeal healthcare reform, but they’d probably refuse to fund it, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today. … ‘It’s going to take appropriated funds to actually come through the process to fund the hiring of new employees to create these new bureaucracies,’ Boehner said. ‘I can’t imagine that a Republican Congress is going to give this president the money to begin this process.’”

In case you thought Obama won the battle for public opinion on health care: “A CBS News poll released Wednesday finds that nearly two in three Americans want Republicans in Congress to continue to challenge parts of the health care reform bill.”

In case you thought emptying Guantanamo was going to make us safer: “A former Guantanamo detainee transferred from the detention facility to Afghanistan on Dec. 19, 2009, has already returned to the Taliban’s ranks. … Despite the fact that Hafiz was implicated in the murder of an [International Red Cross] worker, and alleged to have substantial ties to senior Taliban officials, he was transferred to Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter, Hafiz rejoined the Taliban.”

In case you imagined the Obami anti-terror policies were inspiring confidence: “Confidence that America is winning the war on terror is down slightly this month, and belief that the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11 has hit its lowest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 35% of voters think America is safer now than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The day after the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20. For President Obama, the Approval Index has been lower only once.” (Only a third of the response was post-summit, so we don’t know if he’s going downhill again because of or in spite of his latest “game changing” event.)

Not a headline the Obami want to see: “The aftermath of the health-care summit: Confusion, conflict.”

Forget about ObamaCare for a moment, Nancy Pelosi may not have votes for the jobs bill: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the $15 billion measure at a Friday news conference. But behind the scenes, House leaders were working to assuage Democratic members on the Reft and Right, whose very objections could doom the bill before it is placed on the schedule.”

Republican senate candidate Mike Castle is cruising in Delaware. House Democratic leaders are struggling to get their members to back the Senate-passed jobs bill, leadership aides said Friday.

Hillary Clinton on the administration’s efforts to aid the Iranian pro-democracy protesters doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence: “State is looking at what more we can do to work in partnership with the private sector to unblock Internet and to speak out against the abuses going on.” Looking at ways, you see. It seems there is always an excuse: “Some technology that we’d like to see used to unblock the Iranian Internet is very valuable technology. We have to be careful how it’s utilized so it doesn’t get in the wrong hands.” Like Chinese dissidents?

Phil Klein on Tom Campbell’s travails: “So, in 2000, Campbell was raising money from Muslim groups on the basis of his votes against Israel and his views on foreign policy, and now he’s claiming those same positions are being misrepresented. Meanwhile, a month after Sept. 11, he was willing to accept an award from a group that was pushing the view that the root causes of the attacks were poverty in the Muslim world as well as U.S. support for Israel. Either Campbell was misrepresenting himself then, or he’s misrepresenting himself now. It can’t be both.”

The Carly Fiorina campaign points to four Campbell donors from his 2000 failed senate campaign: “The campaign manager for former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina on Thursday criticized past donations to Campbell from four men. One was arrested for spying on Congress for Saddam Hussein. Another pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group. Campaign manager Marty Wilson said the donations reinforce a congressional voting record by Campbell that was decidedly anti-Israel. He noted that Campbell had voted to cut foreign aid to the country while he served in the House.”

After more than a year: “For the first time, former President George W. Bush has said publicly that he approves of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s high-profile role in defending the past administration’s national security policies. ‘I’m glad Cheney is out there,’ Bush said Friday morning at a reunion breakfast that was the inaugural event for the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association.”

J Street will be so disappointed if it loses a reliable Israel basher. Democrats seem to have another retirement: “Rep. William Delahunt blew nearly $560,000 in campaign cash last year — much of it on lavish meals and a family-friendly payroll that includes his ex-wife, son-in-law and daughter — stoking speculation the Quincy Democrat is emptying his war chest and won’t seek re-election.”

Desiree Rogers probably got lucky to leave on the same day Gov. David Paterson announced that he won’t run for re-election. Most people won’t be focused, then, on this sort of coverage: “The security fiasco at the state dinner for the prime minister of India proved to be an embarrassment, and when she tried to reassert herself, she was quickly shot down, forced into a lower profile. ‘Once the state dinner deal went down,’ said the official, ‘people who had other political agendas started micromanaging every part of her business.’” Ouch. Maybe it was the invocation of executive privilege that rubbed people the wrong way.

The day after the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20. For President Obama, the Approval Index has been lower only once.” (Only a third of the response was post-summit, so we don’t know if he’s going downhill again because of or in spite of his latest “game changing” event.)

Not a headline the Obami want to see: “The aftermath of the health-care summit: Confusion, conflict.”

Forget about ObamaCare for a moment, Nancy Pelosi may not have votes for the jobs bill: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the $15 billion measure at a Friday news conference. But behind the scenes, House leaders were working to assuage Democratic members on the Reft and Right, whose very objections could doom the bill before it is placed on the schedule.”

Republican senate candidate Mike Castle is cruising in Delaware. House Democratic leaders are struggling to get their members to back the Senate-passed jobs bill, leadership aides said Friday.

Hillary Clinton on the administration’s efforts to aid the Iranian pro-democracy protesters doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence: “State is looking at what more we can do to work in partnership with the private sector to unblock Internet and to speak out against the abuses going on.” Looking at ways, you see. It seems there is always an excuse: “Some technology that we’d like to see used to unblock the Iranian Internet is very valuable technology. We have to be careful how it’s utilized so it doesn’t get in the wrong hands.” Like Chinese dissidents?

Phil Klein on Tom Campbell’s travails: “So, in 2000, Campbell was raising money from Muslim groups on the basis of his votes against Israel and his views on foreign policy, and now he’s claiming those same positions are being misrepresented. Meanwhile, a month after Sept. 11, he was willing to accept an award from a group that was pushing the view that the root causes of the attacks were poverty in the Muslim world as well as U.S. support for Israel. Either Campbell was misrepresenting himself then, or he’s misrepresenting himself now. It can’t be both.”

The Carly Fiorina campaign points to four Campbell donors from his 2000 failed senate campaign: “The campaign manager for former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina on Thursday criticized past donations to Campbell from four men. One was arrested for spying on Congress for Saddam Hussein. Another pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group. Campaign manager Marty Wilson said the donations reinforce a congressional voting record by Campbell that was decidedly anti-Israel. He noted that Campbell had voted to cut foreign aid to the country while he served in the House.”

After more than a year: “For the first time, former President George W. Bush has said publicly that he approves of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s high-profile role in defending the past administration’s national security policies. ‘I’m glad Cheney is out there,’ Bush said Friday morning at a reunion breakfast that was the inaugural event for the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association.”

J Street will be so disappointed if it loses a reliable Israel basher. Democrats seem to have another retirement: “Rep. William Delahunt blew nearly $560,000 in campaign cash last year — much of it on lavish meals and a family-friendly payroll that includes his ex-wife, son-in-law and daughter — stoking speculation the Quincy Democrat is emptying his war chest and won’t seek re-election.”

Desiree Rogers probably got lucky to leave on the same day Gov. David Paterson announced that he won’t run for re-election. Most people won’t be focused, then, on this sort of coverage: “The security fiasco at the state dinner for the prime minister of India proved to be an embarrassment, and when she tried to reassert herself, she was quickly shot down, forced into a lower profile. ‘Once the state dinner deal went down,’ said the official, ‘people who had other political agendas started micromanaging every part of her business.’” Ouch. Maybe it was the invocation of executive privilege that rubbed people the wrong way.

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CPAC: Past, Present, and Future

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

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Is Barack Obama the Last Best Hope of Hamas?

Barack Obama’s belief in “engagement” with America’s enemies hasn’t worked out too well with Iran but that doesn’t stop his No.1 fan at Time magazine from encouraging the president to try his luck with Tehran’s ally Hamas. That’s the upshot of Joe Klein’s lament, in which he criticizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tough talk with the Arab world at the Brooking Institution’s U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar. Klein, along on the junket with Hillary, wasn’t terribly interested in the secretary’s obituary of Obama’s failed outreach to Iran. But he did have harsh words for her summary of the situation in Gaza, which she rightly blamed on Hamas’s violence. The fate of Gaza, solidly in the hands of Iran’s terrorist proxy, would, she said, have to await a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, as long as an Islamist rejectionist group controls Gaza, nothing can be done about the place.

That answer pleased neither the Arabs nor Klein. The writer places the blame on Israel for Obama’s acknowledged failure in the Middle East, while ignoring the fact that neither the supposedly moderate Palestinians of Fatah nor the extremists of Hamas have any interest in learning to live with a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

Yet rather than concentrating our energies on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — a development that would undermine the security of most of the Arab world as well as present an existential threat to Israel — Klein wants the United States to concentrate its energies on finding a way to lift the partial international blockade on the terrorist state in Gaza. The blockade of Hamasistan allows food and medical supplies to enter the area but seeks to prevent the import of building materials (which can be used to bolster Hamas’s thriving small-arms industry) or weapons from abroad. The three conditions that Israel has placed on lifting the blockade are an end to the terrorist missile fire from Gaza into southern Israel, a stop to arms smuggling, and the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Klein is right that the missile fire has come to what may be a temporary halt. He also believes that the smuggling issue can be resolved, although, as shown by the death of a Hamas leader in Dubai at a time when he was seeking to facilitate the transport of weapons from Iran to Gaza, this is not a minor point. As for Shalit’s ordeal, Klein dismisses it as “an insane sticking point.”

So what’s his solution? The United States must “engage” the Hamas terrorists. That’s something that both Obama and Clinton have rightly pledged not to do — but, according to the columnist, “if Obama’s policy really is about engaging our enemies, he needs to engage Hamas — and Hamas needs to respond. Quickly.” According to Klein, the problem for Hamas is that the alternative to dealing with Obama is a return to the policies of the dread Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives. He concludes: “The leaders of Hamas — and other potential interlocutors, like the Syrians — need to understand that this may be their last best chance for progress. After Obama, the deluge.”

While a more sensible foreign policy may well have to await the election of a new president, what Klein fails to understand is that no matter who sits in the White House, it is not in America’s interest to rescue the killers of Hamas. Rather, it should be our policy to isolate and hopefully oust them from power. But if any argument is designed to undermine the appeal of the president’s discredited engagement policy, it is Klein’s belief that Barack Obama is the last best hope of one of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups.

Barack Obama’s belief in “engagement” with America’s enemies hasn’t worked out too well with Iran but that doesn’t stop his No.1 fan at Time magazine from encouraging the president to try his luck with Tehran’s ally Hamas. That’s the upshot of Joe Klein’s lament, in which he criticizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tough talk with the Arab world at the Brooking Institution’s U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar. Klein, along on the junket with Hillary, wasn’t terribly interested in the secretary’s obituary of Obama’s failed outreach to Iran. But he did have harsh words for her summary of the situation in Gaza, which she rightly blamed on Hamas’s violence. The fate of Gaza, solidly in the hands of Iran’s terrorist proxy, would, she said, have to await a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, as long as an Islamist rejectionist group controls Gaza, nothing can be done about the place.

That answer pleased neither the Arabs nor Klein. The writer places the blame on Israel for Obama’s acknowledged failure in the Middle East, while ignoring the fact that neither the supposedly moderate Palestinians of Fatah nor the extremists of Hamas have any interest in learning to live with a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

Yet rather than concentrating our energies on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — a development that would undermine the security of most of the Arab world as well as present an existential threat to Israel — Klein wants the United States to concentrate its energies on finding a way to lift the partial international blockade on the terrorist state in Gaza. The blockade of Hamasistan allows food and medical supplies to enter the area but seeks to prevent the import of building materials (which can be used to bolster Hamas’s thriving small-arms industry) or weapons from abroad. The three conditions that Israel has placed on lifting the blockade are an end to the terrorist missile fire from Gaza into southern Israel, a stop to arms smuggling, and the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Klein is right that the missile fire has come to what may be a temporary halt. He also believes that the smuggling issue can be resolved, although, as shown by the death of a Hamas leader in Dubai at a time when he was seeking to facilitate the transport of weapons from Iran to Gaza, this is not a minor point. As for Shalit’s ordeal, Klein dismisses it as “an insane sticking point.”

So what’s his solution? The United States must “engage” the Hamas terrorists. That’s something that both Obama and Clinton have rightly pledged not to do — but, according to the columnist, “if Obama’s policy really is about engaging our enemies, he needs to engage Hamas — and Hamas needs to respond. Quickly.” According to Klein, the problem for Hamas is that the alternative to dealing with Obama is a return to the policies of the dread Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives. He concludes: “The leaders of Hamas — and other potential interlocutors, like the Syrians — need to understand that this may be their last best chance for progress. After Obama, the deluge.”

While a more sensible foreign policy may well have to await the election of a new president, what Klein fails to understand is that no matter who sits in the White House, it is not in America’s interest to rescue the killers of Hamas. Rather, it should be our policy to isolate and hopefully oust them from power. But if any argument is designed to undermine the appeal of the president’s discredited engagement policy, it is Klein’s belief that Barack Obama is the last best hope of one of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups.

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David Brooks Doesn’t Buy It Either

This was the reaction to Joe Biden’s defense of the Obami anti-terrorism approach on the Sunday talk shows:

The KSM trial has become a total mess. What Joe Biden said today on the program doesn’t pass the laugh test. The idea that we’re going to try a guy, not acquit him, apparently, if, beforehand, are we going to make Dick Cheney the foreman of the jury? I mean, how do we know that? …  And then the second thing I think Cheney’s actually right about is Mirandizing. We, if we–say we’d captured the 9/11 guys on September 10th, or one of them, should we have read that guy his rights and given him a lawyer? No. We should have tried to get some intelligence out of the guy.

Cliff May? Andy McCarthy? Nope. David Brooks. And yes, when the Obami can’t even pass the “laugh test” with a moderate, sympathetic pundit who vouched for Candidate Obama and has dutifully reported the Obama’s best arguments, then you know the gig is about up. And Brooks didn’t stop there:

Eric Holder, the attorney general, took this decision without consulting the president, without consulting the national security apparatus, did it on his own. And slowly, and now quickly, the White House is pulling that back. And so they are going to try to, I think, take–well, take it out of New York. But they’re not there yet. The idea that we can try someone and, and guarantee a conviction and guarantee they won’t walk free, I mean, this, this is a betrayal of our values. I mean, what–the, the correct charges against Gitmo were that it’s a betrayal of our values. We’re fighting our values in a way that–we’re fighting this war in a way that betrays who we really are. And this is the essence of that. What Joe Biden said on the program today will be laughed at around the Arab world.

If Brooks can spot the not-Bush anti-terrorism policy collapsing in on itself, then Biden’s full-court press on the Sunday talk shows was all the more troubling. No one inside the White House can grasp how implausible the spin is? No one sees that a walk-back will be required — and be all the more embarrassing when preceded by another round of “how dare Dick Cheney say those awful things about us”?

Each day spent trying to beat back bipartisan opposition to their not Bush policies is a lost one for the White House, confirming that they are isolated, out of touch with our values (yes, irony alert), and not yet serious about fighting enemies who regard our foolishness as weakness. The president has not distinguished himself by decisiveness, but that’s certainly what he could use: a swift and decisive break from a year-long experience in reviving a failed criminal-justice model. The longer this goes on, the more of a mess it becomes and the harder it will be to unwind the self-inflicted damage (both from an intelligence and a political standpoint). So far, however, there is no a clear signal that Obama recognizes that such a firm, emphatic course change is required. He and the country will be the worse for it.

This was the reaction to Joe Biden’s defense of the Obami anti-terrorism approach on the Sunday talk shows:

The KSM trial has become a total mess. What Joe Biden said today on the program doesn’t pass the laugh test. The idea that we’re going to try a guy, not acquit him, apparently, if, beforehand, are we going to make Dick Cheney the foreman of the jury? I mean, how do we know that? …  And then the second thing I think Cheney’s actually right about is Mirandizing. We, if we–say we’d captured the 9/11 guys on September 10th, or one of them, should we have read that guy his rights and given him a lawyer? No. We should have tried to get some intelligence out of the guy.

Cliff May? Andy McCarthy? Nope. David Brooks. And yes, when the Obami can’t even pass the “laugh test” with a moderate, sympathetic pundit who vouched for Candidate Obama and has dutifully reported the Obama’s best arguments, then you know the gig is about up. And Brooks didn’t stop there:

Eric Holder, the attorney general, took this decision without consulting the president, without consulting the national security apparatus, did it on his own. And slowly, and now quickly, the White House is pulling that back. And so they are going to try to, I think, take–well, take it out of New York. But they’re not there yet. The idea that we can try someone and, and guarantee a conviction and guarantee they won’t walk free, I mean, this, this is a betrayal of our values. I mean, what–the, the correct charges against Gitmo were that it’s a betrayal of our values. We’re fighting our values in a way that–we’re fighting this war in a way that betrays who we really are. And this is the essence of that. What Joe Biden said on the program today will be laughed at around the Arab world.

If Brooks can spot the not-Bush anti-terrorism policy collapsing in on itself, then Biden’s full-court press on the Sunday talk shows was all the more troubling. No one inside the White House can grasp how implausible the spin is? No one sees that a walk-back will be required — and be all the more embarrassing when preceded by another round of “how dare Dick Cheney say those awful things about us”?

Each day spent trying to beat back bipartisan opposition to their not Bush policies is a lost one for the White House, confirming that they are isolated, out of touch with our values (yes, irony alert), and not yet serious about fighting enemies who regard our foolishness as weakness. The president has not distinguished himself by decisiveness, but that’s certainly what he could use: a swift and decisive break from a year-long experience in reviving a failed criminal-justice model. The longer this goes on, the more of a mess it becomes and the harder it will be to unwind the self-inflicted damage (both from an intelligence and a political standpoint). So far, however, there is no a clear signal that Obama recognizes that such a firm, emphatic course change is required. He and the country will be the worse for it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Biden (not really): “So there I was on the Amtrak, and I was thinking Dick Cheney, God love him, my friend Dick Cheney, he is probably worse than Pol Pot. It was because Democrats opposed the surge that the surge worked. If we had gotten behind the winning strategy, the enemy would have known it was too soft. We needed to oppose it in order for it to succeed.”

The real Joe Biden now says he is happy to thank George W. Bush on Iraq policy. Yes, good thing indeed that Bush was wise enough to ignore everything Biden ever said on the subject.

The real Dick Cheney on the Obami’s claiming credit for Iraq: “If they are going to take credit for [Iraq], fair enough, for what they’ve done while they are there. But it ought to go with a healthy dose of ‘thank you George Bush’ up front.” Then he plays Darth Vader mind games with them — praising the surge in Afghanistan and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The real Liz Cheney asks, “Bipartisanship to what end?” As she notes, there should be little to praise in “bipartisanship” if the goal is to pass a health-care bill that everyone hates. Ceci Connolly notes that what is interesting is the “bad blood” between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders, as well as between the House and Senate. Bill Kristol remarks that the Obami “can’t resist” making partisan digs. And to prove their point, Juan William says Dick Cheney is helping al-Qaeda by criticizing the Obami’s handling of the war against Islamic fascists.

The unfortunately all too real antics of the Congressional Black Caucus: “From 2004 to 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political and charitable wings took in at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions, according to an analysis by the New York Times, an impressive amount even by the standards of a Washington awash in cash. Only $1 million of that went to the caucus’s political action committee; the rest poured into the largely unregulated nonprofit network. . . . But the bulk of the money has been spent on elaborate conventions that have become a high point of the Washington social season, as well as the headquarters building, golf outings by members of Congress and an annual visit to a Mississippi casino resort.” Among the CBC’s pals: “cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.”

Flynt Leverett, who was canned by the Bush administration (“Leverett continually missed deadlines and misplaced documents, and the NSC Records office had a long list of his delinquencies. His office was notoriously messy—documents were strewn over chairs, windowsills, the floor, and piled high on his desk … repeatedly missing deadlines and losing important letters was simply not tolerable behavior for an NSC officer, and Leverett was told to leave”), has now become the favorite flack for the mullahs. “The curious dance between Washington’s Iran experts and the foreign government whose actions they are supposedly analyzing has parallels in the ways that totalitarian governments like the Soviet Union and Mao’s China manipulated Western public opinion by only granting access to scholars and policy hands who would toe the party line. Similarly, the Iranian government today decides who in the West will be granted the kind of access that will allow them to speak with authority about the regime to Washington.” (h/t Jeffrey Goldberg)

James Carafano says that he is not surprised that “there would be more killing of high level terrorists than capture for interrogation and trial. That’s because the administration has botched efforts to come up with a coherent program for detention, interrogation, and trial.”

Matt Welch confirms my suspicion that libertarians have principles inconsistent with big-government liberals: “What I do care about, regardless of who’s president, is human freedom and prosperity. And I strongly and consistently suspect that when the government accumulates more power, I and everyone else (except those wielding it) have less of which I seek.” That said, if Republicans gain power and continue the spending jag, libertarians will turn their ire on them too.

Joe Biden (not really): “So there I was on the Amtrak, and I was thinking Dick Cheney, God love him, my friend Dick Cheney, he is probably worse than Pol Pot. It was because Democrats opposed the surge that the surge worked. If we had gotten behind the winning strategy, the enemy would have known it was too soft. We needed to oppose it in order for it to succeed.”

The real Joe Biden now says he is happy to thank George W. Bush on Iraq policy. Yes, good thing indeed that Bush was wise enough to ignore everything Biden ever said on the subject.

The real Dick Cheney on the Obami’s claiming credit for Iraq: “If they are going to take credit for [Iraq], fair enough, for what they’ve done while they are there. But it ought to go with a healthy dose of ‘thank you George Bush’ up front.” Then he plays Darth Vader mind games with them — praising the surge in Afghanistan and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The real Liz Cheney asks, “Bipartisanship to what end?” As she notes, there should be little to praise in “bipartisanship” if the goal is to pass a health-care bill that everyone hates. Ceci Connolly notes that what is interesting is the “bad blood” between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders, as well as between the House and Senate. Bill Kristol remarks that the Obami “can’t resist” making partisan digs. And to prove their point, Juan William says Dick Cheney is helping al-Qaeda by criticizing the Obami’s handling of the war against Islamic fascists.

The unfortunately all too real antics of the Congressional Black Caucus: “From 2004 to 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political and charitable wings took in at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions, according to an analysis by the New York Times, an impressive amount even by the standards of a Washington awash in cash. Only $1 million of that went to the caucus’s political action committee; the rest poured into the largely unregulated nonprofit network. . . . But the bulk of the money has been spent on elaborate conventions that have become a high point of the Washington social season, as well as the headquarters building, golf outings by members of Congress and an annual visit to a Mississippi casino resort.” Among the CBC’s pals: “cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.”

Flynt Leverett, who was canned by the Bush administration (“Leverett continually missed deadlines and misplaced documents, and the NSC Records office had a long list of his delinquencies. His office was notoriously messy—documents were strewn over chairs, windowsills, the floor, and piled high on his desk … repeatedly missing deadlines and losing important letters was simply not tolerable behavior for an NSC officer, and Leverett was told to leave”), has now become the favorite flack for the mullahs. “The curious dance between Washington’s Iran experts and the foreign government whose actions they are supposedly analyzing has parallels in the ways that totalitarian governments like the Soviet Union and Mao’s China manipulated Western public opinion by only granting access to scholars and policy hands who would toe the party line. Similarly, the Iranian government today decides who in the West will be granted the kind of access that will allow them to speak with authority about the regime to Washington.” (h/t Jeffrey Goldberg)

James Carafano says that he is not surprised that “there would be more killing of high level terrorists than capture for interrogation and trial. That’s because the administration has botched efforts to come up with a coherent program for detention, interrogation, and trial.”

Matt Welch confirms my suspicion that libertarians have principles inconsistent with big-government liberals: “What I do care about, regardless of who’s president, is human freedom and prosperity. And I strongly and consistently suspect that when the government accumulates more power, I and everyone else (except those wielding it) have less of which I seek.” That said, if Republicans gain power and continue the spending jag, libertarians will turn their ire on them too.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

With the death of John Murtha, the Cook Political Report moves his seat to a “toss-up.”

From Florida: “The Brevard County GOP held a straw poll Friday night that arguably is more reflective of the overall GOP electorate than other GOP straw polls in recent months, where voting was limited to executive committee members. In Brevard’s case, we’re told only about one in four voters were executive committee members. The results only include the top two vote-getters; U.S. Senate Marco Rubio: 321, Charlie Crist: 45.”

In Washington State: “Long-time WA state Sen. Don Benton (R) will challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), giving GOPers their strongest challenger yet as he hopes to take a page from Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).”

Obama’s approval drops to 44 percent, a new low, in the Marist poll. Also of concern for Obama: 57 percent of independents disapprove of his performance, and by a 47 to 42 percent margin, voters say he has fallen below their expectations. That helped push Obama’s overall RealClearPolitics approval to a new low — 47.9 percent, just a smidgen above the disapproval rating average of 47 percent.

Is this a good idea? “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday he’ll chair the Senate campaign of fellow Democrat Alexi Giannoulias as he takes on a better-funded and more experienced Republican foe.” Seems like a big risk for both. Giannoulias is already tagged with being too insidery, and Durbin, who’s gunning for Harry Reid’s job, will take a hit if he can’t drag Giannoulias across the finish line.

Matt Continetti thinks Obama gets points for reaching out, and the congressional Republicans may score a win in the proposed health-care summit, while congressional Democrats come out the losers. (Sounds Clintonian, doesn’t it?). “If Obama hasn’t been able to convince the public his way is the right way by now, one more event won’t make a difference. Nor will a single C-SPAN broadcast alter the political dynamic that is preventing Democrats from passing a final bill. What’s more, Republicans will have an opportunity to present their ideas to lower the cost of individual health insurance and increase consumer choice.”

The most vilified male Republican is also the most effective, as “political and security realities are forcing Mr. Obama’s antiterror policies ever-closer to the former Vice President’s. … As long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were responsible for keeping Americans safe, Democrats could pander to the U.S. and European left’s anti-antiterror views at little political cost. But now that they are responsible, American voters are able to see what the left really has in mind, and they are saying loud and clear that they prefer the Cheney method.” Well, we’ll see how close Obama gets to Cheney’s policy preferences. For now, Guantanamo is open, and it looks likes there will be no civilian KSM trial, at least in New York.

The Obama hangover sets in: “A year ago, Barack Obama’s true believers were euphoric. The huge and jubilant gathering in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night 2008 gave way to almost 2 million people on the Mall for the president’s inauguration. He took office as the most popular incoming president in a generation. A movement had become a mandate of nearly 70 million votes. People hoped the new president would bring change to Washington, the hallmark claim of his historic candidacy. Now, the mood through much of the nation seems restive, even sour. It is almost jarring to look at the photographs from Grant Park, to study those upturned beaming faces, many streaked with tears. Was that a movement? Or just a moment?”

With the death of John Murtha, the Cook Political Report moves his seat to a “toss-up.”

From Florida: “The Brevard County GOP held a straw poll Friday night that arguably is more reflective of the overall GOP electorate than other GOP straw polls in recent months, where voting was limited to executive committee members. In Brevard’s case, we’re told only about one in four voters were executive committee members. The results only include the top two vote-getters; U.S. Senate Marco Rubio: 321, Charlie Crist: 45.”

In Washington State: “Long-time WA state Sen. Don Benton (R) will challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), giving GOPers their strongest challenger yet as he hopes to take a page from Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).”

Obama’s approval drops to 44 percent, a new low, in the Marist poll. Also of concern for Obama: 57 percent of independents disapprove of his performance, and by a 47 to 42 percent margin, voters say he has fallen below their expectations. That helped push Obama’s overall RealClearPolitics approval to a new low — 47.9 percent, just a smidgen above the disapproval rating average of 47 percent.

Is this a good idea? “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday he’ll chair the Senate campaign of fellow Democrat Alexi Giannoulias as he takes on a better-funded and more experienced Republican foe.” Seems like a big risk for both. Giannoulias is already tagged with being too insidery, and Durbin, who’s gunning for Harry Reid’s job, will take a hit if he can’t drag Giannoulias across the finish line.

Matt Continetti thinks Obama gets points for reaching out, and the congressional Republicans may score a win in the proposed health-care summit, while congressional Democrats come out the losers. (Sounds Clintonian, doesn’t it?). “If Obama hasn’t been able to convince the public his way is the right way by now, one more event won’t make a difference. Nor will a single C-SPAN broadcast alter the political dynamic that is preventing Democrats from passing a final bill. What’s more, Republicans will have an opportunity to present their ideas to lower the cost of individual health insurance and increase consumer choice.”

The most vilified male Republican is also the most effective, as “political and security realities are forcing Mr. Obama’s antiterror policies ever-closer to the former Vice President’s. … As long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were responsible for keeping Americans safe, Democrats could pander to the U.S. and European left’s anti-antiterror views at little political cost. But now that they are responsible, American voters are able to see what the left really has in mind, and they are saying loud and clear that they prefer the Cheney method.” Well, we’ll see how close Obama gets to Cheney’s policy preferences. For now, Guantanamo is open, and it looks likes there will be no civilian KSM trial, at least in New York.

The Obama hangover sets in: “A year ago, Barack Obama’s true believers were euphoric. The huge and jubilant gathering in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night 2008 gave way to almost 2 million people on the Mall for the president’s inauguration. He took office as the most popular incoming president in a generation. A movement had become a mandate of nearly 70 million votes. People hoped the new president would bring change to Washington, the hallmark claim of his historic candidacy. Now, the mood through much of the nation seems restive, even sour. It is almost jarring to look at the photographs from Grant Park, to study those upturned beaming faces, many streaked with tears. Was that a movement? Or just a moment?”

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Holder Under the Bus?

Andy McCarthy and I have both been looking at Attorney General Eric Holder’s latest effort to defend in a letter to Mitch McConnell the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bomber. McCarthy sums it up:

The fundamental problem with the attorney general’s line of argument is that it unfolds as though there were no war and no president. Abdulmutallab, Holder believes, is just like any other person arrested in the United States: When an arrest happens, government officials automatically employ “long-established and publicly known policies and practices.” It does not matter who sent the person or what he was arrested trying to do. Miranda warnings are given, lawyers are interposed, charges are filed, and trials are conducted. Even if the nation is at war, we don’t inquire into whether the arrested person is an operative dispatched here by hostile forces to commit mass murder.

Aside from the sloppy legal work by Holder (including citing cases that have been since overturned by the Supreme Court), it is curious to see that the Obami are now retreating to the defense that “Bush did the same thing” (ignoring the instances in which Bush designated terrorists as enemy combatants). None of this seems to be working to shore up support for the criminal-justice model, which the Obami have insisted on employing, in part because the legal arguments are weak (e.g., disregarding the military-commission system, now in place to handle these cases) and in part because neither the public nor members of Obama’s own party think it makes sense to try KSM in a civilian court, Mirandize a terrorist, or ship Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining the chorus of other mainstream critics of the Obama approach, Stuart Taylor calls Holder’s decisions to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber and to try KSM in a civilian court “two glaring mistakes” that require a serious course correction by Obama in his anti-terrorism policies.

In a piece in the New Yorker, which aptly describes the gathering storm of opposition, Holder doubles-down (“What we did is totally consistent with what has happened in every similar case”) and lashes out at former Vice President Dick Cheney (“On some level, and I’m not sure why, he lacks confidence in the American system of justice”). But Holder seems to be on thin ice and the White House might now view him as a liability. The New Yorker quotes a source close to the White House:

“The White House doesn’t trust his judgment, and doesn’t think he’s mindful enough of all the things he should be,” such as protecting the President from political fallout. “They think he wants to protect his own image, and to make himself untouchable politically, the way Reno did, by doing the righteous thing.”

Even more ominous for Holder: Rahm Emanuel is making it clear to all those concerned that he disagreed with a string of highly controversial and politically disastrous decisions by Holder. We learn: “Emanuel adamantly opposed a number of Holder’s decisions, including one that widened the scope of a special counsel who had begun investigating the C.I.A.’s interrogation program. Bush had appointed the special counsel, John Durham, to assess whether the C.I.A. had obstructed justice when it destroyed videotapes documenting waterboarding sessions.” And then there is the KSM trial:

At the White House, Emanuel, who is not a lawyer, opposed Holder’s position on the 9/11 cases. He argued that the Administration needed the support of key Republicans to help close Guantánamo, and that a fight over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could alienate them. “There was a lot of drama,” the informed source said. . . .  “Rahm felt very, very strongly that it was a mistake to prosecute the 9/11 people in the federal courts, and that it was picking an unnecessary fight with the military-commission people,” the informed source said. “Rahm had a good relationship with [Sen. Lindsay] Graham, and believed Graham when he said that if you don’t prosecute these people in military commissions I won’t support the closing of Guantánamo. . . . Rahm said, ‘If we don’t have Graham, we can’t close Guantánamo, and it’s on Eric!’ ”

Interesting that Emanuel and his spinners are now distancing the White House from their attorney general. One wonders where Obama stands in this drama. Isn’t he, after all, the commander in chief? Either the president was content to go along with Holder’s decisions until they went south or he subcontracted, with no oversight, some of the most critical decisions of his presidency to a lawyer who is prone to making the kind of mistakes a “first-year lawyer would get fired for.

Either way, Obama now must suffer the results of Holder’s ill-advised decisions. There will be much speculation, given Emanuel’s comments, as to whether the White House is getting ready to throw Holder under that proverbial bus. Now, as the Democrats join the Republicans to block the KSM trial and to deny funds for moving detainees to Illinois, it would be as good a time as any.

Andy McCarthy and I have both been looking at Attorney General Eric Holder’s latest effort to defend in a letter to Mitch McConnell the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bomber. McCarthy sums it up:

The fundamental problem with the attorney general’s line of argument is that it unfolds as though there were no war and no president. Abdulmutallab, Holder believes, is just like any other person arrested in the United States: When an arrest happens, government officials automatically employ “long-established and publicly known policies and practices.” It does not matter who sent the person or what he was arrested trying to do. Miranda warnings are given, lawyers are interposed, charges are filed, and trials are conducted. Even if the nation is at war, we don’t inquire into whether the arrested person is an operative dispatched here by hostile forces to commit mass murder.

Aside from the sloppy legal work by Holder (including citing cases that have been since overturned by the Supreme Court), it is curious to see that the Obami are now retreating to the defense that “Bush did the same thing” (ignoring the instances in which Bush designated terrorists as enemy combatants). None of this seems to be working to shore up support for the criminal-justice model, which the Obami have insisted on employing, in part because the legal arguments are weak (e.g., disregarding the military-commission system, now in place to handle these cases) and in part because neither the public nor members of Obama’s own party think it makes sense to try KSM in a civilian court, Mirandize a terrorist, or ship Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining the chorus of other mainstream critics of the Obama approach, Stuart Taylor calls Holder’s decisions to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber and to try KSM in a civilian court “two glaring mistakes” that require a serious course correction by Obama in his anti-terrorism policies.

In a piece in the New Yorker, which aptly describes the gathering storm of opposition, Holder doubles-down (“What we did is totally consistent with what has happened in every similar case”) and lashes out at former Vice President Dick Cheney (“On some level, and I’m not sure why, he lacks confidence in the American system of justice”). But Holder seems to be on thin ice and the White House might now view him as a liability. The New Yorker quotes a source close to the White House:

“The White House doesn’t trust his judgment, and doesn’t think he’s mindful enough of all the things he should be,” such as protecting the President from political fallout. “They think he wants to protect his own image, and to make himself untouchable politically, the way Reno did, by doing the righteous thing.”

Even more ominous for Holder: Rahm Emanuel is making it clear to all those concerned that he disagreed with a string of highly controversial and politically disastrous decisions by Holder. We learn: “Emanuel adamantly opposed a number of Holder’s decisions, including one that widened the scope of a special counsel who had begun investigating the C.I.A.’s interrogation program. Bush had appointed the special counsel, John Durham, to assess whether the C.I.A. had obstructed justice when it destroyed videotapes documenting waterboarding sessions.” And then there is the KSM trial:

At the White House, Emanuel, who is not a lawyer, opposed Holder’s position on the 9/11 cases. He argued that the Administration needed the support of key Republicans to help close Guantánamo, and that a fight over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could alienate them. “There was a lot of drama,” the informed source said. . . .  “Rahm felt very, very strongly that it was a mistake to prosecute the 9/11 people in the federal courts, and that it was picking an unnecessary fight with the military-commission people,” the informed source said. “Rahm had a good relationship with [Sen. Lindsay] Graham, and believed Graham when he said that if you don’t prosecute these people in military commissions I won’t support the closing of Guantánamo. . . . Rahm said, ‘If we don’t have Graham, we can’t close Guantánamo, and it’s on Eric!’ ”

Interesting that Emanuel and his spinners are now distancing the White House from their attorney general. One wonders where Obama stands in this drama. Isn’t he, after all, the commander in chief? Either the president was content to go along with Holder’s decisions until they went south or he subcontracted, with no oversight, some of the most critical decisions of his presidency to a lawyer who is prone to making the kind of mistakes a “first-year lawyer would get fired for.

Either way, Obama now must suffer the results of Holder’s ill-advised decisions. There will be much speculation, given Emanuel’s comments, as to whether the White House is getting ready to throw Holder under that proverbial bus. Now, as the Democrats join the Republicans to block the KSM trial and to deny funds for moving detainees to Illinois, it would be as good a time as any.

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There Are Prophets … and Then There Are Prophets

Over at the Huffington Post, Jim Wallis of Sojourners praised the president for his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, which included, in Wallis’s words, a much-needed “plea for civility in our political discourse.” Wallis quoted Obama, who said:

Progress doesn’t come when we demonize opponents. It’s not born in righteous spite. Progress comes when we open our hearts, when we extend our hands, when we recognize our common humanity. Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God. That we might do so — that we will do so all the time, not just some of the time — is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.

Nice words all the way around.

But what makes all this so darn strange is that Wallis’s Dr Jekyll can, when it serves his narrow ideological purposes, turn into Mr. Hyde. For examples, when George W. Bush was president, here is what Mr. Civility in Public Discourse wrote:

I believe that Dick Cheney is a liar; that Donald Rumsfeld is also a liar; and that George W. Bush was, and is, clueless about how to be the president of the United States. And this isn’t about being partisan. … I’ve heard plenty of my Republican friends and public figures call this administration an embarrassment to the best traditions of the Republican Party and an embarrassment to the democratic (small d) tradition of the United States. They have shamed our beloved nation in the world by this war and the shameful way they have fought it. Almost 4,000 young Americans are dead because of the lies of this administration, tens of thousands more wounded and maimed for life, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis also dead, and 400 billion dollars wasted — because of their lies, incompetence, and corruption.

But I don’t favor impeachment, as some have suggested. I would wait until after the election, when they are out of office, and then I would favor investigations of the top officials of the Bush administration on official deception, war crimes, and corruption charges. And if they are found guilty of these high crimes, I believe they should spend the rest of their lives in prison — after offering their repentance to every American family who has lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, or sister. Deliberately lying about going to war should not be forgiven.

I don’t know about you, but this seems to me to come kind of close to demonizing an opponent. Nor do I get the impression that when Wallis looks into the eyes of Bush and Cheney, he is prepared to extend his hand, or open his heart, or see the face of God. According to St. Jim, they are beyond redemption and forgiveness.

I have documented before why Wallis’s claims about Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were ignorant, false, and misleading. It’s hard to escape the judgment that Wallis is not only guilty of a glaring double standard; he is also guilty of employing his faith as a crude instrument to advance his own hyper-partisan politics.

There is a season for everything and a season for every activity under heaven — a time for civility and, for Jim Wallis, a time for vicious slander. It all depends on what advances his ideology.

The corruption of faith in the pursuit of politics is a dispiriting thing to witness, especially in one who claims to be a “public theologian,” a “preacher,” an “international commentator on ethics and public life” and — I almost forgot — one who is in the “prophetic tradition.”

Somehow I rather doubt that Wallis will ever be confused with Isaiah or Micah.

Over at the Huffington Post, Jim Wallis of Sojourners praised the president for his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, which included, in Wallis’s words, a much-needed “plea for civility in our political discourse.” Wallis quoted Obama, who said:

Progress doesn’t come when we demonize opponents. It’s not born in righteous spite. Progress comes when we open our hearts, when we extend our hands, when we recognize our common humanity. Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God. That we might do so — that we will do so all the time, not just some of the time — is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.

Nice words all the way around.

But what makes all this so darn strange is that Wallis’s Dr Jekyll can, when it serves his narrow ideological purposes, turn into Mr. Hyde. For examples, when George W. Bush was president, here is what Mr. Civility in Public Discourse wrote:

I believe that Dick Cheney is a liar; that Donald Rumsfeld is also a liar; and that George W. Bush was, and is, clueless about how to be the president of the United States. And this isn’t about being partisan. … I’ve heard plenty of my Republican friends and public figures call this administration an embarrassment to the best traditions of the Republican Party and an embarrassment to the democratic (small d) tradition of the United States. They have shamed our beloved nation in the world by this war and the shameful way they have fought it. Almost 4,000 young Americans are dead because of the lies of this administration, tens of thousands more wounded and maimed for life, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis also dead, and 400 billion dollars wasted — because of their lies, incompetence, and corruption.

But I don’t favor impeachment, as some have suggested. I would wait until after the election, when they are out of office, and then I would favor investigations of the top officials of the Bush administration on official deception, war crimes, and corruption charges. And if they are found guilty of these high crimes, I believe they should spend the rest of their lives in prison — after offering their repentance to every American family who has lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, or sister. Deliberately lying about going to war should not be forgiven.

I don’t know about you, but this seems to me to come kind of close to demonizing an opponent. Nor do I get the impression that when Wallis looks into the eyes of Bush and Cheney, he is prepared to extend his hand, or open his heart, or see the face of God. According to St. Jim, they are beyond redemption and forgiveness.

I have documented before why Wallis’s claims about Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were ignorant, false, and misleading. It’s hard to escape the judgment that Wallis is not only guilty of a glaring double standard; he is also guilty of employing his faith as a crude instrument to advance his own hyper-partisan politics.

There is a season for everything and a season for every activity under heaven — a time for civility and, for Jim Wallis, a time for vicious slander. It all depends on what advances his ideology.

The corruption of faith in the pursuit of politics is a dispiriting thing to witness, especially in one who claims to be a “public theologian,” a “preacher,” an “international commentator on ethics and public life” and — I almost forgot — one who is in the “prophetic tradition.”

Somehow I rather doubt that Wallis will ever be confused with Isaiah or Micah.

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An About-Face?

The New York Times, among other outlets, is reporting that the KSM trial may be heading out of New York:

As a growing chorus of New York politicians joined the opposition to a Manhattan trial for the accused Sept. 11 conspirators, a White House spokesman said on Thursday that President still believed a civilian criminal trial could be held “successfully and securely in the United States.” But Mr. Obama left any decision on moving the trial to the Justice Department, and administration officials said they had begun to discuss contingency plans for possible new locations.

It is absurd, of course, that a decision of this magnitude — as we were told, was the original decision to try KSM in New York — should be delegated to the Justice Department. Certainly Obama has become expert at evading responsibility, but at some point one would think the commander in chief would step forward and shoulder the responsibility for making the call.

The election of Scott Brown seems to have shaken some skeptics and chased them from their hiding spots. Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand, and other Democratic lawmakers are piping up:

Republicans in the Senate and House said they would try to block financing for civilian criminal trials for the alleged terrorists, seeking to force the administration to place them on trial before a military commission in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or on a military base elsewhere. Opponents of civilian trials said they hoped new doubts about a New York trial and increased fears of terrorism since the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day would win more Democratic support for such measures.

Even Sen Chuck Schumer is asking the White House to look for alternatives. But where? After New York chases what is sure to be a three-ring circus out of town, what other jurisdiction would want it? Better, say the Republicans, to return this issue to a military tribunal on a secure military base. (Hey, there is one in Guantanamo. How about that?) The Times reports:

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would block financing for civilian trials for those accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, and Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he would introduce a parallel bill in the Senate next week.

Mr. Graham, an experienced military prosecutor who has long argued that foreign terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants, proposed a similar amendment in November but it failed to pass the Senate by 54 to 45. He said he believed the same measure could pass today.

This would be a monumental admission of error by Obama and, more importantly, by his attorney general, who assured us all that this would be a slam dunk, a safe and pain free proceeding. Now that Obama has lost his mystical powers to silence his own party, the truth is seeping out: this is an expensive, dangerous, and entirely unnecessary deviation from historical practice. Obama is colliding with reality.

On Guantanamo, the KSM trial, and the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, the public and a congressional bipartisan consensus are taking the lead. The Obami’s leftward lark on national security, I suspect, is about to end. The Bush-era policies have been vindicated by none other than Obama, who proved the alternatives to be unworkable, foolish, and politically untenable. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney must be smiling broadly.

The New York Times, among other outlets, is reporting that the KSM trial may be heading out of New York:

As a growing chorus of New York politicians joined the opposition to a Manhattan trial for the accused Sept. 11 conspirators, a White House spokesman said on Thursday that President still believed a civilian criminal trial could be held “successfully and securely in the United States.” But Mr. Obama left any decision on moving the trial to the Justice Department, and administration officials said they had begun to discuss contingency plans for possible new locations.

It is absurd, of course, that a decision of this magnitude — as we were told, was the original decision to try KSM in New York — should be delegated to the Justice Department. Certainly Obama has become expert at evading responsibility, but at some point one would think the commander in chief would step forward and shoulder the responsibility for making the call.

The election of Scott Brown seems to have shaken some skeptics and chased them from their hiding spots. Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand, and other Democratic lawmakers are piping up:

Republicans in the Senate and House said they would try to block financing for civilian criminal trials for the alleged terrorists, seeking to force the administration to place them on trial before a military commission in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or on a military base elsewhere. Opponents of civilian trials said they hoped new doubts about a New York trial and increased fears of terrorism since the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day would win more Democratic support for such measures.

Even Sen Chuck Schumer is asking the White House to look for alternatives. But where? After New York chases what is sure to be a three-ring circus out of town, what other jurisdiction would want it? Better, say the Republicans, to return this issue to a military tribunal on a secure military base. (Hey, there is one in Guantanamo. How about that?) The Times reports:

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would block financing for civilian trials for those accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, and Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he would introduce a parallel bill in the Senate next week.

Mr. Graham, an experienced military prosecutor who has long argued that foreign terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants, proposed a similar amendment in November but it failed to pass the Senate by 54 to 45. He said he believed the same measure could pass today.

This would be a monumental admission of error by Obama and, more importantly, by his attorney general, who assured us all that this would be a slam dunk, a safe and pain free proceeding. Now that Obama has lost his mystical powers to silence his own party, the truth is seeping out: this is an expensive, dangerous, and entirely unnecessary deviation from historical practice. Obama is colliding with reality.

On Guantanamo, the KSM trial, and the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, the public and a congressional bipartisan consensus are taking the lead. The Obami’s leftward lark on national security, I suspect, is about to end. The Bush-era policies have been vindicated by none other than Obama, who proved the alternatives to be unworkable, foolish, and politically untenable. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney must be smiling broadly.

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Missing the Campaign

Charles Hurt, writing of Obama’s lackluster and belated appearance in Massachusetts on behalf of the listing campaign of Martha Coakley, observes:

Obama told the crowd here yesterday that he needed Coakley in Washington because she is “independent.” Really? Does anybody actually think that the reason Obama wants her in the Senate is that she would even dream of casting the deciding vote to kill the Democratic health-care bill? Absolutely not. The only reason Obama came here is because he needs somebody bought and paid for. By him.

This concisely sums up the problem that threatens to engulf Obama and whatever is left of the remnants of his campaign organization. He is a candidate deprived of a campaign. He is a community organizer with no one to organize against those who hold the levers of power. He holds the levers of power but without the executive acumen to bring the country along and to craft a successful, broad-based agenda. If not out of his depth, he is out of his milieu.

The familiar campaign environment deprives Obama of three elements that were essential to his meteoric rise. First, he lacks a constant and inept opponent. Goodness knows he’s tried to re-create a string of new enemies – Fox News, Gallup, the Chamber of Commerce — but their multiplicity and the absurdity of characterizing all bad news as illegitimate and venal have undermined his gambit. Second, he must leave aside the puffy generalizations and that blank slate onto which diverse and contradictory forces projected their hopes and dreams. Again, he has tried to re-create and preserve ambiguity (e.g., refusing to draft his own health-care proposals), but governing alas is still choosing, and his choices have offended more than half the country, according to a good number of polls.

And finally, Obama’s favorite tactic — blaming George W. Bush and his administration for just about everything – is now faltering. While tangling with Dick Cheney never was all that successful, the fixation with the Bush team has become an obnoxious political tic and serves only to undercut his claim to be the Truman-esque buck-stops-here president. Noemie Emery aptly describes:

The Blaming Bush mantra is starting to fade in effectiveness. It was one thing early on when it was the real Bush being weighed against the ideal Obama, who had never been tried, and so never failed at anything, and who one could dream would do everything perfectly. The real Bush against the real Obama is a whole other story, as the problems that stymied the 43rd president show no signs of yielding to the 44th’s charms. The terrorists hate us, and still want to kill us. Unemployment is high, stimuli notwithstanding. Closing Guantánamo Bay isn’t that easy. Iran and North Korea haven’t unclenched their fists.

It is not hard to figure out why Obama has recycled campaign tactics, even when they have lost their utility and are ill-suited to the presidency. They are comfortable and no doubt recall better days, when Obama was the master of the political battlefield, when the media swooned, and when he could do no wrong. Unfortunately, he must now govern, and his repertoire of skills and his favorite rhetoric are of little use — no matter how often he goes to the well of campaign tricks.

Charles Hurt, writing of Obama’s lackluster and belated appearance in Massachusetts on behalf of the listing campaign of Martha Coakley, observes:

Obama told the crowd here yesterday that he needed Coakley in Washington because she is “independent.” Really? Does anybody actually think that the reason Obama wants her in the Senate is that she would even dream of casting the deciding vote to kill the Democratic health-care bill? Absolutely not. The only reason Obama came here is because he needs somebody bought and paid for. By him.

This concisely sums up the problem that threatens to engulf Obama and whatever is left of the remnants of his campaign organization. He is a candidate deprived of a campaign. He is a community organizer with no one to organize against those who hold the levers of power. He holds the levers of power but without the executive acumen to bring the country along and to craft a successful, broad-based agenda. If not out of his depth, he is out of his milieu.

The familiar campaign environment deprives Obama of three elements that were essential to his meteoric rise. First, he lacks a constant and inept opponent. Goodness knows he’s tried to re-create a string of new enemies – Fox News, Gallup, the Chamber of Commerce — but their multiplicity and the absurdity of characterizing all bad news as illegitimate and venal have undermined his gambit. Second, he must leave aside the puffy generalizations and that blank slate onto which diverse and contradictory forces projected their hopes and dreams. Again, he has tried to re-create and preserve ambiguity (e.g., refusing to draft his own health-care proposals), but governing alas is still choosing, and his choices have offended more than half the country, according to a good number of polls.

And finally, Obama’s favorite tactic — blaming George W. Bush and his administration for just about everything – is now faltering. While tangling with Dick Cheney never was all that successful, the fixation with the Bush team has become an obnoxious political tic and serves only to undercut his claim to be the Truman-esque buck-stops-here president. Noemie Emery aptly describes:

The Blaming Bush mantra is starting to fade in effectiveness. It was one thing early on when it was the real Bush being weighed against the ideal Obama, who had never been tried, and so never failed at anything, and who one could dream would do everything perfectly. The real Bush against the real Obama is a whole other story, as the problems that stymied the 43rd president show no signs of yielding to the 44th’s charms. The terrorists hate us, and still want to kill us. Unemployment is high, stimuli notwithstanding. Closing Guantánamo Bay isn’t that easy. Iran and North Korea haven’t unclenched their fists.

It is not hard to figure out why Obama has recycled campaign tactics, even when they have lost their utility and are ill-suited to the presidency. They are comfortable and no doubt recall better days, when Obama was the master of the political battlefield, when the media swooned, and when he could do no wrong. Unfortunately, he must now govern, and his repertoire of skills and his favorite rhetoric are of little use — no matter how often he goes to the well of campaign tricks.

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Sunday Spin on Christmas Day Bombing

Flipping from channel to channel or perusing the transcripts of the Sunday talk shows, it was hard not to cringe. Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was everywhere. “We get it right most of the time…. We were alert all along… There wasn’t any smoking gun, just lots of clues we missed…. Yemen is really dangerous but we can’t say we’ll stop sending Guantanamo detainees there…. And Dick Cheney is very wrong…. The performance was defensive and otherworldly, alternately. One is tempted to say that, like Janet Napolitano, Brennan is not up to the job. That may well be the case, particularly as we learn about his own role in the missed clues. But we should be clear: this was all vetted in advance. This is the approved Obami version. These lines are the official talking points. So we come back to the fundamental question: why are they so bad at this? One longs for some candor and for some greater sense of urgency, the urgency that comes from realizing that we haven’t been on top of things and that we better get our act together — quickly.

The spin-meisters’ assurances stand in stark contrast to the bits and pieces of information slowly trickling out. We are learning from news accounts, in particular this eye-popping one, that the incompetence was rather breathtaking. A sample:

Collectively, the U.S. government had its head in the sand. The FBI had no representative at the meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, in the center of the country, the FBI maintains an attache only in Lagos, on the southern coast. The CIA did not tell the FBI about Abdulmutallab. Under the so-called Visa Viper program, the State Department received the report about the meeting with Abdulmutallab’s father, but it did not revoke the son’s visa. Rather, it made a note to closely scrutinize any future application to renew the visa. Likewise, the NCTC determined that there was no “reasonable suspicion” to conclude that Abdulmutallab was a terrorist, so he wasn’t put on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center watch list of some 400,000 names, or counted as one of 13,000 people who require extra screening before getting on a plane, or one of 4,000 names who are on the “no fly” list banned from getting on a plane at all. . .

The NCTC was set up to make sure that the various American agencies and intelligence services better shared information in the wake of 9/11, which might have been averted if the CIA and FBI had been in better communication about the al-Qaeda hijackers entering the country. But for reasons still not adequately explained, no one seems to have noticed other red flags in the intelligence system. The intelligence community had already picked up the intercepts indicating that al-Qaeda was planning to use a Nigerian for an attack on America. Other intercepts suggested a terror attack out of Yemen at Christmas, though officials believed the likely target would be somewhere in the Middle East, not in the United States. Finally, there were the intercepts between Abdulmutallab and the phone (and possibly a computer) used by al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based cleric. Such contact would seem to cry out for attention although an intelligence official said the intercepts did not indicate Abdulmutallab’s full name.

And so it goes. But from watching Brennan, one senses that the Obami are banking on the public not fully grasping this. One has the nagging feeling that they are hoping to get by on flimflam and recycled talking points. The dutiful spokespeople — Napolitano and now Brennan — are striving to keep their own jobs and to hold back the torrent of outrage that they fear will sweep them from office. So they are not informing or reassuring us. They are practicing damage control — limit the facts, label the facts, attack the critics, and minimize the enormity of the screw up.

How this incident is being handled suggests that some real Congressional oversight might be needed, or better yet, an independent commission. (Perhaps the 9/11 commission can be brought back since they’ve already figured out what to look for and what bureaucratic bumbling looks like.) At the very least, one wishes that the malefactors who are at least partially responsible would step aside and let those less invested in spinning the story explain what went wrong.

Flipping from channel to channel or perusing the transcripts of the Sunday talk shows, it was hard not to cringe. Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was everywhere. “We get it right most of the time…. We were alert all along… There wasn’t any smoking gun, just lots of clues we missed…. Yemen is really dangerous but we can’t say we’ll stop sending Guantanamo detainees there…. And Dick Cheney is very wrong…. The performance was defensive and otherworldly, alternately. One is tempted to say that, like Janet Napolitano, Brennan is not up to the job. That may well be the case, particularly as we learn about his own role in the missed clues. But we should be clear: this was all vetted in advance. This is the approved Obami version. These lines are the official talking points. So we come back to the fundamental question: why are they so bad at this? One longs for some candor and for some greater sense of urgency, the urgency that comes from realizing that we haven’t been on top of things and that we better get our act together — quickly.

The spin-meisters’ assurances stand in stark contrast to the bits and pieces of information slowly trickling out. We are learning from news accounts, in particular this eye-popping one, that the incompetence was rather breathtaking. A sample:

Collectively, the U.S. government had its head in the sand. The FBI had no representative at the meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, in the center of the country, the FBI maintains an attache only in Lagos, on the southern coast. The CIA did not tell the FBI about Abdulmutallab. Under the so-called Visa Viper program, the State Department received the report about the meeting with Abdulmutallab’s father, but it did not revoke the son’s visa. Rather, it made a note to closely scrutinize any future application to renew the visa. Likewise, the NCTC determined that there was no “reasonable suspicion” to conclude that Abdulmutallab was a terrorist, so he wasn’t put on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center watch list of some 400,000 names, or counted as one of 13,000 people who require extra screening before getting on a plane, or one of 4,000 names who are on the “no fly” list banned from getting on a plane at all. . .

The NCTC was set up to make sure that the various American agencies and intelligence services better shared information in the wake of 9/11, which might have been averted if the CIA and FBI had been in better communication about the al-Qaeda hijackers entering the country. But for reasons still not adequately explained, no one seems to have noticed other red flags in the intelligence system. The intelligence community had already picked up the intercepts indicating that al-Qaeda was planning to use a Nigerian for an attack on America. Other intercepts suggested a terror attack out of Yemen at Christmas, though officials believed the likely target would be somewhere in the Middle East, not in the United States. Finally, there were the intercepts between Abdulmutallab and the phone (and possibly a computer) used by al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based cleric. Such contact would seem to cry out for attention although an intelligence official said the intercepts did not indicate Abdulmutallab’s full name.

And so it goes. But from watching Brennan, one senses that the Obami are banking on the public not fully grasping this. One has the nagging feeling that they are hoping to get by on flimflam and recycled talking points. The dutiful spokespeople — Napolitano and now Brennan — are striving to keep their own jobs and to hold back the torrent of outrage that they fear will sweep them from office. So they are not informing or reassuring us. They are practicing damage control — limit the facts, label the facts, attack the critics, and minimize the enormity of the screw up.

How this incident is being handled suggests that some real Congressional oversight might be needed, or better yet, an independent commission. (Perhaps the 9/11 commission can be brought back since they’ve already figured out what to look for and what bureaucratic bumbling looks like.) At the very least, one wishes that the malefactors who are at least partially responsible would step aside and let those less invested in spinning the story explain what went wrong.

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But He Told Us. . .

Obama spent a great deal of 2009 trying to convince us of things that just weren’t true. He told us we had to have a trillion dollar (including interest) stimulus plan to keep unemployment at 8 percent. We paid (well, borrowed) the money, and unemployment went above 10 percent. He told us the stimulus plan saved many jobs. We never could figure out how many or where they were. He told us there was a health-care crisis. But more people than ever like their health care just the way it is. He told us he wanted a health-care bill that would cut costs, reform Medicare, improve access to care, not tax anyone but the rich, and eliminate the disparity between the haves and have-nots. We got a bill that does none of that. He promised an end to partisan recriminations and small-minded politics. He practiced both, leaving the New York Times complaining about the resurgence of partisan bitterness. He vowed to end the politicization of the Justice Department, but Eric Holder has run roughshod over career attorneys, given free rein to leftist ideologues, and effectuated a war on the CIA. Obama told us he would return science to its rightful place but refuses to acknowledge evidence that the science underpinning climate-change fanaticism has been exaggerated and bastardized.

In the realm of national security, Obama told us George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had made us less safe, and he set about to reverse the policies that kept us free from domestic attacks for seven and a half years.  But Americans now feel less safe and have experienced three domestic terror attacks. Obama told us he was going to engage Iran to cure the misunderstandings and ill will between our countries. He sent video messages to the mullahs and spent a year overlooking the regime’s thuggish behavior and downplaying their violations of international agreements.  But the Iranian regime has stolen an election, murdered its own people, and is building gobs of new enrichment sites. Obama said he could improve America’s image in the “Muslim World,” but as David Ignatius put it, “The problems the United States faced in 2009 in the Muslim world were deep and intractable, and less amenable to solutions than the Obama administration might have hoped.” Obama told us if he could halt Israel’s settlements, the Palestinians would be forthcoming, and a peace deal could be reached. The parties are farther apart than ever.

I could go on, but you get the point. There is ample evidence that Obama’s rhetoric is divorced from reality and that his policies, both foreign and domestic, have failed even by his own standards. Will he learn and adjust – or will he persist in his folly, a prisoner of a worldview and domestic agenda ill-suited to the challenges that confront us? If he adjusts, his presidency may still be a successful one. If not, he will join the list of failed presidents who never lived up to the promise of their campaigns and who left the country less prosperous and less safe. In 2010, we’ll get an idea which it will be.

Obama spent a great deal of 2009 trying to convince us of things that just weren’t true. He told us we had to have a trillion dollar (including interest) stimulus plan to keep unemployment at 8 percent. We paid (well, borrowed) the money, and unemployment went above 10 percent. He told us the stimulus plan saved many jobs. We never could figure out how many or where they were. He told us there was a health-care crisis. But more people than ever like their health care just the way it is. He told us he wanted a health-care bill that would cut costs, reform Medicare, improve access to care, not tax anyone but the rich, and eliminate the disparity between the haves and have-nots. We got a bill that does none of that. He promised an end to partisan recriminations and small-minded politics. He practiced both, leaving the New York Times complaining about the resurgence of partisan bitterness. He vowed to end the politicization of the Justice Department, but Eric Holder has run roughshod over career attorneys, given free rein to leftist ideologues, and effectuated a war on the CIA. Obama told us he would return science to its rightful place but refuses to acknowledge evidence that the science underpinning climate-change fanaticism has been exaggerated and bastardized.

In the realm of national security, Obama told us George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had made us less safe, and he set about to reverse the policies that kept us free from domestic attacks for seven and a half years.  But Americans now feel less safe and have experienced three domestic terror attacks. Obama told us he was going to engage Iran to cure the misunderstandings and ill will between our countries. He sent video messages to the mullahs and spent a year overlooking the regime’s thuggish behavior and downplaying their violations of international agreements.  But the Iranian regime has stolen an election, murdered its own people, and is building gobs of new enrichment sites. Obama said he could improve America’s image in the “Muslim World,” but as David Ignatius put it, “The problems the United States faced in 2009 in the Muslim world were deep and intractable, and less amenable to solutions than the Obama administration might have hoped.” Obama told us if he could halt Israel’s settlements, the Palestinians would be forthcoming, and a peace deal could be reached. The parties are farther apart than ever.

I could go on, but you get the point. There is ample evidence that Obama’s rhetoric is divorced from reality and that his policies, both foreign and domestic, have failed even by his own standards. Will he learn and adjust – or will he persist in his folly, a prisoner of a worldview and domestic agenda ill-suited to the challenges that confront us? If he adjusts, his presidency may still be a successful one. If not, he will join the list of failed presidents who never lived up to the promise of their campaigns and who left the country less prosperous and less safe. In 2010, we’ll get an idea which it will be.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Time to see if the Senate Cash for Cloture deal can survive scrutiny (legal and otherwise): “Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday. ‘We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,’ South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

The Obami don’t like “Islamic terrorism” or “war on terror” but they are a never-ending font of bureaucratic gibberish: “‘Pulsing it.’ ‘Pulsing the system.’ That’s the language used Tuesday by a senior Obama White House administration official to describe how the administration is scrambling to find out about the intelligence failures that led to a Nigerian suspected terrorist boarding Detroit bound Northwest Flight 253 with explosives in his underwear on Christmas Day.” Yeah, I don’t feel comforted by this either.

Sounds good in theory: “President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered the federal government to rethink how it protects the nation’s secrets, in a move that was expected to declassify more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents and curb the number of government records hidden from the public.” But then why hasn’t the administration released all the Bush-era interrogation documents requested by Dick Cheney, the information on the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter case, and the data Congress has requested about the domestic-terror attacks on the Obami’s watch?

More people than ever hate ObamaCare — 58 percent, a new high in the Rasmussen poll, oppose it.

Because we haven’t had enough government bailouts? “The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses. The new aid package for GMAC, coming as most large banks are repaying the government, underscores both the problems afflicting the company and its importance to the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the auto industry.” Hmm, sounds like we’re never getting our money back.

What’s wrong with a criminal-justice approach to terrorism? “By whatever name, designating Mutallab as an enemy of the United States would have provided interrogators much greater flexibility in questioning him and given him no legal right to resist. The decision to charge Mutallab as a criminal, rather than designate him as an enemy combatant, was a momentous one that in all likelihood guarantees we will gain less intelligence about how the attack was planned, who planned it, and whether others are on the way.”

They have a point: “Members of the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union at American Airlines, said Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration didn’t do enough to warn in-air flight crews of the Christmas Day terrorist threat on a Northwest Airlines flight.” But then no one was warned, so it’s not like they were treated any differently than anyone else.

Despite the White House’s best efforts, Fox News doesn’t look as though it is going away any time soon.

Time to see if the Senate Cash for Cloture deal can survive scrutiny (legal and otherwise): “Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday. ‘We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,’ South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

The Obami don’t like “Islamic terrorism” or “war on terror” but they are a never-ending font of bureaucratic gibberish: “‘Pulsing it.’ ‘Pulsing the system.’ That’s the language used Tuesday by a senior Obama White House administration official to describe how the administration is scrambling to find out about the intelligence failures that led to a Nigerian suspected terrorist boarding Detroit bound Northwest Flight 253 with explosives in his underwear on Christmas Day.” Yeah, I don’t feel comforted by this either.

Sounds good in theory: “President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered the federal government to rethink how it protects the nation’s secrets, in a move that was expected to declassify more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents and curb the number of government records hidden from the public.” But then why hasn’t the administration released all the Bush-era interrogation documents requested by Dick Cheney, the information on the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter case, and the data Congress has requested about the domestic-terror attacks on the Obami’s watch?

More people than ever hate ObamaCare — 58 percent, a new high in the Rasmussen poll, oppose it.

Because we haven’t had enough government bailouts? “The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses. The new aid package for GMAC, coming as most large banks are repaying the government, underscores both the problems afflicting the company and its importance to the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the auto industry.” Hmm, sounds like we’re never getting our money back.

What’s wrong with a criminal-justice approach to terrorism? “By whatever name, designating Mutallab as an enemy of the United States would have provided interrogators much greater flexibility in questioning him and given him no legal right to resist. The decision to charge Mutallab as a criminal, rather than designate him as an enemy combatant, was a momentous one that in all likelihood guarantees we will gain less intelligence about how the attack was planned, who planned it, and whether others are on the way.”

They have a point: “Members of the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union at American Airlines, said Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration didn’t do enough to warn in-air flight crews of the Christmas Day terrorist threat on a Northwest Airlines flight.” But then no one was warned, so it’s not like they were treated any differently than anyone else.

Despite the White House’s best efforts, Fox News doesn’t look as though it is going away any time soon.

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How Right Was Cheney? Very

All year former Vice President Dick Cheney has been bird-dogging the president on his anti-terrorism policies. From the get-go, Cheney has charged Obama with foolishly abandoning the policies that worked to keep America safe and reverting to a pre- 9/11 mentality. He made that argument once again today:

As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.

He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al-Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war.

Liberals have sneered that Cheney was exaggerating or misreading the Obami’s approach to terrorism. But at each turn — the plan to close Guantanamo and send detainees to places like Yemen, the release of the enhanced interrogation memos (but only selectively), and the decisions to cease enhanced interrogation techniques and give KSM a civilian trial — the Obama team has in effect proved Cheney’s point.

What about the voters? The public has consistently registered disapproval of Obama’s approach. Like Cheney, they don’t want the CIA investigated and would prefer we use necessary interrogation techniques to save lives. They don’t think it’s a good idea to give KSM a forum to spew his jihadist propaganda and obtain access to classified materials. However, the voters have lacked a concrete example to demonstrate the consequences of the Obami’s approach. Now they see where it leads — a laconic response from the president, a terrorist sitting mute in jail rather than spilling what he knows to interrogators, and dogged determination by the administration to avoid labeling these attacks as part of a worldwide war waged by Islamic terrorists.

Say what you will but Cheney has made his point — or Obama has made it for him. And the voters will decide whether “not Bush” is really such a smart approach to keeping them safe.

All year former Vice President Dick Cheney has been bird-dogging the president on his anti-terrorism policies. From the get-go, Cheney has charged Obama with foolishly abandoning the policies that worked to keep America safe and reverting to a pre- 9/11 mentality. He made that argument once again today:

As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.

He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al-Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war.

Liberals have sneered that Cheney was exaggerating or misreading the Obami’s approach to terrorism. But at each turn — the plan to close Guantanamo and send detainees to places like Yemen, the release of the enhanced interrogation memos (but only selectively), and the decisions to cease enhanced interrogation techniques and give KSM a civilian trial — the Obama team has in effect proved Cheney’s point.

What about the voters? The public has consistently registered disapproval of Obama’s approach. Like Cheney, they don’t want the CIA investigated and would prefer we use necessary interrogation techniques to save lives. They don’t think it’s a good idea to give KSM a forum to spew his jihadist propaganda and obtain access to classified materials. However, the voters have lacked a concrete example to demonstrate the consequences of the Obami’s approach. Now they see where it leads — a laconic response from the president, a terrorist sitting mute in jail rather than spilling what he knows to interrogators, and dogged determination by the administration to avoid labeling these attacks as part of a worldwide war waged by Islamic terrorists.

Say what you will but Cheney has made his point — or Obama has made it for him. And the voters will decide whether “not Bush” is really such a smart approach to keeping them safe.

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Who Responds?

The person selected to respond to the State of the Union has a rough time. There is no competing with the pomp and excitement of the president in a prime-time appearance before Congress, the Supreme Court, the cabinet officials, and all the honored guests. Usually, the unlikely recipient of this “honor” gets awful reviews. (Think Tim Kaine’s odd-eye brow appearance and Bobby Jindal’s presidential buzz-halting performance.) So who should do the honors this year?

Bill Kristol recommends an ordinary American fed up with Obama’s agenda, maybe a doctor. There are lots of good possibilities. Perhaps Rep. Parker Griffith could do the honors, explaining why he couldn’t stomach a party that would behave so irresponsibly on health care. The Republicans might have a cancer survivor like Carly Fiorina explain why empowering bureaucrats to ration care is a bad idea. The Republicans might have Dick Cheney replay his face-off against Obama from earlier in the year, updating it for the subsequent dreadful decisions on KSM’s trial and the moving of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining him could be Debra Burlingame and other 9/11 family members, talking about the lunacy of giving KSM a public forum to preach jihadism. Or the Republicans could have a bipartisan evening, inviting Rep. Bart Stupak to talk about abortion subsidies and Jane Hamsher to talk about paying for health-care “reform” on the backs of the middle class.

There are a lot of options because, frankly, Obama has made many, many bad calls. It will be up to the Republicans to see in 2010 if they can find effective spokespeople to make the case to the American people — who at least for now seem awfully receptive to each of the messages I suggested. In fact, Americans poll overwhelming in the GOP’s favor on all of these items. And that, no doubt, is why Republicans are looking forward to a successful 2010 election year.

The person selected to respond to the State of the Union has a rough time. There is no competing with the pomp and excitement of the president in a prime-time appearance before Congress, the Supreme Court, the cabinet officials, and all the honored guests. Usually, the unlikely recipient of this “honor” gets awful reviews. (Think Tim Kaine’s odd-eye brow appearance and Bobby Jindal’s presidential buzz-halting performance.) So who should do the honors this year?

Bill Kristol recommends an ordinary American fed up with Obama’s agenda, maybe a doctor. There are lots of good possibilities. Perhaps Rep. Parker Griffith could do the honors, explaining why he couldn’t stomach a party that would behave so irresponsibly on health care. The Republicans might have a cancer survivor like Carly Fiorina explain why empowering bureaucrats to ration care is a bad idea. The Republicans might have Dick Cheney replay his face-off against Obama from earlier in the year, updating it for the subsequent dreadful decisions on KSM’s trial and the moving of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining him could be Debra Burlingame and other 9/11 family members, talking about the lunacy of giving KSM a public forum to preach jihadism. Or the Republicans could have a bipartisan evening, inviting Rep. Bart Stupak to talk about abortion subsidies and Jane Hamsher to talk about paying for health-care “reform” on the backs of the middle class.

There are a lot of options because, frankly, Obama has made many, many bad calls. It will be up to the Republicans to see in 2010 if they can find effective spokespeople to make the case to the American people — who at least for now seem awfully receptive to each of the messages I suggested. In fact, Americans poll overwhelming in the GOP’s favor on all of these items. And that, no doubt, is why Republicans are looking forward to a successful 2010 election year.

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It’s the Coherence

Listening to the West Point and Copenhagen speeches, many conservatives have been pleased or surprised, to varying degrees, by what they hope is a turn by the president away from a leftist, academic bent in foreign policy and toward a more muscular and mature assertion of American power. His decision to deploy 30,000 troops was enthusiastically received. As one conservative on Capitol Hill described his Nobel Peace Prize speech, “Grading on a curve, it was his best yet.” Others were even more enthusiastic.

But there is now, I would suggest, a problem of credibility and coherence that Obama must overcome. On the credibility front, the non-deadline deadline of his West Point speech raised questions about whether the president signaled a less than fulsome commitment to the difficult counterinsurgency. Will this war of necessity gain his full attention and elicit from him the robust leadership that is essential to maintaining public support and convincing friends and foes that we mean to stick it out even when casualties increase and antiwar voices scream for retreat? Obama will need to make it explicit that the transition out of Afghanistan, as his secretary of defense put it, “will be the same kind of gradual conditions-based transition, province by province, district by district, that we saw in Iraq … [and] will be made by our commanders on the ground, not here in Washington.”

There is also a problem of coherence. In his two major speeches, Obama has talked about human rights. However, his record in this regard has been appalling. Obama, as Jackson Diehl noted, couldn’t bring himself to mention Neda Agha-Soltan at Oslo, a fact which Jackson believes reflects “a continuing failure of nerve or judgment.” So will the president now come out forcefully for the funding of Iranian advocates of democracy? And will he rethink his engagement of Burma and Sudan, as well as his reticence regarding human rights in China?

Likewise, Obama’s moral preening on the war on terror — no enhanced interrogations, shuttling detainees off to terrorist laboratories like Yemen, a public trial for KSM, a war against the CIA — is badly out of sync with the nature of the enemy we face. Obama has conceded that we’re dealing with evil. Do we give an evil man free cable-news time in the “trial of the century,” as the president described in Oslo, “to justify the murder of innocents”? Can we not even slap evil men’s faces to save innocents?

And then there are the rogue states bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. At Oslo, Obama declared that “it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.” But we’ve been doing a lot of standing by idly and, by keeping mum about the secret Qom site and refusing to hear “no” for an answer in Geneva, we have assisted Iran in gaming the system. We did nothing to enforce international agreements that the mullahs violated with the construction of the Qom plant. As for North Korea, we’re engaging them once again, giving them the prestige and refuge from sanctions that go with endless talks. (Even the New York Times concedes that “American and South Korean officials remain unconvinced that the North would give up its nuclear weapons, fearing that it wants to use a new round of talks to escape sanctions and obtain aid.”) With regard to Obama’s Oslo rhetoric, we’re left wondering: what is he talking about?

So the rhetoric, to the delight of many conservatives, has improved. Yet it’s also wildly at odds with the administration’s conduct. Cynics will call it hypocrisy. Optimists will call it a leading indicator of a shift in policy. We simply don’t know at this stage. What we do know is that the Left’s favored approach – incessant apologizing, bullying and betraying of friends, and vision of American un-exceptionalism — has proved to be a colossal failure. Observers as diverse as Leslie Gelb and Dick Cheney agree that we have nothing to show for all the bowing and scraping. So it may be that the Obami are preparing to pivot and leave their hippy-dippy, we-are-the-worldism behind. We’ll know when Obama’s actions better match his more mature rhetoric. And not before.

Listening to the West Point and Copenhagen speeches, many conservatives have been pleased or surprised, to varying degrees, by what they hope is a turn by the president away from a leftist, academic bent in foreign policy and toward a more muscular and mature assertion of American power. His decision to deploy 30,000 troops was enthusiastically received. As one conservative on Capitol Hill described his Nobel Peace Prize speech, “Grading on a curve, it was his best yet.” Others were even more enthusiastic.

But there is now, I would suggest, a problem of credibility and coherence that Obama must overcome. On the credibility front, the non-deadline deadline of his West Point speech raised questions about whether the president signaled a less than fulsome commitment to the difficult counterinsurgency. Will this war of necessity gain his full attention and elicit from him the robust leadership that is essential to maintaining public support and convincing friends and foes that we mean to stick it out even when casualties increase and antiwar voices scream for retreat? Obama will need to make it explicit that the transition out of Afghanistan, as his secretary of defense put it, “will be the same kind of gradual conditions-based transition, province by province, district by district, that we saw in Iraq … [and] will be made by our commanders on the ground, not here in Washington.”

There is also a problem of coherence. In his two major speeches, Obama has talked about human rights. However, his record in this regard has been appalling. Obama, as Jackson Diehl noted, couldn’t bring himself to mention Neda Agha-Soltan at Oslo, a fact which Jackson believes reflects “a continuing failure of nerve or judgment.” So will the president now come out forcefully for the funding of Iranian advocates of democracy? And will he rethink his engagement of Burma and Sudan, as well as his reticence regarding human rights in China?

Likewise, Obama’s moral preening on the war on terror — no enhanced interrogations, shuttling detainees off to terrorist laboratories like Yemen, a public trial for KSM, a war against the CIA — is badly out of sync with the nature of the enemy we face. Obama has conceded that we’re dealing with evil. Do we give an evil man free cable-news time in the “trial of the century,” as the president described in Oslo, “to justify the murder of innocents”? Can we not even slap evil men’s faces to save innocents?

And then there are the rogue states bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. At Oslo, Obama declared that “it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.” But we’ve been doing a lot of standing by idly and, by keeping mum about the secret Qom site and refusing to hear “no” for an answer in Geneva, we have assisted Iran in gaming the system. We did nothing to enforce international agreements that the mullahs violated with the construction of the Qom plant. As for North Korea, we’re engaging them once again, giving them the prestige and refuge from sanctions that go with endless talks. (Even the New York Times concedes that “American and South Korean officials remain unconvinced that the North would give up its nuclear weapons, fearing that it wants to use a new round of talks to escape sanctions and obtain aid.”) With regard to Obama’s Oslo rhetoric, we’re left wondering: what is he talking about?

So the rhetoric, to the delight of many conservatives, has improved. Yet it’s also wildly at odds with the administration’s conduct. Cynics will call it hypocrisy. Optimists will call it a leading indicator of a shift in policy. We simply don’t know at this stage. What we do know is that the Left’s favored approach – incessant apologizing, bullying and betraying of friends, and vision of American un-exceptionalism — has proved to be a colossal failure. Observers as diverse as Leslie Gelb and Dick Cheney agree that we have nothing to show for all the bowing and scraping. So it may be that the Obami are preparing to pivot and leave their hippy-dippy, we-are-the-worldism behind. We’ll know when Obama’s actions better match his more mature rhetoric. And not before.

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Dick Cheney on KSM

Dick Cheney concedes to Sean Hannity in an interview worth viewing in its entirety here that he had Obama pegged wrong: Cheney thought Obama was “a liberal Democrat, but conventional in a sense,” but the president has turned out to be “more radical than that.” This portion of the interview centers on the KSM trial, which Cheney dubs a “huge mistake.” Cheney recounts the historic and legal precedents in which military tribunals have been used rather than civilian trials. By affording KSM a civilian trial, we are giving him “a huge platform” where he will be able to “proselytize” to a “whole new generation of terrorists.” We are, says Cheney, about to “give aid and comfort” to the enemy and run the risk of making KSM “as important or more important than Osama bin Laden — and we will have made it possible.” While pleading that he is not a lawyer, Cheney picks up on the contradiction between Eric Holder’s assurance that this is a slam-dunk certain conviction and the requirements of a fair, impartial trial.

The interview raises several points. First, as vilified as Cheney has been for years by the mainstream media, his arguments are widely accepted now, and his criticisms of Obama’s atrocious decision are shared by a large majority of the American people. When the administration and their media spinners repeatedly brush him off as “unpopular,” they are, of course, throwing out a non sequitur in place of reasoned argument.

And that brings us to the second point: since announcing the decision, the administration has yet to adequately answer the very questions Cheney and other conservatives have raised. Why give KSM a forum to spew his jihadist rhetoric and influence millions of potential followers? What guarantees do we have that national intelligence materials won’t be disclosed as they were in previous terrorism trials? What could be more “certain” than allowing KSM to be executed as he requested in the military tribunal system? Holder stumbled through one hearing. He should be brought back and grilled until satisfactory answers are provided.

Finally, the president, thanks to a skittish media, has yet to explain in detail what input he had into the process. We got the “tick tock” on the Afghanistan-war decision-making process but nothing on this decision, which has long-term and serious consequences for national security and the administration of justice. Did the president really tell Holder to deal with this? Did no one from the White House influence the decision?

Cheney remains perhaps the most frequent and painful thorn in the White House’s side. But that’s in large part because neither Congress nor the media are doing their job in asking hard questions and getting to the bottom of how this unprecedented and potentially dangerous judgment was arrived at. However, the voters do get the last say. The KSM trial will and properly should be a subject of debate in the 2010 elections by candidates who supported and opposed the decision. As for the former, they should be held to account for their willingness to fund Holder and Obama’s foolhardy legal escapade.

Dick Cheney concedes to Sean Hannity in an interview worth viewing in its entirety here that he had Obama pegged wrong: Cheney thought Obama was “a liberal Democrat, but conventional in a sense,” but the president has turned out to be “more radical than that.” This portion of the interview centers on the KSM trial, which Cheney dubs a “huge mistake.” Cheney recounts the historic and legal precedents in which military tribunals have been used rather than civilian trials. By affording KSM a civilian trial, we are giving him “a huge platform” where he will be able to “proselytize” to a “whole new generation of terrorists.” We are, says Cheney, about to “give aid and comfort” to the enemy and run the risk of making KSM “as important or more important than Osama bin Laden — and we will have made it possible.” While pleading that he is not a lawyer, Cheney picks up on the contradiction between Eric Holder’s assurance that this is a slam-dunk certain conviction and the requirements of a fair, impartial trial.

The interview raises several points. First, as vilified as Cheney has been for years by the mainstream media, his arguments are widely accepted now, and his criticisms of Obama’s atrocious decision are shared by a large majority of the American people. When the administration and their media spinners repeatedly brush him off as “unpopular,” they are, of course, throwing out a non sequitur in place of reasoned argument.

And that brings us to the second point: since announcing the decision, the administration has yet to adequately answer the very questions Cheney and other conservatives have raised. Why give KSM a forum to spew his jihadist rhetoric and influence millions of potential followers? What guarantees do we have that national intelligence materials won’t be disclosed as they were in previous terrorism trials? What could be more “certain” than allowing KSM to be executed as he requested in the military tribunal system? Holder stumbled through one hearing. He should be brought back and grilled until satisfactory answers are provided.

Finally, the president, thanks to a skittish media, has yet to explain in detail what input he had into the process. We got the “tick tock” on the Afghanistan-war decision-making process but nothing on this decision, which has long-term and serious consequences for national security and the administration of justice. Did the president really tell Holder to deal with this? Did no one from the White House influence the decision?

Cheney remains perhaps the most frequent and painful thorn in the White House’s side. But that’s in large part because neither Congress nor the media are doing their job in asking hard questions and getting to the bottom of how this unprecedented and potentially dangerous judgment was arrived at. However, the voters do get the last say. The KSM trial will and properly should be a subject of debate in the 2010 elections by candidates who supported and opposed the decision. As for the former, they should be held to account for their willingness to fund Holder and Obama’s foolhardy legal escapade.

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