Commentary Magazine


Topic: Hillary Rodham Clinton

Flotsam and Jetsam

Here’s the “civil war” the liberal punditocracy has been pining for: “Liberals want Obama to confront Republicans more directly. Moderates, remembering how Bill Clinton altered course after losing control of Congress in 1994 and won reelection in 1996, want the president to work more cooperatively with Republicans in hopes of avoiding gridlock.”

Here’s another national security disaster in the making: “The Obama administration has dispatched a team of experts to Asian capitals to report that North Korea appears to have started a program to enrich uranium, possibly to manufacture more nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The team was sent out after North Korea told two visiting American experts earlier this month that it possessed such a program and showed them a facility where it claimed the enrichment was taking place.” It sort of puts in context how daft were those meetings and planning for a “nuke-free world.”

Here’s the beginning of the walk-back: “Heeding a sudden furor, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said in a Sunday afternoon statement to POLITICO that airport screening procedures ‘will be adapted as conditions warrant,’ in an effort to make them “as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve.”

Here’s why voters hate pols: there is always one rule for politicians and another for the rest of us. “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that security threats were a concern in the Transportation Security Administration’s new invasive pat-downs and body scans, but heartily acknowledged that she wouldn’t want to go through the screening herself.”

Here’s Mona Charen’s case for why Sarah Palin shouldn’t run for president: “Voters chose a novice with plenty of starpower in 2008 and will be inclined to swing strongly in the other direction in 2012. Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity — not sizzle and flash. … There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally, treated by the press and the entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect and be able to transcend that. Palin compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn’t mud-wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus she encourages the sniping.” I imagine that such advice is simply brushed off as part of the GOP establishment plot to get her.

Here’s further evidence that the Obami just don’t get it. Hillary Clinton isn’t giving up on civilian trials for terrorists. “So I don’t think you can, as a — as a rule, say, ‘Oh, no more civilian trials,’ or ‘no more military commission.'” Sure you can; it’s just that the leftists who dominate the Obama legal brain trust are putting up quite a fuss.

Here’s another sign that Obama’s ditzy peace-process Hail Mary isn’t going to help matters: “The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that any American proposal for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must include a complete halt in Israeli settlement building, including in East Jerusalem.” Gosh, where do you think he got the idea that building in Jerusalem was such a hot-button, non-final-status issue?

Here’s the “civil war” the liberal punditocracy has been pining for: “Liberals want Obama to confront Republicans more directly. Moderates, remembering how Bill Clinton altered course after losing control of Congress in 1994 and won reelection in 1996, want the president to work more cooperatively with Republicans in hopes of avoiding gridlock.”

Here’s another national security disaster in the making: “The Obama administration has dispatched a team of experts to Asian capitals to report that North Korea appears to have started a program to enrich uranium, possibly to manufacture more nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The team was sent out after North Korea told two visiting American experts earlier this month that it possessed such a program and showed them a facility where it claimed the enrichment was taking place.” It sort of puts in context how daft were those meetings and planning for a “nuke-free world.”

Here’s the beginning of the walk-back: “Heeding a sudden furor, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said in a Sunday afternoon statement to POLITICO that airport screening procedures ‘will be adapted as conditions warrant,’ in an effort to make them “as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve.”

Here’s why voters hate pols: there is always one rule for politicians and another for the rest of us. “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that security threats were a concern in the Transportation Security Administration’s new invasive pat-downs and body scans, but heartily acknowledged that she wouldn’t want to go through the screening herself.”

Here’s Mona Charen’s case for why Sarah Palin shouldn’t run for president: “Voters chose a novice with plenty of starpower in 2008 and will be inclined to swing strongly in the other direction in 2012. Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity — not sizzle and flash. … There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally, treated by the press and the entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect and be able to transcend that. Palin compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn’t mud-wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus she encourages the sniping.” I imagine that such advice is simply brushed off as part of the GOP establishment plot to get her.

Here’s further evidence that the Obami just don’t get it. Hillary Clinton isn’t giving up on civilian trials for terrorists. “So I don’t think you can, as a — as a rule, say, ‘Oh, no more civilian trials,’ or ‘no more military commission.'” Sure you can; it’s just that the leftists who dominate the Obama legal brain trust are putting up quite a fuss.

Here’s another sign that Obama’s ditzy peace-process Hail Mary isn’t going to help matters: “The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that any American proposal for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must include a complete halt in Israeli settlement building, including in East Jerusalem.” Gosh, where do you think he got the idea that building in Jerusalem was such a hot-button, non-final-status issue?

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Retreat from Retreat?

We are told that the administration is to “tweak” its message on Afghanistan. But it sounds more like it is throwing in the towel on the most wrongheaded aspect of its Afghanistan policy:

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Implicit in their message, delivered at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia, was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

That’s no tweak; it’s an acknowledgment that a deadline devised by political hacks for partisan purposes (i.e., to keep the base from freaking out) is being discarded. About time. As always, no Obama maneuver can forgo dissembling: “There’s not really any change, but what we’re trying to do is to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president’s strategy really entails,’ a senior administration official said Wednesday.” That obsession was the president’s, who last emphasized it from the Oval Office in a prime-time speech.

One of those aforementioned hacks is running for mayor of Chicago, and the other is about to depart for the 2012 campaign. More important, the liberal base has already absorbed the midterm losses and won’t have another chance to wreak havoc on Obama until 2012. So now the White House can do it right:

The message shift is effectively a victory for the military, which has long said that the July 2011 deadline undermined its mission by making Afghans reluctant to work with troops perceived to be leaving shortly. “They say you’ll leave in 2011 and the Taliban will chop their heads off,” Cpl. Lisa Gardner, a Marine based in Helmand Province, told a reporter this past spring. This summer Gen. James T. Conway, then the Marine Corps’s commandant, went so far as to say that the deadline “was probably giving our enemy sustenance.”

Last year the White House insisted on the July deadline to inject a sense of urgency into the Afghans to get their security in order — military officials acknowledge that it has partly worked — but also to quiet critics in the Democratic Party upset about Mr. Obama’s escalation of the war and his decision to order 30,000 more troops to the country.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision is the correct one. But this is pathetic. Obama didn’t have the political courage to do what was plainly in our strategic interests, with men on the field of battle, when he feared electoral consequences. Only when the coast is clear can he do the right thing. How completely not-Bush.

We are told that the administration is to “tweak” its message on Afghanistan. But it sounds more like it is throwing in the towel on the most wrongheaded aspect of its Afghanistan policy:

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Implicit in their message, delivered at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia, was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

That’s no tweak; it’s an acknowledgment that a deadline devised by political hacks for partisan purposes (i.e., to keep the base from freaking out) is being discarded. About time. As always, no Obama maneuver can forgo dissembling: “There’s not really any change, but what we’re trying to do is to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president’s strategy really entails,’ a senior administration official said Wednesday.” That obsession was the president’s, who last emphasized it from the Oval Office in a prime-time speech.

One of those aforementioned hacks is running for mayor of Chicago, and the other is about to depart for the 2012 campaign. More important, the liberal base has already absorbed the midterm losses and won’t have another chance to wreak havoc on Obama until 2012. So now the White House can do it right:

The message shift is effectively a victory for the military, which has long said that the July 2011 deadline undermined its mission by making Afghans reluctant to work with troops perceived to be leaving shortly. “They say you’ll leave in 2011 and the Taliban will chop their heads off,” Cpl. Lisa Gardner, a Marine based in Helmand Province, told a reporter this past spring. This summer Gen. James T. Conway, then the Marine Corps’s commandant, went so far as to say that the deadline “was probably giving our enemy sustenance.”

Last year the White House insisted on the July deadline to inject a sense of urgency into the Afghans to get their security in order — military officials acknowledge that it has partly worked — but also to quiet critics in the Democratic Party upset about Mr. Obama’s escalation of the war and his decision to order 30,000 more troops to the country.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision is the correct one. But this is pathetic. Obama didn’t have the political courage to do what was plainly in our strategic interests, with men on the field of battle, when he feared electoral consequences. Only when the coast is clear can he do the right thing. How completely not-Bush.

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A Devastating and Depressing Portrait of Obama

The Washington Post’s story on Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Obama’s Wars, includes these passages:

Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.” … At one strategy session, the president waved a memo from the Office of Management and Budget, which put a price tag of $889 billion over 10 years on the military’s open-ended approach.

So we finally found the one institution where Barack Obama is frugal and interested in cost-savings: the military during time of war.

It is quite revealing that this most profligate of presidents — whose spending is nearly limitless when it comes to health care, stimulus packages, bailouts, and non-defense discretionary program — has found his inner Barry Goldwater when it comes to spending on defense matters.

There are two problems for Obama. The first centers on Article II, Section II, of the Constitution, which states, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States.” The president’s primary responsibility, as envisioned by the Founders, is to serve as commander in chief, not as the tax collector for the welfare state. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist No. 3, “is that of providing for their safety seems to be first.”

Mr. Obama seems to have his priorities upside down — largely indifferent to those areas he’s responsible for and hyper-active in areas he’s not.

Second, the military, more than any other branch of the federal government, is showing remarkable results for its work. It has reformed and modernized itself in important respects, advanced the cause of liberty, delivered lethal blows to our enemies, and protected us from harm. Yet with America engaged in a hot war in Afghanistan, where the consequences of failure would be catastrophic, President Obama has decided to be hyper-thrifty with his spending. He repeatedly limits what his generals, including General Petraeus, believe they need to successfully prosecute the war.

Quite apart from being reckless, Obama is reinforcing almost every bad impression of his party: keen on raising taxes, spending record amounts on domestic programs, centralizing power, and expanding the size and reach of the federal government. When it comes to war, though, Obama is conflicted and uncertain, in search of an exit ramp more than victory, and even willing to subordinate security needs to partisan concerns (most especially by insisting on an arbitrary drawdown date of July 2011 in order to please his political advisers). As Politico reports,

the president’s timetable to begin a real drawdown … is considerably more concrete than once thought. The book … has Obama warning the Pentagon that he won’t tolerate a 10-year war that sacrifices American troops, bleeds the treasury or drains his own popularity with the Democratic base.

By most accounts (see here and here), the White House is pleased with how the president is portrayed in Obama’s Wars. It shouldn’t be. The president comes across, at least in the stories released so far, as a man deeply uncomfortable in his role as commander in chief.

It is a devastating, and depressing, portrait.

The Washington Post’s story on Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Obama’s Wars, includes these passages:

Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.” … At one strategy session, the president waved a memo from the Office of Management and Budget, which put a price tag of $889 billion over 10 years on the military’s open-ended approach.

So we finally found the one institution where Barack Obama is frugal and interested in cost-savings: the military during time of war.

It is quite revealing that this most profligate of presidents — whose spending is nearly limitless when it comes to health care, stimulus packages, bailouts, and non-defense discretionary program — has found his inner Barry Goldwater when it comes to spending on defense matters.

There are two problems for Obama. The first centers on Article II, Section II, of the Constitution, which states, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States.” The president’s primary responsibility, as envisioned by the Founders, is to serve as commander in chief, not as the tax collector for the welfare state. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist No. 3, “is that of providing for their safety seems to be first.”

Mr. Obama seems to have his priorities upside down — largely indifferent to those areas he’s responsible for and hyper-active in areas he’s not.

Second, the military, more than any other branch of the federal government, is showing remarkable results for its work. It has reformed and modernized itself in important respects, advanced the cause of liberty, delivered lethal blows to our enemies, and protected us from harm. Yet with America engaged in a hot war in Afghanistan, where the consequences of failure would be catastrophic, President Obama has decided to be hyper-thrifty with his spending. He repeatedly limits what his generals, including General Petraeus, believe they need to successfully prosecute the war.

Quite apart from being reckless, Obama is reinforcing almost every bad impression of his party: keen on raising taxes, spending record amounts on domestic programs, centralizing power, and expanding the size and reach of the federal government. When it comes to war, though, Obama is conflicted and uncertain, in search of an exit ramp more than victory, and even willing to subordinate security needs to partisan concerns (most especially by insisting on an arbitrary drawdown date of July 2011 in order to please his political advisers). As Politico reports,

the president’s timetable to begin a real drawdown … is considerably more concrete than once thought. The book … has Obama warning the Pentagon that he won’t tolerate a 10-year war that sacrifices American troops, bleeds the treasury or drains his own popularity with the Democratic base.

By most accounts (see here and here), the White House is pleased with how the president is portrayed in Obama’s Wars. It shouldn’t be. The president comes across, at least in the stories released so far, as a man deeply uncomfortable in his role as commander in chief.

It is a devastating, and depressing, portrait.

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The Irresponsible Commander in Chief

The Washington Post is teasing the release of Bob Woodward’s newest book, Obama’s Wars, which focuses on the war in Afghanistan. Usually in Woodward’s offerings, those who cooperate with the author come off the best, and those who don’t — well, don’t. But in this case, Obama did agree to be interviewed, and it is therefore surprising, at least from the Post‘s telling, how poorly Obama comes across. And frankly, those who are forever  searching for some sign of maturity in the commander in chief and pronouncing that he really “gets it” look rather silly themselves.

First off, Obama was obsessed with an Afghanistan exit strategy, determined to get out no matter what the advice of his military advisers:

According to Woodward’s meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives.

“This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling White House aides as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.” … Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

The disregard for his responsibilities — the equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and humming — is stunning. It also stands in sharp contrast with his predecessor, who insisted on a review of flawed policy and ultimately the implementation of a winning one:

The president is quoted as telling Mullen, Petraeus and Gates: “In 2010, we will not be having a conversation about how to do more. I will not want to hear, ‘We’re doing fine, Mr. President, but we’d be better if we just do more.’ We’re not going to be having a conversation about how to change [the mission] … unless we’re talking about how to draw down faster than anticipated in 2011.”

Imagine FDR telling General Eisenhower, “I don’t want to hear things aren’t going well in Italy.” It’s inconceivable that Obama’s supposed role model, Abraham Lincoln, would have said, “No more news about McClellan’s shortcomings.” But then Obama’s not much for “victory”:

Obama told Woodward in the July interview that he didn’t think about the Afghan war in the “classic” terms of the United States winning or losing. “I think about it more in terms of: Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end?” he said.

After Obama, it is his political advisers who come off worst:

National security adviser James L. Jones privately referred to Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” Petraeus, who felt shut out by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”

But then it is the president who put political hacks in the thick of war-planning.

Obama’s peevishness and determination to avoid facts that conflict with his ideological disposition are chilling. His apparent disinclination to pursue victory should frighten both allies and foes. Has he matured since the events detailed in the book? We have no evidence of that. I think it’s time to stop pretending that Obama is “growing” in the job and that he understands the responsibilities of a wartime president.

The Washington Post is teasing the release of Bob Woodward’s newest book, Obama’s Wars, which focuses on the war in Afghanistan. Usually in Woodward’s offerings, those who cooperate with the author come off the best, and those who don’t — well, don’t. But in this case, Obama did agree to be interviewed, and it is therefore surprising, at least from the Post‘s telling, how poorly Obama comes across. And frankly, those who are forever  searching for some sign of maturity in the commander in chief and pronouncing that he really “gets it” look rather silly themselves.

First off, Obama was obsessed with an Afghanistan exit strategy, determined to get out no matter what the advice of his military advisers:

According to Woodward’s meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives.

“This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling White House aides as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.” … Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

The disregard for his responsibilities — the equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and humming — is stunning. It also stands in sharp contrast with his predecessor, who insisted on a review of flawed policy and ultimately the implementation of a winning one:

The president is quoted as telling Mullen, Petraeus and Gates: “In 2010, we will not be having a conversation about how to do more. I will not want to hear, ‘We’re doing fine, Mr. President, but we’d be better if we just do more.’ We’re not going to be having a conversation about how to change [the mission] … unless we’re talking about how to draw down faster than anticipated in 2011.”

Imagine FDR telling General Eisenhower, “I don’t want to hear things aren’t going well in Italy.” It’s inconceivable that Obama’s supposed role model, Abraham Lincoln, would have said, “No more news about McClellan’s shortcomings.” But then Obama’s not much for “victory”:

Obama told Woodward in the July interview that he didn’t think about the Afghan war in the “classic” terms of the United States winning or losing. “I think about it more in terms of: Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end?” he said.

After Obama, it is his political advisers who come off worst:

National security adviser James L. Jones privately referred to Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” Petraeus, who felt shut out by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”

But then it is the president who put political hacks in the thick of war-planning.

Obama’s peevishness and determination to avoid facts that conflict with his ideological disposition are chilling. His apparent disinclination to pursue victory should frighten both allies and foes. Has he matured since the events detailed in the book? We have no evidence of that. I think it’s time to stop pretending that Obama is “growing” in the job and that he understands the responsibilities of a wartime president.

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Are We There Yet?

Shocking as it may seem to those who actually bought into George Mitchell’s, Hillary Clinton’s, and the president’s cheery pronouncements, it may be that the peace talks are essentially done. The Washington Post reports:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday wrapped up three days of intense Middle East diplomacy that produced good atmospherics but no sign that an impasse over Israeli settlement construction has been resolved.

“We all know that there is no alternative to peace other than negotiating peace so we have no alternative but to continue peace efforts,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said before meeting with the chief U.S. diplomat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
But Abbas gave little indication that he was willing to keep talks going after a partial moratorium on Israeli settlement construction expires Sept. 30.

No one does double-talk like the PA, right?

In any case, it seems the expectations are low that we’re going to have more talks after this month:

On Wednesday evening, Netanyahu told Abbas during talks at his residence in Jerusalem that the moratorium would not be extended, Israeli media reported. The prime minister’s office repeated that position in a statement Thursday.

But Netanyahu has indicated that some restrictions on construction will be applied, and U.S. officials are hoping that the momentum of the past few days will convince the Palestinians to keep talking, even if the settlement freeze is not extended in full. …

But Mitchell refused to say whether the United States was confident the Palestinians would keep talking after the end of the month. “That subject was discussed this evening. We continue in our efforts to make progress in that regard and believe that we are doing so,” he said.

In a word: unlikely.

Will the Obami throw a hissy fit a month and a half before the midterm elections if Israel sticks to its position — i.e., offer some compromise but not an official extension of the settlement freeze? We’ll see. That might only serve to emphasize Obama’s impotence.

If we’re lucky, the talks will go on “hiatus” so “important work can be done at staff levels.” Let’s hope some face-saver like that can be worked out. The most likely alternative, however, is another intifada.

Shocking as it may seem to those who actually bought into George Mitchell’s, Hillary Clinton’s, and the president’s cheery pronouncements, it may be that the peace talks are essentially done. The Washington Post reports:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday wrapped up three days of intense Middle East diplomacy that produced good atmospherics but no sign that an impasse over Israeli settlement construction has been resolved.

“We all know that there is no alternative to peace other than negotiating peace so we have no alternative but to continue peace efforts,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said before meeting with the chief U.S. diplomat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
But Abbas gave little indication that he was willing to keep talks going after a partial moratorium on Israeli settlement construction expires Sept. 30.

No one does double-talk like the PA, right?

In any case, it seems the expectations are low that we’re going to have more talks after this month:

On Wednesday evening, Netanyahu told Abbas during talks at his residence in Jerusalem that the moratorium would not be extended, Israeli media reported. The prime minister’s office repeated that position in a statement Thursday.

But Netanyahu has indicated that some restrictions on construction will be applied, and U.S. officials are hoping that the momentum of the past few days will convince the Palestinians to keep talking, even if the settlement freeze is not extended in full. …

But Mitchell refused to say whether the United States was confident the Palestinians would keep talking after the end of the month. “That subject was discussed this evening. We continue in our efforts to make progress in that regard and believe that we are doing so,” he said.

In a word: unlikely.

Will the Obami throw a hissy fit a month and a half before the midterm elections if Israel sticks to its position — i.e., offer some compromise but not an official extension of the settlement freeze? We’ll see. That might only serve to emphasize Obama’s impotence.

If we’re lucky, the talks will go on “hiatus” so “important work can be done at staff levels.” Let’s hope some face-saver like that can be worked out. The most likely alternative, however, is another intifada.

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Hillary the Has-Been

It’s the Mama Grizzly effect, says the Washington Post — lots of conservative women running for office:

Nearly two years after an anticipated gender bounce – with predictions that women in both parties would rush into politics inspired by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin — it turns out that the momentum is on the Republican side. If there is a Palin effect, it is not being matched by any Clinton effect at the other end of the ideological spectrum.

Ouch. Sorry, Hillary, you’re yesterday’s news. Even worse, Democratic women are enviously eyeing the Tea Party movement:

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said it is “very fair” to argue that the energy for female candidates is trending Republican, a view several other Democratic strategists shared.

“I’ve been struck by it,” said Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary and author of “Why Women Should Rule the World.”

“All the momentum is on the tea party side, so why wouldn’t it also be with the women on the tea party side?”

In fact, a great number of local Tea Party organizers are women, a phenomenon little remarked upon by the mainstream media, which is intent on painting the movement as the province of angry, racist white men.

And to the dismay of feminists, it is hard to deny Palin’s role in all this:

Palin has unquestionably played an outsize role in upping the Republican numbers, endorsing several women, including [Nikki] Haley and [Christine] O’Donnell, who might never have gained sufficient attention otherwise. She has brought to the Republican Party what some members had once complained did not exist: a concerted effort to tap female candidates for promotion and lift them out of obscurity.

And then there is this: The woman most capable of counteracting a Palin bounce for Democrats — Secretary of State Clinton- is not available to campaign.

You do wonder what Hillary is thinking. She’s traded in the title of Queen Bee of American politics for Foggy Bottom errand girl in an administration that is quickly going down the tubes. She’s been dutiful, loyal, responsible — and irrelevant these past 18 months. Meanwhile, whether a 2012 contender or a king and queen maker, Palin has become the most influential woman in American politics. She is not immune from error — far from it — and she remains a problematic figure. But who can doubt that she matters. You can’t say the same about Hillary.

It’s the Mama Grizzly effect, says the Washington Post — lots of conservative women running for office:

Nearly two years after an anticipated gender bounce – with predictions that women in both parties would rush into politics inspired by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin — it turns out that the momentum is on the Republican side. If there is a Palin effect, it is not being matched by any Clinton effect at the other end of the ideological spectrum.

Ouch. Sorry, Hillary, you’re yesterday’s news. Even worse, Democratic women are enviously eyeing the Tea Party movement:

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said it is “very fair” to argue that the energy for female candidates is trending Republican, a view several other Democratic strategists shared.

“I’ve been struck by it,” said Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary and author of “Why Women Should Rule the World.”

“All the momentum is on the tea party side, so why wouldn’t it also be with the women on the tea party side?”

In fact, a great number of local Tea Party organizers are women, a phenomenon little remarked upon by the mainstream media, which is intent on painting the movement as the province of angry, racist white men.

And to the dismay of feminists, it is hard to deny Palin’s role in all this:

Palin has unquestionably played an outsize role in upping the Republican numbers, endorsing several women, including [Nikki] Haley and [Christine] O’Donnell, who might never have gained sufficient attention otherwise. She has brought to the Republican Party what some members had once complained did not exist: a concerted effort to tap female candidates for promotion and lift them out of obscurity.

And then there is this: The woman most capable of counteracting a Palin bounce for Democrats — Secretary of State Clinton- is not available to campaign.

You do wonder what Hillary is thinking. She’s traded in the title of Queen Bee of American politics for Foggy Bottom errand girl in an administration that is quickly going down the tubes. She’s been dutiful, loyal, responsible — and irrelevant these past 18 months. Meanwhile, whether a 2012 contender or a king and queen maker, Palin has become the most influential woman in American politics. She is not immune from error — far from it — and she remains a problematic figure. But who can doubt that she matters. You can’t say the same about Hillary.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democrats seem to have lost track of what the electorate cares about. According to Gallup: “The Republican Party is preferred over the Democratic Party for handling the two top-ranking issues of public concern — terrorism and federal government debt. The Democratic Party is preferred by much wider margins for the environment and discrimination against minority groups — but these are among the least worrisome issues to Americans.”

Obama has lost Hispanic support. Again from Gallup: “Hispanics — and particularly Hispanics who appear to be more closely associated with Hispanic immigrants — have become increasingly disenchanted with President Obama this year. That said, it is important to note that in all instances a majority of Hispanics continue to say they approve of the president’s job performance, exceeding approval among non-Hispanic whites. While Obama has tried to show strong moral support for the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, his reluctance to expend any real political capital to make it happen may be taking a toll on his approval rating in the Hispanic community.” Voters expect more than rhetoric from Obama, which is a significant problem for someone who has gotten by on rhetoric.

Obama is losing the anti-war crowd: “A senior House Democrat likened President Barack Obama to former Vice President Dick Cheney over his handling of the war in Iraq. … Rangel blasted Obama for having stayed in Iraq to continue the war initiated by the preceding administration, accusing the president of being there for oil — a refrain leveled often by Democrats against Bush during the Iraq war.”

The Democrats may lose the governorship of a key swing state: “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio shows [John] Kasich picking up 47% support, while [incumbent Gov.] Strickland earns 42%.”

European leftists never lose the opportunity to attack Israel: “Two members of Germany’s ‘post-communist’ Left party, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, were on the Mavi Marmara last week and apparently used tax monies to fund their terror raid on Israel.”

Who’s the loser here? If unions and not corporations are the big winners, will Democrats knock off the efforts to curb the Supreme Court’s campaign-finance decision in Citizens United?

If it’s possible to lose more respect from the voters, this will do it: “If the time-honored tradition of the political meeting is not quite dead, it seems to be teetering closer to extinction. Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts. … With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions.”

Better to lose this one: “The Supreme Court said Monday it won’t hear arguments that Hillary Rodham Clinton is ineligible to be secretary of state because of an obscure rule about pay increases. The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, without ruling on the underlying issue.” Obama would only get someone worse. (Or is that not possible?)

Democrats seem to have lost track of what the electorate cares about. According to Gallup: “The Republican Party is preferred over the Democratic Party for handling the two top-ranking issues of public concern — terrorism and federal government debt. The Democratic Party is preferred by much wider margins for the environment and discrimination against minority groups — but these are among the least worrisome issues to Americans.”

Obama has lost Hispanic support. Again from Gallup: “Hispanics — and particularly Hispanics who appear to be more closely associated with Hispanic immigrants — have become increasingly disenchanted with President Obama this year. That said, it is important to note that in all instances a majority of Hispanics continue to say they approve of the president’s job performance, exceeding approval among non-Hispanic whites. While Obama has tried to show strong moral support for the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, his reluctance to expend any real political capital to make it happen may be taking a toll on his approval rating in the Hispanic community.” Voters expect more than rhetoric from Obama, which is a significant problem for someone who has gotten by on rhetoric.

Obama is losing the anti-war crowd: “A senior House Democrat likened President Barack Obama to former Vice President Dick Cheney over his handling of the war in Iraq. … Rangel blasted Obama for having stayed in Iraq to continue the war initiated by the preceding administration, accusing the president of being there for oil — a refrain leveled often by Democrats against Bush during the Iraq war.”

The Democrats may lose the governorship of a key swing state: “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio shows [John] Kasich picking up 47% support, while [incumbent Gov.] Strickland earns 42%.”

European leftists never lose the opportunity to attack Israel: “Two members of Germany’s ‘post-communist’ Left party, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, were on the Mavi Marmara last week and apparently used tax monies to fund their terror raid on Israel.”

Who’s the loser here? If unions and not corporations are the big winners, will Democrats knock off the efforts to curb the Supreme Court’s campaign-finance decision in Citizens United?

If it’s possible to lose more respect from the voters, this will do it: “If the time-honored tradition of the political meeting is not quite dead, it seems to be teetering closer to extinction. Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts. … With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions.”

Better to lose this one: “The Supreme Court said Monday it won’t hear arguments that Hillary Rodham Clinton is ineligible to be secretary of state because of an obscure rule about pay increases. The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, without ruling on the underlying issue.” Obama would only get someone worse. (Or is that not possible?)

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South Korea, Yes. Israel, No.

The Obama administration is perking up when it comes to North Korea:

The White House said Monday that North Korea should stop its “belligerent and threatening behavior,” and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged “unequivocal” support for Seoul in its escalating dispute with its neighbor.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama “fully supports” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who on Sunday cut off trade with North Korea and shut down sea lanes to North Korean ships in response to the March 26 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. North Korea was found responsible for the attack by an international group of investigators.

It remains to be seen what “fully supports” means, but it’s a step in the right direction.

And now it’s time to do the same with Israel. After all, Israel is an ally subjected to the “belligerent and threatening behavior” of a neighbor that seeks nuclear weapons. But Obama seems not remotely interested in providing a firm guarantee for Israel that might have some deterrent value and at the very least expanding the array of options we currently have. (Nor do American Jewish leaders demand that he do so.) Such a notion, in fact, seems nearly preposterous for this president. His antipathy for Israel is too great, as is his desperation to avoid confrontation with the thugocracy that seeks the Jewish state’s destruction, to contemplate a promise of unqualified support for our democratic ally.

If the president ever gave a press conference or faced a tough interviewer, he might be asked: why South Korea and not Israel?

The Obama administration is perking up when it comes to North Korea:

The White House said Monday that North Korea should stop its “belligerent and threatening behavior,” and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged “unequivocal” support for Seoul in its escalating dispute with its neighbor.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama “fully supports” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who on Sunday cut off trade with North Korea and shut down sea lanes to North Korean ships in response to the March 26 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. North Korea was found responsible for the attack by an international group of investigators.

It remains to be seen what “fully supports” means, but it’s a step in the right direction.

And now it’s time to do the same with Israel. After all, Israel is an ally subjected to the “belligerent and threatening behavior” of a neighbor that seeks nuclear weapons. But Obama seems not remotely interested in providing a firm guarantee for Israel that might have some deterrent value and at the very least expanding the array of options we currently have. (Nor do American Jewish leaders demand that he do so.) Such a notion, in fact, seems nearly preposterous for this president. His antipathy for Israel is too great, as is his desperation to avoid confrontation with the thugocracy that seeks the Jewish state’s destruction, to contemplate a promise of unqualified support for our democratic ally.

If the president ever gave a press conference or faced a tough interviewer, he might be asked: why South Korea and not Israel?

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A Sanctions Deal — but for Whose Benefit?

Sensing that a sanctions deal was slipping away and the president was cornered by Iran’s diplomatic coup, the Obama team rushed to complete an agreement with China and Russia on sanctions against the Iranian regime:

The Obama administration announced Tuesday morning that it had struck a deal with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose new sanctions on Iran, a sharp repudiation of the deal Tehran offered just a day before to ship its nuclear fuel out of the country.

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, without giving any details of the pact. “We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

Swell, now what’s in it? And will the Obama administration stop its effort to delay and water down additional congressional sanctions?

Maybe they really are crippling and Obama convinced the Chinese and Russians to go after petroleum sanctions, perhaps the only meaningful tool available that would impact Iran. And maybe it will sail through the Security Council, have a swift impact, and halt the mullahs in their tracks. Or then again, maybe the sanctions aren’t even biting, will only provide cover and more time for the mullahs to work away on their nuclear program, will silence criticism from Jewish groups (OK, they were already silent), will help Obama stave off unilateral sanctions by Congress, and will provide him with further leverage to squash an Israeli military strike. I hope I’m wrong about which alternative will play out.

Sensing that a sanctions deal was slipping away and the president was cornered by Iran’s diplomatic coup, the Obama team rushed to complete an agreement with China and Russia on sanctions against the Iranian regime:

The Obama administration announced Tuesday morning that it had struck a deal with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose new sanctions on Iran, a sharp repudiation of the deal Tehran offered just a day before to ship its nuclear fuel out of the country.

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, without giving any details of the pact. “We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

Swell, now what’s in it? And will the Obama administration stop its effort to delay and water down additional congressional sanctions?

Maybe they really are crippling and Obama convinced the Chinese and Russians to go after petroleum sanctions, perhaps the only meaningful tool available that would impact Iran. And maybe it will sail through the Security Council, have a swift impact, and halt the mullahs in their tracks. Or then again, maybe the sanctions aren’t even biting, will only provide cover and more time for the mullahs to work away on their nuclear program, will silence criticism from Jewish groups (OK, they were already silent), will help Obama stave off unilateral sanctions by Congress, and will provide him with further leverage to squash an Israeli military strike. I hope I’m wrong about which alternative will play out.

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RE: RE: The UN Human Rights Circus Plays On

At this moment of high farce, let us remember the Obama administration’s rationale for joining the UN Human Rights Council after the Bush administration had thrown up its hands in frustration at the irredeemable hypocrisy of this dictators’ club. The United States would lend its moral stature to this appalling institution, the Obami reassured us, so that we could reform it from within. As the Washington Post reported at the time:

“Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system. … We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.” …

“This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective,” said a human rights advocate familiar with the decision. “I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen.”

As Jen noted, in refusing to lift a finger in opposition to Iran’s bid to join the Commission on the Status of Women, the Obami have once again abdicated the traditional role America has played at the UN: as a moral firewall preventing the incineration of Turtle Bay in a blaze of Orwellian farce. This is not only another example of smart diplomacy in action, but of the frequently noted phenomenon that all Obama’s promises come with an expiration date. Instead of helping to reform the UN’s appalling human-rights system, the United States is now complicit in it. Maybe Obama will say that we are “bearing witness.”

At this moment of high farce, let us remember the Obama administration’s rationale for joining the UN Human Rights Council after the Bush administration had thrown up its hands in frustration at the irredeemable hypocrisy of this dictators’ club. The United States would lend its moral stature to this appalling institution, the Obami reassured us, so that we could reform it from within. As the Washington Post reported at the time:

“Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system. … We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.” …

“This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective,” said a human rights advocate familiar with the decision. “I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen.”

As Jen noted, in refusing to lift a finger in opposition to Iran’s bid to join the Commission on the Status of Women, the Obami have once again abdicated the traditional role America has played at the UN: as a moral firewall preventing the incineration of Turtle Bay in a blaze of Orwellian farce. This is not only another example of smart diplomacy in action, but of the frequently noted phenomenon that all Obama’s promises come with an expiration date. Instead of helping to reform the UN’s appalling human-rights system, the United States is now complicit in it. Maybe Obama will say that we are “bearing witness.”

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Obami Refuse to Be Shaken from Syrian Slumber

In case you thought the delivery of Scud missiles to Hezbollah had shaken the Obama administration from its trance and dulled its infatuation with Syrian engagement, think again. This report makes clear that it isn’t going to let reality interfere with its plans:

The Obama administration is still committed to improving relations with Syria, despite “deeply disturbing” reports of its moves to aid the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in neighboring Lebanon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.

Clinton, speaking at a news conference before the opening of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in this Baltic capital, said the administration has concluded that the benefits of sending a U.S. ambassador to Damascus — after a five-year absence — outweigh the costs.

She said the presence of an ambassador gives Washington a better insight into what is happening in Damascus.

Well, it’s true that the Obami don’t seem to have a clue as to what Syria is up to, but of course sending an ambassador to yuk it up in Damascus isn’t going to solve that problem. If Assad’s latest move doesn’t provide insight into his intentions in the region, then nothing will — and certainly not an ambassador whose presence will convey to Assad that there is no affront and no violation of a UN resolution we won’t excuse. What’s worse, Clinton is now back-pedaling on whether Scuds in fact were delivered:

Clinton did not confirm the reports. Without mentioning Scuds or Iran, which many believe is the source of the missiles, she described the situation in a way that strongly suggested that the U.S. does not believe Scuds have been transferred to Hezbollah yet.
Clinton referred to “these stories that do suggest there has been some transfer of weapons technology into Syria with the potential purpose of then later transferring it to Hezbollah inside Syria”. Pressed to say whether she meant that the Scuds in Syria had originated in Iran, she replied, “I just said that we have expressed our concern about that.”

“That,” one supposes, is “Scuds.” But like “Islamic extremism,” it is a term the Obami dare not utter. For if they did, one would expect them to do something about them rather than wish them out of existence.

In case you thought the delivery of Scud missiles to Hezbollah had shaken the Obama administration from its trance and dulled its infatuation with Syrian engagement, think again. This report makes clear that it isn’t going to let reality interfere with its plans:

The Obama administration is still committed to improving relations with Syria, despite “deeply disturbing” reports of its moves to aid the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in neighboring Lebanon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.

Clinton, speaking at a news conference before the opening of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in this Baltic capital, said the administration has concluded that the benefits of sending a U.S. ambassador to Damascus — after a five-year absence — outweigh the costs.

She said the presence of an ambassador gives Washington a better insight into what is happening in Damascus.

Well, it’s true that the Obami don’t seem to have a clue as to what Syria is up to, but of course sending an ambassador to yuk it up in Damascus isn’t going to solve that problem. If Assad’s latest move doesn’t provide insight into his intentions in the region, then nothing will — and certainly not an ambassador whose presence will convey to Assad that there is no affront and no violation of a UN resolution we won’t excuse. What’s worse, Clinton is now back-pedaling on whether Scuds in fact were delivered:

Clinton did not confirm the reports. Without mentioning Scuds or Iran, which many believe is the source of the missiles, she described the situation in a way that strongly suggested that the U.S. does not believe Scuds have been transferred to Hezbollah yet.
Clinton referred to “these stories that do suggest there has been some transfer of weapons technology into Syria with the potential purpose of then later transferring it to Hezbollah inside Syria”. Pressed to say whether she meant that the Scuds in Syria had originated in Iran, she replied, “I just said that we have expressed our concern about that.”

“That,” one supposes, is “Scuds.” But like “Islamic extremism,” it is a term the Obami dare not utter. For if they did, one would expect them to do something about them rather than wish them out of existence.

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RE: Gray Lady Foreign Policy PR Effort Falls Short

The New York Times is at is again — spinning the Obami foreign policy so as to minimize the abject failures and heightened tensions it leaves in its wake. The subject is the Middle East. The shift the Gray Lady explains is that now Obama sees resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a “vital national security interest of the United States.” There are two problems with this — first it’s not true, and second it’s not what the Obami are doing.

As to the first, the Times trots out Martin Indyk (who has George Mitchell’s ear and is a good barometer of silly things the Obami believe) who proclaims, “‘In the past, the problem of who drinks out of whose well in Nablus has not been a strategic interest of the United States’ … He said there was an interest now because of the tens of thousands of troops fighting Islamist insurgencies abroad at the same time that the United States was trying to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. ‘Will resolving the Palestinian issue solve everything?’ Mr. Indyk said. ‘No. But will it help us get there? Yes.'”

But what evidence is there for this? Iran and its proxies object to the existence of Israel, not its current borders. Al-Qaeda will not cease from killing Americans if there are “proximity talks” or even a final resolution of the dispute. And frankly, it’s a dumb thing to peg American national security to an issue that plainly is not resolvable any time soon and that is a distraction from the real, vital national security interest — Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But it is the sort of thing pseudo-sophisticated foreign policy types say, and now Obama is spouting it too.

Moreover, let’s get real. The break with the Bush administration is not the level of importance placed on resolving the Palestinian conflict. To the chagrin of many of us, Bush labored long and hard in the fruitless “peace process.” The shift is Obama’s effort to reorient the U.S. away from Israel and ingratiate himself with the “Muslim World.” The Times lets on, by way of pointing out that American Jewish groups are disturbed by the new approach:

The Obama administration’s new thinking, and the tougher policies toward Israel that could flow from it, has alarmed American Jewish leaders accustomed to the Bush administration’s steadfast support. They are not used to seeing issues like Jewish housing in the West Bank or East Jerusalem linked, even by implication, to the security of American soldiers. Some fret that it raises questions about the centrality of the American alliance with Israel, which the administration flatly denies. …

Among American Jewish groups, there is less skepticism than alarm about the administration’s new direction. On Tuesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, publicized letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, signed by 76 senators and 333 House members, that implored the administration to defuse tensions. In an open letter to Mr. Obama from the World Jewish Congress, the organization’s president, Ronald S. Lauder, asked, “Why does the thrust of this administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks?”

But the Times makes no effort to examine the very strong, indeed inescapable evidence that Obama is not simply on some high-minded effort to resolve the Palestinian dispute but rather an intentional mission to put daylight between the two countries, which is what he told a group of Jewish leaders last year. The Times bothers not at all with the Cairo Speech — an invocation of Palestinian victimology and an infamous analogy equating Palestinians to enslaved African Americans. Nor is there mention of the serial snubbing of Bibi, the “condemnation” of our ally (there’s a break from the past if they were looking for an example), and the contrived fuss over Jerusalem housing. The “paper of record” merely takes at face value the Obami denial that the administration has turned on and against our ally, leaving one with the impression that nervous Jews just don’t get the genius of Obama.

But the facts are the facts: the Obami are quite evidently taking a wrecking ball to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. One would have to be blind — or write for the New York Times — to miss what is going on.

The New York Times is at is again — spinning the Obami foreign policy so as to minimize the abject failures and heightened tensions it leaves in its wake. The subject is the Middle East. The shift the Gray Lady explains is that now Obama sees resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a “vital national security interest of the United States.” There are two problems with this — first it’s not true, and second it’s not what the Obami are doing.

As to the first, the Times trots out Martin Indyk (who has George Mitchell’s ear and is a good barometer of silly things the Obami believe) who proclaims, “‘In the past, the problem of who drinks out of whose well in Nablus has not been a strategic interest of the United States’ … He said there was an interest now because of the tens of thousands of troops fighting Islamist insurgencies abroad at the same time that the United States was trying to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. ‘Will resolving the Palestinian issue solve everything?’ Mr. Indyk said. ‘No. But will it help us get there? Yes.'”

But what evidence is there for this? Iran and its proxies object to the existence of Israel, not its current borders. Al-Qaeda will not cease from killing Americans if there are “proximity talks” or even a final resolution of the dispute. And frankly, it’s a dumb thing to peg American national security to an issue that plainly is not resolvable any time soon and that is a distraction from the real, vital national security interest — Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But it is the sort of thing pseudo-sophisticated foreign policy types say, and now Obama is spouting it too.

Moreover, let’s get real. The break with the Bush administration is not the level of importance placed on resolving the Palestinian conflict. To the chagrin of many of us, Bush labored long and hard in the fruitless “peace process.” The shift is Obama’s effort to reorient the U.S. away from Israel and ingratiate himself with the “Muslim World.” The Times lets on, by way of pointing out that American Jewish groups are disturbed by the new approach:

The Obama administration’s new thinking, and the tougher policies toward Israel that could flow from it, has alarmed American Jewish leaders accustomed to the Bush administration’s steadfast support. They are not used to seeing issues like Jewish housing in the West Bank or East Jerusalem linked, even by implication, to the security of American soldiers. Some fret that it raises questions about the centrality of the American alliance with Israel, which the administration flatly denies. …

Among American Jewish groups, there is less skepticism than alarm about the administration’s new direction. On Tuesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, publicized letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, signed by 76 senators and 333 House members, that implored the administration to defuse tensions. In an open letter to Mr. Obama from the World Jewish Congress, the organization’s president, Ronald S. Lauder, asked, “Why does the thrust of this administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks?”

But the Times makes no effort to examine the very strong, indeed inescapable evidence that Obama is not simply on some high-minded effort to resolve the Palestinian dispute but rather an intentional mission to put daylight between the two countries, which is what he told a group of Jewish leaders last year. The Times bothers not at all with the Cairo Speech — an invocation of Palestinian victimology and an infamous analogy equating Palestinians to enslaved African Americans. Nor is there mention of the serial snubbing of Bibi, the “condemnation” of our ally (there’s a break from the past if they were looking for an example), and the contrived fuss over Jerusalem housing. The “paper of record” merely takes at face value the Obami denial that the administration has turned on and against our ally, leaving one with the impression that nervous Jews just don’t get the genius of Obama.

But the facts are the facts: the Obami are quite evidently taking a wrecking ball to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. One would have to be blind — or write for the New York Times — to miss what is going on.

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Obama’s Incomprehensible Nuclear Posture Review

It’s sometimes hard to fathom what Obama is up to. What possible rationale would there be for “revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons, even in self-defense”? Why would we want to announce a new posture that “eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war”? It seems absurd to be “explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.” All of this only reinforces the perception that Obama is dangerously obsessed with unilateral gestures and disarmament. Even the New York Times concedes:

Mr. Obama’s new strategy is bound to be controversial, both among conservatives who have warned against diluting the United States’ most potent deterrent and among liberals who were hoping for a blanket statement that the United States would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.

And while we are signaling to potential foes that they can take a potshot at the U.S. without risking a nuclear blowback, Obama makes crystal clear just how unserious he is about taking out Iran’s nuclear capability:

Mr. Obama said he wanted a new United Nations sanctions resolution against Iran “that has bite,” but he would not embrace the phrase “crippling sanctions” once used by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. And he acknowledged the limitations of United Nations action. “We’re not naïve that any single set of sanctions automatically is going to change Iranian behavior,” he said, adding “there’s no light switch in this process.”

In other words, the nuclear-free world that Obama is envisioning had better prepare itself to include Iran in the nuclear club because Obama sees no “switch” (certainly not any military action) to forestall a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state.

I imagine that the average American looking at this would recoil. Why foreswear defensive use of nuclear force? Why remove strategic ambiguity? Why give the signal that crippling sanctions aren’t in the cards? These are the questions lawmakers and voters should and will be asking themselves. If this is really the course Obama intends to pursue, Americans may well conclude he is making them and our allies less safe and the world more vulnerable to aggressors.

It’s sometimes hard to fathom what Obama is up to. What possible rationale would there be for “revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons, even in self-defense”? Why would we want to announce a new posture that “eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war”? It seems absurd to be “explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.” All of this only reinforces the perception that Obama is dangerously obsessed with unilateral gestures and disarmament. Even the New York Times concedes:

Mr. Obama’s new strategy is bound to be controversial, both among conservatives who have warned against diluting the United States’ most potent deterrent and among liberals who were hoping for a blanket statement that the United States would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.

And while we are signaling to potential foes that they can take a potshot at the U.S. without risking a nuclear blowback, Obama makes crystal clear just how unserious he is about taking out Iran’s nuclear capability:

Mr. Obama said he wanted a new United Nations sanctions resolution against Iran “that has bite,” but he would not embrace the phrase “crippling sanctions” once used by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. And he acknowledged the limitations of United Nations action. “We’re not naïve that any single set of sanctions automatically is going to change Iranian behavior,” he said, adding “there’s no light switch in this process.”

In other words, the nuclear-free world that Obama is envisioning had better prepare itself to include Iran in the nuclear club because Obama sees no “switch” (certainly not any military action) to forestall a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state.

I imagine that the average American looking at this would recoil. Why foreswear defensive use of nuclear force? Why remove strategic ambiguity? Why give the signal that crippling sanctions aren’t in the cards? These are the questions lawmakers and voters should and will be asking themselves. If this is really the course Obama intends to pursue, Americans may well conclude he is making them and our allies less safe and the world more vulnerable to aggressors.

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From Screaming to Silence

The Obama administration, acting like a wounded spouse, has now migrated from screaming at Israel to the silent treatment. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton had meetings with Bibi Netanyahu. But if the relationship was as “rock solid” as Hillary disingenuously proclaimed in her AIPAC speech, you’d never know it :

No reporters, or even photographers, were invited when Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Clinton Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Biden on Monday or when he met with Obama on Tuesday night. There was no grand Rose Garden ceremony. Official spokesmen issued only the blandest of statements.

This is petulance, if not rudeness. Can one imagine any other “ally” receiving such dismissive treatment? The Obami are, I suppose, technically abiding by the advice to move their disputes with Bibi behind closed doors. But the snippy reception that telegraphs their anger with Bibi over his continuing to allow Jews to live anywhere in Israel’s eternal capital is just more of the same Obama gambit in another guise. The message to Israel, to the Muslim World, and to the Palestinians is the same: the U.S. is in a snit over Israel’s housing policy, and a significant gap between the two countries has not been healed. The contrast between the warm greeting from members of Congress and the stony silence from the White House only highlighted the point.

The result is real and troubling: when the U.S. backs away from Israel, we send a signal to our allies that Israel deserves the cold shoulder:

The cooling in the U.S.-Israel relationship coincides with an apparent deepening of Israel’s diplomatic isolation. Anger has grown in Europe in the wake of Israel’s suspected misuse of European passports to kill a Palestinian militant in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the expulsion of a senior diplomat over the incident, an unusually drastic step for an ally. Relations with Turkey, a rare Muslim friend of Israel for decades, have hit a new low.

As the Washington Post notes, the Obami have made hash out of the Middle East from the get-go:

The Obama administration has struggled from the start to find its footing with Israel and the Palestinians. Obama took office soon after Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, which had ruptured peace talks nurtured by the George W. Bush administration. Obama appointed a special envoy, former senator George J. Mitchell, on his second day in office. But then the administration tried to pressure Israel to freeze all settlement expansion — and failed. The United States further lost credibility when Clinton embraced Netanyahu’s compromise proposal, which fell short of Palestinian expectations, as “unprecedented.”

U.S. pressure at the time also backfired because it appeared to let the Palestinians off the hook. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to enter into direct talks before a settlement freeze, even though he had done so before. The administration had to settle for indirect talks, with Mitchell shuttling back and forth. The recent disagreement has set back that effort.

Quite obviously the relationship is anything but “rock solid,” after 14 months of Obami Middle East policy. Having picked a losing fight over the issue nearest and dearest to Israelis and American Jews and provoking a retort that may now become a slogan of defiance (“Jerusalem is not a settlement — it’s our capital!”), the Obami have no where to go. More stony silence? More condemnation statements with each new housing announcement? The proximity talks, yet another accommodation to Palestinian intransigence, are a dead end. And meanwhile, the mullahs proceed with their nuclear program. A nuclear-armed Iran may be “unacceptable” to the Obami, but in all this brouhaha it should not go unnoticed that they are making no progress in thwarting the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions.

The Obama administration, acting like a wounded spouse, has now migrated from screaming at Israel to the silent treatment. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton had meetings with Bibi Netanyahu. But if the relationship was as “rock solid” as Hillary disingenuously proclaimed in her AIPAC speech, you’d never know it :

No reporters, or even photographers, were invited when Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Clinton Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Biden on Monday or when he met with Obama on Tuesday night. There was no grand Rose Garden ceremony. Official spokesmen issued only the blandest of statements.

This is petulance, if not rudeness. Can one imagine any other “ally” receiving such dismissive treatment? The Obami are, I suppose, technically abiding by the advice to move their disputes with Bibi behind closed doors. But the snippy reception that telegraphs their anger with Bibi over his continuing to allow Jews to live anywhere in Israel’s eternal capital is just more of the same Obama gambit in another guise. The message to Israel, to the Muslim World, and to the Palestinians is the same: the U.S. is in a snit over Israel’s housing policy, and a significant gap between the two countries has not been healed. The contrast between the warm greeting from members of Congress and the stony silence from the White House only highlighted the point.

The result is real and troubling: when the U.S. backs away from Israel, we send a signal to our allies that Israel deserves the cold shoulder:

The cooling in the U.S.-Israel relationship coincides with an apparent deepening of Israel’s diplomatic isolation. Anger has grown in Europe in the wake of Israel’s suspected misuse of European passports to kill a Palestinian militant in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the expulsion of a senior diplomat over the incident, an unusually drastic step for an ally. Relations with Turkey, a rare Muslim friend of Israel for decades, have hit a new low.

As the Washington Post notes, the Obami have made hash out of the Middle East from the get-go:

The Obama administration has struggled from the start to find its footing with Israel and the Palestinians. Obama took office soon after Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, which had ruptured peace talks nurtured by the George W. Bush administration. Obama appointed a special envoy, former senator George J. Mitchell, on his second day in office. But then the administration tried to pressure Israel to freeze all settlement expansion — and failed. The United States further lost credibility when Clinton embraced Netanyahu’s compromise proposal, which fell short of Palestinian expectations, as “unprecedented.”

U.S. pressure at the time also backfired because it appeared to let the Palestinians off the hook. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to enter into direct talks before a settlement freeze, even though he had done so before. The administration had to settle for indirect talks, with Mitchell shuttling back and forth. The recent disagreement has set back that effort.

Quite obviously the relationship is anything but “rock solid,” after 14 months of Obami Middle East policy. Having picked a losing fight over the issue nearest and dearest to Israelis and American Jews and provoking a retort that may now become a slogan of defiance (“Jerusalem is not a settlement — it’s our capital!”), the Obami have no where to go. More stony silence? More condemnation statements with each new housing announcement? The proximity talks, yet another accommodation to Palestinian intransigence, are a dead end. And meanwhile, the mullahs proceed with their nuclear program. A nuclear-armed Iran may be “unacceptable” to the Obami, but in all this brouhaha it should not go unnoticed that they are making no progress in thwarting the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions.

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RE: Must We Waste Another Year?

I heartily agree with your take, Michael. Yet the Obama administration, in its latest bout of fruitless and counterproductive suck-uppery, is returning its ambassador to Syria. How’s that going? Not well:

The presidents of Iran and Syria on Thursday ridiculed U.S. policy in the region and pledged to create a Middle East “without Zionists,” combining a slap at recent U.S. overtures and a threat to Israel with an endorsement of one of the region’s defining alliances. … The message delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a joint news conference was sharp and spoke to a shared sense that Iran is gaining influence in the region despite U.S. efforts. Until the outcome of the broader struggle over Iran’s nuclear program becomes clear, analysts here say, it is unlikely Syria will change direction — or that progress can be made toward an Israel-Syria peace agreement.

But we are opening our hand to Syria, sending Robert Ford back to Damascus, reversing the decision to pull our representative following the murder in 2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Isn’t that enough to begin to lure Syria from Iran, its partner in state-sponsored terrorism? It seems not:

The United States wants “to dominate the region, but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that,” Ahmadinejad said. “We tell them that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier, spoke of Israel’s eventual “demise and annihilation” and said the countries of the region could create a future “without Zionists and without colonialists.” Assad criticized what he regarded as the United States’ “new situation of colonialism” in the region, with troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pressure on Syria to split from Iran, a friendship Assad emphasized was secure even given Syria’s faltering economy.

The notion that unilateral gestures and muteness on Syrian human-rights atrocities can break the bond between Tehran and Damascus is not new among Foggy Bottom types. But there are few true believers as devoted as Hillary Clinton. (“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that the return of an ambassador marked a ‘slight opening’ toward Syria but that ultimately the United States expects Assad to curb his ties with Iran and his support for militant groups like the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip.”) Nevertheless it is a gambit divorced from reality, as the two despots made clear for the umpteenth time. (“But Assad and Ahmadinejad on Thursday emphasized that their countries’ relationship had deepened with the signing of an agreement waiving visa restrictions for travel.”)

Alas, as in all things Obami on the foreign-policy front, we have moved the ball backward, not forward. As Iran flaunts its unchecked nuclear ambitions and as America continues to leave doors open to those who want not to be engaged, Syria draws ever closer to the perceived strong horse in the region. Once again, the Obami have nothing to show, and much to explain, in their serial foreign-policy malpractice.

<a href=”http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/246731″>Michael</a>

I heartily agree with your take, Michael. Yet the Obama administration, in its latest bout of fruitless and counterproductive suck-uppery, is returning its ambassador to Syria. How’s that going? Not well:

The presidents of Iran and Syria on Thursday ridiculed U.S. policy in the region and pledged to create a Middle East “without Zionists,” combining a slap at recent U.S. overtures and a threat to Israel with an endorsement of one of the region’s defining alliances. … The message delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a joint news conference was sharp and spoke to a shared sense that Iran is gaining influence in the region despite U.S. efforts. Until the outcome of the broader struggle over Iran’s nuclear program becomes clear, analysts here say, it is unlikely Syria will change direction — or that progress can be made toward an Israel-Syria peace agreement.

But we are opening our hand to Syria, sending Robert Ford back to Damascus, reversing the decision to pull our representative following the murder in 2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Isn’t that enough to begin to lure Syria from Iran, its partner in state-sponsored terrorism? It seems not:

The United States wants “to dominate the region, but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that,” Ahmadinejad said. “We tell them that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier, spoke of Israel’s eventual “demise and annihilation” and said the countries of the region could create a future “without Zionists and without colonialists.” Assad criticized what he regarded as the United States’ “new situation of colonialism” in the region, with troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pressure on Syria to split from Iran, a friendship Assad emphasized was secure even given Syria’s faltering economy.

The notion that unilateral gestures and muteness on Syrian human-rights atrocities can break the bond between Tehran and Damascus is not new among Foggy Bottom types. But there are few true believers as devoted as Hillary Clinton. (“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that the return of an ambassador marked a ‘slight opening’ toward Syria but that ultimately the United States expects Assad to curb his ties with Iran and his support for militant groups like the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip.”) Nevertheless it is a gambit divorced from reality, as the two despots made clear for the umpteenth time. (“But Assad and Ahmadinejad on Thursday emphasized that their countries’ relationship had deepened with the signing of an agreement waiving visa restrictions for travel.”)

Alas, as in all things Obami on the foreign-policy front, we have moved the ball backward, not forward. As Iran flaunts its unchecked nuclear ambitions and as America continues to leave doors open to those who want not to be engaged, Syria draws ever closer to the perceived strong horse in the region. Once again, the Obami have nothing to show, and much to explain, in their serial foreign-policy malpractice.

<a href=”http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/246731″>Michael</a>

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Hillary Admits Failure on Iran

The Washington Post reports:

The accumulating evidence of Iran’s nuclear momentum emerges as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded Monday that the White House has little to show for nearly a year of diplomatic engagement with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. “I don’t think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of a positive response from the Iranians,” Clinton told reporters.

So in other words, rather than pursuing regime change or using evidence of the Qom enrichment reactor to garner support for those “crippling sanctions,” we frittered away another year, allowing the mullahs to solidify power and the Iran nuclear program to advance. And it certainly has advanced, as the report notes:

The internal documents and expert analysis point to a growing Iranian mastery of disciplines including uranium metallurgy, heavy-water production and the high-precision explosives used to trigger a nuclear detonation. Although U.S. spy agencies have thought that Iran’s leaders halted research on nuclear warheads in 2003, European and Middle Eastern analysts point to evidence that Iran has continued to hone its skills, as recently as 2007.

Hmm. That would be the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declaring that Iran had dropped its nuclear military ambitions. Turns out that it was bunk. And knowing it was bunk and that the Qom and perhaps other facilities were under development, one has to wonder why the Obami wasted time in a fruitless effort to engage a regime bent on brutalizing its own people, supporting terror groups, and acquiring a nuclear blackmail card.

We’re told that the Obama administration intends to press forward on sanctions next year. Perhaps, and maybe the Obama team can avoid the endless haggling and watering down that will be needed to get others on board. And then we’ll see if the sanctions have any real impact. And then we’ll argue about whether they “worked.” And then there’ll be more talks. But in the meantime, the entire process has been delayed for yet another year as the Iranians inch forward to the day when they will declare themselves a nuclear power. And soon, I suspect, we will hear that “containment” is really the only option left. One wonders if that wasn’t the end game all along.

The Washington Post reports:

The accumulating evidence of Iran’s nuclear momentum emerges as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded Monday that the White House has little to show for nearly a year of diplomatic engagement with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. “I don’t think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of a positive response from the Iranians,” Clinton told reporters.

So in other words, rather than pursuing regime change or using evidence of the Qom enrichment reactor to garner support for those “crippling sanctions,” we frittered away another year, allowing the mullahs to solidify power and the Iran nuclear program to advance. And it certainly has advanced, as the report notes:

The internal documents and expert analysis point to a growing Iranian mastery of disciplines including uranium metallurgy, heavy-water production and the high-precision explosives used to trigger a nuclear detonation. Although U.S. spy agencies have thought that Iran’s leaders halted research on nuclear warheads in 2003, European and Middle Eastern analysts point to evidence that Iran has continued to hone its skills, as recently as 2007.

Hmm. That would be the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declaring that Iran had dropped its nuclear military ambitions. Turns out that it was bunk. And knowing it was bunk and that the Qom and perhaps other facilities were under development, one has to wonder why the Obami wasted time in a fruitless effort to engage a regime bent on brutalizing its own people, supporting terror groups, and acquiring a nuclear blackmail card.

We’re told that the Obama administration intends to press forward on sanctions next year. Perhaps, and maybe the Obama team can avoid the endless haggling and watering down that will be needed to get others on board. And then we’ll see if the sanctions have any real impact. And then we’ll argue about whether they “worked.” And then there’ll be more talks. But in the meantime, the entire process has been delayed for yet another year as the Iranians inch forward to the day when they will declare themselves a nuclear power. And soon, I suspect, we will hear that “containment” is really the only option left. One wonders if that wasn’t the end game all along.

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Making Enemies, Influencing No One

The Obami foreign-policy gurus have perfected the art of annoying multiple parties in a number of international face-offs. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have had it with the Obama settlement-freeze gambit. And now the Obama team’s handling of Honduras has brought howls from several quarters:

Less than two weeks after U.S. diplomats announced a historic agreement to reverse a coup in Honduras, the accord is in danger of collapse and both Honduran officials and U.S. lawmakers are blaming American missteps for some of the failure. Ousted president Manuel Zelaya, who was expelled by the military in June, said in a telephone interview that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had assured him as recently as last week that the U.S. government was seeking his return to the presidency. But he said that U.S. pressure had eased in recent days and that he no longer had faith in the agreement.

It’s not just Zelaya who’s peeved. The “international community” is annoyed too:

José Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, which is helping implement the accord, said that negotiations between Zelaya and the de facto government had fallen apart and that he would not send a mission to Honduras to observe presidential elections at the end of the month. That added to the possibility that the previously scheduled elections will not be internationally recognized — and that Honduras’s five-month-old crisis will continue.

Sen. John Kerry and others who took seriously the deal to have Zelaya reinstated are also chagrined to find out that the State Department isn’t really bent out of shape by the failure of the Honduran Congress to take a vote on returning Zelaya to power. The Obami, on background naturally, confess they were in essence pulling a fast one on Zelaya. (“Another senior U.S. official noted the agreement never specifically said that Zelaya would be reinstated, instead giving the Honduran National Congress the power to vote on it.”) The Obami desperately and belatedly want to move on to elections, a position their critics and the Honduran interim government had been urging for months.

The Obami’s “historic” arrangement was, of course, supposed to extract the Obama team from the disastrous stalemate they had helped to create. Realizing they had backed a lunatic for whom there was no popular support within Honduras, the Obami came up with a scheme — let Zelaya back in power, but not really. Leave it up to the Congress, which won’t vote to put him back in power even briefly, and just move on to elections. But now everyone has figured out the game and they don’t much appreciate the trickery.

Once again we see the rank incompetence and disastrous results brought about by the smart Obama diplomacy. They raise expectations unrealistically on one side (Zelaya, the Palestinians), give the critics the back of the hand, dig in, realize the error of their ways, try to reverse course, and pretend they aren’t — and wind up with everyone mad. When is it that we get around to “restoring our standing” in the world?

The Obami foreign-policy gurus have perfected the art of annoying multiple parties in a number of international face-offs. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have had it with the Obama settlement-freeze gambit. And now the Obama team’s handling of Honduras has brought howls from several quarters:

Less than two weeks after U.S. diplomats announced a historic agreement to reverse a coup in Honduras, the accord is in danger of collapse and both Honduran officials and U.S. lawmakers are blaming American missteps for some of the failure. Ousted president Manuel Zelaya, who was expelled by the military in June, said in a telephone interview that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had assured him as recently as last week that the U.S. government was seeking his return to the presidency. But he said that U.S. pressure had eased in recent days and that he no longer had faith in the agreement.

It’s not just Zelaya who’s peeved. The “international community” is annoyed too:

José Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, which is helping implement the accord, said that negotiations between Zelaya and the de facto government had fallen apart and that he would not send a mission to Honduras to observe presidential elections at the end of the month. That added to the possibility that the previously scheduled elections will not be internationally recognized — and that Honduras’s five-month-old crisis will continue.

Sen. John Kerry and others who took seriously the deal to have Zelaya reinstated are also chagrined to find out that the State Department isn’t really bent out of shape by the failure of the Honduran Congress to take a vote on returning Zelaya to power. The Obami, on background naturally, confess they were in essence pulling a fast one on Zelaya. (“Another senior U.S. official noted the agreement never specifically said that Zelaya would be reinstated, instead giving the Honduran National Congress the power to vote on it.”) The Obami desperately and belatedly want to move on to elections, a position their critics and the Honduran interim government had been urging for months.

The Obami’s “historic” arrangement was, of course, supposed to extract the Obama team from the disastrous stalemate they had helped to create. Realizing they had backed a lunatic for whom there was no popular support within Honduras, the Obami came up with a scheme — let Zelaya back in power, but not really. Leave it up to the Congress, which won’t vote to put him back in power even briefly, and just move on to elections. But now everyone has figured out the game and they don’t much appreciate the trickery.

Once again we see the rank incompetence and disastrous results brought about by the smart Obama diplomacy. They raise expectations unrealistically on one side (Zelaya, the Palestinians), give the critics the back of the hand, dig in, realize the error of their ways, try to reverse course, and pretend they aren’t — and wind up with everyone mad. When is it that we get around to “restoring our standing” in the world?

Read Less

Could It Get Worse?

The Obami’s human-rights policy, even many liberals would concede, has been dismal. In essence, the policy has been to ignore human-rights issues when they conflict with any other objective — ingratiating ourselves with the mullahs, for example. And even when there is no apparent national-security objective to be gained, this administration seems intent on soft-pedaling human rights and accommodating tyrannical regimes. A case in point is Burma. In this report we learn:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. will not impose conditions on Burma to force democratic changes there. But she also says existing sanctions will remain in place until the junta makes “meaningful progress” toward democracy in key areas. The United States has been urging the junta to hold fair elections, release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and allow her to return to political life. Clinton says “this has to be resolved within” the country by its people. She told reporters Wednesday “we are not setting or dictating any conditions.”

Got that? We want meaningful progress, but elections are left to be “resolved” internally. By whom — the despotic regime? We aren’t going to impose sanctions to encourage democratic changes, but we aren’t lifting existing ones. Yes, it’s embarrassing and verging on incoherent. And of course, when we behave in this pusillanimous fashion, we convey unseriousness to the Burmese government and to the people of Burma (who would like to look to us for political and moral leadership), but also to other like-minded regimes and oppressed people in other similar locales. The mullahs are watching, as are the Syrians and the Cubans. The Russians have figured out that we aren’t serious about this stuff. The North Koreans, as well.

In short, we have systematically degraded our standing and credibility in the world, giving a green light to tyrants who have little to fear and frankly much to gain (an envoy will visit them too) by continuing their current behavior. And what have we gained, and with whom have we restored our reputation? The smart-diplomacy mavens should tell us.

The Obami’s human-rights policy, even many liberals would concede, has been dismal. In essence, the policy has been to ignore human-rights issues when they conflict with any other objective — ingratiating ourselves with the mullahs, for example. And even when there is no apparent national-security objective to be gained, this administration seems intent on soft-pedaling human rights and accommodating tyrannical regimes. A case in point is Burma. In this report we learn:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. will not impose conditions on Burma to force democratic changes there. But she also says existing sanctions will remain in place until the junta makes “meaningful progress” toward democracy in key areas. The United States has been urging the junta to hold fair elections, release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and allow her to return to political life. Clinton says “this has to be resolved within” the country by its people. She told reporters Wednesday “we are not setting or dictating any conditions.”

Got that? We want meaningful progress, but elections are left to be “resolved” internally. By whom — the despotic regime? We aren’t going to impose sanctions to encourage democratic changes, but we aren’t lifting existing ones. Yes, it’s embarrassing and verging on incoherent. And of course, when we behave in this pusillanimous fashion, we convey unseriousness to the Burmese government and to the people of Burma (who would like to look to us for political and moral leadership), but also to other like-minded regimes and oppressed people in other similar locales. The mullahs are watching, as are the Syrians and the Cubans. The Russians have figured out that we aren’t serious about this stuff. The North Koreans, as well.

In short, we have systematically degraded our standing and credibility in the world, giving a green light to tyrants who have little to fear and frankly much to gain (an envoy will visit them too) by continuing their current behavior. And what have we gained, and with whom have we restored our reputation? The smart-diplomacy mavens should tell us.

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Obama, In Code, to Hillary: The VP Slot Is Yours If You Want It

Read these words from his speech just now: “One of the most formidable candidates ever to run for this office….In her 35 years of public service, Hillary Rodham Clinton has never given up on her fight for the American people…We’ve had our disagreements, but we all admire her courage and her commitment and her perseverence…Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and has changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age and for that we are grateful to her.”

Hmmm. Hillary Clinton as a maker of change.

Obama-Clinton 2008. Put money on it.

Read these words from his speech just now: “One of the most formidable candidates ever to run for this office….In her 35 years of public service, Hillary Rodham Clinton has never given up on her fight for the American people…We’ve had our disagreements, but we all admire her courage and her commitment and her perseverence…Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and has changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age and for that we are grateful to her.”

Hmmm. Hillary Clinton as a maker of change.

Obama-Clinton 2008. Put money on it.

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When You’re On A Roll . . .

Hillary Clinton is out to convince voters she’s tougher and savvier than Barack Obama. The New York Times tells us:

Iran has lodged a formal protest at the United Nations about comments by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States would “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, the state-run news agency, IRNA, reported Thursday. Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, sent a letter of protest on Wednesday to the United Nations secretary general and the United Nations Security Council denouncing the remarks, according to IRNA. Mrs. Clinton made the comments in an interview on ABC last week. “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” she said when she was asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she added.

Maybe this doesn’t carry much weight in a Democratic primary, but in the general election (should she make it that far) this would be gold for Clinton. She wants to show voters she’s tough and not like all those weak-kneed Democrats of the past? This can be Exhibit A. If she really wants to wow them, she can reply that she doesn’t give a fig what the UN says. But that might be a bridge too far, even for her.

For now, she’s miles ahead in the macho (or whatever you want to call it) contest.

Hillary Clinton is out to convince voters she’s tougher and savvier than Barack Obama. The New York Times tells us:

Iran has lodged a formal protest at the United Nations about comments by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States would “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, the state-run news agency, IRNA, reported Thursday. Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, sent a letter of protest on Wednesday to the United Nations secretary general and the United Nations Security Council denouncing the remarks, according to IRNA. Mrs. Clinton made the comments in an interview on ABC last week. “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” she said when she was asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she added.

Maybe this doesn’t carry much weight in a Democratic primary, but in the general election (should she make it that far) this would be gold for Clinton. She wants to show voters she’s tough and not like all those weak-kneed Democrats of the past? This can be Exhibit A. If she really wants to wow them, she can reply that she doesn’t give a fig what the UN says. But that might be a bridge too far, even for her.

For now, she’s miles ahead in the macho (or whatever you want to call it) contest.

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