Commentary Magazine


Topic: James Jones

Flotsam and Jetsam

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.’”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.’” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.’”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.’” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

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Crowley vs. Jones — No Contest

On what is quickly becoming the most interesting Sunday interview program, CNN’s State of the Union, Candy Crowley (who last week tied Hillary Clinton up on the same topic) lured NSA chief James Jones into a corner regarding the administration’s policy on Iran (or lack thereof), from which he never escaped. The sequence on Iran should be read in full to appreciate just how pathetic was Jones’s performance:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Iran. The president said recently the door is still open toward negotiations. I believe you made a similar statement in December. Why is the door still open? We have spent a year with overtures to Iran. The last time we heard, they were still moving towards nuclear armed capabilities. Why in the world would the door still be open?

JONES: Well, the best solution is that Iran would in fact see the offer that’s on the table for what it is, that is supported by much of the world community, and that it gives them a chance to show their peaceful intent with the regard to the use of nuclear power.

It is puzzling, to say the least, as to why they have not accepted this offer. I know that Iran is going through some difficult times internally. We know that the world is moving towards the next set of persuasive powers to show them the error of their ways in the form of sanctions, and — but the right thing to do is to hope that Iran will, in fact, agree.

CROWLEY: But they haven’t.

JONES: They haven’t.

CROWLEY: Right. They haven’t done it. Is China on board, is Russia on board right now?

JONES: We have extremely good overall support in Europe, in the Middle East.

CROWLEY: China?

JONES: And with the Russian — with the Russians. And China is obviously is a rising power and a power with global influence. Has been extremely good with us in terms of North Korea in terms of sanctions. This is a–

CROWLEY: But not on board there.

JONES: — same kind of issue, it’s proliferation, and I would have to think that as a responsible world power, that China will see — apply the same standards on proliferation in the Middle East–

CROWLEY: But they are not there yet on Iran?

JONES: But we are working with them.

Is he serious? He is puzzled, he says, as to why Iran has not leapt at our offer to give up its nukes and forgo the shot at regional hegemony. We don’t have China or Russia on board, although we were promised that they would be if we spent a year engaging the mullahs, who, to the Obami’s apparent surprise, don’t want to be engaged. All Jones can lamely offer is that we are moving toward sanctions. When? Of what sort? He doesn’t say.

It is not a performance that inspires any confidence that the Obami have figured out the folly of engagement. There is no inkling, no hint of understanding, that the problem here is the nature of the Iranian regime or that our energies and those sanctions, when and if they ever come, should be directed not to lure the Iranians back to the table for more tomfoolery but rather toward toppling the despotic regime. There is no puzzle here. Nor is there any doubt that the Obama Iran policy is neither smart nor realistic. It is, however, quite dangerous. The mullahs listen, take our measure, and move ahead with their nuclear program.

On what is quickly becoming the most interesting Sunday interview program, CNN’s State of the Union, Candy Crowley (who last week tied Hillary Clinton up on the same topic) lured NSA chief James Jones into a corner regarding the administration’s policy on Iran (or lack thereof), from which he never escaped. The sequence on Iran should be read in full to appreciate just how pathetic was Jones’s performance:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Iran. The president said recently the door is still open toward negotiations. I believe you made a similar statement in December. Why is the door still open? We have spent a year with overtures to Iran. The last time we heard, they were still moving towards nuclear armed capabilities. Why in the world would the door still be open?

JONES: Well, the best solution is that Iran would in fact see the offer that’s on the table for what it is, that is supported by much of the world community, and that it gives them a chance to show their peaceful intent with the regard to the use of nuclear power.

It is puzzling, to say the least, as to why they have not accepted this offer. I know that Iran is going through some difficult times internally. We know that the world is moving towards the next set of persuasive powers to show them the error of their ways in the form of sanctions, and — but the right thing to do is to hope that Iran will, in fact, agree.

CROWLEY: But they haven’t.

JONES: They haven’t.

CROWLEY: Right. They haven’t done it. Is China on board, is Russia on board right now?

JONES: We have extremely good overall support in Europe, in the Middle East.

CROWLEY: China?

JONES: And with the Russian — with the Russians. And China is obviously is a rising power and a power with global influence. Has been extremely good with us in terms of North Korea in terms of sanctions. This is a–

CROWLEY: But not on board there.

JONES: — same kind of issue, it’s proliferation, and I would have to think that as a responsible world power, that China will see — apply the same standards on proliferation in the Middle East–

CROWLEY: But they are not there yet on Iran?

JONES: But we are working with them.

Is he serious? He is puzzled, he says, as to why Iran has not leapt at our offer to give up its nukes and forgo the shot at regional hegemony. We don’t have China or Russia on board, although we were promised that they would be if we spent a year engaging the mullahs, who, to the Obami’s apparent surprise, don’t want to be engaged. All Jones can lamely offer is that we are moving toward sanctions. When? Of what sort? He doesn’t say.

It is not a performance that inspires any confidence that the Obami have figured out the folly of engagement. There is no inkling, no hint of understanding, that the problem here is the nature of the Iranian regime or that our energies and those sanctions, when and if they ever come, should be directed not to lure the Iranians back to the table for more tomfoolery but rather toward toppling the despotic regime. There is no puzzle here. Nor is there any doubt that the Obama Iran policy is neither smart nor realistic. It is, however, quite dangerous. The mullahs listen, take our measure, and move ahead with their nuclear program.

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Obama Blew His First Important Decision

The juicy Game Change book, which landed Harry Reid in political quicksand, is even more damaging to Joe Biden and, by extension, to the president’s own image as chief executive. As Politico recounts:

The relationship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden grew so strained during the 2008 campaign, according to a new book, that the two rarely spoke and aides not only kept Biden off internal conference calls but refused to even tell him they existed. Instead, a separate campaign call was regularly scheduled between the then-Delaware senator and two of Obama’s top campaign aides — “so that they could keep a tight rein on him,” write journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. … The tensions began in September of 2008 [when] word got back to Obama’s campaign headquarters that Biden had told reporters on his campaign plane that he was more qualified than his running mate to be president.

“A chill set in between Chicago and the Biden plane,” Halperin and Heilemann write in the book, to be released Monday. “Joe and Obama barely spoke by phone, rarely campaigned together.”

And when Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was asked about having Biden dial into the nightly campaign conference call, he responded: “Nah.” Instead, Biden had his own call with Plouffe and senior campaign adviser David Axelrod.

Obama himself was growing increasingly frustrated with his running mate after Biden let loose with a string of gaffes, including a statement that paying higher taxes amounted to patriotism and criticism of one of the campaign’s own ads poking fun at John McCain.

But when Biden, at an October fund-raiser in Seattle, famously predicted that Obama would be tested with an international crisis, the then-Illinois senator had had enough.

“How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?” he demanded of his advisers on a conference call, a moment at which most people on the call said the candidate was as angry as they had ever heard him.

Well, we knew Joe Biden was a loudmouthed buffoon. Indeed, most people knew that before he was selected as Obama’s VP. His gaffes were well known, his penchant for cringe-inducing boasts was no secret, and he was, after all, bounced from one presidential campaign for appropriating Neil Kinnock’s life account as his own. But here’s the thing: Obama selected him anyway. So what is the real message here — that Biden was a goofball, or that Obama showed atrocious judgment in making the most important personnel call, one that cannot be reversed until 2012?

If Obama was furious at his VP, he should perhaps have thought back to the vetting process. Surely, Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy didn’t let him down by failing to take their candidate through Biden’s shortcomings chapter and verse, right? Obama nevertheless made the decision to hire someone for whom he had contempt. Nice work.

Moreover, in office Biden has not only lived up to his reputation for gaffes; his judgment, most especially on Afghanistan, has been (as it has been for 30 years) faulty. To Obama’s credit, Biden’s advice was rejected on the surge, although one suspects the process would have been less excruciating and prolonged had it not been for Biden’s efforts to override the advice of all our military commanders.

Obama hasn’t distinguished himself as an executive. His Afghanistan policy-making process was tortured, and he has outsourced much of that policy making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — who proceeded to junk up the stimulus and come up with the worst-of-all-worlds health-care bill. He flunked the 3 a.m. telephone-call test on the Christmas Day bombing. But it’s in his personnel selection — from the hapless and ethically challenged Tim Geithner to the decidedly unwise Sonia Sotomayor to the goofy James Jones — where he has demonstrated his utter lack of executive competence. And the prime example is the man who sits the proverbial one heartbeat away from the presidency.

The juicy Game Change book, which landed Harry Reid in political quicksand, is even more damaging to Joe Biden and, by extension, to the president’s own image as chief executive. As Politico recounts:

The relationship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden grew so strained during the 2008 campaign, according to a new book, that the two rarely spoke and aides not only kept Biden off internal conference calls but refused to even tell him they existed. Instead, a separate campaign call was regularly scheduled between the then-Delaware senator and two of Obama’s top campaign aides — “so that they could keep a tight rein on him,” write journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. … The tensions began in September of 2008 [when] word got back to Obama’s campaign headquarters that Biden had told reporters on his campaign plane that he was more qualified than his running mate to be president.

“A chill set in between Chicago and the Biden plane,” Halperin and Heilemann write in the book, to be released Monday. “Joe and Obama barely spoke by phone, rarely campaigned together.”

And when Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was asked about having Biden dial into the nightly campaign conference call, he responded: “Nah.” Instead, Biden had his own call with Plouffe and senior campaign adviser David Axelrod.

Obama himself was growing increasingly frustrated with his running mate after Biden let loose with a string of gaffes, including a statement that paying higher taxes amounted to patriotism and criticism of one of the campaign’s own ads poking fun at John McCain.

But when Biden, at an October fund-raiser in Seattle, famously predicted that Obama would be tested with an international crisis, the then-Illinois senator had had enough.

“How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?” he demanded of his advisers on a conference call, a moment at which most people on the call said the candidate was as angry as they had ever heard him.

Well, we knew Joe Biden was a loudmouthed buffoon. Indeed, most people knew that before he was selected as Obama’s VP. His gaffes were well known, his penchant for cringe-inducing boasts was no secret, and he was, after all, bounced from one presidential campaign for appropriating Neil Kinnock’s life account as his own. But here’s the thing: Obama selected him anyway. So what is the real message here — that Biden was a goofball, or that Obama showed atrocious judgment in making the most important personnel call, one that cannot be reversed until 2012?

If Obama was furious at his VP, he should perhaps have thought back to the vetting process. Surely, Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy didn’t let him down by failing to take their candidate through Biden’s shortcomings chapter and verse, right? Obama nevertheless made the decision to hire someone for whom he had contempt. Nice work.

Moreover, in office Biden has not only lived up to his reputation for gaffes; his judgment, most especially on Afghanistan, has been (as it has been for 30 years) faulty. To Obama’s credit, Biden’s advice was rejected on the surge, although one suspects the process would have been less excruciating and prolonged had it not been for Biden’s efforts to override the advice of all our military commanders.

Obama hasn’t distinguished himself as an executive. His Afghanistan policy-making process was tortured, and he has outsourced much of that policy making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — who proceeded to junk up the stimulus and come up with the worst-of-all-worlds health-care bill. He flunked the 3 a.m. telephone-call test on the Christmas Day bombing. But it’s in his personnel selection — from the hapless and ethically challenged Tim Geithner to the decidedly unwise Sonia Sotomayor to the goofy James Jones — where he has demonstrated his utter lack of executive competence. And the prime example is the man who sits the proverbial one heartbeat away from the presidency.

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James Jones: Prepare to Be Shocked by Our Incompetence

The Obama administration’s failure to block the Christmas Day bomber is shocking. They really have messed up. Even though they wouldn’t label it a jihadist attack, Fort Hood was another screw-up. So the Obama team has seen two attacks on the homeland — two more than in all the years following 9/11. We can’t afford a third. Is this the conservative case against Obama? No, this is the administration’s own national security adviser, James Jones, telling us we are going to freak out when we learn what stumblebums they all are. USA Today reports:

White House national security adviser James Jones says Americans will feel “a certain shock” when they read an account being released Thursday of the missed clues that could have prevented the alleged Christmas Day bomber from ever boarding the plane.

President Obama “is legitimately and correctly alarmed that things that were available, bits of information that were available, patterns of behavior that were available, were not acted on,” Jones said in an interview Wednesday with USA Today.

“That’s two strikes,” Obama’s top White House aide on defense and foreign policy issues said, referring to the foiled bombing of the Detroit-bound airliner and the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in November. In that case, too, officials failed to act when red flags were raised about an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan. He has been charged with killing 13 people.
Jones said Obama “certainly doesn’t want that third strike, and neither does anybody else.”

Given all that, it seems inexplicable that no jobs will be lost in the administration nor thoughts given to reversing their most significant policy decisions, which now seem utterly inappropriate (e.g., closing Guantanamo, setting a public trial for KSM, ending the use of enhanced interrogation techniques). The Obama team will have new and mind-numbing ways of hassling airline passengers. They will rejigger the watch lists. But real, fundamental change, or a meaningful personnel change? I wouldn’t bet on it. So get ready to be shocked — shocked at the incompetence and shocked that nothing ever provokes meaningful self-evaluation by Obama and his team.

The Obama administration’s failure to block the Christmas Day bomber is shocking. They really have messed up. Even though they wouldn’t label it a jihadist attack, Fort Hood was another screw-up. So the Obama team has seen two attacks on the homeland — two more than in all the years following 9/11. We can’t afford a third. Is this the conservative case against Obama? No, this is the administration’s own national security adviser, James Jones, telling us we are going to freak out when we learn what stumblebums they all are. USA Today reports:

White House national security adviser James Jones says Americans will feel “a certain shock” when they read an account being released Thursday of the missed clues that could have prevented the alleged Christmas Day bomber from ever boarding the plane.

President Obama “is legitimately and correctly alarmed that things that were available, bits of information that were available, patterns of behavior that were available, were not acted on,” Jones said in an interview Wednesday with USA Today.

“That’s two strikes,” Obama’s top White House aide on defense and foreign policy issues said, referring to the foiled bombing of the Detroit-bound airliner and the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in November. In that case, too, officials failed to act when red flags were raised about an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan. He has been charged with killing 13 people.
Jones said Obama “certainly doesn’t want that third strike, and neither does anybody else.”

Given all that, it seems inexplicable that no jobs will be lost in the administration nor thoughts given to reversing their most significant policy decisions, which now seem utterly inappropriate (e.g., closing Guantanamo, setting a public trial for KSM, ending the use of enhanced interrogation techniques). The Obama team will have new and mind-numbing ways of hassling airline passengers. They will rejigger the watch lists. But real, fundamental change, or a meaningful personnel change? I wouldn’t bet on it. So get ready to be shocked — shocked at the incompetence and shocked that nothing ever provokes meaningful self-evaluation by Obama and his team.

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Making the Wish List

Tim Cavanaugh (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

I don’t understand the Washington cant that says [Larry] Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other manifest failures can’t be fired. Ronald Reagan, father of the debtorship society, fired six department heads in his first term, and made a point of first humiliating and then firing his deficit-hawk OMB director David Stockman. George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on his way to winning re-election.

This is not only brilliant advice for the economic team, but it is worth considering on a broader basis. Multiple firings would serve many aims. First, they keep the media off of their new favorite storyline — namely, “Is this really the guy we went into the tank for?” Second, it cuts against the image of the president as the wimp in chief. Third, many people deserve to be fired — not just the obvious loonies and incompetents such as Van Jones and the fellow responsible for panicking New Yorkers with the Air Force One flyover. Fourth, Obama loves to play the “look ma, no hands game” so firing staff who “didn’t perform” maintains Obama’s aura as someone who really, honestly is the smartest, wisest president ever. He just had bad staff, you see.

So who’s on the list? Well, Joe Biden can’t be fired until 2012. Besides, he’s useful for reminding the country that we could be in worse hands. The obvious candidates: Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and James Jones. If there has been a worse trio of foreign-policy advisers who’ve made hash of just about everything they’ve touched I’d be hard pressed to name it. Their removal would be a big step toward “restoring our standing” in the world. (That’s what we were promised, you recall.) Think of it as a mega reset.

And then there are David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. After all, they’ve been running everything — from the Afghanistan war seminars, to Middle East strategy, to the stimulus and health care. Indeed, their fingerprints are all over many of the administration’s worst calls. Moreover, firing them would help dispel one of those “bad” storylines that John Harris pointed out:

The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols. It does not help that many West Wing aides seem to relish an image of themselves as shrewd, brass-knuckled political types. In a Washington Post story this month, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, referring to most of Obama’s team, said, “We are all campaign hacks.” The problem is that many voters took Obama seriously in 2008 when he talked about wanting to create a more reasoned, non-partisan style of governance in Washington.

And finally there is Eric Holder, who has been front and center in some of the worst decisions of the administration — the ill-conceived and unresearched decision to close Guantanamo, the release of interrogation memos, the reinvestigation of CIA operatives, the now-reversed decision to release detainee-abuse photos, and the civilian trial of KSM (topped off by an Alberto Gonzales-like appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee). But I’m thinking it’s best to wait on that one. They’ll need a moment when the KSM trial is spinning out of control and Senate races in New York and Illinois are still winnable to announce that, by gosh, this handling of KSM is a mess and Holder is taking full responsibility on the way out the door.

Okay, it’s a lot of people to can. But it’s been a lousy first year.

Tim Cavanaugh (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

I don’t understand the Washington cant that says [Larry] Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other manifest failures can’t be fired. Ronald Reagan, father of the debtorship society, fired six department heads in his first term, and made a point of first humiliating and then firing his deficit-hawk OMB director David Stockman. George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on his way to winning re-election.

This is not only brilliant advice for the economic team, but it is worth considering on a broader basis. Multiple firings would serve many aims. First, they keep the media off of their new favorite storyline — namely, “Is this really the guy we went into the tank for?” Second, it cuts against the image of the president as the wimp in chief. Third, many people deserve to be fired — not just the obvious loonies and incompetents such as Van Jones and the fellow responsible for panicking New Yorkers with the Air Force One flyover. Fourth, Obama loves to play the “look ma, no hands game” so firing staff who “didn’t perform” maintains Obama’s aura as someone who really, honestly is the smartest, wisest president ever. He just had bad staff, you see.

So who’s on the list? Well, Joe Biden can’t be fired until 2012. Besides, he’s useful for reminding the country that we could be in worse hands. The obvious candidates: Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and James Jones. If there has been a worse trio of foreign-policy advisers who’ve made hash of just about everything they’ve touched I’d be hard pressed to name it. Their removal would be a big step toward “restoring our standing” in the world. (That’s what we were promised, you recall.) Think of it as a mega reset.

And then there are David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. After all, they’ve been running everything — from the Afghanistan war seminars, to Middle East strategy, to the stimulus and health care. Indeed, their fingerprints are all over many of the administration’s worst calls. Moreover, firing them would help dispel one of those “bad” storylines that John Harris pointed out:

The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols. It does not help that many West Wing aides seem to relish an image of themselves as shrewd, brass-knuckled political types. In a Washington Post story this month, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, referring to most of Obama’s team, said, “We are all campaign hacks.” The problem is that many voters took Obama seriously in 2008 when he talked about wanting to create a more reasoned, non-partisan style of governance in Washington.

And finally there is Eric Holder, who has been front and center in some of the worst decisions of the administration — the ill-conceived and unresearched decision to close Guantanamo, the release of interrogation memos, the reinvestigation of CIA operatives, the now-reversed decision to release detainee-abuse photos, and the civilian trial of KSM (topped off by an Alberto Gonzales-like appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee). But I’m thinking it’s best to wait on that one. They’ll need a moment when the KSM trial is spinning out of control and Senate races in New York and Illinois are still winnable to announce that, by gosh, this handling of KSM is a mess and Holder is taking full responsibility on the way out the door.

Okay, it’s a lot of people to can. But it’s been a lousy first year.

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ANNAPOLIS: The monitor & judge

The rumor in Annapolis yesterday was that the recently-retired Marine Gen. James Jones had been tapped as the man to lead the “monitoring and judging” component of the renewed American effort to push the implementation of the Roadmap. Today, it became official.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the job involves monitoring the development of Palestinian security services. One focus would be how those forces interact with neighboring security services, including Israeli authorities.

“There is in her mind a need for someone to take a look internally at not only the efforts of the Palestinians to build up their security forces, but how those efforts relate to the Israeli government and Israeli security efforts and how those efforts also relate through the region,” he said.

As I argued yesterday, the manner in which this job is performed will be vital to how the Palestinian effort at developing competent security services is going to be viewed. And that, in turn, is going to affect how much pressure is put on Israel to reduce its security presence in the West Bank. Check out Wikipedia for a little more info on Jones. Shmuel Rosner and Aluf Benn have more on the Jones appointment in their Annapolis diary:

The issue that threatened to disrupt the talks between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her lead-negotiating counterpart, former PA prime minister Ahmed Qureia, was over who would supervise the two sides and decide whether they are meeting their road map obligations. Experience in the Middle East suggests that the Israelis and the Palestinians are very good at blaming the other side, but they do not really like to keep their obligations. Had this been different the Palestinian terrorist groups and the outposts in the West Bank would have long gone. During the Oslo period there was no responsible adult around to ensure that the obligations were met. The road map sought to correct this and set a mechanism of monitoring under American control.

The Palestinians and the Americans proposed for the current negotiations to set up a tripartite committee that would discuss all issues and decide who was right and who needs to correct things. Defense Minister Ehud Barak opposed this proposal, fearing that Israel will find itself in a minority position, and proposed instead that an American arbitrator would be assigned to decide. The final compromise is that a committee will be set up, but the decision maker will be U.S. General Jim Jones, the former NATO commander, who will take up his new duties in the coming days. Like other generals appointed by the White House for this thankless job, Jones will also probably go through a complicated breaking-in period in the Middle East.

The rumor in Annapolis yesterday was that the recently-retired Marine Gen. James Jones had been tapped as the man to lead the “monitoring and judging” component of the renewed American effort to push the implementation of the Roadmap. Today, it became official.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the job involves monitoring the development of Palestinian security services. One focus would be how those forces interact with neighboring security services, including Israeli authorities.

“There is in her mind a need for someone to take a look internally at not only the efforts of the Palestinians to build up their security forces, but how those efforts relate to the Israeli government and Israeli security efforts and how those efforts also relate through the region,” he said.

As I argued yesterday, the manner in which this job is performed will be vital to how the Palestinian effort at developing competent security services is going to be viewed. And that, in turn, is going to affect how much pressure is put on Israel to reduce its security presence in the West Bank. Check out Wikipedia for a little more info on Jones. Shmuel Rosner and Aluf Benn have more on the Jones appointment in their Annapolis diary:

The issue that threatened to disrupt the talks between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her lead-negotiating counterpart, former PA prime minister Ahmed Qureia, was over who would supervise the two sides and decide whether they are meeting their road map obligations. Experience in the Middle East suggests that the Israelis and the Palestinians are very good at blaming the other side, but they do not really like to keep their obligations. Had this been different the Palestinian terrorist groups and the outposts in the West Bank would have long gone. During the Oslo period there was no responsible adult around to ensure that the obligations were met. The road map sought to correct this and set a mechanism of monitoring under American control.

The Palestinians and the Americans proposed for the current negotiations to set up a tripartite committee that would discuss all issues and decide who was right and who needs to correct things. Defense Minister Ehud Barak opposed this proposal, fearing that Israel will find itself in a minority position, and proposed instead that an American arbitrator would be assigned to decide. The final compromise is that a committee will be set up, but the decision maker will be U.S. General Jim Jones, the former NATO commander, who will take up his new duties in the coming days. Like other generals appointed by the White House for this thankless job, Jones will also probably go through a complicated breaking-in period in the Middle East.

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The Seventh-Best World War II Novel

Roger Kimball, one of our finest critics, has delivered a devastating dissection of Norman Mailer’s overrated career, which consisted of political posturing and juvenile behavior interspersed with the production of mediocre novels—at best. (Kimball’s critique may be found here.)

I have very little to add beyond a few thoughts on the book that launched Mailer’s career—The Naked and the Dead, written in 1948 when its author was a 25-year-old unknown. Kimball is dead right when he describes this work as “pretentious,” not particularly “well-crafted,” and lacking in narrative “momentum.” Kimball writes, “Its heavy-handed psychologizing and use of four-letter words were thought smart in 1948; most contemporary readers will find them quaint if not downright embarrassing.” That was certainly my reaction upon reading The Naked and the Dead years ago. What was all the fuss about, I wondered? (I recently had a similar feeling on reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.)

Yet The Naked and the Dead continues to win gushing praise. David Ulin in the Los Angeles Times writes that it “ is considered by many the greatest American war novel ever written.”

Read More

Roger Kimball, one of our finest critics, has delivered a devastating dissection of Norman Mailer’s overrated career, which consisted of political posturing and juvenile behavior interspersed with the production of mediocre novels—at best. (Kimball’s critique may be found here.)

I have very little to add beyond a few thoughts on the book that launched Mailer’s career—The Naked and the Dead, written in 1948 when its author was a 25-year-old unknown. Kimball is dead right when he describes this work as “pretentious,” not particularly “well-crafted,” and lacking in narrative “momentum.” Kimball writes, “Its heavy-handed psychologizing and use of four-letter words were thought smart in 1948; most contemporary readers will find them quaint if not downright embarrassing.” That was certainly my reaction upon reading The Naked and the Dead years ago. What was all the fuss about, I wondered? (I recently had a similar feeling on reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.)

Yet The Naked and the Dead continues to win gushing praise. David Ulin in the Los Angeles Times writes that it “ is considered by many the greatest American war novel ever written.”

Really? It’s better than Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (the greatest novel of the Civil War), Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (the greatest American novel of World War I), or James Webb’s Fields of Fire (the greatest novel of the Vietnam War)? I think not.

It’s not even the best American novel of World War II. Not by a long shot. A number of books are actually much better, starting with, in no particular order, James Gould Cozzens’s Guard of Honor, James Jones’s From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny. I even prefer John Hersey’s slight work, A Bell for Adano, which is more like a long short story than a full-blown novel.

Let’s see. By my count that would make The Naked and the Dead at most the seventh-best novel written by an American about World War II, to say nothing of all American war novels. Of course the best novel about WWII wasn’t penned by an American. It was the three-volume Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh, whose biting wit, compelling plotting, vivid irony, and sparkling writing puts the puerile efforts of Norman Mailer to shame.

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