Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jamie Fly

Flotsam and Jetsam

This isn’t going to win over the critics who say she lacks political judgment. “Sarah Palin dismissed Barbara Bush’s recent criticism as a matter of class privilege. … ‘I don’t want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because i don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and i want to say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue bloods who want to pick and chose their winners instead of allowing competition’ … Palin also suggested that the Bushes upper-class status had contributed to ‘the economic policies that were in place that got us into these economic woeful times.'” Whatever you think of Bush 41, this isn’t what a presidential candidate should sound like.

This is going to give “strategic patience” (otherwise known as paralysis) a bad name. “North Korea’s latest round of saber rattling leaves a politically weakened President Obama with several unpalatable options for dealing with the unstable nuclear power. The North Korean shelling of a South Korean island follows the revelation of a new centrifuge plant that could eventually allow the North to add to its nuclear stockpile. Both developments suggest the Obama administration’s policy of’ ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea is having little impact on the regime, which is focused on the transition of power from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un.”

This isn’t going to help the White House scare the Senate into a ratification vote: Jamie Fly writes: “New START is a rather meaningless arms-control agreement notable more for what it fails to do than what it achieves. … There remains serious criticism of New START’s merits on the right, and it is troubling that the administration is attempting to argue that Republicans such as Sen. Jon Kyl are interested only in killing the treaty. Kyl and a majority of his colleagues are just asking for more time to explore their concerns about the treaty and continue discussions with administration officials about funding levels for modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. From the rhetoric of the administration and its surrogates, one would believe that if New START is not ratified by the end of the year, nuclear weapons will suddenly fall into the hands of terrorists.”

This is a sign that no one is going to bat for Joe Miller. “Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman had some unsolicited advice for fellow Republican Joe Miller: It’s time to quit.”

This verdict isn’t going to provoke much sympathy from conservatives. Tom DeLay is the type of pol the Tea Party despises, and his politics is the sort Republican lawmakers need to repudiate.

This wasn’t going to happen with Obama’s “smart diplomacy”: “When North Korea tested a nuclear device last year, China issued bland criticism and urged Pyongyang to resume diplomacy. After a South Korean navy ship was sunk, most likely by a North Korean torpedo, Beijing sent its sympathies but called the evidence inconclusive. Now that North Korea has unleashed an artillery barrage on a South Korean island that killed four people — including two civilians — and raised tensions in the heavily armed region, Beijing again appears unwilling to rein in its neighbor.”

This lame duck session isn’t going to be what the Dems had hoped. “Not so long ago, the great fear was that the Democratic Party would return from its midterm drubbing to jam all manner of odious legislation through a lame duck session of Congress. We may need to put that in the ‘wasted worry’ category.”

This isn’t going to win over the critics who say she lacks political judgment. “Sarah Palin dismissed Barbara Bush’s recent criticism as a matter of class privilege. … ‘I don’t want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because i don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and i want to say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue bloods who want to pick and chose their winners instead of allowing competition’ … Palin also suggested that the Bushes upper-class status had contributed to ‘the economic policies that were in place that got us into these economic woeful times.'” Whatever you think of Bush 41, this isn’t what a presidential candidate should sound like.

This is going to give “strategic patience” (otherwise known as paralysis) a bad name. “North Korea’s latest round of saber rattling leaves a politically weakened President Obama with several unpalatable options for dealing with the unstable nuclear power. The North Korean shelling of a South Korean island follows the revelation of a new centrifuge plant that could eventually allow the North to add to its nuclear stockpile. Both developments suggest the Obama administration’s policy of’ ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea is having little impact on the regime, which is focused on the transition of power from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un.”

This isn’t going to help the White House scare the Senate into a ratification vote: Jamie Fly writes: “New START is a rather meaningless arms-control agreement notable more for what it fails to do than what it achieves. … There remains serious criticism of New START’s merits on the right, and it is troubling that the administration is attempting to argue that Republicans such as Sen. Jon Kyl are interested only in killing the treaty. Kyl and a majority of his colleagues are just asking for more time to explore their concerns about the treaty and continue discussions with administration officials about funding levels for modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. From the rhetoric of the administration and its surrogates, one would believe that if New START is not ratified by the end of the year, nuclear weapons will suddenly fall into the hands of terrorists.”

This is a sign that no one is going to bat for Joe Miller. “Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman had some unsolicited advice for fellow Republican Joe Miller: It’s time to quit.”

This verdict isn’t going to provoke much sympathy from conservatives. Tom DeLay is the type of pol the Tea Party despises, and his politics is the sort Republican lawmakers need to repudiate.

This wasn’t going to happen with Obama’s “smart diplomacy”: “When North Korea tested a nuclear device last year, China issued bland criticism and urged Pyongyang to resume diplomacy. After a South Korean navy ship was sunk, most likely by a North Korean torpedo, Beijing sent its sympathies but called the evidence inconclusive. Now that North Korea has unleashed an artillery barrage on a South Korean island that killed four people — including two civilians — and raised tensions in the heavily armed region, Beijing again appears unwilling to rein in its neighbor.”

This lame duck session isn’t going to be what the Dems had hoped. “Not so long ago, the great fear was that the Democratic Party would return from its midterm drubbing to jam all manner of odious legislation through a lame duck session of Congress. We may need to put that in the ‘wasted worry’ category.”

Read Less

What Can the GOP Senators Get?

Untangling fact from fiction and sneer from substance in a Maureen Dowd column is not a task for the fainthearted, especially when she wades into matters of policy. But let’s give it a shot. She writes:

But faced with the treaty’s unraveling, with possible deleterious consequences for sanctions on Iran and supply lines for our troops in Afghanistan, Obama had no choice. Even if the treaty doesn’t much affect our strategic security, it affects the relationship with Russia and our standing in the world. And resetting the relationship with Russia, with his buddy Dmitri, is the president’s only significant foreign policy accomplishment.

We will start with the accurate part: Obama has no other foreign policy accomplishments aside from whatever he has gotten out of our newly styled relationship with Russia. This is called “reset” because it sounds so much better than “appeasement.” Putin has much to show for his dealings with Obama. Missile-defense facilities were yanked out of Poland and the Czech Republic. We’ve been rather mute about the Russian thugocracy’s repressive tactics, and Russia still occupies a chunk of Georgia.

But what exactly has Obama accomplished? The Swiss cheese sanctions against Iran, which are not slowing the mullahs’ rush to nuclear powerdom, are not much to write home about. In fact, the Russians helped build and load fuel into the Bushehr nuclear plant, which seems to have accelerated the Iranian nuclear program. And then there is the alleged help in Afghanistan. Jamie Fly has debunked that one:

Unfortunately, only five supply flights occurred in the first six months of the program, an underwhelming number considering the administration’s bold projections.  This failure to meet expectations prompted Politico’s Ben Smith to remark that it was “hard to see this as a particularly major achievement of a revived relationship.”  Philip Gordon, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Russian Affairs, recently stated that as of June 18, only 275 flights had occurred over Russian territory.  Had the administration’s bold projections proved accurate, nearly 3,500 flights should have already occurred.

Russia has also played an extensive role in undermining NATO transportation capabilities in other countries throughout the region, and in some cases has actively worked against U.S. efforts to adequately supply forces in Afghanistan. Recently, the United States was forced to triple its annual leasing rights payments to Bishkek after Moscow placed significant pressure on Kyrgyzstan to remove the U.S. air base at Manas.  A Russian-influenced campaign led to the ouster of President Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan and placed the tenuous status of the Manas air base again in peril.  If continued unrest in Kyrgyzstan leads to a closure of Manas, Russian intransigence in Central Asia could prove to be very costly for the American war effort.

So we are down to voting for an arms-control treaty, regardless of the merits, because otherwise Obama will look worse than he already does. Does this sound familiar? It’s akin to the Middle East peace talks bribe-a-thon, which was also meant to save the president from embarrassment (but merely has convinced onlookers, as one Israel expert put it, that the Obama diplomats “have taken leave of their senses”).

And what of the timing? In the case of both the Middles East and New START agreements, the deals must happen NOW — again, because Obama needs a boost.

Perhaps Sen. Jon Kyl had it wrong in declaring there will be no treaty ratification in the lame duck session. Really, that’s not the way to manage Obama. Instead, it’s time for the GOP senators to name their price. The Israelis got planes, promises to be defended in the UN, and a guarantee that the Obama team absolutely, positively won’t ask for any more settlement freezes. What could the GOP Senate get? They have already secured a multi-billion-dollar modernization plan, but is that really “enough”? Obama, you see, is desperate to get a deal, so the Republican senators should get creative — agreement on the Bush tax cuts, a dealing on spending cuts, etc. Too much? Oh no, the Republicans can tell the White House that this is called “reset.” And the name of the game is to create an exceptionally imbalanced relationship in which the only benefit to Obama is the right to tout his dealmaking skills.

Untangling fact from fiction and sneer from substance in a Maureen Dowd column is not a task for the fainthearted, especially when she wades into matters of policy. But let’s give it a shot. She writes:

But faced with the treaty’s unraveling, with possible deleterious consequences for sanctions on Iran and supply lines for our troops in Afghanistan, Obama had no choice. Even if the treaty doesn’t much affect our strategic security, it affects the relationship with Russia and our standing in the world. And resetting the relationship with Russia, with his buddy Dmitri, is the president’s only significant foreign policy accomplishment.

We will start with the accurate part: Obama has no other foreign policy accomplishments aside from whatever he has gotten out of our newly styled relationship with Russia. This is called “reset” because it sounds so much better than “appeasement.” Putin has much to show for his dealings with Obama. Missile-defense facilities were yanked out of Poland and the Czech Republic. We’ve been rather mute about the Russian thugocracy’s repressive tactics, and Russia still occupies a chunk of Georgia.

But what exactly has Obama accomplished? The Swiss cheese sanctions against Iran, which are not slowing the mullahs’ rush to nuclear powerdom, are not much to write home about. In fact, the Russians helped build and load fuel into the Bushehr nuclear plant, which seems to have accelerated the Iranian nuclear program. And then there is the alleged help in Afghanistan. Jamie Fly has debunked that one:

Unfortunately, only five supply flights occurred in the first six months of the program, an underwhelming number considering the administration’s bold projections.  This failure to meet expectations prompted Politico’s Ben Smith to remark that it was “hard to see this as a particularly major achievement of a revived relationship.”  Philip Gordon, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Russian Affairs, recently stated that as of June 18, only 275 flights had occurred over Russian territory.  Had the administration’s bold projections proved accurate, nearly 3,500 flights should have already occurred.

Russia has also played an extensive role in undermining NATO transportation capabilities in other countries throughout the region, and in some cases has actively worked against U.S. efforts to adequately supply forces in Afghanistan. Recently, the United States was forced to triple its annual leasing rights payments to Bishkek after Moscow placed significant pressure on Kyrgyzstan to remove the U.S. air base at Manas.  A Russian-influenced campaign led to the ouster of President Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan and placed the tenuous status of the Manas air base again in peril.  If continued unrest in Kyrgyzstan leads to a closure of Manas, Russian intransigence in Central Asia could prove to be very costly for the American war effort.

So we are down to voting for an arms-control treaty, regardless of the merits, because otherwise Obama will look worse than he already does. Does this sound familiar? It’s akin to the Middle East peace talks bribe-a-thon, which was also meant to save the president from embarrassment (but merely has convinced onlookers, as one Israel expert put it, that the Obama diplomats “have taken leave of their senses”).

And what of the timing? In the case of both the Middles East and New START agreements, the deals must happen NOW — again, because Obama needs a boost.

Perhaps Sen. Jon Kyl had it wrong in declaring there will be no treaty ratification in the lame duck session. Really, that’s not the way to manage Obama. Instead, it’s time for the GOP senators to name their price. The Israelis got planes, promises to be defended in the UN, and a guarantee that the Obama team absolutely, positively won’t ask for any more settlement freezes. What could the GOP Senate get? They have already secured a multi-billion-dollar modernization plan, but is that really “enough”? Obama, you see, is desperate to get a deal, so the Republican senators should get creative — agreement on the Bush tax cuts, a dealing on spending cuts, etc. Too much? Oh no, the Republicans can tell the White House that this is called “reset.” And the name of the game is to create an exceptionally imbalanced relationship in which the only benefit to Obama is the right to tout his dealmaking skills.

Read Less

What Bushehr Tells Us

Jamie Fly has an important analysis of the Bushehr reactor. He contends that the reactor in and of itself is less important (“The real key to Iran’s nuclear program lies at its facilities at Natanz, Esfahan, at the factories where its centrifuges are being built, and the labs and campuses of its nuclear scientists”) than what it tells us about the general state of our Iran policy:

First, it serves as another reminder of the bipartisan failure of U.S. Iran policy. The Iran saga is not solely about failed engagement by President Obama. The Bush administration tried various tactics with Iran and also failed to halt its progress toward a nuclear capability. A serious exploration of new options, including the military option, is thus in order if the United States remains unwilling to accept a nuclear Iran. …

Second, the actual startup of Bushehr says something about Russia’s perceptions of the Iranian threat. . .Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration “consented in recent months to Russia pushing forward with Bushehr in order to gain Moscow’s support for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against Iran, which passed in June.” That adds Bushehr to a long list of concessions granted by this administration to Moscow as part of its “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations. . .

Finally, the brouhaha over Bushehr obscures the real troubling aspect of the current crisis — the ongoing nuclear weapons program’s timeline.

As to the timeline, Obama’s Gray Lady PR gambit to dissuade Israel from acting unilaterally highlights the difficulty, as Fly puts it, in determining “how close Iran should be allowed to get to a nuclear capability before military action is taken to stop the program.” Fly echoes former CIA director Michael Hayden’s worry that Iran may “loiter at the nuclear threshold and not make the decision to immediately build a weapon, knowing that it would be a green light for preemptive action. If it chooses this route, Iran could keep Western intelligence agencies guessing for years, trying to discern whether the ‘go’ order had actually been given by the Supreme Leader.”

In sum, Bushehr illuminates the faulty judgment and flawed assumptions that undergird Obama’s foreign policy. It turns out that sanctions are too late in coming and totally ineffective, that the Russians can’t be enlisted to disarm Iran, that “reset” is nothing more than frantic appeasement, that Iran isn’t more “isolated” thanks to the Obami’s policy, that time is on the mullah’s side (Obama squandered a critical 18 months on engagement/scrawny sanctions), and that it wasn’t so smart to put the mullahs at ease about the prospects for U.S. military action.

We can’t get the 18 months back. We can’t reset the calendar to June 12 and lend critical, timely aid to the Green movement. But we can prepare, threaten, and, if need be, conduct a military action that would rescue Obama’s credibility, maintain America’s superpower status, prevent an existential danger to Israel, remove a threat to the American homeland and to our allies, and disrupt  Iran’s hegemonic ambitions and growing alliances in the region. Or we could sit idly by as the worst national security disaster in our lifetime plays out before our eyes. We should pray that Obama – for good reasons or not – chooses action rather than passivity.

Jamie Fly has an important analysis of the Bushehr reactor. He contends that the reactor in and of itself is less important (“The real key to Iran’s nuclear program lies at its facilities at Natanz, Esfahan, at the factories where its centrifuges are being built, and the labs and campuses of its nuclear scientists”) than what it tells us about the general state of our Iran policy:

First, it serves as another reminder of the bipartisan failure of U.S. Iran policy. The Iran saga is not solely about failed engagement by President Obama. The Bush administration tried various tactics with Iran and also failed to halt its progress toward a nuclear capability. A serious exploration of new options, including the military option, is thus in order if the United States remains unwilling to accept a nuclear Iran. …

Second, the actual startup of Bushehr says something about Russia’s perceptions of the Iranian threat. . .Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration “consented in recent months to Russia pushing forward with Bushehr in order to gain Moscow’s support for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against Iran, which passed in June.” That adds Bushehr to a long list of concessions granted by this administration to Moscow as part of its “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations. . .

Finally, the brouhaha over Bushehr obscures the real troubling aspect of the current crisis — the ongoing nuclear weapons program’s timeline.

As to the timeline, Obama’s Gray Lady PR gambit to dissuade Israel from acting unilaterally highlights the difficulty, as Fly puts it, in determining “how close Iran should be allowed to get to a nuclear capability before military action is taken to stop the program.” Fly echoes former CIA director Michael Hayden’s worry that Iran may “loiter at the nuclear threshold and not make the decision to immediately build a weapon, knowing that it would be a green light for preemptive action. If it chooses this route, Iran could keep Western intelligence agencies guessing for years, trying to discern whether the ‘go’ order had actually been given by the Supreme Leader.”

In sum, Bushehr illuminates the faulty judgment and flawed assumptions that undergird Obama’s foreign policy. It turns out that sanctions are too late in coming and totally ineffective, that the Russians can’t be enlisted to disarm Iran, that “reset” is nothing more than frantic appeasement, that Iran isn’t more “isolated” thanks to the Obami’s policy, that time is on the mullah’s side (Obama squandered a critical 18 months on engagement/scrawny sanctions), and that it wasn’t so smart to put the mullahs at ease about the prospects for U.S. military action.

We can’t get the 18 months back. We can’t reset the calendar to June 12 and lend critical, timely aid to the Green movement. But we can prepare, threaten, and, if need be, conduct a military action that would rescue Obama’s credibility, maintain America’s superpower status, prevent an existential danger to Israel, remove a threat to the American homeland and to our allies, and disrupt  Iran’s hegemonic ambitions and growing alliances in the region. Or we could sit idly by as the worst national security disaster in our lifetime plays out before our eyes. We should pray that Obama – for good reasons or not – chooses action rather than passivity.

Read Less

Beyond Sanctions

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Jamie Fly asks, “No Daylight?” about the U.S. stance on the terrorist flotilla: “So, over the course of two days, ‘no daylight’ has essentially become ‘we told you so,’ ‘perhaps you shouldn’t have done that,’ and ‘we plan to use this to our advantage to further our agenda.’ It’s no wonder that ally after ally feels slighted by the Obama administration, because even when this White House says they are standing with you, they are simultaneously undermining you.”

No Big Labor guarantees for the Democrats in 2010: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday that he sees unions as ‘unpredictable partners’ to Democratic candidates in the coming 2010 midterm elections.”

No Democrat in a competitive seat wants to get too closely tied to Obama these days: “Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, has called on President Barack Obama to do more to contain the fallout from the Gulf oil spill. Nelson on Thursday called for the White House to send more military assets to the Gulf before the giant oil slick hits Florida’s beaches. ‘This is the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history,’ Nelson said in a statement. ‘If this doesn’t call for more organization, control and assets — like sub-sea mapping by the Navy, for instance — then nothing does.'”

No idea what he’s talking about — Turkey has been hostile to Israel for some time: “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticized Israel for its reaction to the Mavi Marmara raid Thursday saying that ‘Israel stands to lose its closest ally in the Middle East if it does not change its mentality.'”

No doubt about the Carly Fiorina surge: “Former eBay executive Meg Whitman holds a commanding lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the June 8 Republican gubernatorial primary. In the GOP Senate primary, former HP President Carly Fiorina has pulled away from rival Tom Campbell, according to the latest Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research tracking poll. … The Senate side reflects a dramatic shift toward Fiorina over the past six weeks. An April 24 Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research Poll showed Campbell with 31-17 point lead over Fiorina, and DeVore at 14 percent.”

No humanitarian goods into Gaza? Outrageous — where is the UN? Oh, wait — it’s Hamas: “Hamas will not allow goods from an aid flotilla raided by Israel to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Islamist organization said Thursday.”

No way! Really? John Judis assures us that the Tea party movement isn’t racist: “What I am suggesting is that it’s very possible to believe that the Tea Party is not the latest manifestation of the Ku Klux Klan or White Citizens’ Councils—while still believing that it is a terrible menace, nonetheless.” Whew — takes a load off the left, doesn’t it? All the fictional racial incidents were getting to be a chore.

No clear winner in the Peter Beinart–Leon Wieseltier competition for the most vile comments directed against Israel. From the latter: “Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called.” To be precise, Israel has enough weaselly critics who flaunt their Judaism to establish their bona fides in order to gain legitimacy for their savage and a-factual attacks on the Jewish state.

Jamie Fly asks, “No Daylight?” about the U.S. stance on the terrorist flotilla: “So, over the course of two days, ‘no daylight’ has essentially become ‘we told you so,’ ‘perhaps you shouldn’t have done that,’ and ‘we plan to use this to our advantage to further our agenda.’ It’s no wonder that ally after ally feels slighted by the Obama administration, because even when this White House says they are standing with you, they are simultaneously undermining you.”

No Big Labor guarantees for the Democrats in 2010: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday that he sees unions as ‘unpredictable partners’ to Democratic candidates in the coming 2010 midterm elections.”

No Democrat in a competitive seat wants to get too closely tied to Obama these days: “Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, has called on President Barack Obama to do more to contain the fallout from the Gulf oil spill. Nelson on Thursday called for the White House to send more military assets to the Gulf before the giant oil slick hits Florida’s beaches. ‘This is the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history,’ Nelson said in a statement. ‘If this doesn’t call for more organization, control and assets — like sub-sea mapping by the Navy, for instance — then nothing does.'”

No idea what he’s talking about — Turkey has been hostile to Israel for some time: “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticized Israel for its reaction to the Mavi Marmara raid Thursday saying that ‘Israel stands to lose its closest ally in the Middle East if it does not change its mentality.'”

No doubt about the Carly Fiorina surge: “Former eBay executive Meg Whitman holds a commanding lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the June 8 Republican gubernatorial primary. In the GOP Senate primary, former HP President Carly Fiorina has pulled away from rival Tom Campbell, according to the latest Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research tracking poll. … The Senate side reflects a dramatic shift toward Fiorina over the past six weeks. An April 24 Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research Poll showed Campbell with 31-17 point lead over Fiorina, and DeVore at 14 percent.”

No humanitarian goods into Gaza? Outrageous — where is the UN? Oh, wait — it’s Hamas: “Hamas will not allow goods from an aid flotilla raided by Israel to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Islamist organization said Thursday.”

No way! Really? John Judis assures us that the Tea party movement isn’t racist: “What I am suggesting is that it’s very possible to believe that the Tea Party is not the latest manifestation of the Ku Klux Klan or White Citizens’ Councils—while still believing that it is a terrible menace, nonetheless.” Whew — takes a load off the left, doesn’t it? All the fictional racial incidents were getting to be a chore.

No clear winner in the Peter Beinart–Leon Wieseltier competition for the most vile comments directed against Israel. From the latter: “Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called.” To be precise, Israel has enough weaselly critics who flaunt their Judaism to establish their bona fides in order to gain legitimacy for their savage and a-factual attacks on the Jewish state.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Rep. Bart Stupak’s seat is now a “toss up.” The ObamaCare vote may turn out to be historic after all. Nate Silver proclaims: “Generic Ballot Points Toward Possible 50+ Seat Loss For Democrats.”

Charlie Cook: “As we head toward November’s mid-term elections, the outlook remains dire for Democrats. For the trajectory of this campaign season to change in their favor, two things need to happen — unemployment must drop significantly, and the public’s attitude toward the new health care reform law must become much more positive. Neither seems likely, though. Increasingly, it appears that for Democrats to turn things around, Republicans would have to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or a ‘black swan’ — an extraordinarily unexpected event that causes a tremendous change — would have to swim to the rescue of the president’s party.”

James Jones‘s underwhelming description of the state of U.S.-Israeli relations: “ongoing and fine and continuous.” Continuous? Well, good to know we’re not ending the relationship — and at least we’re past the point where the Obami can say “rock solid” with a straight face. Meanwhile, the White House denies that there has been any change in its policy toward the Dimona nuclear reactor. It’s hard to know what to believe at this point, which itself is evidence of the shabby state of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The best thing about the Obami’s Israel policy? The lack of consensus and total disorganization. “Although the public fireworks between top U.S. and Israeli officials may have died down in recent days, a fully fledged debate has erupted inside the Obama administration over how to best bring Middle East peace talks to fruition, let alone a successful conclusion.” Thank goodness.

Sarah Palin declares that “this administration alienates our friends. They treated Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai poorly  and acted surprised when he reacted in kind. And they escalated a minor zoning decision into a major breach with Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East.  Folks, someone needs to remind the President: Jerusalem is not a settlement. Israel is our friend. And the critical nuclear concerns of our time are North Korea, who has nuclear weapons, and Iran, who wants them. So, ‘yes we can’ kowtow to our enemies and publicly criticize our allies.Yes, we can. But someone ought to tell the President and the Left that just because we can doesn’t mean we should.”

How’s that “imposed peace deal” going to work again? “Officials say Gaza’s only power plant has stopped operating because of a lack of fuel caused by the ongoing dispute between Palestinian political rivals. Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers and their Western-backed West Bank rivals have argued over who should pay for the fuel for the plant.”

Jamie Fly and John Noonan on nuclear nonproliferation: “Our unwillingness to penalize countries such as Iran, North Korea, and Syria for their illicit activities only empowers them. It sends the message to other states potentially seeking nuclear weapons that the path to a weapon can be pursued with few repercussions. If President Obama were truly concerned about the future of the international nonproliferation regime, he would follow his recent disarmament ‘accomplishments’ with some serious action to ensure that rogue regimes realize that there is a price to be paid by those who choose to pursue nuclear weapons.”

John Yoo‘s prediction on Obama’s Supreme Court pick: “The president’s low approval ratings and the resurgence of Republican electoral victories in New Jersey, Virginia, and, most importantly, Massachusetts, means that Obama will not pick an ideological warrior who will spark a fight in the Senate. No Dawn Johnsen’s or Larry Tribe’s here. Appointing someone on the extreme left of the Democratic party would be a political gift to the Republicans — it would only continue the drive to the left that is promising big gains for the Republicans in the November election and would frustrate Obama’s other priorities.”

Meanwhile, Obama withdraws the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who had been tapped to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Could it be that the Democrats don’t want any knock-down-drag-out-fights over left-wing  ideologues?

Could a Republican win the special House election in Hawaii? “This is a three-way race featuring two Democrats, former Rep. Ed Case and Hawaii State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, squaring off against Republican Charles Djou. It is a winner-take-all contest between the three candidates, competing to replace Neil Abercrombie, who left Congress to run for governor. . .Right now, the race is close: according to a Democratic source, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has conducted an internal poll showing Case at 32%, Djou at 32%, Hanabusa at 27%, and 9% undecided.” Well, like they say, as goes Massachusetts so goes Hawaii. Not really, but this year it might be true.

Rep. Bart Stupak’s seat is now a “toss up.” The ObamaCare vote may turn out to be historic after all. Nate Silver proclaims: “Generic Ballot Points Toward Possible 50+ Seat Loss For Democrats.”

Charlie Cook: “As we head toward November’s mid-term elections, the outlook remains dire for Democrats. For the trajectory of this campaign season to change in their favor, two things need to happen — unemployment must drop significantly, and the public’s attitude toward the new health care reform law must become much more positive. Neither seems likely, though. Increasingly, it appears that for Democrats to turn things around, Republicans would have to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or a ‘black swan’ — an extraordinarily unexpected event that causes a tremendous change — would have to swim to the rescue of the president’s party.”

James Jones‘s underwhelming description of the state of U.S.-Israeli relations: “ongoing and fine and continuous.” Continuous? Well, good to know we’re not ending the relationship — and at least we’re past the point where the Obami can say “rock solid” with a straight face. Meanwhile, the White House denies that there has been any change in its policy toward the Dimona nuclear reactor. It’s hard to know what to believe at this point, which itself is evidence of the shabby state of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The best thing about the Obami’s Israel policy? The lack of consensus and total disorganization. “Although the public fireworks between top U.S. and Israeli officials may have died down in recent days, a fully fledged debate has erupted inside the Obama administration over how to best bring Middle East peace talks to fruition, let alone a successful conclusion.” Thank goodness.

Sarah Palin declares that “this administration alienates our friends. They treated Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai poorly  and acted surprised when he reacted in kind. And they escalated a minor zoning decision into a major breach with Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East.  Folks, someone needs to remind the President: Jerusalem is not a settlement. Israel is our friend. And the critical nuclear concerns of our time are North Korea, who has nuclear weapons, and Iran, who wants them. So, ‘yes we can’ kowtow to our enemies and publicly criticize our allies.Yes, we can. But someone ought to tell the President and the Left that just because we can doesn’t mean we should.”

How’s that “imposed peace deal” going to work again? “Officials say Gaza’s only power plant has stopped operating because of a lack of fuel caused by the ongoing dispute between Palestinian political rivals. Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers and their Western-backed West Bank rivals have argued over who should pay for the fuel for the plant.”

Jamie Fly and John Noonan on nuclear nonproliferation: “Our unwillingness to penalize countries such as Iran, North Korea, and Syria for their illicit activities only empowers them. It sends the message to other states potentially seeking nuclear weapons that the path to a weapon can be pursued with few repercussions. If President Obama were truly concerned about the future of the international nonproliferation regime, he would follow his recent disarmament ‘accomplishments’ with some serious action to ensure that rogue regimes realize that there is a price to be paid by those who choose to pursue nuclear weapons.”

John Yoo‘s prediction on Obama’s Supreme Court pick: “The president’s low approval ratings and the resurgence of Republican electoral victories in New Jersey, Virginia, and, most importantly, Massachusetts, means that Obama will not pick an ideological warrior who will spark a fight in the Senate. No Dawn Johnsen’s or Larry Tribe’s here. Appointing someone on the extreme left of the Democratic party would be a political gift to the Republicans — it would only continue the drive to the left that is promising big gains for the Republicans in the November election and would frustrate Obama’s other priorities.”

Meanwhile, Obama withdraws the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who had been tapped to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Could it be that the Democrats don’t want any knock-down-drag-out-fights over left-wing  ideologues?

Could a Republican win the special House election in Hawaii? “This is a three-way race featuring two Democrats, former Rep. Ed Case and Hawaii State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, squaring off against Republican Charles Djou. It is a winner-take-all contest between the three candidates, competing to replace Neil Abercrombie, who left Congress to run for governor. . .Right now, the race is close: according to a Democratic source, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has conducted an internal poll showing Case at 32%, Djou at 32%, Hanabusa at 27%, and 9% undecided.” Well, like they say, as goes Massachusetts so goes Hawaii. Not really, but this year it might be true.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Congressional candidate Doug Pike explains why he’s dumping J Street and sending its money back: “I am also troubled by J Street’s position that Israel needs to end construction of any new housing units in East Jerusalem — an issue inflamed by the recent ill-timed announcement of a go-head for a 1600-unit project there. While this might seem an acceptable price for getting the Palestinians back to the bargaining table, underlying it is the Palestinians’ unrealistic hope of retaking control of East Jerusalem. Because I see Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, I do not like to hear loud voices in Washington — including top administration officials and J Street’s leadership — demanding an end to all housing construction in East Jerusalem.”

The Obami are uninterested in the really crippling sanctions (e.g., petroleum), so how much can Congress really do? Not much: “Rules without enforcement don’t mean much. That’s the new tone the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its supporters on Capitol Hill are taking when it comes to Iran sanctions. This week, congressional appropriators close to AIPAC moved to introduce enforcement language that would penalize federal agencies that contract with companies doing business with the Islamic Republic.”

And while we dawdle: “Six months after the revelation of a secret nuclear enrichment site in Iran, international inspectors and Western intelligence agencies say they suspect that Tehran is preparing to build more sites in defiance of United Nations demands. The United Nations inspectors assigned to monitor Iran’s nuclear program are now searching for evidence of two such sites, prompted by recent comments by a top Iranian official that drew little attention in the West, and are looking into a mystery about the whereabouts of recently manufactured uranium.”

Obama imagines he’s moving toward a nuclear-free world with a new START deal. Jamie Fly says there’s less than meets the eye: “In reality, the new agreement doesn’t achieve much — the Russians, unable to pay for their current nuclear forces, have already of their own volition cut the number of launchers to the treaty’s new level. The reductions of strategic deployed nuclear weapons are not that far below the levels obtained under the 2002 Moscow Treaty. The treaty also faces an uncertain future in the Senate. It is uncertain in part because the administration has only released limited information about the treaty’s details.”

Kathleen Parker gets this right on ObamaCare’s impact on abortion funding: “Prediction: Abortions will be performed at community health centers. You can bet your foreclosed mortgage on that. There was always a will by this administration, and now there’s a way.”

Another dose of ObamaCare reality: “Across the country, state officials are wading through the minutiae of the health care overhaul to understand just how their governments will be affected. Even with much still to be digested, it is clear the law may be as much of a burden to some state budgets as it is a boon to uninsured consumers.”

Whatever bounce Obama got in his approval ratings from passage of his signature legislative issue seems to have fizzled. But that’s nothing compared to the ratings for Congress — Pollster.com’s average pegs it at 78.1 percent disapproval and 11.7 percent approval. That’s worse than Gov. David Paterson.

Congressional candidate Doug Pike explains why he’s dumping J Street and sending its money back: “I am also troubled by J Street’s position that Israel needs to end construction of any new housing units in East Jerusalem — an issue inflamed by the recent ill-timed announcement of a go-head for a 1600-unit project there. While this might seem an acceptable price for getting the Palestinians back to the bargaining table, underlying it is the Palestinians’ unrealistic hope of retaking control of East Jerusalem. Because I see Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, I do not like to hear loud voices in Washington — including top administration officials and J Street’s leadership — demanding an end to all housing construction in East Jerusalem.”

The Obami are uninterested in the really crippling sanctions (e.g., petroleum), so how much can Congress really do? Not much: “Rules without enforcement don’t mean much. That’s the new tone the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its supporters on Capitol Hill are taking when it comes to Iran sanctions. This week, congressional appropriators close to AIPAC moved to introduce enforcement language that would penalize federal agencies that contract with companies doing business with the Islamic Republic.”

And while we dawdle: “Six months after the revelation of a secret nuclear enrichment site in Iran, international inspectors and Western intelligence agencies say they suspect that Tehran is preparing to build more sites in defiance of United Nations demands. The United Nations inspectors assigned to monitor Iran’s nuclear program are now searching for evidence of two such sites, prompted by recent comments by a top Iranian official that drew little attention in the West, and are looking into a mystery about the whereabouts of recently manufactured uranium.”

Obama imagines he’s moving toward a nuclear-free world with a new START deal. Jamie Fly says there’s less than meets the eye: “In reality, the new agreement doesn’t achieve much — the Russians, unable to pay for their current nuclear forces, have already of their own volition cut the number of launchers to the treaty’s new level. The reductions of strategic deployed nuclear weapons are not that far below the levels obtained under the 2002 Moscow Treaty. The treaty also faces an uncertain future in the Senate. It is uncertain in part because the administration has only released limited information about the treaty’s details.”

Kathleen Parker gets this right on ObamaCare’s impact on abortion funding: “Prediction: Abortions will be performed at community health centers. You can bet your foreclosed mortgage on that. There was always a will by this administration, and now there’s a way.”

Another dose of ObamaCare reality: “Across the country, state officials are wading through the minutiae of the health care overhaul to understand just how their governments will be affected. Even with much still to be digested, it is clear the law may be as much of a burden to some state budgets as it is a boon to uninsured consumers.”

Whatever bounce Obama got in his approval ratings from passage of his signature legislative issue seems to have fizzled. But that’s nothing compared to the ratings for Congress — Pollster.com’s average pegs it at 78.1 percent disapproval and 11.7 percent approval. That’s worse than Gov. David Paterson.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

A pattern? “Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about seven Supreme Court amicus briefs he prepared or supported, his office acknowledged in a letter Friday, including two urging the court to reject the Bush administration’s attempt to try Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant.”
Jamie Fly is worried that the Obama administration won’t stick it out until the job is done in Iraq: “This is a troubling sign that ‘one of the great achievements of this administration’ might be squandered if the going gets tough in Iraq. This seems shortsighted given the thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars the United States has sacrificed in setting Iraq on the path to a secure democratic future. Even setting aside the scale of the U.S. commitment thus far, the United States has a strategic interest in ensuring Iraq’s success and in continuing to remain involved in Iraq’s security.”

The Beagle Blogger is an ignoramus when it comes to the Middle East, according to blogmate Jeffrey Goldberg: “Andrew Sullivan should be thankful that The Atlantic’s fact-checking department has no purview over the magazine’s website. … Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of maps he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible. … ‘Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them’ that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.”

A bad week for Tony Rezko’s former banker: “Democrat candidate Alexi Giannoulias faced a new political hassle in his bid for President Obama’s former Senate seat after a major contributor was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding banks by writing bad checks.”

A sign of the Red wave from the Democratic Public Policy Polling: “Neither of the top candidates for Governor of Florida is particularly well known or liked but with the national political winds blowing in a Republican direction Bill McCollum has the solid early lead. McCollum’s currently at 44% to 31% for Alex Sink. He leads her 38-25 with independent voters and is winning 20% of the Democratic vote while holding Sink to just 11% of the Republican vote.”

Rep. Bart Stupak on the House leadership’s determination to protect abortion subsidies in ObamaCare: “The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us. At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve. And even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue.”

They better have a bunch of votes in reserve: “House Democrats are ready to ‘forge ahead’ on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill.”

Hillary Clinton joins the Israel-bashing extravaganza — because really, U.S.-Israeli relations aren’t strained enough.

A pattern? “Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about seven Supreme Court amicus briefs he prepared or supported, his office acknowledged in a letter Friday, including two urging the court to reject the Bush administration’s attempt to try Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant.”
Jamie Fly is worried that the Obama administration won’t stick it out until the job is done in Iraq: “This is a troubling sign that ‘one of the great achievements of this administration’ might be squandered if the going gets tough in Iraq. This seems shortsighted given the thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars the United States has sacrificed in setting Iraq on the path to a secure democratic future. Even setting aside the scale of the U.S. commitment thus far, the United States has a strategic interest in ensuring Iraq’s success and in continuing to remain involved in Iraq’s security.”

The Beagle Blogger is an ignoramus when it comes to the Middle East, according to blogmate Jeffrey Goldberg: “Andrew Sullivan should be thankful that The Atlantic’s fact-checking department has no purview over the magazine’s website. … Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of maps he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible. … ‘Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them’ that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.”

A bad week for Tony Rezko’s former banker: “Democrat candidate Alexi Giannoulias faced a new political hassle in his bid for President Obama’s former Senate seat after a major contributor was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding banks by writing bad checks.”

A sign of the Red wave from the Democratic Public Policy Polling: “Neither of the top candidates for Governor of Florida is particularly well known or liked but with the national political winds blowing in a Republican direction Bill McCollum has the solid early lead. McCollum’s currently at 44% to 31% for Alex Sink. He leads her 38-25 with independent voters and is winning 20% of the Democratic vote while holding Sink to just 11% of the Republican vote.”

Rep. Bart Stupak on the House leadership’s determination to protect abortion subsidies in ObamaCare: “The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us. At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve. And even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue.”

They better have a bunch of votes in reserve: “House Democrats are ready to ‘forge ahead’ on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill.”

Hillary Clinton joins the Israel-bashing extravaganza — because really, U.S.-Israeli relations aren’t strained enough.

Read Less

What Obama Could Do Now

To his credit, David Brooks delivers the harsh news to the Obami:

Voters are in no mood for a wave of domestic transformation. The economy is already introducing enough insecurity into their lives. Unlike 1932 and 1965, Americans do not trust Washington to take them on a leap of faith, especially if it means more spending.

The country has reacted harshly to the course the administration ended up embracing. Obama is still admired personally, but every major proposal — from the stimulus to health care — is quite unpopular. Independent voters have swung against the administration. Voters are not reacting to the particulars of each bill. They are reacting against the total activist onslaught.

Brooks suggests some things Obama now could do, ranging from the innocuous (“propose some incremental changes in a range of areas and prove Washington can at least take small steps”) to the unlikely (Who thinks Obama has the patience or the inclination to “take several of the Republican health care reform ideas — like malpractice reform and lifting the regulatory barriers on state-based experimentation — and proactively embrace them as part of a genuine compromise offer”?) to the scary (please, no “constitutional debate” with “amendments of one sort or another”).

Frankly, Obama shows none of Brooks’ passion for the nitty-gritty of governance. Aside from sporadic rhetoric, Obama has rejected true bipartisanship at every turn. So the prospects for a successful domestic agenda are not great. But because they are already touting their great achievement in Iraq, the Obami might stop husbanding resources for a domestic agenda that is going nowhere and instead start using their capital on some historic foreign endeavors. Obama could complete the job in Iraq (and actually call it “victory”), spend the resources (financial and otherwise) to do the same in Afghanistan, and help bend history in Iran.

So far, Obama’s performance on Iran has been pathetic, as Jamie Fly sums up:

The administration’s public statements on Iran in the days leading up to today’s protests have been shameful.  One wonders whether they might be more successful if instead of playing rhetorical games with the Iranian regime, this administration was focused on rallying international support for and implementing those “crippling sanctions” they used to threaten if Iran did not accept President Obama’s outstretched hand. All in all, another missed opportunity to stand on the right side of history and support the protesters who represent the best chance for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis.

But it’s not too late. The country (ours and theirs) would respond favorably. He could deploy his vaunted eloquence to rally world opinion and support the oppressed and imprisoned. He could make “hope and change” more than a punch line. And here at home, Republicans would rally to his side.

Think that’s unlikely, too? Well, maybe if he wants that “one really good” term, he could use it to achieve something truly important. If the alternative is dickering with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid over a fiscal commission, it might seem like the thing to do. But then again, maybe all he really wanted was to win the presidency.

To his credit, David Brooks delivers the harsh news to the Obami:

Voters are in no mood for a wave of domestic transformation. The economy is already introducing enough insecurity into their lives. Unlike 1932 and 1965, Americans do not trust Washington to take them on a leap of faith, especially if it means more spending.

The country has reacted harshly to the course the administration ended up embracing. Obama is still admired personally, but every major proposal — from the stimulus to health care — is quite unpopular. Independent voters have swung against the administration. Voters are not reacting to the particulars of each bill. They are reacting against the total activist onslaught.

Brooks suggests some things Obama now could do, ranging from the innocuous (“propose some incremental changes in a range of areas and prove Washington can at least take small steps”) to the unlikely (Who thinks Obama has the patience or the inclination to “take several of the Republican health care reform ideas — like malpractice reform and lifting the regulatory barriers on state-based experimentation — and proactively embrace them as part of a genuine compromise offer”?) to the scary (please, no “constitutional debate” with “amendments of one sort or another”).

Frankly, Obama shows none of Brooks’ passion for the nitty-gritty of governance. Aside from sporadic rhetoric, Obama has rejected true bipartisanship at every turn. So the prospects for a successful domestic agenda are not great. But because they are already touting their great achievement in Iraq, the Obami might stop husbanding resources for a domestic agenda that is going nowhere and instead start using their capital on some historic foreign endeavors. Obama could complete the job in Iraq (and actually call it “victory”), spend the resources (financial and otherwise) to do the same in Afghanistan, and help bend history in Iran.

So far, Obama’s performance on Iran has been pathetic, as Jamie Fly sums up:

The administration’s public statements on Iran in the days leading up to today’s protests have been shameful.  One wonders whether they might be more successful if instead of playing rhetorical games with the Iranian regime, this administration was focused on rallying international support for and implementing those “crippling sanctions” they used to threaten if Iran did not accept President Obama’s outstretched hand. All in all, another missed opportunity to stand on the right side of history and support the protesters who represent the best chance for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis.

But it’s not too late. The country (ours and theirs) would respond favorably. He could deploy his vaunted eloquence to rally world opinion and support the oppressed and imprisoned. He could make “hope and change” more than a punch line. And here at home, Republicans would rally to his side.

Think that’s unlikely, too? Well, maybe if he wants that “one really good” term, he could use it to achieve something truly important. If the alternative is dickering with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid over a fiscal commission, it might seem like the thing to do. But then again, maybe all he really wanted was to win the presidency.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

What does French President Nicolas Sarakozy really think of Obama? “Obama has been in power for a year, and he has already lost three special elections. Me, I have won two legislative elections and the EU election. What can one say I’ve lost?” And as relayed by an adviser, Sarko seems to think Obama is “a charmer, a conciliator, but I am not sure that he’s a strong leader.”

Jamie Fly reports that his Israeli cabbie similarly told him: “‘With him, everything is opposite’ of what it should be and scoffed about his Nobel Peace Prize (given that he had done nothing actually to achieve peace).”

On the jobs number: “The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined in January, but the economy continued to shed jobs and revisions painted a bleaker picture for 2009, casting doubt over the labor market’s strength.The unemployment rate, calculated using a household survey, fell to 9.7% last month from an unrevised 10% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast the jobless rate would edge higher to 10.1%. Meantime, non-farm payrolls fell by 20,000 compared with a revised 150,000 decline in December.”

Here’s one way of looking at it: “‘Things are getting bad less rapidly,’ said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. ‘We’re sort of hitting bottom, but there is no evidence of a robust turnaround.'”

And when the 1.1 million of “discouraged job seekers” return to the workforce? “Many economists expect the jobless rate to creep higher in the months ahead as workers who had given up looking for a job out of frustration return to the labor force.” Bottom line: 15 million Americans are unemployed.

What’s the matter with Harry? “Harry Reid may soon have one more Republican opponent in Nevada’s race for the U.S. Senate, and his numbers remain in troublesome territory for an incumbent. Reid, like a number of Democratic Senate incumbents, appears to be suffering from voter unhappiness over the national health care plan and the continuing bad state of the economy.”

You can’t say Illinois politics isn’t colorful: “The Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias is trailing Republican Mark Kirk in opinion polls ahead of November’s election in which Republicans are aiming to erase Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. . . . Republicans are spotlighting the soured real estate portfolio at the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank, including loans to Michael ‘Jaws’ Giorango, a convicted prostitution ring operator. Broadway Bank was recently ordered by government regulators to raise additional capital — after Giannoulias received his share of $70 million in proceeds following his father’s death.”

What a difference a year makes: “There were seven states that Barack Obama won where his approval has slipped below 56%. Three of them are pretty darn predictable — North Carolina, Indiana, and Ohio — all of which saw extremely close races in 2008. Another three of them though are Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada which Obama won by commanding margins of anywhere from 9-15 points. . . . The seventh state Obama won where he’s under 56% is New Hampshire, which may help to explain why Paul Hodes is having so much trouble.”

Speculation is starting already as to whether Obama will dump Joe Biden in 2012.

It seems as though “activists and liberal Mideast policy groups” don’t like the idea of Rep. Mark Kirk getting to the U.S. Senate, given his pro-Israel voting record.” You can understand that these groups wouldn’t want someone who was the “driving force behind a host of legislative efforts to sanction Iran (he’s the founder of of the Iran Working Group),” a vocal critic of the UN, and an opponent of Chas Freeman.

What does French President Nicolas Sarakozy really think of Obama? “Obama has been in power for a year, and he has already lost three special elections. Me, I have won two legislative elections and the EU election. What can one say I’ve lost?” And as relayed by an adviser, Sarko seems to think Obama is “a charmer, a conciliator, but I am not sure that he’s a strong leader.”

Jamie Fly reports that his Israeli cabbie similarly told him: “‘With him, everything is opposite’ of what it should be and scoffed about his Nobel Peace Prize (given that he had done nothing actually to achieve peace).”

On the jobs number: “The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined in January, but the economy continued to shed jobs and revisions painted a bleaker picture for 2009, casting doubt over the labor market’s strength.The unemployment rate, calculated using a household survey, fell to 9.7% last month from an unrevised 10% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast the jobless rate would edge higher to 10.1%. Meantime, non-farm payrolls fell by 20,000 compared with a revised 150,000 decline in December.”

Here’s one way of looking at it: “‘Things are getting bad less rapidly,’ said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. ‘We’re sort of hitting bottom, but there is no evidence of a robust turnaround.'”

And when the 1.1 million of “discouraged job seekers” return to the workforce? “Many economists expect the jobless rate to creep higher in the months ahead as workers who had given up looking for a job out of frustration return to the labor force.” Bottom line: 15 million Americans are unemployed.

What’s the matter with Harry? “Harry Reid may soon have one more Republican opponent in Nevada’s race for the U.S. Senate, and his numbers remain in troublesome territory for an incumbent. Reid, like a number of Democratic Senate incumbents, appears to be suffering from voter unhappiness over the national health care plan and the continuing bad state of the economy.”

You can’t say Illinois politics isn’t colorful: “The Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias is trailing Republican Mark Kirk in opinion polls ahead of November’s election in which Republicans are aiming to erase Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. . . . Republicans are spotlighting the soured real estate portfolio at the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank, including loans to Michael ‘Jaws’ Giorango, a convicted prostitution ring operator. Broadway Bank was recently ordered by government regulators to raise additional capital — after Giannoulias received his share of $70 million in proceeds following his father’s death.”

What a difference a year makes: “There were seven states that Barack Obama won where his approval has slipped below 56%. Three of them are pretty darn predictable — North Carolina, Indiana, and Ohio — all of which saw extremely close races in 2008. Another three of them though are Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada which Obama won by commanding margins of anywhere from 9-15 points. . . . The seventh state Obama won where he’s under 56% is New Hampshire, which may help to explain why Paul Hodes is having so much trouble.”

Speculation is starting already as to whether Obama will dump Joe Biden in 2012.

It seems as though “activists and liberal Mideast policy groups” don’t like the idea of Rep. Mark Kirk getting to the U.S. Senate, given his pro-Israel voting record.” You can understand that these groups wouldn’t want someone who was the “driving force behind a host of legislative efforts to sanction Iran (he’s the founder of of the Iran Working Group),” a vocal critic of the UN, and an opponent of Chas Freeman.

Read Less

No Way to Run a War

It seems that even on Afghanistan, arguably the high point of Obama’s foreign policy to date (everything in politics is relative), things are not going smoothly. Jamie Fly observes: “With the president having decided to send Gen. McChrystal the bulk of the additional forces he requested, one would think that all is settled, right? Well, it seems that key White House officials don’t think so. They continue to snipe at Gen. McChrystal as he sets out to implement the strategy that the president announced at West Point on December 1.”

First we saw Joe Biden denying that the president had adopted an insurgency strategy and reinforcing the notion that a withdrawal in 18 months would amount to a quick drawdown in forces, not at all what McChrystal, Hillary Clinton, and Robert Gates had explained. Fly notes another round of leaking via the New York Times in which it appears that “White House officials are supposedly upset because an essential component of a fast drawdown in 2011 is getting the initial surge there as soon as possible to begin to make progress. The Pentagon agrees with the need to make progress quickly, but is dealing with real-world logistical challenges of implementing what is essentially a politically-imposed timeline.” Fly concludes that the ever-so-helpful Joe Biden is up to no good:

It seems that Biden et al. are still frustrated that the lost the battle during the Afghanistan policy review (Biden was also on the losing side of the first review back in March as well) and are looking for ways to further their agenda and sow doubt about what can be accomplished prior to July 2011.

This illustrates several unfortunate aspects of the Obama White House, the first being Joe Biden. Yes, he’s Obama’s choice and he’s proved to be a gaffe machine, a policy disaster, and the source of much angst. (Do we think Hillary is betting he’ll be bounced in 2012? ) But more fundamentally, it shows that the president often seems to be a bystander in his own administration. Where is his forceful follow-up on the West Point speech? Why wasn’t he reinforcing McChrystal’s position. Well, recall that no sooner had he delivered the West Point address than he was on 60 Minutes bad-mouthing triumphalism and emphasizing that he didn’t much care for those open-ended commitments. So really, if there’s a vacuum in presidential leadership, we shouldn’t be surprised to see it filled by Biden or others.

And finally, we see how very hard it is for the White House to turn that corner that many conservatives keep spotting. Obama really is stepping up to the plate and embracing the job of commander in chief, we were told. But it’s never quite clear that his heart is in it. He described Afghanistan as “a critical war” . . . but . . . it’s also one the president keeps telling us has a time frame. Obama has backed his military advisers over political flunkies . . . but . . .  he can’t manage to keep the latter under wraps.

If Obama appears to domestic observers to be both conflicted and peripheral in the decision-making process for a “critical” battleground in the war against Islamic fascists, how must all this appear to our Afghan partners? Or to our enemies? Once again, Obama seems to have convinced himself that all that was required on this issue was a single decision and a speech. But of course, being commander in chief requires much more. It entails an ongoing process of rallying the country, explaining our mission, tamping down infighting, publicly supporting our military commanders, and assuring friends and foes that we’re committed to victory. Unfortunately, Obama seems to have other things to do. The country and his own image will suffer as a result.

It seems that even on Afghanistan, arguably the high point of Obama’s foreign policy to date (everything in politics is relative), things are not going smoothly. Jamie Fly observes: “With the president having decided to send Gen. McChrystal the bulk of the additional forces he requested, one would think that all is settled, right? Well, it seems that key White House officials don’t think so. They continue to snipe at Gen. McChrystal as he sets out to implement the strategy that the president announced at West Point on December 1.”

First we saw Joe Biden denying that the president had adopted an insurgency strategy and reinforcing the notion that a withdrawal in 18 months would amount to a quick drawdown in forces, not at all what McChrystal, Hillary Clinton, and Robert Gates had explained. Fly notes another round of leaking via the New York Times in which it appears that “White House officials are supposedly upset because an essential component of a fast drawdown in 2011 is getting the initial surge there as soon as possible to begin to make progress. The Pentagon agrees with the need to make progress quickly, but is dealing with real-world logistical challenges of implementing what is essentially a politically-imposed timeline.” Fly concludes that the ever-so-helpful Joe Biden is up to no good:

It seems that Biden et al. are still frustrated that the lost the battle during the Afghanistan policy review (Biden was also on the losing side of the first review back in March as well) and are looking for ways to further their agenda and sow doubt about what can be accomplished prior to July 2011.

This illustrates several unfortunate aspects of the Obama White House, the first being Joe Biden. Yes, he’s Obama’s choice and he’s proved to be a gaffe machine, a policy disaster, and the source of much angst. (Do we think Hillary is betting he’ll be bounced in 2012? ) But more fundamentally, it shows that the president often seems to be a bystander in his own administration. Where is his forceful follow-up on the West Point speech? Why wasn’t he reinforcing McChrystal’s position. Well, recall that no sooner had he delivered the West Point address than he was on 60 Minutes bad-mouthing triumphalism and emphasizing that he didn’t much care for those open-ended commitments. So really, if there’s a vacuum in presidential leadership, we shouldn’t be surprised to see it filled by Biden or others.

And finally, we see how very hard it is for the White House to turn that corner that many conservatives keep spotting. Obama really is stepping up to the plate and embracing the job of commander in chief, we were told. But it’s never quite clear that his heart is in it. He described Afghanistan as “a critical war” . . . but . . . it’s also one the president keeps telling us has a time frame. Obama has backed his military advisers over political flunkies . . . but . . .  he can’t manage to keep the latter under wraps.

If Obama appears to domestic observers to be both conflicted and peripheral in the decision-making process for a “critical” battleground in the war against Islamic fascists, how must all this appear to our Afghan partners? Or to our enemies? Once again, Obama seems to have convinced himself that all that was required on this issue was a single decision and a speech. But of course, being commander in chief requires much more. It entails an ongoing process of rallying the country, explaining our mission, tamping down infighting, publicly supporting our military commanders, and assuring friends and foes that we’re committed to victory. Unfortunately, Obama seems to have other things to do. The country and his own image will suffer as a result.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

It would be nice to think:  “Just as they are beginning to realize their engagement strategy with Iran, North Korea, and other rogue regimes has yielded little progress, hopefully the failed Christmas Day attack will cause the Obama administration to realize that their terrorist engagement strategy is fatally flawed as well.” Remember this is the gang that thinks the Cairo speech was one of the top three things Obama did to combat terrorism. Huh?? Jamie Fly observes: “It makes you wonder what other actions round out the top three.  Pledging to close Guantanamo Bay?  Banning enhanced interrogation procedures?” The KSM trial!

As for that trial, it is a very dangerous decision and a very expensive one: “Security for the federal trial of self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accused cohorts will run $200 million a year, sources told the Daily News.” And no one thinks this will take only a year.

Michael Gerson writes that  “it is difficult to argue that the Obama administration has even attempted to create an atmosphere of urgency in the war on terror. The listless, coldblooded and clueless response of the Hawaii White House to the Christmas Day attack was only the most recent indication. Over the last year, nearly every rhetorical signal from the administration — from the use of war-on-terror euphemisms such as ‘overseas contingency operations’ and ‘man-caused disasters’ to its preference for immediately categorizing terrorism as the work of an ‘isolated extremist’ — has been designed to convey a return to normalcy, a contrast to the supposed fear-mongering of the past.”

Maybe it’s the terrorism or ObamaCare: “Republican candidates start the year by opening a nine-point lead over Democrats, the GOP’s biggest in several years, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Nancy Pelosi gets snippy: “Pelosi emerged from a meeting with her leadership team and committee chairs in the Capitol to face an aggressive throng of reporters who immediately hit her with C-SPAN’s request that she permit closed-door final talks on the bill to be televised. A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras. ‘There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail,’ quipped Pelosi, who has no intention of making the deliberations public.”

But Obama was head of Harvard Law Review! We heard a lot of that during the campaign. It was supposed to be reassuring, I guess.  Wasilla’s most famous mayor isn’t impressed: “President Obama was right to change his policy and decide to send no more detainees to Yemen where they can be free to rejoin their war on America. Now he must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor.”

Tom Maquire wants to know if “terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that prisoners provide just as much (or as little) information whether we observe their rights under US criminal procedures or their rights as detainees of the US military?  Do terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that all these Miranda warnings and provision of access to lawyers really doesn’t [sic] encourage anyone to keep anyone quiet?” I imagine they think it’s all worth it because we’re impressing jihadists with the wonders of our constitutional system — which they want to replace with sharia. So it doesn’t really make much sense.

Uh-oh: “The number of people preparing to buy a home fell sharply in November, an unsettling new sign that the housing market may be headed for a “double-dip” downturn over the winter.The figures Tuesday came after a similarly discouraging report on new home sales, illustrating how heavily the housing market depends right now on government help.”

A helpful reminder here, “lest we forget just exactly with whom the Israelis are dealing.”

It would be nice to think:  “Just as they are beginning to realize their engagement strategy with Iran, North Korea, and other rogue regimes has yielded little progress, hopefully the failed Christmas Day attack will cause the Obama administration to realize that their terrorist engagement strategy is fatally flawed as well.” Remember this is the gang that thinks the Cairo speech was one of the top three things Obama did to combat terrorism. Huh?? Jamie Fly observes: “It makes you wonder what other actions round out the top three.  Pledging to close Guantanamo Bay?  Banning enhanced interrogation procedures?” The KSM trial!

As for that trial, it is a very dangerous decision and a very expensive one: “Security for the federal trial of self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accused cohorts will run $200 million a year, sources told the Daily News.” And no one thinks this will take only a year.

Michael Gerson writes that  “it is difficult to argue that the Obama administration has even attempted to create an atmosphere of urgency in the war on terror. The listless, coldblooded and clueless response of the Hawaii White House to the Christmas Day attack was only the most recent indication. Over the last year, nearly every rhetorical signal from the administration — from the use of war-on-terror euphemisms such as ‘overseas contingency operations’ and ‘man-caused disasters’ to its preference for immediately categorizing terrorism as the work of an ‘isolated extremist’ — has been designed to convey a return to normalcy, a contrast to the supposed fear-mongering of the past.”

Maybe it’s the terrorism or ObamaCare: “Republican candidates start the year by opening a nine-point lead over Democrats, the GOP’s biggest in several years, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Nancy Pelosi gets snippy: “Pelosi emerged from a meeting with her leadership team and committee chairs in the Capitol to face an aggressive throng of reporters who immediately hit her with C-SPAN’s request that she permit closed-door final talks on the bill to be televised. A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras. ‘There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail,’ quipped Pelosi, who has no intention of making the deliberations public.”

But Obama was head of Harvard Law Review! We heard a lot of that during the campaign. It was supposed to be reassuring, I guess.  Wasilla’s most famous mayor isn’t impressed: “President Obama was right to change his policy and decide to send no more detainees to Yemen where they can be free to rejoin their war on America. Now he must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor.”

Tom Maquire wants to know if “terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that prisoners provide just as much (or as little) information whether we observe their rights under US criminal procedures or their rights as detainees of the US military?  Do terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that all these Miranda warnings and provision of access to lawyers really doesn’t [sic] encourage anyone to keep anyone quiet?” I imagine they think it’s all worth it because we’re impressing jihadists with the wonders of our constitutional system — which they want to replace with sharia. So it doesn’t really make much sense.

Uh-oh: “The number of people preparing to buy a home fell sharply in November, an unsettling new sign that the housing market may be headed for a “double-dip” downturn over the winter.The figures Tuesday came after a similarly discouraging report on new home sales, illustrating how heavily the housing market depends right now on government help.”

A helpful reminder here, “lest we forget just exactly with whom the Israelis are dealing.”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Jamie Fly on Obama’s new expression of “deep admiration” for the Iranian protesters: “Now that the President seems so concerned about the events unfolding on Iran’s streets, perhaps someone should ask the White House whether the President believes that Sen. Kerry should even contemplate a visit to Tehran to meet with the very officials that are ordering the beatings and killings he has just condemned.  The answer might tell us how far he is really willing to go to ‘bear witness.'”

Stephen Hayes observes that Obama’s comments “fell so flat,” given the lack of any “action item” other than calling for the Iranian regime to meet its international obligations. It was a “silly statement,” he says. Charles Krauthammer adds: “Meaningless words. . . This is a hinge of history. . . This is a moment in history and he is missing it.”

It isn’t easy being a Democratic incumbent in the Obama era: “Political observers should expect more retirement announcements from centrist Democrats, according to Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), himself a centrist Democrat.”

Rep. Pete Hoekstra blasts Obama: “After eleven months in office, the president is still sending contradictory messages on national security. . . He says he wants to address the threats yet look at how he has responded to this, how he responded to Fort Hood, how he’s open to prosecuting folks in the CIA, how he’s closing Guantanamo Bay, and how he’s bringing terror suspects to New York City.”

Rory Cooper of Heritage on Obama’s reaction to the Christmas Day bombing attack: “The overwhelming negative opinion of the President’s reaction is a result of Obama’s reckless complacency over the past year. President Obama spent the past 12 months beating up on the men and women of the CIA, on the soldiers who ably run Gitmo, campaigning against the Patriot Act (even though he now recognizes its importance), making terrorism a law enforcement issue, announcing a show trial for KSM in NYC, and cutting defense appropriations in favor of sweetheart stimulus deals. The first thing he did with Abdulmutallab was to read him his rights.”

Only a day before Obama spinmeister Marc Ambinder was praising the “strategy” of having Obama hide after a terrorist attack. Now he muses: “Did Obama, attempting to make a clean break from the Bush years vis-a-vis communicating to the public about terrorism, put too much faith in DHS Secretary Napolitano to serve as the front-line communicator?” Really, the obsession with being “not Bush” is getting to be pathological — Bush talked to the public directly about terrorism so Obama shouldn’t? Good grief.

You want horrifying? Ann Althouse takes us through the entire Janet Napolitano interview. The full interview is actually worse than the “system worked” snippet. Okay, she’s not the real problem but she’s a horrid Homeland Security Secretary and really should go.

Marc Thiessen warns us: “Instead of looking for ways to release these dangerous men, we should be capturing and interrogating more of them for information on planned attacks. But that is something the U.S. no longer does. President Obama has shut down the CIA interrogation program that helped stop a series of planned attacks — and in the year since he took office, not one high-value terrorist has been interrogated by the CIA. . . The problem with this approach is that dead terrorists cannot tell their plans. According to ABC News, Abdulmutallab has told investigators there are ‘more just like him in Yemen who would strike soon.’ Who are these terrorists? Where have they been deployed? We may not find out until it is too late because we launched a strike intended to kill the al-Qaeda leaders who could give us vital intelligence.”

Sobering: “A dangerous explosive allegedly concealed by Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his underwear could have blown a hole in the side of his Detroit-bound aircraft if it had been detonated, according to two federal sources briefed on the investigation.”

Jamie Fly on Obama’s new expression of “deep admiration” for the Iranian protesters: “Now that the President seems so concerned about the events unfolding on Iran’s streets, perhaps someone should ask the White House whether the President believes that Sen. Kerry should even contemplate a visit to Tehran to meet with the very officials that are ordering the beatings and killings he has just condemned.  The answer might tell us how far he is really willing to go to ‘bear witness.'”

Stephen Hayes observes that Obama’s comments “fell so flat,” given the lack of any “action item” other than calling for the Iranian regime to meet its international obligations. It was a “silly statement,” he says. Charles Krauthammer adds: “Meaningless words. . . This is a hinge of history. . . This is a moment in history and he is missing it.”

It isn’t easy being a Democratic incumbent in the Obama era: “Political observers should expect more retirement announcements from centrist Democrats, according to Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), himself a centrist Democrat.”

Rep. Pete Hoekstra blasts Obama: “After eleven months in office, the president is still sending contradictory messages on national security. . . He says he wants to address the threats yet look at how he has responded to this, how he responded to Fort Hood, how he’s open to prosecuting folks in the CIA, how he’s closing Guantanamo Bay, and how he’s bringing terror suspects to New York City.”

Rory Cooper of Heritage on Obama’s reaction to the Christmas Day bombing attack: “The overwhelming negative opinion of the President’s reaction is a result of Obama’s reckless complacency over the past year. President Obama spent the past 12 months beating up on the men and women of the CIA, on the soldiers who ably run Gitmo, campaigning against the Patriot Act (even though he now recognizes its importance), making terrorism a law enforcement issue, announcing a show trial for KSM in NYC, and cutting defense appropriations in favor of sweetheart stimulus deals. The first thing he did with Abdulmutallab was to read him his rights.”

Only a day before Obama spinmeister Marc Ambinder was praising the “strategy” of having Obama hide after a terrorist attack. Now he muses: “Did Obama, attempting to make a clean break from the Bush years vis-a-vis communicating to the public about terrorism, put too much faith in DHS Secretary Napolitano to serve as the front-line communicator?” Really, the obsession with being “not Bush” is getting to be pathological — Bush talked to the public directly about terrorism so Obama shouldn’t? Good grief.

You want horrifying? Ann Althouse takes us through the entire Janet Napolitano interview. The full interview is actually worse than the “system worked” snippet. Okay, she’s not the real problem but she’s a horrid Homeland Security Secretary and really should go.

Marc Thiessen warns us: “Instead of looking for ways to release these dangerous men, we should be capturing and interrogating more of them for information on planned attacks. But that is something the U.S. no longer does. President Obama has shut down the CIA interrogation program that helped stop a series of planned attacks — and in the year since he took office, not one high-value terrorist has been interrogated by the CIA. . . The problem with this approach is that dead terrorists cannot tell their plans. According to ABC News, Abdulmutallab has told investigators there are ‘more just like him in Yemen who would strike soon.’ Who are these terrorists? Where have they been deployed? We may not find out until it is too late because we launched a strike intended to kill the al-Qaeda leaders who could give us vital intelligence.”

Sobering: “A dangerous explosive allegedly concealed by Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his underwear could have blown a hole in the side of his Detroit-bound aircraft if it had been detonated, according to two federal sources briefed on the investigation.”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

ObamaCare is really unpopular in Nebraska, and Sen. Ben Nelson is getting lots of calls to vote “no.” In his home state, 67 percent oppose and 26 percent favor, and 61 percent say they’d be less likely to vote for Nelson if he supported it. Will Nelson vote for it anyway?

Yuval Levin makes the case that “when it comes to the health-care bill the Senate is working on, [which] is really quite appalling now, and should be so not only to conservatives. In essence, what’s left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem — the problem of exploding costs.”

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos (h/t Political Wire) now objects to forcing all Americans to buy insurance plans they may not like from those greedy, monopolistic insurance companies. The solution: “So here’s the deal — a progressive should step up with an amendment to strip out the mandate. He should get a non-Wall Street Republican to join him, be it Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, one or more of those guys. And then force a roll call vote on the issue.” Game on!

S.E. Cupp on her pick for person of the year: “Attorney General Eric Holder. … In five or ten years, when we are all facing the disastrous consequences of his systematic dismantling of our national security, he will be a person who changed the course of world events. President Obama will be culpable as well, of course, for overseeing a horrific chapter in our national history, but it will be Holder who is responsible for compromising our intelligence and interrogation program at the CIA and trying terrorists as common criminals while the world watched and our enemies laughed.”

Another poll, another thumbs down on ObamaCare. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 32 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. By a 44 to 41 percent margin, voters say they prefer the status quo. Obama’s own performance rating has suffered an 8-point decline since September and now is at 47 approval/46 disapproval. And the kicker: 57 percent say the Iraq war was somewhat or very successful.

The poll analysis: ” ‘For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast,’ said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. ‘What we don’t know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?’ The biggest worry for Democrats is that the findings could set the stage for gains by Republican candidates in next year’s elections.” And Obama seems to have lost his charm: “Fifty percent now feel positively about him, six points lower than in October and an 18-point drop since his early weeks in office.”

Wait until they find out about the tax hits: “Those tax hits include a mandate of up to $750 a year for Americans who fail to purchase health insurance; new levies on small businesses (many of which file individual tax returns) that don’t offer health care to employees; new tax penalties on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts; and higher taxes on medical spending, including restrictions on medical itemized deductions, as well as taxes on cosmetic surgery. A Senate Finance Committee minority staff report finds that by 2019 more than 42 million individuals and families—or 25% of all tax returns under $200,000—will on average see their taxes go up because of the Senate bill. And that’s after government subsidies.”

And when they start breaking the Senate rules, you know it’s desperation time.

Jamie Fly is among those who suspect that the administration is not all that enamored of Iran sanctions. “[The] administration’s efforts to gut the legislation and its sensitivity about the supposedly robust international coalition they like to tout as a product of their willingness to talk to Tehran raises questions about how serious they and their ‘partners’ are about stopping Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”

ObamaCare is really unpopular in Nebraska, and Sen. Ben Nelson is getting lots of calls to vote “no.” In his home state, 67 percent oppose and 26 percent favor, and 61 percent say they’d be less likely to vote for Nelson if he supported it. Will Nelson vote for it anyway?

Yuval Levin makes the case that “when it comes to the health-care bill the Senate is working on, [which] is really quite appalling now, and should be so not only to conservatives. In essence, what’s left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem — the problem of exploding costs.”

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos (h/t Political Wire) now objects to forcing all Americans to buy insurance plans they may not like from those greedy, monopolistic insurance companies. The solution: “So here’s the deal — a progressive should step up with an amendment to strip out the mandate. He should get a non-Wall Street Republican to join him, be it Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, one or more of those guys. And then force a roll call vote on the issue.” Game on!

S.E. Cupp on her pick for person of the year: “Attorney General Eric Holder. … In five or ten years, when we are all facing the disastrous consequences of his systematic dismantling of our national security, he will be a person who changed the course of world events. President Obama will be culpable as well, of course, for overseeing a horrific chapter in our national history, but it will be Holder who is responsible for compromising our intelligence and interrogation program at the CIA and trying terrorists as common criminals while the world watched and our enemies laughed.”

Another poll, another thumbs down on ObamaCare. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 32 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. By a 44 to 41 percent margin, voters say they prefer the status quo. Obama’s own performance rating has suffered an 8-point decline since September and now is at 47 approval/46 disapproval. And the kicker: 57 percent say the Iraq war was somewhat or very successful.

The poll analysis: ” ‘For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast,’ said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. ‘What we don’t know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?’ The biggest worry for Democrats is that the findings could set the stage for gains by Republican candidates in next year’s elections.” And Obama seems to have lost his charm: “Fifty percent now feel positively about him, six points lower than in October and an 18-point drop since his early weeks in office.”

Wait until they find out about the tax hits: “Those tax hits include a mandate of up to $750 a year for Americans who fail to purchase health insurance; new levies on small businesses (many of which file individual tax returns) that don’t offer health care to employees; new tax penalties on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts; and higher taxes on medical spending, including restrictions on medical itemized deductions, as well as taxes on cosmetic surgery. A Senate Finance Committee minority staff report finds that by 2019 more than 42 million individuals and families—or 25% of all tax returns under $200,000—will on average see their taxes go up because of the Senate bill. And that’s after government subsidies.”

And when they start breaking the Senate rules, you know it’s desperation time.

Jamie Fly is among those who suspect that the administration is not all that enamored of Iran sanctions. “[The] administration’s efforts to gut the legislation and its sensitivity about the supposedly robust international coalition they like to tout as a product of their willingness to talk to Tehran raises questions about how serious they and their ‘partners’ are about stopping Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”

Read Less

What Now?

Jamie Fly recounts recent statements from China and Russia on the subject of sanctions on Iran and finds:

The only broad consensus on Iran is that between Russia and China and it is that they will not support meaningful sanctions anytime soon. It is important to remember that this comes after Iran was revealed to be building a covert enrichment facility and after the IAEA once again criticized Iran for not providing information about its pre-2003 weaponization research. If that doesn’t convince Russia and China to support sanctions, what will?

The notion that we were going to try diplomacy, proceed to sanctions, and then, if necessary, employ “all other options” was the fig leaf under which the Obami apologists operated. Obama wasn’t naive, we were told. He was methodical!  We had to show deference to the mullahs, avoid taking sides in the election and shove the Iranian democracy advocates under the bus so we could get to the bargaining table with the Iranian regime. Well, that’s proven to be farce. We had been told that we had to “exhaust diplomatic options” to get the Chinese and Russians on board. They aren’t, and won’t be, on board. We have, however, frittered away another year and lost any semblance of credibility on the issue.

The Obami have already tried to talk down any military option: won’t be a permanent solution (what — like a deal shipping out a portion of uranium for enrichment?), very complicated stuff, lots of bad things will happen. We’ve heard the muttering already for some time. So now the threat of a military option must seem a whole lot less credible to the mullahs.

Now that each premise of the Obama approach to Iran has been proven faulty and the Obami have convinced the Iranians of our unseriousness, what next? Well, some of us have expected for a time that we’ll hear a whole lot about “containment” of Iran’s nuclear capability. After all, what options are left? That, one suspects, has been the endgame all along. And if you prefer the other explanation — that the Obami imagined all the genuflecting would actually work — then you must acknowledge this as the greatest national security failure of the Obama administration — or any administration in recent memory.

Jamie Fly recounts recent statements from China and Russia on the subject of sanctions on Iran and finds:

The only broad consensus on Iran is that between Russia and China and it is that they will not support meaningful sanctions anytime soon. It is important to remember that this comes after Iran was revealed to be building a covert enrichment facility and after the IAEA once again criticized Iran for not providing information about its pre-2003 weaponization research. If that doesn’t convince Russia and China to support sanctions, what will?

The notion that we were going to try diplomacy, proceed to sanctions, and then, if necessary, employ “all other options” was the fig leaf under which the Obami apologists operated. Obama wasn’t naive, we were told. He was methodical!  We had to show deference to the mullahs, avoid taking sides in the election and shove the Iranian democracy advocates under the bus so we could get to the bargaining table with the Iranian regime. Well, that’s proven to be farce. We had been told that we had to “exhaust diplomatic options” to get the Chinese and Russians on board. They aren’t, and won’t be, on board. We have, however, frittered away another year and lost any semblance of credibility on the issue.

The Obami have already tried to talk down any military option: won’t be a permanent solution (what — like a deal shipping out a portion of uranium for enrichment?), very complicated stuff, lots of bad things will happen. We’ve heard the muttering already for some time. So now the threat of a military option must seem a whole lot less credible to the mullahs.

Now that each premise of the Obama approach to Iran has been proven faulty and the Obami have convinced the Iranians of our unseriousness, what next? Well, some of us have expected for a time that we’ll hear a whole lot about “containment” of Iran’s nuclear capability. After all, what options are left? That, one suspects, has been the endgame all along. And if you prefer the other explanation — that the Obami imagined all the genuflecting would actually work — then you must acknowledge this as the greatest national security failure of the Obama administration — or any administration in recent memory.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Anonymous and smart analysis on the prospects for health-care reform: “When this debate spills into January still unresolved, voters are going to say: ‘Enough! Where are the jobs. Where is the economic plan?'”

Meanwhile, the media is catching on: “Barack Obama ran for president on a promise of saving the typical family $2,500 a year in lower health care premiums. But that was then. No one in the White House is making such a pledge now.”

Jamie Fly: “Even if the president eventually sends a significant number of additional troops and allows General McChrystal to implement a counterinsurgency strategy, this painfully drawn out process has had negative consequences and does not bode well for the future U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.” As a retired Air Force chief master sergeant tells Fly: “Our service members are dying and the president is dithering. I have been in the military while a president dithered or failed to make a tough decision, it is eviscerating, and a rot settles in. ‘Commander in Chief’  is not just a fancy title.”

Even if the Obami and the chattering class are playing dumb, the American people are not: “Sixty percent (60%) of likely voters nationwide say last week’s shootings at Fort Hood should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act.”

James Taranto: “Willful ignorance of the enemy’s ideology is of no help in fighting the enemy–or preventing future attacks. In any case clarity, not obfuscation, is the enemy of prejudice.”

Thomas Joscelyn sums up: “So we know that: the Fort Hood Shooter attended the same mosque that Anwar al Awlaki preached at in 2001; Maj. Hasan had clearly adopted jihadist views very similar to those Awlaki has espoused, including the idea that Muslims cannot truly serve in a foreign army that is supposedly attacking all of Islam, by June of 2007; Maj. Hasan contacted Awlaki between ’10 to 20 times’ beginning in December 2008; Maj. Hasan may have posted on Awlaki’s Facebook page on Dec. 14, 2008; and, in July 2009, Awlaki again said that true Muslims cannot serve these armies and called on Muslims to turn against them. Is there really any mystery about what drove Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to commit mass murder?”

David Axelrod wants to “nationalize” the 2010 elections. Really. Republicans reply: “Super.” Someone should ask Red State senators and Blue Dog congressmen if they want to be nationalized.

Another democratic ally, another strained relationship. “President Obama will arrive in Tokyo on Friday, at a time when America’s relations with Japan are at their most contentious since the trade wars of the 1990s.”

Anonymous and smart analysis on the prospects for health-care reform: “When this debate spills into January still unresolved, voters are going to say: ‘Enough! Where are the jobs. Where is the economic plan?'”

Meanwhile, the media is catching on: “Barack Obama ran for president on a promise of saving the typical family $2,500 a year in lower health care premiums. But that was then. No one in the White House is making such a pledge now.”

Jamie Fly: “Even if the president eventually sends a significant number of additional troops and allows General McChrystal to implement a counterinsurgency strategy, this painfully drawn out process has had negative consequences and does not bode well for the future U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.” As a retired Air Force chief master sergeant tells Fly: “Our service members are dying and the president is dithering. I have been in the military while a president dithered or failed to make a tough decision, it is eviscerating, and a rot settles in. ‘Commander in Chief’  is not just a fancy title.”

Even if the Obami and the chattering class are playing dumb, the American people are not: “Sixty percent (60%) of likely voters nationwide say last week’s shootings at Fort Hood should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act.”

James Taranto: “Willful ignorance of the enemy’s ideology is of no help in fighting the enemy–or preventing future attacks. In any case clarity, not obfuscation, is the enemy of prejudice.”

Thomas Joscelyn sums up: “So we know that: the Fort Hood Shooter attended the same mosque that Anwar al Awlaki preached at in 2001; Maj. Hasan had clearly adopted jihadist views very similar to those Awlaki has espoused, including the idea that Muslims cannot truly serve in a foreign army that is supposedly attacking all of Islam, by June of 2007; Maj. Hasan contacted Awlaki between ’10 to 20 times’ beginning in December 2008; Maj. Hasan may have posted on Awlaki’s Facebook page on Dec. 14, 2008; and, in July 2009, Awlaki again said that true Muslims cannot serve these armies and called on Muslims to turn against them. Is there really any mystery about what drove Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to commit mass murder?”

David Axelrod wants to “nationalize” the 2010 elections. Really. Republicans reply: “Super.” Someone should ask Red State senators and Blue Dog congressmen if they want to be nationalized.

Another democratic ally, another strained relationship. “President Obama will arrive in Tokyo on Friday, at a time when America’s relations with Japan are at their most contentious since the trade wars of the 1990s.”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.