Commentary Magazine


Topic: Joe Lieberman

The Impulse to Respond

The president said exactly what most Americans were thinking yesterday when he declared at the memorial for the victims of the Newtown massacre: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” In the aftermath of terrible events such as the horrifying murder of 20 children in Newtown, we demand that those in authority do something to ensure that it won’t happen again.

But what we don’t think about in these days of shock and grief is whether the proposals floated during such times have more to do with our need to feel in control of events than a rational plan of action. The “don’t just stand there, do something” impulse is natural in politicians who always wish to be seen as having the answers. But the notion that we can legislate or preach such insane acts out of existence may reflect our unwillingness to appear helpless in the face of evil or madness more than anything else.

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The president said exactly what most Americans were thinking yesterday when he declared at the memorial for the victims of the Newtown massacre: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” In the aftermath of terrible events such as the horrifying murder of 20 children in Newtown, we demand that those in authority do something to ensure that it won’t happen again.

But what we don’t think about in these days of shock and grief is whether the proposals floated during such times have more to do with our need to feel in control of events than a rational plan of action. The “don’t just stand there, do something” impulse is natural in politicians who always wish to be seen as having the answers. But the notion that we can legislate or preach such insane acts out of existence may reflect our unwillingness to appear helpless in the face of evil or madness more than anything else.

For many this will mandate new gun control legislation that would make it harder for guns such as the one used by the murderer to be legally obtained even though, as I noted earlier, it is a popular model owned by so many Americans that a ban on their sale won’t make much of a difference.

Others have raised other issues with possible links to the crime. Senator Joe Lieberman is using Newtown to return to one of his concerns, the prevalence of violence in our entertainment, especially video games and movies. And still others, like former Arkansas governor and current TV talk show host Mike Huckabee, want us to return prayer to the schools which he thinks would help us create a more godly and perhaps less violent nation.

In the coming weeks it is likely we will have another full-scale debate about gun control in which groups like the National Rifle Association will be placed in the difficult position of defending guns that can kill lots of people quickly. Purveyors of violent movies and video games will be shamed as perhaps they should be. And maybe there will be more prayer.

We might be better off if America were an even more religious nation, whose popular culture eschewed violence and where automatic weapons were not easily obtained. But the idea that any of this would have stopped Adam Lanza or someone like him whose demons impelled them to such an unimaginable crime requires a leap of faith that might be too much even for Governor Huckabee.

The idea that we can’t do something about incidents such as Newtown makes us feel small and helpless and is rejected out of hand. At such times as these, those who preach sensible caution about legislation rather than knee-jerk action are dismissed as naysayers and defenders of an indefensible status quo. Americans are a people who like solutions, not philosophical discourses about terrible events. We crave leaders who will tell us they have answers.

Perhaps anger about Newtown and other incidents will be enough to help pass far-reaching restrictions on gun ownership or influence the entertainment industry to change its ways. But the only likely outcome is that schools will be transformed into fortresses even more than they already were. The rhetoric we hear after Newtown, as it is after all senseless crimes, will make many of us feel better and allow politicians to pretend that they are doing something. But the impulse to respond will be about our desire to have the illusion of control over uncontrollable events.

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The Virtues of Susan Rice’s “Undiplomatic” Diplomacy

I’m not quite sure why so many of my fellow conservatives have focused so much ire on Susan Rice’s potential nomination to be secretary of state. She would definitely not be my first choice for the job (that would be Joe Lieberman) but compared to some of the other rumored second-term nominations—e.g, Chuck Hagel at Defense or John Kerry at State—the possibility of Susan Rice doesn’t seem so bad. She actually seems to have a more activist vision of American power than many in the Democratic Party who are eager to cut the American role in the world back as rapidly as possible.

Much of the criticism directed at her for her blunt, undiplomatic personality sounds like a virtual replay of the criticisms once made of Jeane Kirkpatrick and John Bolton, both conservative favorites when they served as UN ambassador. Indeed Rice sounded positively Boltonesque (admittedly not something she would consider to be a compliment) when she recently told off the Chinese ambassador, Li Baodung, in a UN Security Council debate over how to respond to North Korea’s missile launch. According to Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy:

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I’m not quite sure why so many of my fellow conservatives have focused so much ire on Susan Rice’s potential nomination to be secretary of state. She would definitely not be my first choice for the job (that would be Joe Lieberman) but compared to some of the other rumored second-term nominations—e.g, Chuck Hagel at Defense or John Kerry at State—the possibility of Susan Rice doesn’t seem so bad. She actually seems to have a more activist vision of American power than many in the Democratic Party who are eager to cut the American role in the world back as rapidly as possible.

Much of the criticism directed at her for her blunt, undiplomatic personality sounds like a virtual replay of the criticisms once made of Jeane Kirkpatrick and John Bolton, both conservative favorites when they served as UN ambassador. Indeed Rice sounded positively Boltonesque (admittedly not something she would consider to be a compliment) when she recently told off the Chinese ambassador, Li Baodung, in a UN Security Council debate over how to respond to North Korea’s missile launch. According to Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy:

Rice urged the Security Council to swiftly respond to North Korea’s surprise launch of a satellite (via a ballistic missile) with a statement condemning Pyongyang’s action as a violation of U.N. resolutions and characterizing it as a provocative act that “undermines regional stability.”

Li pushed back, saying that there was no need to condemn North Korea, and that its test constituted no threat to regional stability.

“That’s ridiculous,” Rice shot back, according to one of three council diplomats who described the encounter.

“Ridiculous?” a visibly angered Li responded through an interpreter. “You better watch your language.”

“Well, it’s in the Oxford dictionary, and [Russian ambassador Vitaly] Churkin — if he were in the room — he would know how to take it,” retorted Rice.

The reference to Oxford dictionary refers to Churkin’s riposte, in December 2011, to a public broadside by Rice, who charged him with making “bogus claims” about alleged NATO war crimes in Libya to divert attention from charges of war crimes against its Syrian ally.

“This is not an issue that can be drowned out by expletives. You might recall the words one could hear: bombast and bogus claims, cheap stunt, duplicitous, redundant, superfluous, stunt,” said Churkin to Rice. “Oh, you know, you cannot beat a Stanford education, can you?” said Churkin, mocking Rice’s alma mater. Rice, a former Rhodes scholar, later noted that she also went to Oxford.

Frankly any American diplomat who tangles so openly with the Chinese and Russian ambassadors, rather than retreating into the usual mealy-mouthed equivocations, can’t be all bad. Obama can do worse in his choice of secretary of state—and probably will.

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Joe Lieberman’s Farewell Speech

Senator Joe Lieberman, the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats, delivered his farewell address on the Senate floor yesterday. The whole speech is worth watching, but the last three minutes, in which Lieberman talks about how he was inspired into public service by President Kennedy, are particularly moving:

Lieberman also appealed to a younger generation of political leaders, urging them to get involved in foreign affairs and national security issues:

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Senator Joe Lieberman, the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats, delivered his farewell address on the Senate floor yesterday. The whole speech is worth watching, but the last three minutes, in which Lieberman talks about how he was inspired into public service by President Kennedy, are particularly moving:

Lieberman also appealed to a younger generation of political leaders, urging them to get involved in foreign affairs and national security issues:

Here, too, I appeal to my Senate colleagues, and again, especially those who will take the oath of office for the first time early in January: Do not listen to the political consultants or others who tell you that you shouldn’t spend time on foreign affairs or national security. They’re wrong. The American people need us, the Senate, to stay engaged economically, diplomatically, and militarily in an ever smaller world.

Do not underestimate the impact you could have by getting involved in matters of foreign policy and national security—whether by using your voice to stand in solidarity with those who are struggling for the American ideal of freedom in their own countries across the globe, or working to strengthen the foreign policy and national security institutions of our own country, or by rallying our citizens to embrace the role that we as a country must play on the world stage, as both our interests and our values demand.

None of the challenges we face today, in a still dangerous world, is beyond our ability to meet. Just as we ended the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, we can stop the slaughter in Syria. Just as we nurtured the Democratic transition after communism fell in Central and Eastern Europe, we can support the forces of freedom in the Middle East today. And just as we were able to prevail in the long struggle against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, we can prevail in the global conflict with Islamist extremism and terrorism that we were forced into by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But all that too will require leadership in the United State Senate—It will require leaders who will stand against the siren song of isolationism, who will defend our defense and foreign assistance budgets, who will support – when necessary—the use of America’s military power against our enemies in the world and who will have the patience and determination when the public grows weary to see our battles through until they are won.

Unfortunately, Lieberman has no real heir among Senate Democrats, though he has been a mentor to freshman Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte.

At the Washington Post, Dana Milbank offers a pensive take on Lieberman’s speech, noting that the same temperament that made him a great political leader–his willingness to break with his party on issues of principle–also prematurely ended his career: 

Mostly, [Lieberman] offered fond reminiscences of a quarter-century. “When I started here in the Senate, a blackberry was a fruit and tweeting was something only birds did,” he said, then recalled some of the legislation he brokered: the 9/11 Commission, the Department of Homeland Security and repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

“There is no magic or mystery” to how such things were done, he said. “It means ultimately putting the interests of country and constituents ahead of the dictates of party.”

Lieberman did that, and it ultimately ended his career.

He finished his speech and accepted hugs and handshakes from staff members and the few senators on the floor. Then he slipped out one of the chamber’s south doors and into the Democratic cloakroom — a place that had never really been his home.

Lieberman will be missed as a senator, but let’s hope this won’t be the last we hear from him on the national stage.

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LIVE BLOG: Painful SOTU Memories

Recalling the 1996 SOTU, as John has done, brings to mind Joe Lieberman’s quip after one of Clinton’s speeches: “At least he finished before Letterman.”

Recalling the 1996 SOTU, as John has done, brings to mind Joe Lieberman’s quip after one of Clinton’s speeches: “At least he finished before Letterman.”

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RE: Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman

Following up on John’s post on Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: a standard trope in the mainstream news media is to bemoan the decline of bipartisanship and the disappearance of centrist politicians. If only there were more lawmakers willing to vote based on their principles rather than politics, we often hear, Washington would be a better place. Except this week just such a politician announced his retirement, and instead of offering him tributes for his political bravery, he has been kicked in the shins for daring to deviate from the party line.

I am thinking, of course, of Joe Lieberman, who has come to define genuine bipartisanship in Washington. A liberal Democrat on many issues, he voted for ObamaCare and led the charge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But he also courageously supported the Iraq war even when it became extremely unpopular to do so, and he stood by his friend John McCain even when McCain was opposing Barack Obama, the liberal darling. Thus Lieberman’s retirement announcement has been greeted not with tributes to his statesmanship but with brickbats hurled by the likes of New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

In an ungraceful and unpleasant column, Collins cannot seem to find anything nice to say about one of the nicest people in Washington. She even slights him rather than praises him for his leadership on allowing gays to serve openly in the military:

Last month, when he helped lead the fight for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” some people seemed more than a tad resentful at having to give up complaining about him for the duration of the debate. “Of course, he wants gay people in the military,” wrote Alex Pareene at Salon.com, “He wants everyone in the military.”

Whatever happened to civility in politics — that virtue much praised in recent weeks? Do its dictates apply only to Republicans? And is “courage” a virtue that can be exhibited only by those who take liberal policy stands? Silly questions, I know.  The commentary on Lieberman’s retirement confirms that there is no institution quite so partisan as the MSM, even as it sings the praises of bipartisanship.

Following up on John’s post on Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: a standard trope in the mainstream news media is to bemoan the decline of bipartisanship and the disappearance of centrist politicians. If only there were more lawmakers willing to vote based on their principles rather than politics, we often hear, Washington would be a better place. Except this week just such a politician announced his retirement, and instead of offering him tributes for his political bravery, he has been kicked in the shins for daring to deviate from the party line.

I am thinking, of course, of Joe Lieberman, who has come to define genuine bipartisanship in Washington. A liberal Democrat on many issues, he voted for ObamaCare and led the charge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But he also courageously supported the Iraq war even when it became extremely unpopular to do so, and he stood by his friend John McCain even when McCain was opposing Barack Obama, the liberal darling. Thus Lieberman’s retirement announcement has been greeted not with tributes to his statesmanship but with brickbats hurled by the likes of New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

In an ungraceful and unpleasant column, Collins cannot seem to find anything nice to say about one of the nicest people in Washington. She even slights him rather than praises him for his leadership on allowing gays to serve openly in the military:

Last month, when he helped lead the fight for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” some people seemed more than a tad resentful at having to give up complaining about him for the duration of the debate. “Of course, he wants gay people in the military,” wrote Alex Pareene at Salon.com, “He wants everyone in the military.”

Whatever happened to civility in politics — that virtue much praised in recent weeks? Do its dictates apply only to Republicans? And is “courage” a virtue that can be exhibited only by those who take liberal policy stands? Silly questions, I know.  The commentary on Lieberman’s retirement confirms that there is no institution quite so partisan as the MSM, even as it sings the praises of bipartisanship.

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Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: Not Much of a Competition There

Gail Collins of the New York Times has written a column upon Joe Lieberman’s announcement of his retirement from the Senate that, as with so many of her pieces, is written in a spirit of jocularity when its author actually has no observable sense of humor. This one is full of invective without wit. It’s as if Collins, whose tenure as the editor of the Times editorial page made for excellent bird-cage lining, were the bastard child of Don Rickles and David Broder.

Of Lieberman, she says he was, at the outset of his career, “extremely boring.” Of his speech yesterday, she writes: “Lieberman has reached a point in his public career when every single thing he does, including talking about his grandparents, is irritating.” She quotes “a friend in Connecticut” who said, “He’s the kind of guy who, when you see him in line at the supermarket, you go and get in a different line so you won’t have to make conversation.” She then tasks him, through a quote from a Connecticut pol, for “taking it personally” when people called him a baby-killer and a monster and evil for supporting the war in Iraq.

Listen. Hate Joe Lieberman all you want for his ideas — and she freely acknowledges she does hate him for “watering down” the health-care bill and “consolidating the intelligence services” — but it is simply preposterous to describe him as boring or the kind of person you flee from. Until the Iraq war rended the nation and heated up politics in Washington to a dangerous roil, Lieberman was certainly among the best-liked senators among people on both sides of the aisle. His staffers loved him, and so did the staffs of committees on which he served. And he is the opposite of boring: once (or maybe even twice) he won a contest that judged the funniest elected politician in Washington. Granted, that’s not much of a contest, but in the contest for unfunniest columnist in America, Gail Collins would win hands-down.

I know him a little; his daughter Rebecca is a very close friend of mine. At Rebecca’s wedding, Lieberman got up to make the paternal toast. “I am so happy today,” he said, “that I wish I could give you all an earmark.” If she lived a hundred lifetimes, Gail Collins would be unable to crack a joke one-thousandth as clever. Believe me, if you had to pick one or the other to go out and have a drink with, even if you were Noam Chomsky, you’d have a better time with Joe.

Gail Collins of the New York Times has written a column upon Joe Lieberman’s announcement of his retirement from the Senate that, as with so many of her pieces, is written in a spirit of jocularity when its author actually has no observable sense of humor. This one is full of invective without wit. It’s as if Collins, whose tenure as the editor of the Times editorial page made for excellent bird-cage lining, were the bastard child of Don Rickles and David Broder.

Of Lieberman, she says he was, at the outset of his career, “extremely boring.” Of his speech yesterday, she writes: “Lieberman has reached a point in his public career when every single thing he does, including talking about his grandparents, is irritating.” She quotes “a friend in Connecticut” who said, “He’s the kind of guy who, when you see him in line at the supermarket, you go and get in a different line so you won’t have to make conversation.” She then tasks him, through a quote from a Connecticut pol, for “taking it personally” when people called him a baby-killer and a monster and evil for supporting the war in Iraq.

Listen. Hate Joe Lieberman all you want for his ideas — and she freely acknowledges she does hate him for “watering down” the health-care bill and “consolidating the intelligence services” — but it is simply preposterous to describe him as boring or the kind of person you flee from. Until the Iraq war rended the nation and heated up politics in Washington to a dangerous roil, Lieberman was certainly among the best-liked senators among people on both sides of the aisle. His staffers loved him, and so did the staffs of committees on which he served. And he is the opposite of boring: once (or maybe even twice) he won a contest that judged the funniest elected politician in Washington. Granted, that’s not much of a contest, but in the contest for unfunniest columnist in America, Gail Collins would win hands-down.

I know him a little; his daughter Rebecca is a very close friend of mine. At Rebecca’s wedding, Lieberman got up to make the paternal toast. “I am so happy today,” he said, “that I wish I could give you all an earmark.” If she lived a hundred lifetimes, Gail Collins would be unable to crack a joke one-thousandth as clever. Believe me, if you had to pick one or the other to go out and have a drink with, even if you were Noam Chomsky, you’d have a better time with Joe.

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Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric. Read More

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric.

Kinsley is right when he decries hateful rhetoric. But he is not above taking comments out of context to back up his point. For instance, he claims Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to one of his columns consisted of a call by the FOX News host for Kinsley’s head to be cut off. That sounds despicable. But he neglects to mention that what O’Reilly was saying was that Kinsley’s opposition to Guantanamo and other tough anti-terror measures was so obstinate and foolish that perhaps the only thing that might change his mind was for al-Qaeda terrorists to treat him the same way they did Daniel Pearl. That’s pretty harsh, but not the same thing as a call for a beheading.

The cockeyed lesson that liberals seem intent on shoving down the throats of their fellow citizens is that when conservatives talk tough about liberals, it is tantamount to incitement to murder, but that when liberals talk tough about conservatives, it’s just talk, because liberals don’t mean anyone any harm. We have heard a great deal about the way political debate in this country has been debased by violent rhetoric in recent years. But for all of the nastiness of the left about Bush and of the right about Obama, I don’t think any of that has done as much damage to the fabric of democracy as the determination the past few days by the mainstream media and its liberal elites to exploit a crime carried out by a mentally ill person to further their own narrow partisan political agenda.

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Why the Arizona Massacre Is Fodder for Liberal Attacks

Even before most of the country had even learned the facts of the Arizona massacre on Saturday, the headline on the homepage of the New York Times website proclaimed that “In Attack’s Wake, Political Repercussions,” even though the publication of this story preceded most of the accusations of conservative responsibility for the attack that were soon heard on the left. In other words, the Times and other media outlets that immediately adopted this frame of reference for viewing the massacre were shaping the discussion about the event more than they were actually reporting it.

In the days since then, the evidence for any political motivation that could be attached to Loughner has been shown to be completely lacking. His bizarre behavior and beliefs are the stuff that speaks of mental illness, not overheated politics. But that did not stop the avalanche of libelous accusations of ultimate conservative responsibility.

To seize upon just one of the most egregious examples, the Times’s Paul Krugman claimed today that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “Climate of Hate” created by conservatives. Yes, this is the same columnist who wrote in 2009 that progressives should “hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of his opposition (albeit temporary) to ObamaCare. But just as those who accuse conservatives of spewing hate that leads to violence ignore the daily provocations of TV talkers like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, just as they ignored the unprecedented hate directed at President Bush, the Times Nobel Laureate thinks his own direct call for violence against Lieberman also doesn’t count.

Even worse, the facts about Loughner have not deterred the news departments of these media giants — as opposed to the opinion-slingers like Krugman — from reporting the story as one in which the right is guilty until proven innocent. For example, this afternoon the Times published a story that centered on the charge that conservative talk-show hosts were put in the dock as accessories to the crime while they “reject blame.” The same day, Politico led off with a story that claimed that the “Tucson shooting marks turning point for Sarah Palin,” which took it as a given that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate’s future political career would forever be tainted by the Arizona shooting in spite of the fact that she had nothing to do with it. Read More

Even before most of the country had even learned the facts of the Arizona massacre on Saturday, the headline on the homepage of the New York Times website proclaimed that “In Attack’s Wake, Political Repercussions,” even though the publication of this story preceded most of the accusations of conservative responsibility for the attack that were soon heard on the left. In other words, the Times and other media outlets that immediately adopted this frame of reference for viewing the massacre were shaping the discussion about the event more than they were actually reporting it.

In the days since then, the evidence for any political motivation that could be attached to Loughner has been shown to be completely lacking. His bizarre behavior and beliefs are the stuff that speaks of mental illness, not overheated politics. But that did not stop the avalanche of libelous accusations of ultimate conservative responsibility.

To seize upon just one of the most egregious examples, the Times’s Paul Krugman claimed today that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “Climate of Hate” created by conservatives. Yes, this is the same columnist who wrote in 2009 that progressives should “hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of his opposition (albeit temporary) to ObamaCare. But just as those who accuse conservatives of spewing hate that leads to violence ignore the daily provocations of TV talkers like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, just as they ignored the unprecedented hate directed at President Bush, the Times Nobel Laureate thinks his own direct call for violence against Lieberman also doesn’t count.

Even worse, the facts about Loughner have not deterred the news departments of these media giants — as opposed to the opinion-slingers like Krugman — from reporting the story as one in which the right is guilty until proven innocent. For example, this afternoon the Times published a story that centered on the charge that conservative talk-show hosts were put in the dock as accessories to the crime while they “reject blame.” The same day, Politico led off with a story that claimed that the “Tucson shooting marks turning point for Sarah Palin,” which took it as a given that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate’s future political career would forever be tainted by the Arizona shooting in spite of the fact that she had nothing to do with it.

In the face of such deliberate distortions, we are forced to ask ourselves what lies behind these editorial decisions. The answer is fairly simple. The reason the editors of the Times and Politico have chosen to slant the reporting of the massacre in this fashion is that it reflects their own politically biased views about conservatives. They didn’t wait for some proof of Loughner’s political motivations to allege that, in some inchoate way, right-wing views influenced his criminally insane behavior and that conservatives would have to pay a political price simply because that was their immediate assumption. That is, after all, how liberal media elites think of conservatives. Indeed, if you read only the New York Times, the results of the November election would have come as a shock because the Gray Lady and other liberal-establishment forums consistently represented those protesters as a marginal outcropping of crazed extremists, not a genuinely grass-roots popular movement that expressed the anger of a large percentage of Americans about the excesses of both the Obama administration and the liberal Congress that stuffed an unpopular health-care bill down the throat of the country.

For the past two years, many newspapers and broadcast outlets attempted to falsely portray the Tea Party as a hate group that has uniquely debased the tenor of political debate in the country. So it should not surprise us that the same people are today trying to forge a fictitious link between Loughner and Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the Tea Party.

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Morning Commentary

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed by Congress yesterday, but the military says that implementing the new rules will take some time: “Under the expected procedure, the Defense Department will conduct servicewide training and education for all active duty, reserve and national guard forces, and make whatever adjustments in procedures and facilities are necessary. … A servicewide memo will be sent instructing any gay or lesbian servicemembers not to openly declare their sexual orientation because they could potentially be subject to separation from the military.”

And in the aftermath of the DADT repeal, liberals have found a surprising new hero — Joe Lieberman: “‘He’s certainly one of my heroes today,’ said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. ‘His determination, his tenacity has kept this going all year. This would have not happened without Sen. Lieberman.’”

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is planning to take full advantage of his new “temporary” power to rule by decree: “Venezuela’s lame-duck, pro-government congress has given temporary one-man rule to President Hugo Chavez, less than three weeks before a newly elected National Assembly with enough government foes to hamper some of his socialist initiatives takes office. … Speaking to supporters in a televised address Friday, Chavez left little doubt that he would use his powers to push through a range of economic and political measures that would accelerate the oil-rich country’s transformation into a socialist state.”

A soldier reflects on Time magazine’s Person of the Year: “I am not upset that [war hero and Congressional Medal of Honor winner] Staff Sgt. [Salvatore] Giunta wasn’t selected for the award. I don’t shame the periodical for not putting him on the short list. What makes me cringe is the fact that such heroic acts as Giunta’s in defense of our most beloved nation are still not ‘influential’ enough — not valued enough — to move and inspire us as a country: a country for which so many of us cry fierce patriotism, yet feel so little of its burdens.”

Michael Moore gets burned by WikiLeaks: “[T]he memo reveals that when the film [Sicko, Moore’s fawning documentary about the Cuban health-care system,] was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so ‘disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room’. … Castro’s government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it ‘knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.’”

Could government policies make smoking extinct? While laws and taxes have certainly reduced the number of smokers, Kyle Smith argues that the habit is never going to go away completely: “What’s striking about a little volume called ‘The Cigarette Book: The History and Culture of Smoking’ (Skyhorse Publishing), an alphabetical guide to ciggie factoids, is how consistently smoking has been treated as a menace down the centuries. C-sticks were always just about to be hounded out of polite company for 400 years of largely ineffective taxes, warnings and bans. None of it worked.”

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed by Congress yesterday, but the military says that implementing the new rules will take some time: “Under the expected procedure, the Defense Department will conduct servicewide training and education for all active duty, reserve and national guard forces, and make whatever adjustments in procedures and facilities are necessary. … A servicewide memo will be sent instructing any gay or lesbian servicemembers not to openly declare their sexual orientation because they could potentially be subject to separation from the military.”

And in the aftermath of the DADT repeal, liberals have found a surprising new hero — Joe Lieberman: “‘He’s certainly one of my heroes today,’ said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. ‘His determination, his tenacity has kept this going all year. This would have not happened without Sen. Lieberman.’”

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is planning to take full advantage of his new “temporary” power to rule by decree: “Venezuela’s lame-duck, pro-government congress has given temporary one-man rule to President Hugo Chavez, less than three weeks before a newly elected National Assembly with enough government foes to hamper some of his socialist initiatives takes office. … Speaking to supporters in a televised address Friday, Chavez left little doubt that he would use his powers to push through a range of economic and political measures that would accelerate the oil-rich country’s transformation into a socialist state.”

A soldier reflects on Time magazine’s Person of the Year: “I am not upset that [war hero and Congressional Medal of Honor winner] Staff Sgt. [Salvatore] Giunta wasn’t selected for the award. I don’t shame the periodical for not putting him on the short list. What makes me cringe is the fact that such heroic acts as Giunta’s in defense of our most beloved nation are still not ‘influential’ enough — not valued enough — to move and inspire us as a country: a country for which so many of us cry fierce patriotism, yet feel so little of its burdens.”

Michael Moore gets burned by WikiLeaks: “[T]he memo reveals that when the film [Sicko, Moore’s fawning documentary about the Cuban health-care system,] was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so ‘disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room’. … Castro’s government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it ‘knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.’”

Could government policies make smoking extinct? While laws and taxes have certainly reduced the number of smokers, Kyle Smith argues that the habit is never going to go away completely: “What’s striking about a little volume called ‘The Cigarette Book: The History and Culture of Smoking’ (Skyhorse Publishing), an alphabetical guide to ciggie factoids, is how consistently smoking has been treated as a menace down the centuries. C-sticks were always just about to be hounded out of polite company for 400 years of largely ineffective taxes, warnings and bans. None of it worked.”

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Sic Transit Joe Lieberman

Monday’s report in Roll Call about Linda McMahon’s interest in another crack at a U.S. Senate seat has broader implications than whether she will be on the Republican ticket in Connecticut in 2012. While the professional-wrestling mogul hasn’t made any public statements about a future candidacy, it is assumed that her scheduling of an appointment with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn of Texas means she is laying the groundwork for 2012.

Cornyn will probably encourage McMahon to run again, since Senate candidates who are prepared to loan their campaigns nearly $50 million, as McMahon did this year in her loss to Dick Blumenthal, don’t grow on trees. While her final vote total of 43 percent in what was otherwise a year of Republican victories wasn’t terribly impressive, the GOP has to hope that in another two years, more Connecticut voters will see her as a serious politician rather than as the former ring mistress of a televised freak show.

Deep-blue Connecticut remains, as they say, “the land of steady habits,” which means that whether or not McMahon runs, her Democratic opponent will be favored. But the big loser here is not any one of the obscure Connecticut Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to run in 2012. Rather, it is the man who currently sits in the seat that McMahon covets: Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman hasn’t said whether he will run for a fifth term in 2012, but a McMahon run means his prospects for re-election have now shifted from unfavorable to highly unlikely. In 2006, Lieberman overcame his defeat in the Democratic primary at the hands of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont by cruising to victory in November. But the formula for that victory as an independent was one that cannot be repeated. In 2006, the majority of Democratic voters rejected Lieberman again in the general election. But he won because of large majorities among independents and Republicans. That was made possible only because the Republicans, anticipating that Lieberman would be the Democratic candidate, nominated a nonentity who wound up getting less than 10 percent of the vote.

Six years later, Lieberman knows he would have no chance in a Democratic primary, since most of those Democrats who backed him in the past still hold his support for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election against him. Virtually any Democrat could beat him. And he is still too much of a liberal on domestic policy to have a chance to win a Republican primary should he choose to try that route. That leaves him with the option of a straightforward run as an independent. But while Connecticut has a tradition of backing party-jumping mavericks in statewide races, the only way he can win is if he is able to claim, as he did in 2006, the lion’s share of Republican ballots. A McMahon candidacy will mean a well-funded and serious GOP candidate who is conservative enough to retain the loyalty of most of that party’s voters in November. That means Lieberman has no reasonable scenario for victory in 2012.

This makes it all but certain that the Congress that convenes in January will be the last in which Lieberman will sit. If so, it will be yet another indication that the Scoop Jackson Democrat — liberals on domestic policy and hawks on foreign policy — is truly extinct. Lieberman will, of course, be remembered as the man who came within a few hanging chads of being elected the first Jewish vice president of the United States. But his real legacy will be the fact that he was willing to risk his career for the sake of principle as he bucked his party’s loyalists by faithfully supporting the war against Islamist terrorists in Iraq.

Monday’s report in Roll Call about Linda McMahon’s interest in another crack at a U.S. Senate seat has broader implications than whether she will be on the Republican ticket in Connecticut in 2012. While the professional-wrestling mogul hasn’t made any public statements about a future candidacy, it is assumed that her scheduling of an appointment with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn of Texas means she is laying the groundwork for 2012.

Cornyn will probably encourage McMahon to run again, since Senate candidates who are prepared to loan their campaigns nearly $50 million, as McMahon did this year in her loss to Dick Blumenthal, don’t grow on trees. While her final vote total of 43 percent in what was otherwise a year of Republican victories wasn’t terribly impressive, the GOP has to hope that in another two years, more Connecticut voters will see her as a serious politician rather than as the former ring mistress of a televised freak show.

Deep-blue Connecticut remains, as they say, “the land of steady habits,” which means that whether or not McMahon runs, her Democratic opponent will be favored. But the big loser here is not any one of the obscure Connecticut Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to run in 2012. Rather, it is the man who currently sits in the seat that McMahon covets: Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman hasn’t said whether he will run for a fifth term in 2012, but a McMahon run means his prospects for re-election have now shifted from unfavorable to highly unlikely. In 2006, Lieberman overcame his defeat in the Democratic primary at the hands of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont by cruising to victory in November. But the formula for that victory as an independent was one that cannot be repeated. In 2006, the majority of Democratic voters rejected Lieberman again in the general election. But he won because of large majorities among independents and Republicans. That was made possible only because the Republicans, anticipating that Lieberman would be the Democratic candidate, nominated a nonentity who wound up getting less than 10 percent of the vote.

Six years later, Lieberman knows he would have no chance in a Democratic primary, since most of those Democrats who backed him in the past still hold his support for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election against him. Virtually any Democrat could beat him. And he is still too much of a liberal on domestic policy to have a chance to win a Republican primary should he choose to try that route. That leaves him with the option of a straightforward run as an independent. But while Connecticut has a tradition of backing party-jumping mavericks in statewide races, the only way he can win is if he is able to claim, as he did in 2006, the lion’s share of Republican ballots. A McMahon candidacy will mean a well-funded and serious GOP candidate who is conservative enough to retain the loyalty of most of that party’s voters in November. That means Lieberman has no reasonable scenario for victory in 2012.

This makes it all but certain that the Congress that convenes in January will be the last in which Lieberman will sit. If so, it will be yet another indication that the Scoop Jackson Democrat — liberals on domestic policy and hawks on foreign policy — is truly extinct. Lieberman will, of course, be remembered as the man who came within a few hanging chads of being elected the first Jewish vice president of the United States. But his real legacy will be the fact that he was willing to risk his career for the sake of principle as he bucked his party’s loyalists by faithfully supporting the war against Islamist terrorists in Iraq.

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Time to Inspect Syria

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and an impressively bipartisan group of Capitol Hill signatories, just sent a letter to President Obama asking him to urge the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) to “immediately conduct on-site ‘special inspections’ in Syria.” They point out that since an Israeli air strike took out the Dair Alzour nuclear reactor in 2007, the Syrians’ cooperation with the IAEA has been “alarmingly inadequate.” The organization’s director general, Yukia Amano claims that “with the passage of time, some of the necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is further deteriorating or has been lost entirely.” There are also unanswered question concerning three other related locations.

This should be a no-brainer for the administration. First, it has bipartisan support—something that’s become so rare it’s almost touchingly quaint. The signatories include Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Edward Markey, and Republicans Jon Kyl and John Ensign.  Obama should move ahead on this and then talk it up as evidence of critical cooperation. Second, urging IAEA special inspections fits in perfectly with Obama’s dream of a nuke-free world via international cooperation. Syria is, after all, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Either international agreements mean something or they do not. In October, the Departments of State and Treasury decided to sanction North Korean parties that provided nuclear-weapons assistance to Syria. (It is believed that North Korea assisted the Syrians with the Dair Alzour project.) The letter is merely asking for enforcement on the other end of that equation. Most important, with a non-deterrable nuclear North Korea antagonizing American allies and an Iran poised to do the same, the administration cannot afford to have another bad actor go nuclear on its watch.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and an impressively bipartisan group of Capitol Hill signatories, just sent a letter to President Obama asking him to urge the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) to “immediately conduct on-site ‘special inspections’ in Syria.” They point out that since an Israeli air strike took out the Dair Alzour nuclear reactor in 2007, the Syrians’ cooperation with the IAEA has been “alarmingly inadequate.” The organization’s director general, Yukia Amano claims that “with the passage of time, some of the necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is further deteriorating or has been lost entirely.” There are also unanswered question concerning three other related locations.

This should be a no-brainer for the administration. First, it has bipartisan support—something that’s become so rare it’s almost touchingly quaint. The signatories include Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Edward Markey, and Republicans Jon Kyl and John Ensign.  Obama should move ahead on this and then talk it up as evidence of critical cooperation. Second, urging IAEA special inspections fits in perfectly with Obama’s dream of a nuke-free world via international cooperation. Syria is, after all, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Either international agreements mean something or they do not. In October, the Departments of State and Treasury decided to sanction North Korean parties that provided nuclear-weapons assistance to Syria. (It is believed that North Korea assisted the Syrians with the Dair Alzour project.) The letter is merely asking for enforcement on the other end of that equation. Most important, with a non-deterrable nuclear North Korea antagonizing American allies and an Iran poised to do the same, the administration cannot afford to have another bad actor go nuclear on its watch.

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Democrats’ Tax Dilemma

Where are we on an extension of the Bush tax cuts? It’s hard to know, given that the Democrats have no game plan at this point:

Obama favors renewing the tax cuts only for those at or below those level, saying the nation cannot afford to renew them for wealthier Americans.

Despite a number of options — including renewing all tax cuts or only those for the middle class or tying any extension to a renewal of jobless benefits — there is no indication a consensus is near.

“How the hell should we know when we will figure this out?” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. “This is the Democratic Party,” long known for internal struggles and diverse views.

The lack of agreement is, at bottom, a sign of the mistrust that now characterizes the relationship between Obama and what is left of his Democratic allies in the House and Senate:

“A lot of our guys, the progressives, don’t want to extend these tax cuts for anyone,” said a senior House Democratic aide. “They never liked them in the first place.” The aide said some Democrats are now wary of Obama, who convinced them to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system — a landmark achievement that backfired and hurt them with voters. “Our guys aren’t sure what comes next. Will Obama help them in 2012, or will just be focused on getting himself re-elected?” the aide said.

The liberal pro-tax-hike Democrats can posture all they like, but they don’t seem to have the votes to soak the rich. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the perennial voice of sanity in the Senate, patiently explains to his colleagues that although they might want to raise taxes on the “rich” — investors, small businesses, employers — the fact remains that “the votes are not there to do that.”

Oh, in that case, they might simply kick the can down the road and let the GOP extend all the Bush tax cuts. Well, that wouldn’t make much sense, allowing their opponents to claim credit for keeping voters’ taxes from going up. But these days, the Dems seem to specialize in not making much sense. So don’t bet against their doing just that.

Where are we on an extension of the Bush tax cuts? It’s hard to know, given that the Democrats have no game plan at this point:

Obama favors renewing the tax cuts only for those at or below those level, saying the nation cannot afford to renew them for wealthier Americans.

Despite a number of options — including renewing all tax cuts or only those for the middle class or tying any extension to a renewal of jobless benefits — there is no indication a consensus is near.

“How the hell should we know when we will figure this out?” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. “This is the Democratic Party,” long known for internal struggles and diverse views.

The lack of agreement is, at bottom, a sign of the mistrust that now characterizes the relationship between Obama and what is left of his Democratic allies in the House and Senate:

“A lot of our guys, the progressives, don’t want to extend these tax cuts for anyone,” said a senior House Democratic aide. “They never liked them in the first place.” The aide said some Democrats are now wary of Obama, who convinced them to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system — a landmark achievement that backfired and hurt them with voters. “Our guys aren’t sure what comes next. Will Obama help them in 2012, or will just be focused on getting himself re-elected?” the aide said.

The liberal pro-tax-hike Democrats can posture all they like, but they don’t seem to have the votes to soak the rich. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the perennial voice of sanity in the Senate, patiently explains to his colleagues that although they might want to raise taxes on the “rich” — investors, small businesses, employers — the fact remains that “the votes are not there to do that.”

Oh, in that case, they might simply kick the can down the road and let the GOP extend all the Bush tax cuts. Well, that wouldn’t make much sense, allowing their opponents to claim credit for keeping voters’ taxes from going up. But these days, the Dems seem to specialize in not making much sense. So don’t bet against their doing just that.

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RE: New START Treaty

With the perfervid push underway to get the New START treaty on the lame-duck Senate’s schedule, I would add this to the discussion between Jennifer, John, and Max: it’s not clear why the Obama administration is pushing for quick action. The Senate deliberations to date make it inadvisable.

The uneasy accord represented by the April 8 treaty signing is already falling apart. For the Russians, the opt-out clause in the preamble was of paramount concern. That clause makes their adherence to the treaty contingent on Russian approval of America’s plans for missile defense. The treaty stipulates that neither side will convert old ICBM silos for use in a strategic missile-defense system, but the preamble makes it clear that, for Moscow, U.S. missile-defense programs will actually be an open-ended source of conditions on the arms accord.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, in the official “understandings” included with its resolution on the treaty, has directly contradicted that Russian expectation. The three “understandings” were proposed by Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican, and adopted by the full committee in September. One of them articulates the committee’s belief that the treaty imposes no limitations on U.S. missile defenses other than the prohibition on the use of ICBM silos. The committee also “understands” that the treaty places no limits on American use of strategic weapon systems in a conventional (non-nuclear) role, and that if Russia resurrects its rail-mobile ICBM system, the treaty will apply to that as well as to the systems explicitly addressed in it.

Russia finds these understandings unpalatable. In late October, an Interfax report quoted the leader of the Duma’s international-affairs committee as planning “to suggest to committee members that they reconsider the ratification of the Russian-U.S. New START Treaty in view of new circumstances.” The new circumstances he cited were the three understandings adopted by the U.S. Senate committee.

Senator Lugar was an early advocate of the treaty; he didn’t propose these understandings with the intention of torpedoing it. Realistically, the treaty won’t be ratified without the understandings. The concerns reflected in them are predominant among Republicans, but a number of Democrats (and Independent Joe Lieberman) share them as well.

It’s not clear what Russia will do if New START is ratified with the U.S. Senate understandings. Medvedev and Putin might well consider it to their advantage to let a lengthy rejection process unfold in the Duma, rather than repudiating the Senate understandings immediately. But Obama’s abysmal record of obtaining difficult agreements makes it a virtual certainty that the treaty can’t be rescued for the purpose of actual arms limitation. The administration’s best option now is probably to accept the delay in Senate consideration and look for a way to revisit the treaty itself with Russia.

With the perfervid push underway to get the New START treaty on the lame-duck Senate’s schedule, I would add this to the discussion between Jennifer, John, and Max: it’s not clear why the Obama administration is pushing for quick action. The Senate deliberations to date make it inadvisable.

The uneasy accord represented by the April 8 treaty signing is already falling apart. For the Russians, the opt-out clause in the preamble was of paramount concern. That clause makes their adherence to the treaty contingent on Russian approval of America’s plans for missile defense. The treaty stipulates that neither side will convert old ICBM silos for use in a strategic missile-defense system, but the preamble makes it clear that, for Moscow, U.S. missile-defense programs will actually be an open-ended source of conditions on the arms accord.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, in the official “understandings” included with its resolution on the treaty, has directly contradicted that Russian expectation. The three “understandings” were proposed by Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican, and adopted by the full committee in September. One of them articulates the committee’s belief that the treaty imposes no limitations on U.S. missile defenses other than the prohibition on the use of ICBM silos. The committee also “understands” that the treaty places no limits on American use of strategic weapon systems in a conventional (non-nuclear) role, and that if Russia resurrects its rail-mobile ICBM system, the treaty will apply to that as well as to the systems explicitly addressed in it.

Russia finds these understandings unpalatable. In late October, an Interfax report quoted the leader of the Duma’s international-affairs committee as planning “to suggest to committee members that they reconsider the ratification of the Russian-U.S. New START Treaty in view of new circumstances.” The new circumstances he cited were the three understandings adopted by the U.S. Senate committee.

Senator Lugar was an early advocate of the treaty; he didn’t propose these understandings with the intention of torpedoing it. Realistically, the treaty won’t be ratified without the understandings. The concerns reflected in them are predominant among Republicans, but a number of Democrats (and Independent Joe Lieberman) share them as well.

It’s not clear what Russia will do if New START is ratified with the U.S. Senate understandings. Medvedev and Putin might well consider it to their advantage to let a lengthy rejection process unfold in the Duma, rather than repudiating the Senate understandings immediately. But Obama’s abysmal record of obtaining difficult agreements makes it a virtual certainty that the treaty can’t be rescued for the purpose of actual arms limitation. The administration’s best option now is probably to accept the delay in Senate consideration and look for a way to revisit the treaty itself with Russia.

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FPI Conference (Part 3)

There is an art that the best State Department functionaries master: to take hard questions that present troubling facts or contradictions in policy and to give in response a long, rambling answer that, by the end, dilutes the impact of the question and leaves the audience at a loss to remember what was orginally being asked. There is no one better at this than Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who wrapped up the FPI conference.

It was evident that the administration came with an olive branch to the right and with many fine sentiments about bipartisanship in foreign policy. Who can blame it? The administration’s biggest successes (e.g., Iraq, appointment of Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan) have been supported by conservatives. With an assertive Republican House and more conservative voices in the Senate, the administration doesn’t need more headaches, so foreign policy offers a chance to show its bipartisan inclinations. One way to do that is not to talk about the hard stuff. So, in his prepared remarks, Steinberg didn’t bring up Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Europe, human rights, Hugo Chavez, or other topics that are sources of disagreement between the Obama team and conservatives.

He did talk about Southeast Asia. It’s very important. We are making many trips there. We’re going to have “sustained engagement.” And we’re very “clear-eyed” about China.

His next topics were Iraq and Afghanistan, where he echoed many of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s remarks (and Sen. John McCain’s from the previous day). On Iraq, we need bipartisanship and, yes, more “sustained engagement.” On Afghanistan, again, we must maintain funding. In the Q&A, he expressed himself as delighted with the Afghanistan war-strategy process. It was “serious,” he intoned. He’s never seen a president so involved. And that 2011 deadline? With perfect earnestness he explained: “There is no ambiguity. It is the beginning of a transition.” Really, there was “never any intention to see it as a dramatic turning point. … If we need to do a better job of messaging, we’ll do a better job.”

The third topic was START. (During the conference, Sen. Jon Kyl declared it isn’t going to get a vote in the lame-duck session.) This should be a bipartisan issue too, he asserted. He added that “there are no restraints” on our ability to pursue missile defense, and it comes packaged with an unprecedented commitment to force modernization.

Things got a bit dicier in the Q&A conducted by Robert Kagan. What about human rights in Russia? Why aren’t we talking more about democracy in Egypt? Again, Steinberg, in measured tones, with no hint of defensiveness, argued that “it should be clear” that we remain committed to human rights in Russia. On our support for democracy and human rights in Egypt, you see, it is important “to say it when it matters.” (But not at public news conferences, I suppose.) Kagan pressed him on the G-20: how could we go in there with such dissention between the U.S. and Europe? Oh, now, now. We’ve had hard times with allies in the past. Why is China exhibiting such bullying behavior of late? Ah, it’s a transition period, and there are many voice there. Why aren’t we getting these free-trade agreements done? Well, on South Korea, sometimes the “work just is not ready,” so we’ll keep at it. Colombia? He’s very encouraged.

Steinberg is such an articulate and calm figure, the consummate professional, that you’d almost forget listening to him that Obama’s Middle East policy is in shambles, that Iran is on the ascendency and on the road to getting the bomb, that our human-rights policy is under attack by the left and right, that Russia and China are both feeling emboldened to extend their influence, and that our relations with Europe are badly frayed. But what comes across loud and clear is that the Obama team wants to be perceived as operating well within the bipartisan tradition of American foreign policy. If that entails an ongoing presence in Iraq, a sustained effort in Afghanistan, a determination to deny Iran nuclear weapons, a cessation of its foolhardy obsession with Israeli settlements, a competent and forceful free-trade policy, and consistent defense of human rights, then the administration will earn the support of conservatives and, more important, the respect of foes and the confidence of allies.

There is an art that the best State Department functionaries master: to take hard questions that present troubling facts or contradictions in policy and to give in response a long, rambling answer that, by the end, dilutes the impact of the question and leaves the audience at a loss to remember what was orginally being asked. There is no one better at this than Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who wrapped up the FPI conference.

It was evident that the administration came with an olive branch to the right and with many fine sentiments about bipartisanship in foreign policy. Who can blame it? The administration’s biggest successes (e.g., Iraq, appointment of Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan) have been supported by conservatives. With an assertive Republican House and more conservative voices in the Senate, the administration doesn’t need more headaches, so foreign policy offers a chance to show its bipartisan inclinations. One way to do that is not to talk about the hard stuff. So, in his prepared remarks, Steinberg didn’t bring up Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Europe, human rights, Hugo Chavez, or other topics that are sources of disagreement between the Obama team and conservatives.

He did talk about Southeast Asia. It’s very important. We are making many trips there. We’re going to have “sustained engagement.” And we’re very “clear-eyed” about China.

His next topics were Iraq and Afghanistan, where he echoed many of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s remarks (and Sen. John McCain’s from the previous day). On Iraq, we need bipartisanship and, yes, more “sustained engagement.” On Afghanistan, again, we must maintain funding. In the Q&A, he expressed himself as delighted with the Afghanistan war-strategy process. It was “serious,” he intoned. He’s never seen a president so involved. And that 2011 deadline? With perfect earnestness he explained: “There is no ambiguity. It is the beginning of a transition.” Really, there was “never any intention to see it as a dramatic turning point. … If we need to do a better job of messaging, we’ll do a better job.”

The third topic was START. (During the conference, Sen. Jon Kyl declared it isn’t going to get a vote in the lame-duck session.) This should be a bipartisan issue too, he asserted. He added that “there are no restraints” on our ability to pursue missile defense, and it comes packaged with an unprecedented commitment to force modernization.

Things got a bit dicier in the Q&A conducted by Robert Kagan. What about human rights in Russia? Why aren’t we talking more about democracy in Egypt? Again, Steinberg, in measured tones, with no hint of defensiveness, argued that “it should be clear” that we remain committed to human rights in Russia. On our support for democracy and human rights in Egypt, you see, it is important “to say it when it matters.” (But not at public news conferences, I suppose.) Kagan pressed him on the G-20: how could we go in there with such dissention between the U.S. and Europe? Oh, now, now. We’ve had hard times with allies in the past. Why is China exhibiting such bullying behavior of late? Ah, it’s a transition period, and there are many voice there. Why aren’t we getting these free-trade agreements done? Well, on South Korea, sometimes the “work just is not ready,” so we’ll keep at it. Colombia? He’s very encouraged.

Steinberg is such an articulate and calm figure, the consummate professional, that you’d almost forget listening to him that Obama’s Middle East policy is in shambles, that Iran is on the ascendency and on the road to getting the bomb, that our human-rights policy is under attack by the left and right, that Russia and China are both feeling emboldened to extend their influence, and that our relations with Europe are badly frayed. But what comes across loud and clear is that the Obama team wants to be perceived as operating well within the bipartisan tradition of American foreign policy. If that entails an ongoing presence in Iraq, a sustained effort in Afghanistan, a determination to deny Iran nuclear weapons, a cessation of its foolhardy obsession with Israeli settlements, a competent and forceful free-trade policy, and consistent defense of human rights, then the administration will earn the support of conservatives and, more important, the respect of foes and the confidence of allies.

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FPI Conference (Part One)

At the second day of the Foreign Policy Initiative’s 2010 forum, the administration’s representatives were there to soothe and to stress bipartisanship, which they carried out with mixed results. The day began with an assist from Sen. Joe Lieberman, who emphasized bipartisanship on Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning from a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he asserted that although “the U.S. has never been as engaged as we are today across the Middle East,” there is nevertheless “heightened uneasiness… about America’s staying power.” He voiced optimism about the newly formed government in Iraq, stressing the need for the U.S. to remain engaged and to ensure the government “reflects the will of the Iraqi people” and not foreign governments, especially the Iranian regime. He urged the administration to accept any invitation by the Iraqi government to extend our presence beyond the 2011 date set forth in the Status of Forces Agreement.

Lieberman was heartened by progress since his last visit in July to Afghanistan. He observed that we have begun to “turn the tide” and emphasized the improved strategy and command structure implemented in the last two years. “Simply put, America has gotten its act together,” he explained. However, he was sharply critical of the July 2011 withdrawal deadline, which, he explained, “exacerbated the central strategic problem,” namely that individuals and groups “continue to hedge their bets” with Taliban forces as long as they are uncertain about American resolve. He noted with approval the administration’s recent effort “to begin to downplay the 2011 date.” He urged the development of a long-term security pact that might include an American airbase in the country.

In response to questions posed by moderator Bill Kristol, he expressed confidence that the administration would not squander gains in Iraq. But he also expressed some fear that, on Afghanistan, there would “emerge an unusual alliance of the anti-war Democrats and isolationist… or fiscally hawkish Republicans.” As for the administration, he believes “they are in it to win it.” On Pakistan, he explained the dilemma: we get more anti-terrorism information from that country than any other, yet its security forces continue to have links to the Taliban.

On Iran, Lieberman sounded hopeful on congressional bipartisanship; “not tomorrow,” but soon, he hopes for a resolution calling on the White House to use all available sanctions, to continue sanctions even if talks resume, and to express that if sanctions fail, we will use force to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As to the last item, the problem remains not Congress but the administration.

Lieberman’s theme was: “The Obama story is as much about continuity as it is about change.” We need to hope he is right.

At the second day of the Foreign Policy Initiative’s 2010 forum, the administration’s representatives were there to soothe and to stress bipartisanship, which they carried out with mixed results. The day began with an assist from Sen. Joe Lieberman, who emphasized bipartisanship on Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning from a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he asserted that although “the U.S. has never been as engaged as we are today across the Middle East,” there is nevertheless “heightened uneasiness… about America’s staying power.” He voiced optimism about the newly formed government in Iraq, stressing the need for the U.S. to remain engaged and to ensure the government “reflects the will of the Iraqi people” and not foreign governments, especially the Iranian regime. He urged the administration to accept any invitation by the Iraqi government to extend our presence beyond the 2011 date set forth in the Status of Forces Agreement.

Lieberman was heartened by progress since his last visit in July to Afghanistan. He observed that we have begun to “turn the tide” and emphasized the improved strategy and command structure implemented in the last two years. “Simply put, America has gotten its act together,” he explained. However, he was sharply critical of the July 2011 withdrawal deadline, which, he explained, “exacerbated the central strategic problem,” namely that individuals and groups “continue to hedge their bets” with Taliban forces as long as they are uncertain about American resolve. He noted with approval the administration’s recent effort “to begin to downplay the 2011 date.” He urged the development of a long-term security pact that might include an American airbase in the country.

In response to questions posed by moderator Bill Kristol, he expressed confidence that the administration would not squander gains in Iraq. But he also expressed some fear that, on Afghanistan, there would “emerge an unusual alliance of the anti-war Democrats and isolationist… or fiscally hawkish Republicans.” As for the administration, he believes “they are in it to win it.” On Pakistan, he explained the dilemma: we get more anti-terrorism information from that country than any other, yet its security forces continue to have links to the Taliban.

On Iran, Lieberman sounded hopeful on congressional bipartisanship; “not tomorrow,” but soon, he hopes for a resolution calling on the White House to use all available sanctions, to continue sanctions even if talks resume, and to express that if sanctions fail, we will use force to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As to the last item, the problem remains not Congress but the administration.

Lieberman’s theme was: “The Obama story is as much about continuity as it is about change.” We need to hope he is right.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.’”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: “Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.’”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: “Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

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Manchin to Fight Obama — or Switch?

A report suggests that Senate Republicans are trying to lure Joe Manchin to switch parties:

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects — a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. …

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.

For now, Manchin says he’s not switching. But he certainly didn’t close any doors:

“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

Not exactly a pledge of perpetual loyalty to his party, is it?

Manchin’s problem is not as acute as Ben Nelson’s is. Nelson infuriated his home state by caving on ObamaCare, thereby setting himself up as the  “60th vote” (as were all Democrats in the cloture vote) target in 2012. It is questionable whether a party change would save Nelson; even if he switched — à la Arlen Specter — Nelson could well face a primary challenge. And from Manchin’s perspective, he was able to swim against the tide by differentiating himself from Obama and his liberal helpmates inside the Beltway. Provided he now carries through and joins with Republicans on key votes on the budget, health care, etc., shouldn’t his chances improve in 2012?

All this raises the question as to whether a bare majority in the Senate is all that important to the GOP. The issue, aside from chairmanships of committees, is not which party “controls” the Senate. That will be a case-by-case affair, determined by the relative craftiness of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in cobbling together temporary alliances of 60 senators. In that regard, the Republicans’ policy objectives might be better served — and the image of bipartisanship enhanced — by inducing Manchin, Nelson, and Lieberman to vote with them as Democrats.

And let’s not forget the gift the Republicans have received: Harry Reid — pursed lips, perpetual gaffes, nasty demeanor, and all — retaining the Senate majority leader spot. That seems almost too good an opportunity to give up.

So I don’t expect the GOP to try all that hard to convince the three most likely candidates to switch parties. If Obama’s fortunes continue to slide, some of them may be chasing the GOP before too long.

A report suggests that Senate Republicans are trying to lure Joe Manchin to switch parties:

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects — a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. …

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.

For now, Manchin says he’s not switching. But he certainly didn’t close any doors:

“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

Not exactly a pledge of perpetual loyalty to his party, is it?

Manchin’s problem is not as acute as Ben Nelson’s is. Nelson infuriated his home state by caving on ObamaCare, thereby setting himself up as the  “60th vote” (as were all Democrats in the cloture vote) target in 2012. It is questionable whether a party change would save Nelson; even if he switched — à la Arlen Specter — Nelson could well face a primary challenge. And from Manchin’s perspective, he was able to swim against the tide by differentiating himself from Obama and his liberal helpmates inside the Beltway. Provided he now carries through and joins with Republicans on key votes on the budget, health care, etc., shouldn’t his chances improve in 2012?

All this raises the question as to whether a bare majority in the Senate is all that important to the GOP. The issue, aside from chairmanships of committees, is not which party “controls” the Senate. That will be a case-by-case affair, determined by the relative craftiness of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in cobbling together temporary alliances of 60 senators. In that regard, the Republicans’ policy objectives might be better served — and the image of bipartisanship enhanced — by inducing Manchin, Nelson, and Lieberman to vote with them as Democrats.

And let’s not forget the gift the Republicans have received: Harry Reid — pursed lips, perpetual gaffes, nasty demeanor, and all — retaining the Senate majority leader spot. That seems almost too good an opportunity to give up.

So I don’t expect the GOP to try all that hard to convince the three most likely candidates to switch parties. If Obama’s fortunes continue to slide, some of them may be chasing the GOP before too long.

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Bibi to Biden: Get Real About Iran

It is time to get serious about Iran. That was the message Bibi delivered to Joe Biden. This report explains:

Only a credible military threat can halt Teheran’s nuclear program, Israel stressed to the United States Sunday afternoon.

“The only way to ensure that Iran is not armed with nuclear weapons is to create a credible threat of military action against it, unless it stops its race to obtain nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told US Vice President Joe Biden, according to diplomatic officials. …

In his meeting with Biden, Netanyahu insisted that although economic sanctions have made it difficult for Teheran, there is no sign that they have caused the ayatollahs’ regime to halt its nuclear program. …

“The only time that Iran stopped its nuclear program was in 2003, and that was when they believed that there was a real chance of an American military strike against them,” Netanyahu told Biden, according to diplomatic sources.

Bibi’s admonition is well timed. Iran is attempting to lure the administration into another round of useless talks in order to buy some more time for the regime’s scientists to develop nuclear weapons. (“According to diplomatic sources, Netanyahu said, ‘Iran is attempting to mislead the West and there are worrying signs that the international community is captivated by this mirage.’”) Bibi is right to be concerned; the administration is plainly looking to give Iran an escape hatch – and itself an excuse for inactivity. Those concerned with the prospect of a nuclear threat aimed not simply at Israel but also at the West more generally should reinforce this point and refuse to go along with another round of engagement kabuki theater.

Moreover, with a new, more conservative Congress, there is likely to be additional pressure put on the White House to consider and plan for military action, or at the very least to commit to assisting the Jewish state should its government feel compelled to act unilaterally. Those who have concluded that sanctions are useless, that further talks would be counterproductive, and that a military strike may be essential to the West’s security (and our credibility as guarantor of that security) have public opinion on their side. Before the election, Sen. Joe Lieberman delivered a compelling case for more robust action. It is time for the new Congress to translate that speech into policy. And it is time for Obama to stop dithering.

It is time to get serious about Iran. That was the message Bibi delivered to Joe Biden. This report explains:

Only a credible military threat can halt Teheran’s nuclear program, Israel stressed to the United States Sunday afternoon.

“The only way to ensure that Iran is not armed with nuclear weapons is to create a credible threat of military action against it, unless it stops its race to obtain nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told US Vice President Joe Biden, according to diplomatic officials. …

In his meeting with Biden, Netanyahu insisted that although economic sanctions have made it difficult for Teheran, there is no sign that they have caused the ayatollahs’ regime to halt its nuclear program. …

“The only time that Iran stopped its nuclear program was in 2003, and that was when they believed that there was a real chance of an American military strike against them,” Netanyahu told Biden, according to diplomatic sources.

Bibi’s admonition is well timed. Iran is attempting to lure the administration into another round of useless talks in order to buy some more time for the regime’s scientists to develop nuclear weapons. (“According to diplomatic sources, Netanyahu said, ‘Iran is attempting to mislead the West and there are worrying signs that the international community is captivated by this mirage.’”) Bibi is right to be concerned; the administration is plainly looking to give Iran an escape hatch – and itself an excuse for inactivity. Those concerned with the prospect of a nuclear threat aimed not simply at Israel but also at the West more generally should reinforce this point and refuse to go along with another round of engagement kabuki theater.

Moreover, with a new, more conservative Congress, there is likely to be additional pressure put on the White House to consider and plan for military action, or at the very least to commit to assisting the Jewish state should its government feel compelled to act unilaterally. Those who have concluded that sanctions are useless, that further talks would be counterproductive, and that a military strike may be essential to the West’s security (and our credibility as guarantor of that security) have public opinion on their side. Before the election, Sen. Joe Lieberman delivered a compelling case for more robust action. It is time for the new Congress to translate that speech into policy. And it is time for Obama to stop dithering.

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RE: Down to West Virginia and Washington

If the GOP were to pick up nine seats and neither Ben Nelson nor Joe Lieberman could be lured across the aisle, that would tie the Senate at 50-50. That last happened after the 2000 election (before Jim Jeffords of Vermont crossed the aisle in the other direction a few months later and gave the Democrats a 51-49 majority). In 2001, that meant that Vice President Dick Cheney was the deciding vote on how the Senate would be organized. Now it would be Joe Biden. It would also mean that Biden would have to stick pretty close to home while the Senate was in session to be available to break any ties. Whether that would be a net plus or minus for the Republic, I know not.

But how likely is it that Lieberman or Nelson would switch? I agree with James Taranto that it’s not likely.

And then there’s Alaska. It’s now a Republican seat, but the current holder, Lisa Murkowski, lost the primary and decided, in a fit of chutzpah, to run a write-in campaign. Some polls show her ahead, but do they have any predictive value? I doubt it. I think a lot of people who told the pollsters they were voting for her will, on arriving at the polling booth, decide a write-in vote is just too much trouble and vote for Joe Miller. Even if she wins, I imagine that she would caucus with the Republicans, despite the fact that she was roundly denounced by her Republican colleagues for not accepting the results of the primary and thus putting the seat in jeopardy by splitting the vote. If that were to happen, and the Democrat were to win thanks to Murkowski’s ego, thereby depriving the Republicans of the majority, I don’t think that Murkowski will be invited to many future Republican picnics.

If the GOP were to pick up nine seats and neither Ben Nelson nor Joe Lieberman could be lured across the aisle, that would tie the Senate at 50-50. That last happened after the 2000 election (before Jim Jeffords of Vermont crossed the aisle in the other direction a few months later and gave the Democrats a 51-49 majority). In 2001, that meant that Vice President Dick Cheney was the deciding vote on how the Senate would be organized. Now it would be Joe Biden. It would also mean that Biden would have to stick pretty close to home while the Senate was in session to be available to break any ties. Whether that would be a net plus or minus for the Republic, I know not.

But how likely is it that Lieberman or Nelson would switch? I agree with James Taranto that it’s not likely.

And then there’s Alaska. It’s now a Republican seat, but the current holder, Lisa Murkowski, lost the primary and decided, in a fit of chutzpah, to run a write-in campaign. Some polls show her ahead, but do they have any predictive value? I doubt it. I think a lot of people who told the pollsters they were voting for her will, on arriving at the polling booth, decide a write-in vote is just too much trouble and vote for Joe Miller. Even if she wins, I imagine that she would caucus with the Republicans, despite the fact that she was roundly denounced by her Republican colleagues for not accepting the results of the primary and thus putting the seat in jeopardy by splitting the vote. If that were to happen, and the Democrat were to win thanks to Murkowski’s ego, thereby depriving the Republicans of the majority, I don’t think that Murkowski will be invited to many future Republican picnics.

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Down to West Virginia and Washington

The latest batch of Senate polls suggests that there is a good chance of Republicans picking up these seats: North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana, Wisconsin (Russ Feingold is down 6.6 points in the RealClearPolitics average), Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nevada (Sharron Angle is up by 4 in the most recent poll), and Colorad0 (Ken Buck is leading in all recent polls). That is a total of eight.

If the recent polls are to be believed, Carly Fiorina is in a tough spot in California. Connecticut is trending solidly Democratic. But there is Washington, where it is a dead heat. And there is West Virginia, where polls have been inconsistent, but the incumbent governor’s administration is now ensnared in an FBI investigation. Is it doable for the GOP? Sure. I’d give it better odds than 50-50.

And, by the way, if the GOP gets nine, the scramble is on to lure Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson to switch parties. In sum, the excitement may be far from over on election night.

The latest batch of Senate polls suggests that there is a good chance of Republicans picking up these seats: North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana, Wisconsin (Russ Feingold is down 6.6 points in the RealClearPolitics average), Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nevada (Sharron Angle is up by 4 in the most recent poll), and Colorad0 (Ken Buck is leading in all recent polls). That is a total of eight.

If the recent polls are to be believed, Carly Fiorina is in a tough spot in California. Connecticut is trending solidly Democratic. But there is Washington, where it is a dead heat. And there is West Virginia, where polls have been inconsistent, but the incumbent governor’s administration is now ensnared in an FBI investigation. Is it doable for the GOP? Sure. I’d give it better odds than 50-50.

And, by the way, if the GOP gets nine, the scramble is on to lure Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson to switch parties. In sum, the excitement may be far from over on election night.

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