Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jon Kyl

New START Was Salvaged in More Ways Than One

Although those who opposed the ratification of New START were lambasted as anti-American obstructionists, they ultimately managed to do their country a gargantuan service. In the end, people like Senator Jon Kyl successfully put pressure on the Senate to amend the resolution of the treaty so that America’s future missile-defense plans are explicitly not beholden to the conditions of the agreement. Specifically, this means retaining our ability to put missile-defense assets in Europe despite Russia’s disapproval. Not a bad day’s work for thoughtless partisan blockheads.

What’s interesting is the degree to which the press now considers important political dissent to be an alien and worrisome phenomenon. Anything short of across-the-board agreement with the administration’s first wishes is a sign of the ungovernabilty of America and the irrationality of conservatives. Bipartisanship, they have long forgotten, does not mean that which is dictated by one party and assented to by another. It is a state of affairs in which both parties contribute to an outcome. The ratification of New START is a flashy “Obama victory,” for sure. But in geostrategic terms, the treaty is a dud and the amendments that ensure the integrity of American missile defense are, frankly, more important.

Although those who opposed the ratification of New START were lambasted as anti-American obstructionists, they ultimately managed to do their country a gargantuan service. In the end, people like Senator Jon Kyl successfully put pressure on the Senate to amend the resolution of the treaty so that America’s future missile-defense plans are explicitly not beholden to the conditions of the agreement. Specifically, this means retaining our ability to put missile-defense assets in Europe despite Russia’s disapproval. Not a bad day’s work for thoughtless partisan blockheads.

What’s interesting is the degree to which the press now considers important political dissent to be an alien and worrisome phenomenon. Anything short of across-the-board agreement with the administration’s first wishes is a sign of the ungovernabilty of America and the irrationality of conservatives. Bipartisanship, they have long forgotten, does not mean that which is dictated by one party and assented to by another. It is a state of affairs in which both parties contribute to an outcome. The ratification of New START is a flashy “Obama victory,” for sure. But in geostrategic terms, the treaty is a dud and the amendments that ensure the integrity of American missile defense are, frankly, more important.

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Morning Commentary

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

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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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Reason to Slow Down START

Sen. Jon Kyl is enjoying an “I told you so” moment. He’s been trying to slow the rush to a New START ratification vote, pleading that additional time is needed to explore serious concerns about the treaty’s implications. And now we learn:

The U.S. believes Russia has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies as recently as this spring, U.S. officials say, adding to questions in Congress about Russian compliance with long-standing pledges ahead of a possible vote on a new arms-control treaty.

U.S. officials say the movement of warheads to facilities bordering NATO allies appeared to run counter to pledges made by Moscow starting in 1991 to pull tactical nuclear weapons back from frontier posts and to reduce their numbers. The U.S. has long voiced concerns about Russia’s lack of transparency when it comes to its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, believed to be many times the number possessed by the U.S.

Russia’s movement of the ground-based tactical weapons appeared to coincide with the deployment of U.S. and NATO missile-defense installations in countries bordering Russia. Moscow has long considered the U.S. missile defense buildup in Europe a challenge to Russian power, underlining deep-seated mistrust between U.S. and Russian armed forces despite improved relations between political leaders.

In short, Russia isn’t living up to its existing obligations, and there is nothing in New START to deal with tactical weapons. Moreover, this confirms what many conservative critics have long suspected, namely that reset is a one-way street. In order to keep up the facade of improved relations, the Obama team is forced to ignore serious challenges to the U.S. and its allies:

U.S. officials believe the most recent movements of Russian tactical nuclear weapons took place in late spring. In late May, a U.S. Patriot missile battery was deployed in northern Poland, close to Kaliningrad, sparking public protests from Moscow.

Some officials said the movements are a concern but sought to play down the threat. Russian nuclear warheads are stored separately from their launching systems, U.S. officials say.

Maybe it’s time for some serious oversight hearings. At the very least, the senators should resist being hurried to vote on a treaty before they understand the true state of U.S.-Russian relations.

Sen. Jon Kyl is enjoying an “I told you so” moment. He’s been trying to slow the rush to a New START ratification vote, pleading that additional time is needed to explore serious concerns about the treaty’s implications. And now we learn:

The U.S. believes Russia has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies as recently as this spring, U.S. officials say, adding to questions in Congress about Russian compliance with long-standing pledges ahead of a possible vote on a new arms-control treaty.

U.S. officials say the movement of warheads to facilities bordering NATO allies appeared to run counter to pledges made by Moscow starting in 1991 to pull tactical nuclear weapons back from frontier posts and to reduce their numbers. The U.S. has long voiced concerns about Russia’s lack of transparency when it comes to its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, believed to be many times the number possessed by the U.S.

Russia’s movement of the ground-based tactical weapons appeared to coincide with the deployment of U.S. and NATO missile-defense installations in countries bordering Russia. Moscow has long considered the U.S. missile defense buildup in Europe a challenge to Russian power, underlining deep-seated mistrust between U.S. and Russian armed forces despite improved relations between political leaders.

In short, Russia isn’t living up to its existing obligations, and there is nothing in New START to deal with tactical weapons. Moreover, this confirms what many conservative critics have long suspected, namely that reset is a one-way street. In order to keep up the facade of improved relations, the Obama team is forced to ignore serious challenges to the U.S. and its allies:

U.S. officials believe the most recent movements of Russian tactical nuclear weapons took place in late spring. In late May, a U.S. Patriot missile battery was deployed in northern Poland, close to Kaliningrad, sparking public protests from Moscow.

Some officials said the movements are a concern but sought to play down the threat. Russian nuclear warheads are stored separately from their launching systems, U.S. officials say.

Maybe it’s time for some serious oversight hearings. At the very least, the senators should resist being hurried to vote on a treaty before they understand the true state of U.S.-Russian relations.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Liberal Jews for New START

The Obama administration’s struggle to push forward on ratification of New START is becoming more wacky by the day. Now it has roused Jewish groups with a bizarre linkage argument:

While the White House continues to negotiate with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) in an attempt to convince him to allow a vote on the New START treaty this year, it is also undertaking a massive effort behind the scenes to rally foreign governments and non-governmental organizations to support the treaty’s ratification and put public pressure on Republicans to yield.

As part of that effort, the White House has been in contact with pro-Israel and pro-Jewish organizations, encouraging them to be vocal about their support for the New START treaty, and warning them that the failure of the treaty could have negative implications for the drive to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

This would make more sense, I suppose, if we hadn’t “paid” for reset in so many other ways (e.g., silence on human rights abuses) or if Russia had been more helpful on Iran (refraining from helping to build and activate the Bushehr plant). But the ever-gullible liberal Jewish groups are more than happy to accommodate: “Over the last three days, three major pro-Israel organizations issued strong statements of support for New START: the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the American Council for World Jewry (ACWJ).”

Who’s missing from this? AIPAC, the largest and most prominent Jewish group when it comes to influencing Congress. AIPAC has wisely decided not to fritter away its credibility on an issue that has nothing to do with Israel. Nor is the Israeli government, already risking its credibility with the planes-for-a-freeze gambit, about to facilitate this maneuver:

“We have no position on the treaty. We are staying above the political discussion in Washington,” one Israeli official told The Cable. The official could not confirm rumors we’ve heard that the administration asked Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to speak out, but that Oren declined. Recently, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has been strengthening ties with Russia, even saying in September, “Our views on many challenges of today are close or identical.”

Playing the Jewish card tells us two things. First, most liberal Jews and the organizations that reflect their views are a long way from breaking the “sick addiction” to this president and to the Democratic Party more generally. And second, the Obama administration is frantic to pass the treaty and pass it now. The more it tries, the more the GOP senators with real concerns may wonder: why the rush? Why shouldn’t the new senators get a chance to weigh in?

The Obama administration’s struggle to push forward on ratification of New START is becoming more wacky by the day. Now it has roused Jewish groups with a bizarre linkage argument:

While the White House continues to negotiate with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) in an attempt to convince him to allow a vote on the New START treaty this year, it is also undertaking a massive effort behind the scenes to rally foreign governments and non-governmental organizations to support the treaty’s ratification and put public pressure on Republicans to yield.

As part of that effort, the White House has been in contact with pro-Israel and pro-Jewish organizations, encouraging them to be vocal about their support for the New START treaty, and warning them that the failure of the treaty could have negative implications for the drive to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

This would make more sense, I suppose, if we hadn’t “paid” for reset in so many other ways (e.g., silence on human rights abuses) or if Russia had been more helpful on Iran (refraining from helping to build and activate the Bushehr plant). But the ever-gullible liberal Jewish groups are more than happy to accommodate: “Over the last three days, three major pro-Israel organizations issued strong statements of support for New START: the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the American Council for World Jewry (ACWJ).”

Who’s missing from this? AIPAC, the largest and most prominent Jewish group when it comes to influencing Congress. AIPAC has wisely decided not to fritter away its credibility on an issue that has nothing to do with Israel. Nor is the Israeli government, already risking its credibility with the planes-for-a-freeze gambit, about to facilitate this maneuver:

“We have no position on the treaty. We are staying above the political discussion in Washington,” one Israeli official told The Cable. The official could not confirm rumors we’ve heard that the administration asked Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to speak out, but that Oren declined. Recently, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has been strengthening ties with Russia, even saying in September, “Our views on many challenges of today are close or identical.”

Playing the Jewish card tells us two things. First, most liberal Jews and the organizations that reflect their views are a long way from breaking the “sick addiction” to this president and to the Democratic Party more generally. And second, the Obama administration is frantic to pass the treaty and pass it now. The more it tries, the more the GOP senators with real concerns may wonder: why the rush? Why shouldn’t the new senators get a chance to weigh in?

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What Can the GOP Senators Get?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The NY Times‘s Overblown Reaction to New START

Yesterday I suggested that there was no need for Republicans to get too worked up over New START, because it won’t compromise America’s nuclear deterrent. The same advice applies to liberals touting the treaty: Keep calm, everyone. It’s just not that big of a deal.

Yet to read the New York Times editorial page today, you would think that this is the most important issue since … well, pretty much ever. In a seriously overwrought editorial, the Times claims: “The world’s nuclear wannabes, starting with Iran, should send a thank you note to Senator Jon Kyl. After months of negotiations with the White House, he has decided to try to block the lame-duck Senate from ratifying the New Start arms control treaty.”

Talk about over the top. How on earth will Kyl’s opposition to the treaty help Iran and other rogue states? The Times again: “If the treaty founders, it would … do huge damage to American credibility just as Mr. Obama is making progress rallying many countries — including Russia — to press Iran to curb its illicit nuclear program.” That’s quite a stretch: the Times assumes that if the treaty passes, Russia will take harsh steps to crack down on the Iranian nuclear program. I wish it were so, but I very much doubt it. Russia has its own reasons for not cracking down on Iran, with which it has a longstanding business relationship, and that is unlikely to change no matter what happens with New START.

The rest of the Times‘s editorial is just as unconvincing — it consists primarily of hyping this modest treaty out of all recognition by claiming that it’s “central to this country’s national security” and that “the stakes couldn’t be higher.” Actually, as I argued yesterday, the stakes are pretty low — which is why I don’t think it will do any harm for the GOP to pass the treaty in return for Obama’s commitment to modernize our nuclear arsenal. But the bullying tone of the Times‘s editorial is the sort of thing that is likely to drive Republicans into the anti-ratification camp.

Yesterday I suggested that there was no need for Republicans to get too worked up over New START, because it won’t compromise America’s nuclear deterrent. The same advice applies to liberals touting the treaty: Keep calm, everyone. It’s just not that big of a deal.

Yet to read the New York Times editorial page today, you would think that this is the most important issue since … well, pretty much ever. In a seriously overwrought editorial, the Times claims: “The world’s nuclear wannabes, starting with Iran, should send a thank you note to Senator Jon Kyl. After months of negotiations with the White House, he has decided to try to block the lame-duck Senate from ratifying the New Start arms control treaty.”

Talk about over the top. How on earth will Kyl’s opposition to the treaty help Iran and other rogue states? The Times again: “If the treaty founders, it would … do huge damage to American credibility just as Mr. Obama is making progress rallying many countries — including Russia — to press Iran to curb its illicit nuclear program.” That’s quite a stretch: the Times assumes that if the treaty passes, Russia will take harsh steps to crack down on the Iranian nuclear program. I wish it were so, but I very much doubt it. Russia has its own reasons for not cracking down on Iran, with which it has a longstanding business relationship, and that is unlikely to change no matter what happens with New START.

The rest of the Times‘s editorial is just as unconvincing — it consists primarily of hyping this modest treaty out of all recognition by claiming that it’s “central to this country’s national security” and that “the stakes couldn’t be higher.” Actually, as I argued yesterday, the stakes are pretty low — which is why I don’t think it will do any harm for the GOP to pass the treaty in return for Obama’s commitment to modernize our nuclear arsenal. But the bullying tone of the Times‘s editorial is the sort of thing that is likely to drive Republicans into the anti-ratification camp.

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New START Treaty: Much Ado About Nothing

A lot of foreign-policy experts I respect — including John Bolton, Eric Edelman, John Yoo, and Jim Woolsey — have come out against the ratification of the New START treaty, which would decrease American and Russian nuclear arsenals. For my part, I’m with Bob Kagan in wondering what the fuss is all about.

Arms-control treaties between Moscow and Washington were a big deal during the Cold War when the Soviet Union was bent on global expansionism and the U.S. had to stand on the frontlines of freedom. But the Soviet Union is gone. Today’s Russia may be a local threat to its smaller neighbors, the likes of Georgia or Estonia, but on a global scale it’s more of a nuisance — certainly not an existential threat to the United States. Thus the continuing quest for arms-control treaties seems like a bit of an anachronism.

Yet it is an anachronism that has been pursued by both Republican and Democratic administrations. As this crib sheet from the Arms Control Association reminds us, George H.W. Bush signed START II in 1993, Bill Clinton followed with a START III framework (never completed) in 1997, and George W. Bush reached agreement on SORT (a.k.a. the Moscow Treaty) in 2002. Kagan sums up the results of all these treaties along with New START:

The START I agreement cut deployed strategic nuclear weapons on both sides roughly 50 percent, from between 10,000 and 12,000 down to 6,000. The never-ratified (but generally abided-by) START II Treaty cut forces by another 50 percent, down to between 3,000 and 3,500. The 2002 Moscow Treaty made further deep cuts, bringing each side down to between 1,700 and 2,200. And New START? It would bring the number on both sides down to 1,550.

The final figure of 1,550 warheads is plenty big enough to maintain America’s nuclear deterrence; actually, we will have more than that because for the purposes of the treaty B-2 and B-52, bombers are counted as one “warhead” even though they can carry dozens of nuclear warheads. Opponents of the treaty throw out all sorts of other objections, arguing that it would constrict the development of missile defenses or non-nuclear missiles; but no such prohibition is to be found in the language of the treaty.

Let me be clear. I do not buy the Obama administration’s rationales for the treaty. Administration officials cite the need to “reset” relations with Russian and to take a step toward the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons. I very much doubt that this treaty will do anything substantial to achieve either goal. We are likely to continue clashing with Russia diplomatically as long as it remains an authoritarian state. As for the quixotic goal of eliminating nuclear weapons: Suffice it to say, reductions in the American arsenal are not going to encourage North Korea or Iran to give up their nuclear programs. But nor will relatively modest reductions in our nuclear forces prevent us from vaporizing Iran or North Korea, should they use nuclear weapons against us or our allies.

One of the important benefits of the treaty is that, in the course of negotiations over ratification, Senate Republicans have won assurances from the administration that it will spend $80 billion over 10 years to modernize our nuclear program. Yet this doesn’t seem to be enough. Sen. Jon Kyl, who has been the lead GOP negotiator, now says he doesn’t want to see a vote during the lame-duck session.

As Kagan suggests, this will allow the administration to blame Republican “obstructionism” if and when relations with Russia deteriorate. Therefore, Republican foot-dragging on ratification isn’t smart politics. It’s not necessary for the national defense either. Republicans should keep their powder dry to fight off attempts to slash the defense budget — an issue that really could imperil our security. That will be harder to do, however, because there are a number of Republicans who appear willing to go along with defense cuts, even as they’re taking pot shots at the (largely symbolic) New START treaty.

A lot of foreign-policy experts I respect — including John Bolton, Eric Edelman, John Yoo, and Jim Woolsey — have come out against the ratification of the New START treaty, which would decrease American and Russian nuclear arsenals. For my part, I’m with Bob Kagan in wondering what the fuss is all about.

Arms-control treaties between Moscow and Washington were a big deal during the Cold War when the Soviet Union was bent on global expansionism and the U.S. had to stand on the frontlines of freedom. But the Soviet Union is gone. Today’s Russia may be a local threat to its smaller neighbors, the likes of Georgia or Estonia, but on a global scale it’s more of a nuisance — certainly not an existential threat to the United States. Thus the continuing quest for arms-control treaties seems like a bit of an anachronism.

Yet it is an anachronism that has been pursued by both Republican and Democratic administrations. As this crib sheet from the Arms Control Association reminds us, George H.W. Bush signed START II in 1993, Bill Clinton followed with a START III framework (never completed) in 1997, and George W. Bush reached agreement on SORT (a.k.a. the Moscow Treaty) in 2002. Kagan sums up the results of all these treaties along with New START:

The START I agreement cut deployed strategic nuclear weapons on both sides roughly 50 percent, from between 10,000 and 12,000 down to 6,000. The never-ratified (but generally abided-by) START II Treaty cut forces by another 50 percent, down to between 3,000 and 3,500. The 2002 Moscow Treaty made further deep cuts, bringing each side down to between 1,700 and 2,200. And New START? It would bring the number on both sides down to 1,550.

The final figure of 1,550 warheads is plenty big enough to maintain America’s nuclear deterrence; actually, we will have more than that because for the purposes of the treaty B-2 and B-52, bombers are counted as one “warhead” even though they can carry dozens of nuclear warheads. Opponents of the treaty throw out all sorts of other objections, arguing that it would constrict the development of missile defenses or non-nuclear missiles; but no such prohibition is to be found in the language of the treaty.

Let me be clear. I do not buy the Obama administration’s rationales for the treaty. Administration officials cite the need to “reset” relations with Russian and to take a step toward the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons. I very much doubt that this treaty will do anything substantial to achieve either goal. We are likely to continue clashing with Russia diplomatically as long as it remains an authoritarian state. As for the quixotic goal of eliminating nuclear weapons: Suffice it to say, reductions in the American arsenal are not going to encourage North Korea or Iran to give up their nuclear programs. But nor will relatively modest reductions in our nuclear forces prevent us from vaporizing Iran or North Korea, should they use nuclear weapons against us or our allies.

One of the important benefits of the treaty is that, in the course of negotiations over ratification, Senate Republicans have won assurances from the administration that it will spend $80 billion over 10 years to modernize our nuclear program. Yet this doesn’t seem to be enough. Sen. Jon Kyl, who has been the lead GOP negotiator, now says he doesn’t want to see a vote during the lame-duck session.

As Kagan suggests, this will allow the administration to blame Republican “obstructionism” if and when relations with Russia deteriorate. Therefore, Republican foot-dragging on ratification isn’t smart politics. It’s not necessary for the national defense either. Republicans should keep their powder dry to fight off attempts to slash the defense budget — an issue that really could imperil our security. That will be harder to do, however, because there are a number of Republicans who appear willing to go along with defense cuts, even as they’re taking pot shots at the (largely symbolic) New START treaty.

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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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Things We Shouldn’t Be Doing with China

Four U.S. senators have registered concern about the proposal of a start-up company, Amerilink Telecom Corp., to upgrade Sprint Nextel’s national network to 4G data-rate capacity using Chinese-provided equipment from Huawei Shenzen Ltd., a company with longstanding ties to the Chinese military. The point made by the senators – Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Jon Kyl, and Sue Myrick – is that China could install a surveillance or sabotage capability in a very large segment of the U.S. wireless infrastructure. The scope of the Sprint Nextel 4G upgrade reportedly encompasses about 35,000 transmission towers throughout the 50 states.

Huawei has been trying to crack the U.S. market for years but has always been blocked by the security concerns of American officials, backed by comprehensive cyber-security reports from intelligence agencies and the Pentagon. Huawei hoped to contract directly with Sprint this past summer, but when a group of senators shot that attempt down, a senior Sprint executive left the company to join Amerilink and began planning a new strategy to bring Huawei into the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure. The strategy has included developing “insider” connections by recruiting Dick Gephardt and former World Bank president James Wolfensohn to Amerilink’s board, along with former Navy secretary and Defense Department official Gordon England.

Although vigilant senators deflected the Huawei-Sprint bid as recently as August, there’s a reason for disquiet in October. In a move that received little attention outside the tech-industry press, Huawei finally managed this month to contract with a U.S. wireless provider, T-Mobile, to supply handsets to customers. On Monday, Forbes tech writer Jeffrey Carr wondered why this contract was allowed to go through, considering that T-Mobile is a government contractor and supplies handsets and wireless service to federal agencies.

That’s a good question. India, Britain, and Australia have all zeroed in on Huawei (along with Chinese tech firm ZTE) as a source of potential security risks. India’s resistance to penetration has equaled that of the U.S. – and may soon exceed it. America seems to be quietly lowering its guard with Huawei: the announcement of the T-Mobile contract last week came on the heels of an October 11 press release from Huawei Symantec on its plan to sell data-storage platforms and gateway packages to U.S. customers. For a company that has consistently been excluded from the U.S. due to security concerns, that’s a lot of market-entry announcements in one week.

The Stuxnet worm has reminded us of the stealthy and devious methods by which security vulnerabilities can be introduced into the IT systems that control major infrastructure operations. We won’t see the next “Stuxnet” coming, or the one after that; the events of 2010 clarify for us that we can’t rely solely on technical vigilance to protect our critical infrastructure. We also need a basis for trusting suppliers the old-fashioned way. China and its tech companies haven’t met that test.

Four U.S. senators have registered concern about the proposal of a start-up company, Amerilink Telecom Corp., to upgrade Sprint Nextel’s national network to 4G data-rate capacity using Chinese-provided equipment from Huawei Shenzen Ltd., a company with longstanding ties to the Chinese military. The point made by the senators – Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Jon Kyl, and Sue Myrick – is that China could install a surveillance or sabotage capability in a very large segment of the U.S. wireless infrastructure. The scope of the Sprint Nextel 4G upgrade reportedly encompasses about 35,000 transmission towers throughout the 50 states.

Huawei has been trying to crack the U.S. market for years but has always been blocked by the security concerns of American officials, backed by comprehensive cyber-security reports from intelligence agencies and the Pentagon. Huawei hoped to contract directly with Sprint this past summer, but when a group of senators shot that attempt down, a senior Sprint executive left the company to join Amerilink and began planning a new strategy to bring Huawei into the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure. The strategy has included developing “insider” connections by recruiting Dick Gephardt and former World Bank president James Wolfensohn to Amerilink’s board, along with former Navy secretary and Defense Department official Gordon England.

Although vigilant senators deflected the Huawei-Sprint bid as recently as August, there’s a reason for disquiet in October. In a move that received little attention outside the tech-industry press, Huawei finally managed this month to contract with a U.S. wireless provider, T-Mobile, to supply handsets to customers. On Monday, Forbes tech writer Jeffrey Carr wondered why this contract was allowed to go through, considering that T-Mobile is a government contractor and supplies handsets and wireless service to federal agencies.

That’s a good question. India, Britain, and Australia have all zeroed in on Huawei (along with Chinese tech firm ZTE) as a source of potential security risks. India’s resistance to penetration has equaled that of the U.S. – and may soon exceed it. America seems to be quietly lowering its guard with Huawei: the announcement of the T-Mobile contract last week came on the heels of an October 11 press release from Huawei Symantec on its plan to sell data-storage platforms and gateway packages to U.S. customers. For a company that has consistently been excluded from the U.S. due to security concerns, that’s a lot of market-entry announcements in one week.

The Stuxnet worm has reminded us of the stealthy and devious methods by which security vulnerabilities can be introduced into the IT systems that control major infrastructure operations. We won’t see the next “Stuxnet” coming, or the one after that; the events of 2010 clarify for us that we can’t rely solely on technical vigilance to protect our critical infrastructure. We also need a basis for trusting suppliers the old-fashioned way. China and its tech companies haven’t met that test.

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Republicans Fumble Immigration

When asked about changing the Constitution to bar children of illegal immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens, House Minority Leader John Boehner said, “I think it’s worth considering.”

No it’s not.

I’ve previously laid out my reasons why this is a very bad idea. It’s worth adding that children must turn 21 before they can sponsor their parents for legal residency. It is simply not the magnet that people like Boehner and Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Jeff Sessions, and Jon Kyl insist. They are manufacturing an argument to create an issue.

There is plenty policymakers can do to curb illegal immigration (including securing the southern border, toughening enforcement policies, and expediting the legal process to cut the average deportation time) and improve our overall approach to immigration (including narrowing the scope of the family-reunification privilege to the nuclear family, adjusting upward our quotas for high-skilled labor, and making assimilation a central national priority). Pushing for altering the 14th amendment, though, is worse than unhelpful; it is substantively unwise and politically harmful.

Republicans are practicing the politics of symbolism in the worst way possible. They are embracing a policy that doesn’t have any realistic chance of becoming law, that will be unnecessarily divisive and inflammatory, and that, in the long term, will be politically counterproductive.

It is an approach that is, among other things, wholly at odds with the one embraced by the last two Republican presidents to win reelection, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan (see here).

Why Republicans continue to travel down this road is a mystery to me. This is not what the party of Lincoln should stand for.

When asked about changing the Constitution to bar children of illegal immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens, House Minority Leader John Boehner said, “I think it’s worth considering.”

No it’s not.

I’ve previously laid out my reasons why this is a very bad idea. It’s worth adding that children must turn 21 before they can sponsor their parents for legal residency. It is simply not the magnet that people like Boehner and Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Jeff Sessions, and Jon Kyl insist. They are manufacturing an argument to create an issue.

There is plenty policymakers can do to curb illegal immigration (including securing the southern border, toughening enforcement policies, and expediting the legal process to cut the average deportation time) and improve our overall approach to immigration (including narrowing the scope of the family-reunification privilege to the nuclear family, adjusting upward our quotas for high-skilled labor, and making assimilation a central national priority). Pushing for altering the 14th amendment, though, is worse than unhelpful; it is substantively unwise and politically harmful.

Republicans are practicing the politics of symbolism in the worst way possible. They are embracing a policy that doesn’t have any realistic chance of becoming law, that will be unnecessarily divisive and inflammatory, and that, in the long term, will be politically counterproductive.

It is an approach that is, among other things, wholly at odds with the one embraced by the last two Republican presidents to win reelection, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan (see here).

Why Republicans continue to travel down this road is a mystery to me. This is not what the party of Lincoln should stand for.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Seriously? “Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘not nervous at all’ about the possibility that Democrats could lose their House majority after the November elections. She says she feels ‘very confident about where we are’ when it comes to the election. Still, the California Democrat says her party isn’t taking anything for granted.”

Seriously? Not even Chris Matthews thinks Pelosi is right.

Seriously? Eleanor Clift sounds like she’s thrown in the towel on Speaker Pelosi as well: “Two freshman Democrats from Virginia, Tom Perriello and Gerry Connolly, swept into office on the wave of enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama, are now struggling to stay afloat in a sea of discontent about the president. OK, that’s a bit melodramatic, but listening to these lawmakers and what they’re up against in defending their seats is to wonder where all the magic has gone, and what can be done to recapture enough stardust to hold on to the Democratic majorities that are the bulwark of the Obama presidency.”

Seriously? John Kerry wants “Obama to resume his efforts to start a dialogue with Iran. In an interview on CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show Sunday, Kerry said a good place to begin with the Iranians would be discussions about the way forward in Afghanistan and that those talks could lead to discussions on other vital topics, such as Iran’s nuclear program. … There are reasons that [the Iranians] would want a stable government there. And I think that we should — you know, diplomacy is the art of playing to everybody’s interests. And everybody has some interests with respect to this outcome.”

Seriously? (snuggling up to Lindsey Graham): “Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, voiced support Sunday for hearings on whether to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.”

Seriously? Obama says he’s not getting enough credit for saving us from “the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” (Maybe that’s because it’s not the worst downturn since the Great Depression.)

Seriously? ABC headline: “Pelosi and Gates Differ on Expectations for July 2011 Troop Withdrawal.” Yeah, when the president isn’t definitive, everyone fills in the blanks for themselves. That worked to get Obama elected, but it makes for a poor commander in chief.

Seriously? “Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘not nervous at all’ about the possibility that Democrats could lose their House majority after the November elections. She says she feels ‘very confident about where we are’ when it comes to the election. Still, the California Democrat says her party isn’t taking anything for granted.”

Seriously? Not even Chris Matthews thinks Pelosi is right.

Seriously? Eleanor Clift sounds like she’s thrown in the towel on Speaker Pelosi as well: “Two freshman Democrats from Virginia, Tom Perriello and Gerry Connolly, swept into office on the wave of enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama, are now struggling to stay afloat in a sea of discontent about the president. OK, that’s a bit melodramatic, but listening to these lawmakers and what they’re up against in defending their seats is to wonder where all the magic has gone, and what can be done to recapture enough stardust to hold on to the Democratic majorities that are the bulwark of the Obama presidency.”

Seriously? John Kerry wants “Obama to resume his efforts to start a dialogue with Iran. In an interview on CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show Sunday, Kerry said a good place to begin with the Iranians would be discussions about the way forward in Afghanistan and that those talks could lead to discussions on other vital topics, such as Iran’s nuclear program. … There are reasons that [the Iranians] would want a stable government there. And I think that we should — you know, diplomacy is the art of playing to everybody’s interests. And everybody has some interests with respect to this outcome.”

Seriously? (snuggling up to Lindsey Graham): “Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, voiced support Sunday for hearings on whether to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.”

Seriously? Obama says he’s not getting enough credit for saving us from “the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” (Maybe that’s because it’s not the worst downturn since the Great Depression.)

Seriously? ABC headline: “Pelosi and Gates Differ on Expectations for July 2011 Troop Withdrawal.” Yeah, when the president isn’t definitive, everyone fills in the blanks for themselves. That worked to get Obama elected, but it makes for a poor commander in chief.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.'”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.'”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

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The Supreme Court Isn’t the Harvard Law School Faculty

This report repeats the idea that Elena Kagan was nominated primarily to sway Justice Kennedy to the liberal side of those tricky 5-4 decisions. But if so, does this make any sense? That notion assumes that the Court operates like the Harvard Law School faculty, where nice words, dinner parties, back-slapping, and not revealing her own views served Kagan well. But that’s not how the Court operates:

Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court lawyer at Akin Gump and author of the widely read SCOTUS Blog, says she has exhibited an “extraordinarily — almost artistically — careful” avoidance of public positions on any matters she might face as a Justice. “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade,” Goldstein wrote.

And even if she did have well-established positions, they’d be nothing compared to Kennedy’s. “Justice Kennedy has been on the bench for 40-some years now, including his time on the Ninth Circuit,” says the former clerk. “It’s particularly unlikely that he’s going to fall under the sway of a new judge who’s never been on the court.”

This convoluted argument suggests just how farcical the notion is that a pleasing personality is a satisfactory substitute for developed legal scholarship and brilliant writing (neither of which Kagan has yet demonstrated):

Kagan supporters point to the fact that she convinced some hard-line Republicans to vote for her when she was nominated to be Solicitor General, most notably Jon Kyl of Arizona, the behind-the-scenes GOP power on the Judiciary Committee. Though he’s unlikely to vote for her for the Supreme Court, her ability to win him over, which she did in the course of a lengthy conversation in his office during the nomination process, counts for something.

Huh? So getting Kyl to vote for her once — but not for the Supreme Court — shows she can lure Kennedy into the liberal camp on knotty issues of constitutional and statutory interpretation, and do so better than did Justice Stevens, a man who had been on the bench for decades? It’s a bit absurd. If the Obama team wanted a smart, accomplished jurist who has shown the ability to go toe-to-toe with and persuade conservative judges, Diane Wood might have been a more apt pick. But instead Obama went with someone much like himself, who, come to think of it, hasn’t really been able to persuade conservatives or moderates about the wisdom of his positions.

This report repeats the idea that Elena Kagan was nominated primarily to sway Justice Kennedy to the liberal side of those tricky 5-4 decisions. But if so, does this make any sense? That notion assumes that the Court operates like the Harvard Law School faculty, where nice words, dinner parties, back-slapping, and not revealing her own views served Kagan well. But that’s not how the Court operates:

Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court lawyer at Akin Gump and author of the widely read SCOTUS Blog, says she has exhibited an “extraordinarily — almost artistically — careful” avoidance of public positions on any matters she might face as a Justice. “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade,” Goldstein wrote.

And even if she did have well-established positions, they’d be nothing compared to Kennedy’s. “Justice Kennedy has been on the bench for 40-some years now, including his time on the Ninth Circuit,” says the former clerk. “It’s particularly unlikely that he’s going to fall under the sway of a new judge who’s never been on the court.”

This convoluted argument suggests just how farcical the notion is that a pleasing personality is a satisfactory substitute for developed legal scholarship and brilliant writing (neither of which Kagan has yet demonstrated):

Kagan supporters point to the fact that she convinced some hard-line Republicans to vote for her when she was nominated to be Solicitor General, most notably Jon Kyl of Arizona, the behind-the-scenes GOP power on the Judiciary Committee. Though he’s unlikely to vote for her for the Supreme Court, her ability to win him over, which she did in the course of a lengthy conversation in his office during the nomination process, counts for something.

Huh? So getting Kyl to vote for her once — but not for the Supreme Court — shows she can lure Kennedy into the liberal camp on knotty issues of constitutional and statutory interpretation, and do so better than did Justice Stevens, a man who had been on the bench for decades? It’s a bit absurd. If the Obama team wanted a smart, accomplished jurist who has shown the ability to go toe-to-toe with and persuade conservative judges, Diane Wood might have been a more apt pick. But instead Obama went with someone much like himself, who, come to think of it, hasn’t really been able to persuade conservatives or moderates about the wisdom of his positions.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In the second part of a fascinating interview (which should be read in full), former Israeli Defense Minister and ambassador to the U.S. Moshe Arens posits that Bibi has been too accommodating: “What he has been doing, however, is apologizing to the Obama administration, which, as part of its maneuver to pressure Israel, declared it was insulted by the announcement that 1,600 housing units were being added to a Jerusalem neighborhood. The whole thing is really ludicrous. It all had to do with some clerk on the local planning commission and a meeting that happened to fall on the day of Vice President Joe Biden’s visit. But the Netanyahu government decided to play along and say, ‘You’re insulted? OK, we apologize.’ It could have said, ‘You’re not insulted. There’s no reason to be insulted. You don’t know what you’re talking about.'”

Sen. Jon Kyl declares that the emperor has no clothes: “The greatest threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism comes from Iran, which has for years supported terrorists and is growing closer and closer to having a nuclear weapons capability. The summit, with 42 heads of state in Washington, should have been an opportunity to develop a consensus to deal with the greatest threat to our security: an Iran with a nuclear weapons capability. Despite the talk at the security summit, it appears we are no closer to tough sanctions or a meaningful Security Council resolution today, seven months after the President said that the regime would face sanctions.”

But don’t you feel safer — all nuclear material is going to be secured in four years. Who tells Ahmadinejad?

Meanwhile, proving Kyl right, we learn that a whole lot of nothing was accomplished: “President Barack Obama acknowledged on Tuesday that, despite his full-court press for tough sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program, he could not promise that China and other major powers would go along. … ‘Sanctions are not a magic wand. … What sanctions can do … is to hopefully change the calculus of a country like Iran.'” And if not, we learn to live with a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state sponsor of terror, you see.

Two senators who were not going to be nominated declare they aren’t interested in a Supreme Court nod. (Me neither!) “Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), two senators with significant legal backgrounds who have been mentioned as possible Supreme Court nominees, took themselves out of the running Tuesday.”

Dana Milbank has a fit when he learns this isn’t the “most transparent administration in history.”

Joe Sestak is within the margin of error of Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary. Maybe the whole party switcheroo wasn’t a good idea after all.

The “most ethical Congress ever” wasn’t: “Just three months after Eric Massa was elected to Congress, his young male employees on Capitol Hill began complaining to supervisors that the lawmaker was making aggressive, sexual overtures toward them, according to new interviews and internal documents. The senior staff, one of whom said he heard Massa (D-N.Y.) making lewd remarks to young staffers, tried to manage the problem internally. But reports of Massa’s inappropriate behavior continued, leaving junior workers feeling helpless, according to victims, other staffers and sources close to an ongoing House ethics investigation. … This account, drawn from more than two dozen interviews and internal documents, shows that aides were accusing the 50-year-old married lawmaker of far more egregious behavior than previously known.”

In the second part of a fascinating interview (which should be read in full), former Israeli Defense Minister and ambassador to the U.S. Moshe Arens posits that Bibi has been too accommodating: “What he has been doing, however, is apologizing to the Obama administration, which, as part of its maneuver to pressure Israel, declared it was insulted by the announcement that 1,600 housing units were being added to a Jerusalem neighborhood. The whole thing is really ludicrous. It all had to do with some clerk on the local planning commission and a meeting that happened to fall on the day of Vice President Joe Biden’s visit. But the Netanyahu government decided to play along and say, ‘You’re insulted? OK, we apologize.’ It could have said, ‘You’re not insulted. There’s no reason to be insulted. You don’t know what you’re talking about.'”

Sen. Jon Kyl declares that the emperor has no clothes: “The greatest threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism comes from Iran, which has for years supported terrorists and is growing closer and closer to having a nuclear weapons capability. The summit, with 42 heads of state in Washington, should have been an opportunity to develop a consensus to deal with the greatest threat to our security: an Iran with a nuclear weapons capability. Despite the talk at the security summit, it appears we are no closer to tough sanctions or a meaningful Security Council resolution today, seven months after the President said that the regime would face sanctions.”

But don’t you feel safer — all nuclear material is going to be secured in four years. Who tells Ahmadinejad?

Meanwhile, proving Kyl right, we learn that a whole lot of nothing was accomplished: “President Barack Obama acknowledged on Tuesday that, despite his full-court press for tough sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program, he could not promise that China and other major powers would go along. … ‘Sanctions are not a magic wand. … What sanctions can do … is to hopefully change the calculus of a country like Iran.'” And if not, we learn to live with a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state sponsor of terror, you see.

Two senators who were not going to be nominated declare they aren’t interested in a Supreme Court nod. (Me neither!) “Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), two senators with significant legal backgrounds who have been mentioned as possible Supreme Court nominees, took themselves out of the running Tuesday.”

Dana Milbank has a fit when he learns this isn’t the “most transparent administration in history.”

Joe Sestak is within the margin of error of Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary. Maybe the whole party switcheroo wasn’t a good idea after all.

The “most ethical Congress ever” wasn’t: “Just three months after Eric Massa was elected to Congress, his young male employees on Capitol Hill began complaining to supervisors that the lawmaker was making aggressive, sexual overtures toward them, according to new interviews and internal documents. The senior staff, one of whom said he heard Massa (D-N.Y.) making lewd remarks to young staffers, tried to manage the problem internally. But reports of Massa’s inappropriate behavior continued, leaving junior workers feeling helpless, according to victims, other staffers and sources close to an ongoing House ethics investigation. … This account, drawn from more than two dozen interviews and internal documents, shows that aides were accusing the 50-year-old married lawmaker of far more egregious behavior than previously known.”

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LIVE BLOG: Obama — Not That Impressive a Spokesman

Barack Obama tends to be pretty strong in settings like this. But you can see the chinks in his armor, even in the “summit” setting. He gets prickly from time to time (you could see it in his exchange with Senator Alexander). He tends toward solipsism (his opening statement was about him, about his children, about his youth). And he’s strikingly arrogant, constantly putting himself in the position to deem what is a “legitimate” and what is an “illegitimate” argument. We also saw that same arrogance in his explanation of the uneven time allotted to people for speaking. He justifies it because, we were all delighted to learn, “I’m the president”: Obama decided not to count his speaking time against the time allotted to the Democratic side, which is silly. But we also saw Obama’s arrogance in his insistence that he is right and that Lamar Alexander is wrong about whether ObamaCare would increase premiums. As Jen Rubin and James Capretta demonstrate — and as Representative Dave Camp and Senator Jon Kyl argued during the session — it is Obama who was in error. President Obama is the best spokesman Democrats have. But the truth is that these days he’s not all that impressive.

Barack Obama tends to be pretty strong in settings like this. But you can see the chinks in his armor, even in the “summit” setting. He gets prickly from time to time (you could see it in his exchange with Senator Alexander). He tends toward solipsism (his opening statement was about him, about his children, about his youth). And he’s strikingly arrogant, constantly putting himself in the position to deem what is a “legitimate” and what is an “illegitimate” argument. We also saw that same arrogance in his explanation of the uneven time allotted to people for speaking. He justifies it because, we were all delighted to learn, “I’m the president”: Obama decided not to count his speaking time against the time allotted to the Democratic side, which is silly. But we also saw Obama’s arrogance in his insistence that he is right and that Lamar Alexander is wrong about whether ObamaCare would increase premiums. As Jen Rubin and James Capretta demonstrate — and as Representative Dave Camp and Senator Jon Kyl argued during the session — it is Obama who was in error. President Obama is the best spokesman Democrats have. But the truth is that these days he’s not all that impressive.

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Another Approach to Iran

While the Obami fritter away time, dreaming up new excuses to do nothing on Iran, more responsible officials are moving forward. Today Sens. John Cornyn, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Richard Durbin, Jon Kyl, Evan Bayh, Susan Collins, Robert Casey. Lindsey Graham, Kristen Gillibrand, Sam Brownback, Ted Kaufman, and David Vitter announced legislation to support the Iranian opposition’s efforts to take down the regime of Ali Hoseyni Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a statement, Cornyn and Brownback explained that the bill will “establish a program of direct assistance for the Iranian people and would help pave the way for a freely elected, open and democratic government in Iran. The Iran Democratic Transition Act would not only send a strong message of support to the Iranian people during this difficult time, it would also provide tangible resources needed to establish a democratic system in Iran in the near future.”

For starters, the bill will delineate the “Iranian regime’s human rights abuses, clear support of terrorism, pursuit of nuclear weapons, and belligerent rhetoric regarding attacks on both Israel and the United States.” Instead of mutely bearing witness, the U.S. government would help publicize the regime’s atrocities.

The bill would also stipulate full and public U.S. support of the Iranian people’s efforts to oppose and remove the current regime and transition to a freely elected, open, and democratic government. Furthermore, the bill would announce it is  U.S. policy to deny the current Iranian regime the ability to: oppress the people of Iran; finance and support terrorists; interfere with the internal affairs of neighbors (including Iraq and Afghanistan); and develop weapons of mass destruction.

The bill also authorizes the president to provide non-military assistance to Iranian democratic opposition organizations and to victims of the current regime. It would create an ambassador-level position of “Special Envoy for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran” to promote and support Iranian democracy and human rights. And the bill would suggest the “possibility of a multilateral and regional initiative to protect human rights, modeled after the Helsinki process established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”

It will be interesting to see the Obami’s reaction to this piece of legislation. Are they interested in aiding democratic activists, or are they committed to not rocking the boat? Do they have the nerve to document the specific Iranian human-rights atrocities, or would they prefer to say as little as possible? This will also test private groups. I’ll take a wild guess that J Street will not be thrilled by this approach.

There is reason to question whether anything short of military action can stop the Iranian regime at this point, but getting on the right side of history, re-establishing our moral leadership, and giving regime change a chance is a very good place to start.

UPDATE: I have updated the above to include the full list of co-sponsors. Sen. Joseph Lieberman made this noteworthy comment: “Just as the Iranian government is violating its responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is likewise in flagrant breach of multiple international agreements it has signed that require it to respect the human rights of its own citizens. As the Iranian people risk their lives to demand the justice and freedom they deserve in the face of this lawless and oppressive regime, they should know that America is on their side.”

While the Obami fritter away time, dreaming up new excuses to do nothing on Iran, more responsible officials are moving forward. Today Sens. John Cornyn, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Richard Durbin, Jon Kyl, Evan Bayh, Susan Collins, Robert Casey. Lindsey Graham, Kristen Gillibrand, Sam Brownback, Ted Kaufman, and David Vitter announced legislation to support the Iranian opposition’s efforts to take down the regime of Ali Hoseyni Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a statement, Cornyn and Brownback explained that the bill will “establish a program of direct assistance for the Iranian people and would help pave the way for a freely elected, open and democratic government in Iran. The Iran Democratic Transition Act would not only send a strong message of support to the Iranian people during this difficult time, it would also provide tangible resources needed to establish a democratic system in Iran in the near future.”

For starters, the bill will delineate the “Iranian regime’s human rights abuses, clear support of terrorism, pursuit of nuclear weapons, and belligerent rhetoric regarding attacks on both Israel and the United States.” Instead of mutely bearing witness, the U.S. government would help publicize the regime’s atrocities.

The bill would also stipulate full and public U.S. support of the Iranian people’s efforts to oppose and remove the current regime and transition to a freely elected, open, and democratic government. Furthermore, the bill would announce it is  U.S. policy to deny the current Iranian regime the ability to: oppress the people of Iran; finance and support terrorists; interfere with the internal affairs of neighbors (including Iraq and Afghanistan); and develop weapons of mass destruction.

The bill also authorizes the president to provide non-military assistance to Iranian democratic opposition organizations and to victims of the current regime. It would create an ambassador-level position of “Special Envoy for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran” to promote and support Iranian democracy and human rights. And the bill would suggest the “possibility of a multilateral and regional initiative to protect human rights, modeled after the Helsinki process established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”

It will be interesting to see the Obami’s reaction to this piece of legislation. Are they interested in aiding democratic activists, or are they committed to not rocking the boat? Do they have the nerve to document the specific Iranian human-rights atrocities, or would they prefer to say as little as possible? This will also test private groups. I’ll take a wild guess that J Street will not be thrilled by this approach.

There is reason to question whether anything short of military action can stop the Iranian regime at this point, but getting on the right side of history, re-establishing our moral leadership, and giving regime change a chance is a very good place to start.

UPDATE: I have updated the above to include the full list of co-sponsors. Sen. Joseph Lieberman made this noteworthy comment: “Just as the Iranian government is violating its responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is likewise in flagrant breach of multiple international agreements it has signed that require it to respect the human rights of its own citizens. As the Iranian people risk their lives to demand the justice and freedom they deserve in the face of this lawless and oppressive regime, they should know that America is on their side.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

Read Less




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