Commentary Magazine


Topic: Lou Dobbs

Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest sign of GOP competitiveness and of growing disaffection with Obama: “Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter and Republican challenger Pat Toomey are deadlocked 44-44 percent in Pennsylvania’s marquee 2010 U.S. Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Barack Obama’s job approval in this pivotal swing state remains below 50 percent at 49 – 45 percent.” That’s in Pennsylvania.

Three cheers for the status quo: “Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters nationwide say that it would be better to pass no health care reform bill this year instead of passing the plan currently being considered by Congress. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 34% think that passing that bill would be better.”

The president of the Club for Growth mocks the non-binding Copenhagen climate control deal: “Like most Americans, I feared President Obama went to Copenhagen to sign a binding, job-killing, economic suicide pact. I am greatly relieved that the last-minute agreement President Obama negotiated is being widely described as ‘meaningful.’  When politicians call something ‘meaningful,’ that means it isn’t. Without even reading the accord, pro-growth, limited government conservatives today can celebrate the word, ‘meaningful.’  Today that adjective probably saved thirty million jobs.”

The New York Times says the same thing: “Leaders here concluded a climate change deal on Friday that the Obama administration called ‘meaningful’ but that falls short of even the modest expectations for the summit meeting here.”

I think Lou Dobbs has a better shot with Hispanics. From ABC News (not The Onion): “Al-Qaeda Reaches Out to Women.”

James Capretta: “Senator Nelson is clearly uncomfortable with the bill as written. Any fiscal conservative would be. It’s not a close call. As the senator said yesterday, the country would be far better off with a more scaled-back bill. He’s right about that. And it’s in his power to deliver just such a bill. Pushing the discussions into 2010 would not end the health-care debate. It would only make it more likely the Senate voted in the end for something the public — and Nebraskans — would find acceptable.”

MoveOn.org doesn’t think it’s a close call either.

No hope but rather some unwelcome change for poor D.C. school kids: “Democrats in Congress voted to kill the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides 1,700 disadvantaged kids with vouchers worth up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school. On Sunday the Senate approved a spending bill that phases out funding for the five-year-old program. . . President Obama signed the bill Thursday.”

The latest sign of GOP competitiveness and of growing disaffection with Obama: “Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter and Republican challenger Pat Toomey are deadlocked 44-44 percent in Pennsylvania’s marquee 2010 U.S. Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Barack Obama’s job approval in this pivotal swing state remains below 50 percent at 49 – 45 percent.” That’s in Pennsylvania.

Three cheers for the status quo: “Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters nationwide say that it would be better to pass no health care reform bill this year instead of passing the plan currently being considered by Congress. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 34% think that passing that bill would be better.”

The president of the Club for Growth mocks the non-binding Copenhagen climate control deal: “Like most Americans, I feared President Obama went to Copenhagen to sign a binding, job-killing, economic suicide pact. I am greatly relieved that the last-minute agreement President Obama negotiated is being widely described as ‘meaningful.’  When politicians call something ‘meaningful,’ that means it isn’t. Without even reading the accord, pro-growth, limited government conservatives today can celebrate the word, ‘meaningful.’  Today that adjective probably saved thirty million jobs.”

The New York Times says the same thing: “Leaders here concluded a climate change deal on Friday that the Obama administration called ‘meaningful’ but that falls short of even the modest expectations for the summit meeting here.”

I think Lou Dobbs has a better shot with Hispanics. From ABC News (not The Onion): “Al-Qaeda Reaches Out to Women.”

James Capretta: “Senator Nelson is clearly uncomfortable with the bill as written. Any fiscal conservative would be. It’s not a close call. As the senator said yesterday, the country would be far better off with a more scaled-back bill. He’s right about that. And it’s in his power to deliver just such a bill. Pushing the discussions into 2010 would not end the health-care debate. It would only make it more likely the Senate voted in the end for something the public — and Nebraskans — would find acceptable.”

MoveOn.org doesn’t think it’s a close call either.

No hope but rather some unwelcome change for poor D.C. school kids: “Democrats in Congress voted to kill the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides 1,700 disadvantaged kids with vouchers worth up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school. On Sunday the Senate approved a spending bill that phases out funding for the five-year-old program. . . President Obama signed the bill Thursday.”

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McCain Wins One

All day Friday we saw the Jamie Rubin accusation — that John McCain previously supported direct talks with Hamas — play out in all the major news outlets. By day’s end the McCain camp had unearthered the entire interview in question showing McCain didn’t support unconditional talks with Hamas. In particular, McCain commented on how he believed the U.S. should treat the then-newly elected Hamas government:

I think the US should take a step back and see what they do when they form the government, see what their policies are and see the ways in which we can engage with them and if there aren’t any then there may be a hiatus but I think part of the relationship will be dictated by how Hamas acts, not how the US acts.”

Jamie Rubin cries smear in Huffington Post –but reprints the above-quote, which doesn’t help his position at all. Indeed it bolsters McCain’s position that he has always believed that any engagement of Hamas depended on its behavior. CNN’s Lou Dobbs and Ben Smith of Politico say “whoops,” acknowledging the McCain team has made its point. What will the rest of the mainstream media do?

All day Friday we saw the Jamie Rubin accusation — that John McCain previously supported direct talks with Hamas — play out in all the major news outlets. By day’s end the McCain camp had unearthered the entire interview in question showing McCain didn’t support unconditional talks with Hamas. In particular, McCain commented on how he believed the U.S. should treat the then-newly elected Hamas government:

I think the US should take a step back and see what they do when they form the government, see what their policies are and see the ways in which we can engage with them and if there aren’t any then there may be a hiatus but I think part of the relationship will be dictated by how Hamas acts, not how the US acts.”

Jamie Rubin cries smear in Huffington Post –but reprints the above-quote, which doesn’t help his position at all. Indeed it bolsters McCain’s position that he has always believed that any engagement of Hamas depended on its behavior. CNN’s Lou Dobbs and Ben Smith of Politico say “whoops,” acknowledging the McCain team has made its point. What will the rest of the mainstream media do?

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Carter, Annan to Head Peace Mission to Mideast

No, really: that’s the headline of the story. Here are the details:

The council of world leaders launched by former President Nelson Mandela is sending a three-person team to help ease tensions in the troubled Middle East, the organization known as The Elders said Friday.

Former US President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Irish president Mary Robinson will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia from April 13th to April 21st.

In other news, Rudy Giuliani and Benjamin Netanyahu will head a mission to Tehran seeking to ease international tensions over the Iranian nuclear program, Lou Dobbs is leading a delegation to Mexico City that hopes to assuage controversy about illegal immigration, and Al Sharpton will be appearing at the Manhattan Jewish Community Center to speak about his leadership in promoting social harmony between blacks and Jews.

No, really: that’s the headline of the story. Here are the details:

The council of world leaders launched by former President Nelson Mandela is sending a three-person team to help ease tensions in the troubled Middle East, the organization known as The Elders said Friday.

Former US President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Irish president Mary Robinson will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia from April 13th to April 21st.

In other news, Rudy Giuliani and Benjamin Netanyahu will head a mission to Tehran seeking to ease international tensions over the Iranian nuclear program, Lou Dobbs is leading a delegation to Mexico City that hopes to assuage controversy about illegal immigration, and Al Sharpton will be appearing at the Manhattan Jewish Community Center to speak about his leadership in promoting social harmony between blacks and Jews.

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Right Back Atcha, James

I got a good chuckle this morning from this post on something called the Sovereignty Caucus blog attacking me as an out-of-touch Manhattanite because of my pro-immigration posting on contentions:

Get used to it America: your new servants—and your new masters—will be immigrants. So says Max Boot, who is a Fellow at The Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. To such Manhattanites, zooming over the rest of us, lofted ever upward by a jet stream of tax-deductible foundation money, such humdrum issues as legality, and opportunity for home-grown Americans—well, such issues are too small to worry about, or even take seriously. Legal, schmegal—what’s the big whoop-dee-doo diff?

Who is the author of this populist outrage? In what farmhouse in which Midwestern state does he sit shuddering with rage at the bicoastal elites who are “zooming over” his head?

This item was penned by none other than James Pinkerton, a former aide in the White House of George Bush Sr., who was briefly famous for formulating something called the “New Paradigm,” the content of which has long been forgotten by all but the author.

And where does Pinkerton live? I believe in New York, where he is a columnist for Newsday and a contributor to the Fox News Channel. At least I’ve certainly run into him at parties over the years in fancy New York settings. (Perhaps he commutes to these gatherings from Dubuque?) He is also affiliated with think tanks such as the New America Foundation, which are presumably funded with “tax-deductible foundation money.”

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I got a good chuckle this morning from this post on something called the Sovereignty Caucus blog attacking me as an out-of-touch Manhattanite because of my pro-immigration posting on contentions:

Get used to it America: your new servants—and your new masters—will be immigrants. So says Max Boot, who is a Fellow at The Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. To such Manhattanites, zooming over the rest of us, lofted ever upward by a jet stream of tax-deductible foundation money, such humdrum issues as legality, and opportunity for home-grown Americans—well, such issues are too small to worry about, or even take seriously. Legal, schmegal—what’s the big whoop-dee-doo diff?

Who is the author of this populist outrage? In what farmhouse in which Midwestern state does he sit shuddering with rage at the bicoastal elites who are “zooming over” his head?

This item was penned by none other than James Pinkerton, a former aide in the White House of George Bush Sr., who was briefly famous for formulating something called the “New Paradigm,” the content of which has long been forgotten by all but the author.

And where does Pinkerton live? I believe in New York, where he is a columnist for Newsday and a contributor to the Fox News Channel. At least I’ve certainly run into him at parties over the years in fancy New York settings. (Perhaps he commutes to these gatherings from Dubuque?) He is also affiliated with think tanks such as the New America Foundation, which are presumably funded with “tax-deductible foundation money.”

But, like Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs, and other talking heads, his own membership in the New York-based media elite doesn’t prevent Pinkerton from posturing as the tribune of the common man and castigating those with whom he disagrees as out-of-touch elitists.

More than that, he claims that those of us who oppose immigration-bashing are not true conservatives. He concludes:

Some might wonder: Isn’t Commentary supposed to be a conservative magazine? Maybe, but it’s got it share of globalist neoconservatives, who are anything but conservative.

Gasp! Who knew I wasn’t just a neocon but, even worse, a globalist neocon. (Whatever that is.) I find such arguments—you’re not a true conservative! You’re not a true liberal! You’re not a true whatever!—to be just as risible and tedious as his earlier claim that because I work in New York City I am somehow out of touch.

While being pro-immigration myself, and a conservative, I readily admit that this is one of many issues on which conservatives of good faith can disagree. It would be nice if those with differing views could stick to debating the merits of the case rather than trying to demean the other side with juvenile insults.

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Friedman’s Folly

Thomas Friedman is the second- or third-best columnist at the New York Times. Admittedly that’s damning with faint praise. But he does know a fair amount about the Middle East and some other topics, and even if he repeats himself far too often (especially on the need for ending oil dependency), and gets a lot of things wrong (such as his support for the Oslo Peace Process), and exaggerates in those areas where he’s basically right (his support of globalization), I find him often worth a read, which is more than I can say for some of his colleagues. But in yesterday’s newspaper, Friedman sounded more like a talk-radio blowhard than the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign-affairs columnist for the Newspaper of Record. (Read his column free here.)

In yesterday’s Times, Friedman went for cheap and easy populist point-scoring. He excoriated Iraqi parliamentarians for taking August off while our troops swelter in the Iraq heat wearing body armor. “Here’s what I think of that: I think it’s a travesty,” he exclaimed—words you can easily imagine coming out of the mouth of Lou Dobbs or Bill O’Reilly or someone else not normally to be confused with Tom Friedman.

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Thomas Friedman is the second- or third-best columnist at the New York Times. Admittedly that’s damning with faint praise. But he does know a fair amount about the Middle East and some other topics, and even if he repeats himself far too often (especially on the need for ending oil dependency), and gets a lot of things wrong (such as his support for the Oslo Peace Process), and exaggerates in those areas where he’s basically right (his support of globalization), I find him often worth a read, which is more than I can say for some of his colleagues. But in yesterday’s newspaper, Friedman sounded more like a talk-radio blowhard than the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign-affairs columnist for the Newspaper of Record. (Read his column free here.)

In yesterday’s Times, Friedman went for cheap and easy populist point-scoring. He excoriated Iraqi parliamentarians for taking August off while our troops swelter in the Iraq heat wearing body armor. “Here’s what I think of that: I think it’s a travesty,” he exclaimed—words you can easily imagine coming out of the mouth of Lou Dobbs or Bill O’Reilly or someone else not normally to be confused with Tom Friedman.

The rest of Friedman’s column was equally simplistic. He proposes that we “draft the country’s best negotiators—Henry Kissinger, Jim Baker, George Shultz, George Mitchell, Dennis Ross, or Richard Holbrooke” and send them to Baghdad to either force the Iraqi factions to reach a political deal to settle all their problems, or report back that no such deal is possible. Friedman gives no reason to think that any of these gentlemen would have any better luck than the negotiators we’ve had in Baghdad before—diplomats of formidable accomplishment such as John Negroponte and Zalmay Khalilzad.

While it’s true that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political, we won’t achieve a political deal unless we can create a more secure environment in which to negotiate. Thus, as I argued on the Times op-ed page in an article designed to deflate the very argument that Friedman now makes, our focus at the moment has to be military, not political or diplomatic.

We need above all to defeat Shiite and Sunni extremists who are holding the more moderate elements of their communities hostage. In this endeavor, U.S. troops are hardly alone. Iraqi cops and soldiers are fighting alongside them and actually suffering higher casualties—two to three times more killed and wounded. So much for Friedman’s offensive inference that Americans are dying to save Iraq while Iraqis won’t lift a finger to help their own country.

His attempted analogy between U.S. troops (“fighting in the heat”) and Iraqi legislators (“on vacation in August so they can be cool”) is bogus in any case. The better parallel is between Iraqi and American legislators. The Iraqis could certainly do better, but they are also risking their lives and their relatives’ lives to serve, not something that could be said of American senators and congressmen.

For the past few weeks—before they take off on their own August recess—our legislators have hardly been a profile in courage or perspicacity. Democrats and some Republicans have been loudly screaming to “end the war” even while showing scant interest in what will happen after U.S. troops are gone.

This Los Angeles Times story features some hair-raising quotes from the advocates of withdrawal about the consequences of their preferred strategy:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s horrendous,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.), who has helped spearhead efforts against the war. “The only hope for the Iraqis is their own damned government, and there’s slim hope for that.”

“I believe, if we leave, the region will pull together,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma), a founding member of the influential House Out of Iraq caucus. “It’s important to them that Iraq stabilize.”

“The Out of Iraq caucus really has not looked beyond ending military involvement,” acknowledged Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a caucus leader and Pelosi ally. “Now that the environment is changing pretty significantly . . . everybody may be starting to look at what happens after the United States leaves.”

In their combination of naiveté, ignorance, and irresponsibility, our lawmakers almost make the Iraqis look good.

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A Weekend in Kennebunkport

President Bush and his Russian counterpart have not yet met in Kennebunkport, but Lou Dobbs has already figured out what will happen this coming Sunday and Monday in Maine. A few weeks ago, the CNN anchor had this to say about the upcoming summit between the American leader and Vladimir Putin: “A meeting in which I’m sure both men will look deeply into one another’s eyes and come up with the architecture of a brilliant geopolitical relationship between the two countries.”

Who can blame Dobbs for sounding so cynical and sarcastic? He has, after all, identified the one thing that will not happen during the upcoming talks. Bush and Putin will undoubtedly trade many fine words during their session in the sun, but they will not do much to improve ties between America and Russia.

Moscow, unfortunately, now has an agenda that clashes with ours. The Kremlin no longer feels itself tethered to America—or even to Europe. “Until recently, Russia saw itself as Pluto in the Western solar system, very far from the center but still fundamentally a part of it,” wrote Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center last year. “Now it has left that orbit entirely.”

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President Bush and his Russian counterpart have not yet met in Kennebunkport, but Lou Dobbs has already figured out what will happen this coming Sunday and Monday in Maine. A few weeks ago, the CNN anchor had this to say about the upcoming summit between the American leader and Vladimir Putin: “A meeting in which I’m sure both men will look deeply into one another’s eyes and come up with the architecture of a brilliant geopolitical relationship between the two countries.”

Who can blame Dobbs for sounding so cynical and sarcastic? He has, after all, identified the one thing that will not happen during the upcoming talks. Bush and Putin will undoubtedly trade many fine words during their session in the sun, but they will not do much to improve ties between America and Russia.

Moscow, unfortunately, now has an agenda that clashes with ours. The Kremlin no longer feels itself tethered to America—or even to Europe. “Until recently, Russia saw itself as Pluto in the Western solar system, very far from the center but still fundamentally a part of it,” wrote Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center last year. “Now it has left that orbit entirely.”

As Russia leaves the West’s orbit, it is making common cause with China and regimes that are challenging America. As a result, the authoritarian states are now acting in like-minded fashion. And as they do so, they are changing the international system.

Why is the world in such disarray? Because America has been so powerful, analysts believe the answer must lie in some recent defect in Washington’s stewardship of global affairs. The common assessment is that the Bush administration is unnecessarily belligerent, inexcusably clumsy, and otherwise ill-advised. But criticisms of this sort fail to take into account the context in which American policy-makers must operate today. As Henry Kissinger said in July of last year, “There’s never been a period in history in which so many changes were taking place simultaneously.” In particular, we are passing from the post-cold war hegemonic era. What we see today is the emergence of a balance-of-power arrangement in which weaker nations can easily frustrate the United States. The world can be stable in any sort of system, but it is almost never safe when it transitions from one system to another.

So the stakes will be high this weekend when George Bush sits down with Vladimir Putin. But as Dobbs suggests, no amount of eye contact between the two men will settle the differences between America and Russia. They seem to be meeting more—they last got together earlier this month at the G8 conclave in Germany—and accomplishing ever less.

Of course, there is no harm in the occasional chat in a shoreline setting, but it is time for our President to begin thinking more about how the world is changing—and how the U.S. can continue to lead in a new and much more difficult environment.

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