Commentary Magazine


Topic: Scott Johnson

Flotsam and Jetsam

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is ”obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is ”obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Lieberman, who continues to confound his critics, is championing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Left blogosphere will no doubt discern a plot to drive them bonkers.

The AP gets into the Rahm Emanuel drama – - ”a narrative that some (though it’s still unclear who) think Obama’s chief of staff is smarter than the president, an awkward development in Washington’s deeply ingrained tradition of aides staying behind the scenes and not upstaging the boss. At the least, it creates an embarrassment and a distraction at a perilous time. And it belies Obama’s own prized no-drama culture, where neither dirty laundry nor disagreements are aired and theatrics aren’t tolerated. At worst, it sets in motion a dynamic that could lead to shakeups and further doubts about Obama’s leadership.”

Charles Krauthammer in defense of snail mail and scented love letters: “You can’t smell your e-mail.”

Scott Johnson: “The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy K-8 public charter school in suburban St. Paul. It appears to be is an Islamic school operating illegally at taxpayer expense. Among other things, the school’s principal is an imam and almost all of its students are Muslim. It is housed in a building that was owned originally by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (I’m not sure who owns it now). The school has in any event had a mutually beneficial relationship with MAS Minnesota since the school’s inception. The study of Arabic is required at the school. The Arabic comes in handy for the Koranic studies that follow the regular school day.” The ACLU is suing, and there is evidence that “TiZA has sought to intimidate witnesses.”

Rep. Bart Stupak says there are 12 votes that will switch from “yes” to “no” on the ObamaCare abortion-subsidy issue.

Ron Kampeas shares my amazement at Maureen Dowd’s latest column:  ”To suggest [Israel] – and even its Orthodox — are sliding into theocracy is just nutty.”

The Cook Political Report (subscription required): “The retirement announcement of Democratic Rep. Eric Massa puts his Upstate New York ‘southern tier’ seat in grave jeopardy for Democrats. Massa won by only the barest of margins in 2008 after outspending a badly flawed GOP incumbent. … This seat moves from the Lean Democratic column to the Lean Republican column.”

Jonathan Capehart or Matt Continetti on Sarah Palin’s Jay Leno appearance? “Palin’s comfort in front of the camera and with the material, not to mention her don’t-mess-with-me jeans-and-heels outfit, made Palin a feast for the eyes and ears.”

Rep. Pete Stark, new House Ways and Means chairman, is too much even for Democrats who are looking for an alternative: “Looming over his bid for the top job is a long history of rash public statements. In 2004, a San Francisco talk radio station posted a voice mail message that Mr. Stark left for a constituent that said, in part: ‘Probably somebody put you up to this, and I’m not sure who it was, but I doubt if you could spell half the words in the letter and somebody wrote it for you.’  In late 2007 he apologized for saying that Republicans were sending American youth to Iraq ‘to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.’”

Joe Lieberman, who continues to confound his critics, is championing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Left blogosphere will no doubt discern a plot to drive them bonkers.

The AP gets into the Rahm Emanuel drama – - ”a narrative that some (though it’s still unclear who) think Obama’s chief of staff is smarter than the president, an awkward development in Washington’s deeply ingrained tradition of aides staying behind the scenes and not upstaging the boss. At the least, it creates an embarrassment and a distraction at a perilous time. And it belies Obama’s own prized no-drama culture, where neither dirty laundry nor disagreements are aired and theatrics aren’t tolerated. At worst, it sets in motion a dynamic that could lead to shakeups and further doubts about Obama’s leadership.”

Charles Krauthammer in defense of snail mail and scented love letters: “You can’t smell your e-mail.”

Scott Johnson: “The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy K-8 public charter school in suburban St. Paul. It appears to be is an Islamic school operating illegally at taxpayer expense. Among other things, the school’s principal is an imam and almost all of its students are Muslim. It is housed in a building that was owned originally by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (I’m not sure who owns it now). The school has in any event had a mutually beneficial relationship with MAS Minnesota since the school’s inception. The study of Arabic is required at the school. The Arabic comes in handy for the Koranic studies that follow the regular school day.” The ACLU is suing, and there is evidence that “TiZA has sought to intimidate witnesses.”

Rep. Bart Stupak says there are 12 votes that will switch from “yes” to “no” on the ObamaCare abortion-subsidy issue.

Ron Kampeas shares my amazement at Maureen Dowd’s latest column:  ”To suggest [Israel] – and even its Orthodox — are sliding into theocracy is just nutty.”

The Cook Political Report (subscription required): “The retirement announcement of Democratic Rep. Eric Massa puts his Upstate New York ‘southern tier’ seat in grave jeopardy for Democrats. Massa won by only the barest of margins in 2008 after outspending a badly flawed GOP incumbent. … This seat moves from the Lean Democratic column to the Lean Republican column.”

Jonathan Capehart or Matt Continetti on Sarah Palin’s Jay Leno appearance? “Palin’s comfort in front of the camera and with the material, not to mention her don’t-mess-with-me jeans-and-heels outfit, made Palin a feast for the eyes and ears.”

Rep. Pete Stark, new House Ways and Means chairman, is too much even for Democrats who are looking for an alternative: “Looming over his bid for the top job is a long history of rash public statements. In 2004, a San Francisco talk radio station posted a voice mail message that Mr. Stark left for a constituent that said, in part: ‘Probably somebody put you up to this, and I’m not sure who it was, but I doubt if you could spell half the words in the letter and somebody wrote it for you.’  In late 2007 he apologized for saying that Republicans were sending American youth to Iraq ‘to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.’”

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Two Speeches in Massachusetts

Scott Brown’s speech yesterday in Massachusetts deserves not only to be read but also remembered. It was simultaneously straightforward and sophisticated, understated and eloquent, perfectly presented with Boston heroes surrounding him. It was, for the reasons enumerated by Scott Johnson, a classic speech.

Barack Obama’s speech yesterday was vintage 2008 Obama, as he leaned into the microphone to push waves of applause higher as he sought to energize a base. He seemed happy to be back in campaign mode, where everything is aspiration, hope, and the promise of change. But this time he spoke against a backdrop of actually existing Obamanism, a president who turned out to be a liberal in a hurry, pushing the most partisan piece of legislation within memory, railing yesterday against “fat cats,” “Wall Street,” and “big banks … big insurance companies … big drug companies.” It was unpresidential.

It is fitting that in Massachusetts tomorrow, Obamanism will face a test that cannot be met by a Louisiana Purchase, or a Cornhusker Kickback, or a Collective Bargaining Kickback, or convening a vote at one in the morning or on a Saturday night. It will be a plebiscite that the president himself has nationalized — conducted on the last day of his first year, in the most liberal state in the nation, in the place where the original tea party occurred. If two polls taken yesterday are accurate (both showing Brown up by 9.6 points), it will be a shot heard ’round the world.

Scott Brown’s speech yesterday in Massachusetts deserves not only to be read but also remembered. It was simultaneously straightforward and sophisticated, understated and eloquent, perfectly presented with Boston heroes surrounding him. It was, for the reasons enumerated by Scott Johnson, a classic speech.

Barack Obama’s speech yesterday was vintage 2008 Obama, as he leaned into the microphone to push waves of applause higher as he sought to energize a base. He seemed happy to be back in campaign mode, where everything is aspiration, hope, and the promise of change. But this time he spoke against a backdrop of actually existing Obamanism, a president who turned out to be a liberal in a hurry, pushing the most partisan piece of legislation within memory, railing yesterday against “fat cats,” “Wall Street,” and “big banks … big insurance companies … big drug companies.” It was unpresidential.

It is fitting that in Massachusetts tomorrow, Obamanism will face a test that cannot be met by a Louisiana Purchase, or a Cornhusker Kickback, or a Collective Bargaining Kickback, or convening a vote at one in the morning or on a Saturday night. It will be a plebiscite that the president himself has nationalized — conducted on the last day of his first year, in the most liberal state in the nation, in the place where the original tea party occurred. If two polls taken yesterday are accurate (both showing Brown up by 9.6 points), it will be a shot heard ’round the world.

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More in Defense of Power

The lip-smacking glee with which the resignation of Obama adviser Samantha Power is being greeted on the right is perhaps an understandable reaction to the sanctimony (and success) of the Obama campaign. But some of the comments are simply over the top. For instance, Scott Johnson at Powerline (a blog which I regularly read and greatly respect) calls Power “self-righteous, high-minded, and utterly unserious — in short, a pompous phony.”

I can only imagine that Johnson has not read Power’s A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, a deeply serious, exhaustively-researched, 610-page work of history that garnered just about every literary prize in the known universe. If he has read it, I am at a loss to see how he could fling so many insults at its author.

Power doesn’t deserve all this venom. She is a centrist Democrat and a passionate human-rights activist who has risked her neck to cover carnage from Bosnia to Darfur. She shares a commitment with many conservatives that America is and should be a force for good in the world, even if she disagrees with them over some specific policies. Some of the very comments that got her into such hot water are, in fact, evidence of her fundamental seriousness.

When asked, for example, whether Obama would withdrew all American troops from Iraq within 16 months, she told a British interviewer “You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009. He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator. He will rely upon a plan–an operational plan–that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president.” That’s a gaffe only in the Kinsleyesque sense of the word, in which telling the truth in politics can be a faux pas.

Her downfall was not due to her having said anything intrinsically terrible; it was simply because her statements (calling Hillary Clinton a “monster”;  saying she was “confused by what’s happened to Gordon Brown”) have been subjected to the kind of minute scrutiny given to a high-level politician or administration official, rather than the kind of treatment she’s received in the past as an academic and author. No doubt Power erred in not realizing the greater weight her public words would carry given her closeness to the Democratic front-runner, but that hardly justifies the pummeling she is taking.

The lip-smacking glee with which the resignation of Obama adviser Samantha Power is being greeted on the right is perhaps an understandable reaction to the sanctimony (and success) of the Obama campaign. But some of the comments are simply over the top. For instance, Scott Johnson at Powerline (a blog which I regularly read and greatly respect) calls Power “self-righteous, high-minded, and utterly unserious — in short, a pompous phony.”

I can only imagine that Johnson has not read Power’s A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, a deeply serious, exhaustively-researched, 610-page work of history that garnered just about every literary prize in the known universe. If he has read it, I am at a loss to see how he could fling so many insults at its author.

Power doesn’t deserve all this venom. She is a centrist Democrat and a passionate human-rights activist who has risked her neck to cover carnage from Bosnia to Darfur. She shares a commitment with many conservatives that America is and should be a force for good in the world, even if she disagrees with them over some specific policies. Some of the very comments that got her into such hot water are, in fact, evidence of her fundamental seriousness.

When asked, for example, whether Obama would withdrew all American troops from Iraq within 16 months, she told a British interviewer “You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009. He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator. He will rely upon a plan–an operational plan–that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president.” That’s a gaffe only in the Kinsleyesque sense of the word, in which telling the truth in politics can be a faux pas.

Her downfall was not due to her having said anything intrinsically terrible; it was simply because her statements (calling Hillary Clinton a “monster”;  saying she was “confused by what’s happened to Gordon Brown”) have been subjected to the kind of minute scrutiny given to a high-level politician or administration official, rather than the kind of treatment she’s received in the past as an academic and author. No doubt Power erred in not realizing the greater weight her public words would carry given her closeness to the Democratic front-runner, but that hardly justifies the pummeling she is taking.

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World War IV: Powerline’s Book of the Year

Powerline has just announced that Norman Podhoretz’s World War IV is the winner of its first Book of the Year Award. Podhoretz is, of course, COMMENTARY’S Editor at Large, and the articles that formed the basis of the book first appeared in COMMENTARY. As Scott Johnson, one of the three proprietors of Powerline, writes:

We judge Podhoretz’s book perhaps the most important published last year. It is an elegantly written assessment of the long war in which we are engaged, and a passionate defense of the Bush Doctrine. As Podhoretz notes in the book, we have occasionally expressed our own second thoughts about the Bush Doctrine and do not necessarily agree with every tenet of his argument. We are nevertheless quite sure that it is a book, not just for this season, but for the foreseeable future during which the United States will confront the Islamist enemy that is at war with us.

The $25,000 prize, funded by an anonymous benefactor and to be donated in Podhoretz’s honor to Soldier’s Angels, makes it the most financially substantial award in American publishing. “With this award,” Johnson writes, “it is our intention to raise awareness of one of the several outstanding books published by conservative authors last year that have been or will be given short shrift by the Pulitzer and NBCC judges.” The award will be presented Monday night at a dinner in New York featuring Henry Kissinger and Mark Steyn.

Powerline has just announced that Norman Podhoretz’s World War IV is the winner of its first Book of the Year Award. Podhoretz is, of course, COMMENTARY’S Editor at Large, and the articles that formed the basis of the book first appeared in COMMENTARY. As Scott Johnson, one of the three proprietors of Powerline, writes:

We judge Podhoretz’s book perhaps the most important published last year. It is an elegantly written assessment of the long war in which we are engaged, and a passionate defense of the Bush Doctrine. As Podhoretz notes in the book, we have occasionally expressed our own second thoughts about the Bush Doctrine and do not necessarily agree with every tenet of his argument. We are nevertheless quite sure that it is a book, not just for this season, but for the foreseeable future during which the United States will confront the Islamist enemy that is at war with us.

The $25,000 prize, funded by an anonymous benefactor and to be donated in Podhoretz’s honor to Soldier’s Angels, makes it the most financially substantial award in American publishing. “With this award,” Johnson writes, “it is our intention to raise awareness of one of the several outstanding books published by conservative authors last year that have been or will be given short shrift by the Pulitzer and NBCC judges.” The award will be presented Monday night at a dinner in New York featuring Henry Kissinger and Mark Steyn.

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Extreme Prejudice

“I am extremely concerned about the tendency of the intelligence community to turn itself into a kind of check on, instead of a part of, the executive branch,” Henry Kissinger writes in today’s Washington Post. “When intelligence personnel expect their work to become the subject of public debate, they are tempted into the roles of surrogate policymakers and advocates.” In this instance, they created the “extraordinary spectacle of the president’s national security adviser obliged to defend the president’s Iran policy against a National Intelligence Estimate.”

Scott Johnson over at powerline is absolutely right: when someone of Henry Kissinger’s stature joins in in denouncing the intelligence community for its handling of the Iran NIE something significant is going on.

What exactly is it? Perhaps it is the fact that the intelligence failures of the last seven years have impressed upon all Americans the price of lapses in this vital area. This explains why voices on both the Right and the Left — even the New York Times has tepidly joined in — are criticizing the intelligence community for its handling of the Iran NIE. All this gives rise to the hope that after the presidential elections a bipartisan coalition will emerge that could find some radical way to address a problem that has become apparent to all.

But I am not holding my breath. American intelligence agencies, the CIA foremost among them, have proved themselves to be extraordinarily recalcitrant to reform. And the agencies are not the only problem. In today’s Washington Post, David Ignatius, a long-time observer of the intelligence world, takes a look at the other end of the snake.

Intelligence oversight by Congress is in a “free fall,” Ignatius writes. And the problem is not the standard liberal complaint that the CIA is withholding vital information from congressional oversight panels. Rather, right now

we are getting the worst possible mix — a dearth of adequate congressional scrutiny on the front end that could improve performance and check abuses, and a flood of second-guessing at the back end, after each flap, that further demoralizes and enfeebles the spies. Congress silently blesses the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics, for example, and then denounces the practices when they become public.

Ignatius’s column opens the door to some thoughts that have hitherto been unthinkable in Washington D.C.. Perhaps the time has come to ask whether an experiment embarked upon in 1975 in response to genuine abuses of intelligence is appropriate for our own time. To judge by the picture painted by Ignatius, the experiment clearly has failed:

The intelligence committees have become politicized. Members and staffers encourage political vendettas against intelligence officers they don’t like, as happened when [CIA Director Porter] Goss brought his congressional aides with him to the CIA. The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has become a political football; so has negotiation over legal rules on intercepting foreign communications, one of the nation’s most sensitive activities. The bickering has turned the intelligence world into a nonstop political circus, to the point that foreign governments have become increasingly wary of sharing secrets.

Congressional oversight was a “radical idea” when it was introduced in response to the abuses of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon years. Back then, Ignatius notes, “[s]ome experts questioned whether it was realistic to ask elected officials to sign off on the work of intelligence agencies — which, when you strip away all the high-minded language, basically involves the systematic violation of other countries’ laws. Intelligence agencies steal other nations’ secrets, bribe their officials into committing treason, intercept their most private conversations.”

Those skeptics seem to have been proved right. At a time when our intelligence agencies are the crucial front in the war we are facing, we cannot afford to have it managed by a “political circus.” The time has come to bring an end this state of affairs — with extreme prejudice.

“I am extremely concerned about the tendency of the intelligence community to turn itself into a kind of check on, instead of a part of, the executive branch,” Henry Kissinger writes in today’s Washington Post. “When intelligence personnel expect their work to become the subject of public debate, they are tempted into the roles of surrogate policymakers and advocates.” In this instance, they created the “extraordinary spectacle of the president’s national security adviser obliged to defend the president’s Iran policy against a National Intelligence Estimate.”

Scott Johnson over at powerline is absolutely right: when someone of Henry Kissinger’s stature joins in in denouncing the intelligence community for its handling of the Iran NIE something significant is going on.

What exactly is it? Perhaps it is the fact that the intelligence failures of the last seven years have impressed upon all Americans the price of lapses in this vital area. This explains why voices on both the Right and the Left — even the New York Times has tepidly joined in — are criticizing the intelligence community for its handling of the Iran NIE. All this gives rise to the hope that after the presidential elections a bipartisan coalition will emerge that could find some radical way to address a problem that has become apparent to all.

But I am not holding my breath. American intelligence agencies, the CIA foremost among them, have proved themselves to be extraordinarily recalcitrant to reform. And the agencies are not the only problem. In today’s Washington Post, David Ignatius, a long-time observer of the intelligence world, takes a look at the other end of the snake.

Intelligence oversight by Congress is in a “free fall,” Ignatius writes. And the problem is not the standard liberal complaint that the CIA is withholding vital information from congressional oversight panels. Rather, right now

we are getting the worst possible mix — a dearth of adequate congressional scrutiny on the front end that could improve performance and check abuses, and a flood of second-guessing at the back end, after each flap, that further demoralizes and enfeebles the spies. Congress silently blesses the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics, for example, and then denounces the practices when they become public.

Ignatius’s column opens the door to some thoughts that have hitherto been unthinkable in Washington D.C.. Perhaps the time has come to ask whether an experiment embarked upon in 1975 in response to genuine abuses of intelligence is appropriate for our own time. To judge by the picture painted by Ignatius, the experiment clearly has failed:

The intelligence committees have become politicized. Members and staffers encourage political vendettas against intelligence officers they don’t like, as happened when [CIA Director Porter] Goss brought his congressional aides with him to the CIA. The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has become a political football; so has negotiation over legal rules on intercepting foreign communications, one of the nation’s most sensitive activities. The bickering has turned the intelligence world into a nonstop political circus, to the point that foreign governments have become increasingly wary of sharing secrets.

Congressional oversight was a “radical idea” when it was introduced in response to the abuses of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon years. Back then, Ignatius notes, “[s]ome experts questioned whether it was realistic to ask elected officials to sign off on the work of intelligence agencies — which, when you strip away all the high-minded language, basically involves the systematic violation of other countries’ laws. Intelligence agencies steal other nations’ secrets, bribe their officials into committing treason, intercept their most private conversations.”

Those skeptics seem to have been proved right. At a time when our intelligence agencies are the crucial front in the war we are facing, we cannot afford to have it managed by a “political circus.” The time has come to bring an end this state of affairs — with extreme prejudice.

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Heil, Hamas

Before the movement came to power there was a period of extraordinary dissolution, political chaos, economic dislocation, corruption, and brutal criminality. Unemployment was staggeringly high. Shortages of basic staples were a commonplace. Rival factions vied for power not stopping short of bloodshed. Who was to blame? Was it neighboring foreign powers and their “peace” settlement? Was it the Jews?

Then, suddenly, it came to an end. One faction was victorious. Distinctive uniforms were visible on the streets and distinctive flags became ubiquitous. Order was imposed. It was not a lawful order, but for many it was preferable to the previous derangement. What is more, the party bringing order had a clear plan for reconstruction, and even redemption. Of course, many people were uneasy, but even the uneasy welcomed it; the disorder and violence were in the past and there was hope of remarkable progress toward a better future.

No, this is not Gaza but the end of the Weimar Republic with Hitler’s ascension to chancellor in 1933. And the streets were not adorned with the green flags of Hamas but the red and black of the Nazis.

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Before the movement came to power there was a period of extraordinary dissolution, political chaos, economic dislocation, corruption, and brutal criminality. Unemployment was staggeringly high. Shortages of basic staples were a commonplace. Rival factions vied for power not stopping short of bloodshed. Who was to blame? Was it neighboring foreign powers and their “peace” settlement? Was it the Jews?

Then, suddenly, it came to an end. One faction was victorious. Distinctive uniforms were visible on the streets and distinctive flags became ubiquitous. Order was imposed. It was not a lawful order, but for many it was preferable to the previous derangement. What is more, the party bringing order had a clear plan for reconstruction, and even redemption. Of course, many people were uneasy, but even the uneasy welcomed it; the disorder and violence were in the past and there was hope of remarkable progress toward a better future.

No, this is not Gaza but the end of the Weimar Republic with Hitler’s ascension to chancellor in 1933. And the streets were not adorned with the green flags of Hamas but the red and black of the Nazis.

Many Western observers were reluctant to criticize then, as they are now. Some were fawning then, as some are now.

A remarkable specimen of the latter is Steven Erlanger’s portrait of the Hamas terrorist Khaled Abu Hilal in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, singled out by Scott Johnson of powerline as “passing strange.”

Erlanger holds out hope that “the military victory of Hamas may also bring a welcome measure of quiet and security to the 1.5 million people of Gaza, nearly 70 percent of them refugees, who have been living a nightmare of criminal gangs, street-corner vendettas, clan warfare, absent police, corrupt officials, religious incitement and unremitting poverty.”

What can be said about liberals who embrace order, no matter what the price, and no matter the genocidal ambitions of those imposing it?

Passing strange is right. But perhaps they are not liberals at all, or perhaps liberalism, once the creed of tolerance, has itself become something else, something self-destructive: tolerant of everything, including the most lethal forms of intolerance.

But even that seems an inadequate explanation for Erlanger’s impulse—and he is not alone in harboring it—to hail the triumph of a violent and fanatical Islamic terrorist movement that has murdered hundreds of Israelis—men, women, and children alike—and readily tosses fellow Palestinians from buildings after shooting them in the knees.

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Charlie’s Angle

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign announced the selection of Charles Hill, a career Foreign Service officer who retired from government life to teach diplomacy at Yale, as the candidate’s chief foreign policy adviser. Hill is so admired by students that, as Scott Johnson notes at Power Line, one of them wrote a book about him: The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost.

The Plank’s Bradford Plumer nevertheless attacks Hill, writing that he was “George Shultz’s assistant back when the Reagan administration was orchestrating arms shipments to Iran in the 1980’s.” This bit of information—or rather spin—is completely irrelevant. Iran-Contra had its roots in Reagan’s National Security Council, on which Hill never served. Hill was never charged with any crimes: the only charges the overzealous prosecutor could bring against him lay in a few dubious sentences in his equally dubious book.

I’d argue that Hill’s connection to Shultz, the Republican Party’s senior statesman, actually makes this appointment a shrewd move by Giuliani. Shultz was prescient on the subject of terrorism; he was and is a formidable policy intellect; he believed not in surrendering to our enemies, but in defeating them. Plus, the campaign’s move links the candidate with Reagan, whose reputation, on the left and the right, is at a high.

And doesn’t Hill’s resume—posts in Zurich, Saigon, and on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, a prominent position at an Ivy League university—suggest that he’s exactly the kind of experienced, nuance-appreciating diplomat that the left wants running American foreign policy?

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign announced the selection of Charles Hill, a career Foreign Service officer who retired from government life to teach diplomacy at Yale, as the candidate’s chief foreign policy adviser. Hill is so admired by students that, as Scott Johnson notes at Power Line, one of them wrote a book about him: The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost.

The Plank’s Bradford Plumer nevertheless attacks Hill, writing that he was “George Shultz’s assistant back when the Reagan administration was orchestrating arms shipments to Iran in the 1980’s.” This bit of information—or rather spin—is completely irrelevant. Iran-Contra had its roots in Reagan’s National Security Council, on which Hill never served. Hill was never charged with any crimes: the only charges the overzealous prosecutor could bring against him lay in a few dubious sentences in his equally dubious book.

I’d argue that Hill’s connection to Shultz, the Republican Party’s senior statesman, actually makes this appointment a shrewd move by Giuliani. Shultz was prescient on the subject of terrorism; he was and is a formidable policy intellect; he believed not in surrendering to our enemies, but in defeating them. Plus, the campaign’s move links the candidate with Reagan, whose reputation, on the left and the right, is at a high.

And doesn’t Hill’s resume—posts in Zurich, Saigon, and on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, a prominent position at an Ivy League university—suggest that he’s exactly the kind of experienced, nuance-appreciating diplomat that the left wants running American foreign policy?

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Keith Ellison’s Night Table

In my “Jews, Muslims, and the Democrats,” I discussed the significance of the election of Keith Ellison of Minneapolis, the first-ever Muslim member of the House of Representatives. I noted that in his campaign, Ellison had positioned himself as a moderate, and was at pains to distance himself from his extremist past, including his ties to Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. I also noted the possibility that he would continue to tack toward the political center. That possibility has not materialized. After a mere six months in office, he has been reverting to form.

Scott Johnson, who has been on this story from the beginning, both on powerline and in the Weekly Standard, has just put up two fascinating posts, The Ellison Hustle and The Truth About Keith Ellison, noting the trajectory of his views. Among other things, he calls attention to the Congressman’s recent remarks to a group called Atheists for Human Rights.

Ellison said a number of striking things at this gathering. But what stands out most is his likening of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11 to a pivotal event in the history of the Third Reich:

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In my “Jews, Muslims, and the Democrats,” I discussed the significance of the election of Keith Ellison of Minneapolis, the first-ever Muslim member of the House of Representatives. I noted that in his campaign, Ellison had positioned himself as a moderate, and was at pains to distance himself from his extremist past, including his ties to Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. I also noted the possibility that he would continue to tack toward the political center. That possibility has not materialized. After a mere six months in office, he has been reverting to form.

Scott Johnson, who has been on this story from the beginning, both on powerline and in the Weekly Standard, has just put up two fascinating posts, The Ellison Hustle and The Truth About Keith Ellison, noting the trajectory of his views. Among other things, he calls attention to the Congressman’s recent remarks to a group called Atheists for Human Rights.

Ellison said a number of striking things at this gathering. But what stands out most is his likening of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11 to a pivotal event in the history of the Third Reich:

It’s almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they [the Nazis] blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country [Hitler] in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I’m not saying [Sept. 11] was a [U.S.] plan, or anything like that because, you know, that’s how they put you in the nut-ball box–dismiss you.

Quoting this outrageous passage, Scott Johnson points out that Ellison has here descended into “promoting the disgusting conspiracy myths of radical ‘truthers’ and extremist Muslims.”

That is exactly right. Put aside Ellison’s disingenuous denial of what he is saying even as he is saying it. The comparison of 9/11 to the Reichstag fire, with the implication that the Bush administration was behind the attack, is not something Ellison has pulled out of thin air.

Not far from Minneapolis one finds Kevin Barrett, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the organizer of a body called the Muslim, Jewish, Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth. Barrett is also the author of an essay entitled “Interpreting the Unspeakable: The Myth of 9/11,” which appeared in a book last November.

The fate of the Reichstag building is one of the essay’s major themes. “Like Bush and the neocons,” Barrett writes explicitly, “Hitler and the Nazis inaugurated their new era by destroying an architectural monument and blaming its destruction on their designated enemies.”

Nor is this the limit of Barrett’s conspiracy mongering. Click here, for instance, to find out who he thinks was really behind the “brutal slaughter of 34 Americans and the wounding of 171 others in the unprovoked Israeli attack on the unarmed USS Liberty” in June 1967.

Professor Barrett is evidently on Ellison’s reading list. What other volumes can be found on his night table?

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D’Souza’s Cynicism

Hard on the heels of Max Boot’s post on the subject, in the March issue of the New Criterion, Scott Johnson has an excellent review-essay on Dinesh D’Souza’s The Enemy at Home. Johnson examines closely the book’s central idea: that, by allowing what D’Souza calls the “cultural left” to thrive, America brought the ire of Islamists down on its head. It’s a troubling and pernicious argument, and Johnson subjects it to well-deserved and damaging scrutiny. Enjoy.

Hard on the heels of Max Boot’s post on the subject, in the March issue of the New Criterion, Scott Johnson has an excellent review-essay on Dinesh D’Souza’s The Enemy at Home. Johnson examines closely the book’s central idea: that, by allowing what D’Souza calls the “cultural left” to thrive, America brought the ire of Islamists down on its head. It’s a troubling and pernicious argument, and Johnson subjects it to well-deserved and damaging scrutiny. Enjoy.

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