Commentary Magazine


Topic: senior administration official

Obama Must Act Now on Egypt

The president of the United States makes $400,000 a year. He has government-provided housing, a personal chef, his own helicopter and airplane, not to mention the best personal protection in the universe. It is at times like this that he really earns all those nice perks. There is no task more difficult than managing a revolution in progress. Jimmy Carter got it wrong in Nicaragua, and Iran and went down as a failure. Ronald Reagan got it right in the Philippines and South Korea, which contributed to the overall success of his presidency.

So far, I haven’t seen much evidence that Obama is earning his salary with his response to the revolution in Egypt. On Friday, he delivered an ultra-cautious statement, telling the “Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters” and saying that “the people of Egypt have rights,” including “the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny.” But he stopped well short of telling Hosni Mubarak, who is clearly on his last legs, that it was time for him to go — a message that Ronald Reagan memorably delivered via his friend Senator Paul Laxalt to Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

The New York Times explains Obama’s reticence by citing a “senior administration official” who said that “Mr. Obama warned that any overt effort by the United States to insert itself into easing Mr. Mubarak out, or easing a successor in, could backfire. ‘He said several times that the outcome has to be decided by the Egyptian people, and the U.S. cannot be in a position of dictating events.’”

Problem is, taking no stand isn’t an option for the United States in this situation. For decades, Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid, and Mubarak has been one of our closest allies in the Middle East. Egyptian officers have been educated in the United States, its forces are equipped with American weapons, and they regularly conduct exercises with American troops. We have a large say, whether we want it or not. If Obama stays silent about Mubarak’s future, that will be interpreted within Egypt as American support for an increasingly discredited dictator. Read More

The president of the United States makes $400,000 a year. He has government-provided housing, a personal chef, his own helicopter and airplane, not to mention the best personal protection in the universe. It is at times like this that he really earns all those nice perks. There is no task more difficult than managing a revolution in progress. Jimmy Carter got it wrong in Nicaragua, and Iran and went down as a failure. Ronald Reagan got it right in the Philippines and South Korea, which contributed to the overall success of his presidency.

So far, I haven’t seen much evidence that Obama is earning his salary with his response to the revolution in Egypt. On Friday, he delivered an ultra-cautious statement, telling the “Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters” and saying that “the people of Egypt have rights,” including “the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny.” But he stopped well short of telling Hosni Mubarak, who is clearly on his last legs, that it was time for him to go — a message that Ronald Reagan memorably delivered via his friend Senator Paul Laxalt to Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

The New York Times explains Obama’s reticence by citing a “senior administration official” who said that “Mr. Obama warned that any overt effort by the United States to insert itself into easing Mr. Mubarak out, or easing a successor in, could backfire. ‘He said several times that the outcome has to be decided by the Egyptian people, and the U.S. cannot be in a position of dictating events.’”

Problem is, taking no stand isn’t an option for the United States in this situation. For decades, Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid, and Mubarak has been one of our closest allies in the Middle East. Egyptian officers have been educated in the United States, its forces are equipped with American weapons, and they regularly conduct exercises with American troops. We have a large say, whether we want it or not. If Obama stays silent about Mubarak’s future, that will be interpreted within Egypt as American support for an increasingly discredited dictator.

The Working Group on Egypt, co-chaired by Bob Kagan and Michele Dunn at Brookings, suggests a more muscular response. They urge Obama to “call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible” and for the government to “immediately lift the state of emergency” and “publicly declare that Mr. Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election.” And just to drive the point home: “We further recommend that the Obama administration suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures.”

That’s more like it. The one recommendation I am not sold on is immediate elections (though, admittedly, there’s wiggle room in the phrase “as soon as possible”). As we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, elections that occur in an atmosphere of instability can exacerbate that instability. This is an especially tricky moment in Egypt because Mubarak has ruthlessly repressed the secular opposition. The only large nongovernmental organization in the country is the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamists would thus have an advantage in any immediate election, which could allow them to win, as Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, even though they have not been at the forefront of recent protests and most Egyptians would no doubt recoil from the imposition of an Iranian-style theocracy. (Whether the Brotherhood would in fact try to impose such a regime is unknown. Unfortunately, the only way to find out would be to let them take over.)

A safer alternative, to my mind, would be to call for Mubarak to step down immediately and hand over power to a transition government led by Mohammed ElBaradai, the secular technocrat who has recently returned to Egypt to become the most high-profile opposition leader. As is now happening in Tunisia, he could work with military support to prepare the way for elections in a suitable period of time — say in six months or a year.

But I think the Working Group is right to grasp that standing pat isn’t really an option anymore. In this case, the best advice was offered by a conservative Sicilian aristocrat, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, in his great novel The Leopard (1958), where he wrote that “everything must change so that everything can stay the same.”

In other words, if the U.S. is to have any hope of salvaging our alliance with Egypt, we need to embrace the change wanted by its people — not try to cling blindly to a past represented by Mubarak and his mini-me, the intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has just been appointed vice president and putative successor.

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A Drilling Ban Flip-Flop

NPR reports:

The White House won’t allow any new oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least the next seven years because of the BP oil spill.

A senior administration official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that drilling leases won’t be considered in the waters off Florida as part of the change. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hadn’t been announced yet.

This is a reversal of the administration’s October decision to lift the drilling ban. Because what America needs right now is a loss of jobs and a constriction of the economy in response to a one-off accident that left no long-term damage.

NPR reports:

The White House won’t allow any new oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least the next seven years because of the BP oil spill.

A senior administration official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that drilling leases won’t be considered in the waters off Florida as part of the change. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hadn’t been announced yet.

This is a reversal of the administration’s October decision to lift the drilling ban. Because what America needs right now is a loss of jobs and a constriction of the economy in response to a one-off accident that left no long-term damage.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Just another charm offensive? “President Barack Obama is preparing new overtures to business that may start with a walk into the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a retreat with corporate chief executive officers, according to people familiar with his plans.” So long as he plans on keeping ObamaCare and the financial regulation bill and raises taxes, it’s hard to consider it more than atmospherics.

Just another way of spinning that the White House is getting rid of him as soon as possible. “David Axelrod’s long-anticipated departure from the White House is happening a little earlier than expected — right after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in late January or early February — so the  senior adviser can ‘recharge his batteries,’ according to a senior administration official.”

Just another bad poll for the White House to ignore. “Just about as many Americans want Tea Party-backed members of Congress to take the lead in setting policy during the next year as choose President Obama, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. … The survey also underscores Obama’s weakened standing. His overall job approval rating, at 42%, is 1 percentage point higher than his historic low in midsummer. His 35% approval rating on the economy is the lowest of his presidency.”

Just another prominent conservative woman on the world stage? This one –Michèle Alliot-Marie, the foreign minister of France — plays rugby. ” The 64-year-old Gaullist is more than just another passive fan of the game. The normally austere MAM, as she is known in France, revealed in a rare informal television appearance in the mid-1980s that she had nearly been kicked out of school when she was young for converting the female handball squad into a rugby team. ‘I think that I’d still be able to make a pass,’ she noted.”

Just another move by Israel that’ll drive the left around the bend. How dare the Jewish state institute such democratic rules! “The Knesset passed the National Referendum Law during a late-night session Monday, approving legislation that will fundamentally alter Israeli negotiators’ ability to offer concrete peace deals involving the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. The law, which was approved by a vote of 65-33, will require either a Knesset super-majority or a national referendum in order to hand over any annexed territories as part of a future peace deal.”

Just another day of nagging kids to eat vegetables. But is this really a job for the First Lady?

Just another human rights abomination in the “Muslim World.” Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother of five, has been jailed for a year and sentenced to death for blasphemy. Although she might get a presidential pardon, that’s not the end of it. “Even if Ms. Bibi is pardoned or the Lahore High Court overturns the sentence, there are concerns about her safety. Many people acquitted on blasphemy charges continue to be hounded and are forced to move, change their identity or hide, the commission says.”

Just another political miscalculation and panic attack in the White House. “As the Senate’s leading Republican on nuclear security issues, Mr. Kyl has warned the White House for months that it couldn’t get its treaty ratified without addressing his concerns on warhead modernization and missile defenses. For months, the Administration gave him mere lip service. Now that it has discovered it doesn’t have the votes, the Administration is finally getting serious about Mr. Kyl’s concerns even as it is trying to bully him over immediate ratification. Republicans are right to take their time and debate this thoroughly.”

Just another charm offensive? “President Barack Obama is preparing new overtures to business that may start with a walk into the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a retreat with corporate chief executive officers, according to people familiar with his plans.” So long as he plans on keeping ObamaCare and the financial regulation bill and raises taxes, it’s hard to consider it more than atmospherics.

Just another way of spinning that the White House is getting rid of him as soon as possible. “David Axelrod’s long-anticipated departure from the White House is happening a little earlier than expected — right after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in late January or early February — so the  senior adviser can ‘recharge his batteries,’ according to a senior administration official.”

Just another bad poll for the White House to ignore. “Just about as many Americans want Tea Party-backed members of Congress to take the lead in setting policy during the next year as choose President Obama, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. … The survey also underscores Obama’s weakened standing. His overall job approval rating, at 42%, is 1 percentage point higher than his historic low in midsummer. His 35% approval rating on the economy is the lowest of his presidency.”

Just another prominent conservative woman on the world stage? This one –Michèle Alliot-Marie, the foreign minister of France — plays rugby. ” The 64-year-old Gaullist is more than just another passive fan of the game. The normally austere MAM, as she is known in France, revealed in a rare informal television appearance in the mid-1980s that she had nearly been kicked out of school when she was young for converting the female handball squad into a rugby team. ‘I think that I’d still be able to make a pass,’ she noted.”

Just another move by Israel that’ll drive the left around the bend. How dare the Jewish state institute such democratic rules! “The Knesset passed the National Referendum Law during a late-night session Monday, approving legislation that will fundamentally alter Israeli negotiators’ ability to offer concrete peace deals involving the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. The law, which was approved by a vote of 65-33, will require either a Knesset super-majority or a national referendum in order to hand over any annexed territories as part of a future peace deal.”

Just another day of nagging kids to eat vegetables. But is this really a job for the First Lady?

Just another human rights abomination in the “Muslim World.” Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother of five, has been jailed for a year and sentenced to death for blasphemy. Although she might get a presidential pardon, that’s not the end of it. “Even if Ms. Bibi is pardoned or the Lahore High Court overturns the sentence, there are concerns about her safety. Many people acquitted on blasphemy charges continue to be hounded and are forced to move, change their identity or hide, the commission says.”

Just another political miscalculation and panic attack in the White House. “As the Senate’s leading Republican on nuclear security issues, Mr. Kyl has warned the White House for months that it couldn’t get its treaty ratified without addressing his concerns on warhead modernization and missile defenses. For months, the Administration gave him mere lip service. Now that it has discovered it doesn’t have the votes, the Administration is finally getting serious about Mr. Kyl’s concerns even as it is trying to bully him over immediate ratification. Republicans are right to take their time and debate this thoroughly.”

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Retreat from Retreat?

We are told that the administration is to “tweak” its message on Afghanistan. But it sounds more like it is throwing in the towel on the most wrongheaded aspect of its Afghanistan policy:

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Implicit in their message, delivered at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia, was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

That’s no tweak; it’s an acknowledgment that a deadline devised by political hacks for partisan purposes (i.e., to keep the base from freaking out) is being discarded. About time. As always, no Obama maneuver can forgo dissembling: “There’s not really any change, but what we’re trying to do is to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president’s strategy really entails,’ a senior administration official said Wednesday.” That obsession was the president’s, who last emphasized it from the Oval Office in a prime-time speech.

One of those aforementioned hacks is running for mayor of Chicago, and the other is about to depart for the 2012 campaign. More important, the liberal base has already absorbed the midterm losses and won’t have another chance to wreak havoc on Obama until 2012. So now the White House can do it right:

The message shift is effectively a victory for the military, which has long said that the July 2011 deadline undermined its mission by making Afghans reluctant to work with troops perceived to be leaving shortly. “They say you’ll leave in 2011 and the Taliban will chop their heads off,” Cpl. Lisa Gardner, a Marine based in Helmand Province, told a reporter this past spring. This summer Gen. James T. Conway, then the Marine Corps’s commandant, went so far as to say that the deadline “was probably giving our enemy sustenance.”

Last year the White House insisted on the July deadline to inject a sense of urgency into the Afghans to get their security in order — military officials acknowledge that it has partly worked — but also to quiet critics in the Democratic Party upset about Mr. Obama’s escalation of the war and his decision to order 30,000 more troops to the country.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision is the correct one. But this is pathetic. Obama didn’t have the political courage to do what was plainly in our strategic interests, with men on the field of battle, when he feared electoral consequences. Only when the coast is clear can he do the right thing. How completely not-Bush.

We are told that the administration is to “tweak” its message on Afghanistan. But it sounds more like it is throwing in the towel on the most wrongheaded aspect of its Afghanistan policy:

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Implicit in their message, delivered at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia, was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

That’s no tweak; it’s an acknowledgment that a deadline devised by political hacks for partisan purposes (i.e., to keep the base from freaking out) is being discarded. About time. As always, no Obama maneuver can forgo dissembling: “There’s not really any change, but what we’re trying to do is to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president’s strategy really entails,’ a senior administration official said Wednesday.” That obsession was the president’s, who last emphasized it from the Oval Office in a prime-time speech.

One of those aforementioned hacks is running for mayor of Chicago, and the other is about to depart for the 2012 campaign. More important, the liberal base has already absorbed the midterm losses and won’t have another chance to wreak havoc on Obama until 2012. So now the White House can do it right:

The message shift is effectively a victory for the military, which has long said that the July 2011 deadline undermined its mission by making Afghans reluctant to work with troops perceived to be leaving shortly. “They say you’ll leave in 2011 and the Taliban will chop their heads off,” Cpl. Lisa Gardner, a Marine based in Helmand Province, told a reporter this past spring. This summer Gen. James T. Conway, then the Marine Corps’s commandant, went so far as to say that the deadline “was probably giving our enemy sustenance.”

Last year the White House insisted on the July deadline to inject a sense of urgency into the Afghans to get their security in order — military officials acknowledge that it has partly worked — but also to quiet critics in the Democratic Party upset about Mr. Obama’s escalation of the war and his decision to order 30,000 more troops to the country.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision is the correct one. But this is pathetic. Obama didn’t have the political courage to do what was plainly in our strategic interests, with men on the field of battle, when he feared electoral consequences. Only when the coast is clear can he do the right thing. How completely not-Bush.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Imagine if the Bush administration had pulled this. “An inspector general says the White House edited a report about the administration’s moratorium on offshore oil drilling to make it appear that scientists and experts supported the idea of a six-month ban on new drilling. The Interior Department’s inspector general says the changes resulted ‘in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed.’ But it hadn’t been.” Reminds you of Elena Kagan’s stunt about the outside experts’ report on partial-birth abortion, doesn’t it?

Imagine if our president sounded like Canada’s prime minister on Israel. “We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism — healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack — is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them.” Read the whole thing.

Imagine if the media scrutinized Obama on Afghanistan the way it did his predecessor on Iraq. “A White House review of President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy next month will judge ‘how this current approach is working’ but will not suggest alternatives if aspects of the policy are found to be failing, a senior administration official said Tuesday.” Appalling.

Imagine if Chris Christie were given a chance to get the federal government’s fiscal house in order. Oh my! He keeps this up and there will be “Draft Christie!” movements in every state.

Imagine how much the debt commission could have saved if it had recommended shelving ObamaCare. “The Bowles-Simpson proposal would leave in place the entire trillion-dollar monstrosity. … The fundamental problem here is that it is not possible to build a bipartisan budget framework on a foundation that includes a partisan health-care plan with sweeping implications for future spending levels. To have a bipartisan budget requires a bipartisan health plan. And that means repealing Obamacare and starting over.”

Imagine if Obama had pulled the plug on this months ago. Eric Holder says he’s “close to a decision” on a civilian trial for KSM. With the new GOP Congress, I think there is no chance KSM is going to see the inside of an Article III courtroom, and the Obami know it. Get ready for an about-face on this one.

Imagine if Obama listened to sane advice on the Middle East. “Why does the president continue to harp on settlements in East Jerusalem, as opposed to expansion of West Bank settlements that would be dismantled under the terms of any peace agreement between the parties? Obama may feel that he has crossed a Rubicon and must push forward. Or he may feel that he must put Netanyahu in his place. … Whatever the reason, Obama’s behavior in Indonesia, and his constant harping on the construction issue, has complicated his avowed search for an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. … The peace process is stalemated, and it is up to the president, who has, perhaps unwittingly, brought on this latest dead end on the long-standing saga of Israeli-Palestinian misery, to come up with a way that lets both sides move forward, even if it means that he personally has to take several steps back in order to do so.”

Imagine if the Bush administration had pulled this. “An inspector general says the White House edited a report about the administration’s moratorium on offshore oil drilling to make it appear that scientists and experts supported the idea of a six-month ban on new drilling. The Interior Department’s inspector general says the changes resulted ‘in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed.’ But it hadn’t been.” Reminds you of Elena Kagan’s stunt about the outside experts’ report on partial-birth abortion, doesn’t it?

Imagine if our president sounded like Canada’s prime minister on Israel. “We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism — healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack — is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them.” Read the whole thing.

Imagine if the media scrutinized Obama on Afghanistan the way it did his predecessor on Iraq. “A White House review of President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy next month will judge ‘how this current approach is working’ but will not suggest alternatives if aspects of the policy are found to be failing, a senior administration official said Tuesday.” Appalling.

Imagine if Chris Christie were given a chance to get the federal government’s fiscal house in order. Oh my! He keeps this up and there will be “Draft Christie!” movements in every state.

Imagine how much the debt commission could have saved if it had recommended shelving ObamaCare. “The Bowles-Simpson proposal would leave in place the entire trillion-dollar monstrosity. … The fundamental problem here is that it is not possible to build a bipartisan budget framework on a foundation that includes a partisan health-care plan with sweeping implications for future spending levels. To have a bipartisan budget requires a bipartisan health plan. And that means repealing Obamacare and starting over.”

Imagine if Obama had pulled the plug on this months ago. Eric Holder says he’s “close to a decision” on a civilian trial for KSM. With the new GOP Congress, I think there is no chance KSM is going to see the inside of an Article III courtroom, and the Obami know it. Get ready for an about-face on this one.

Imagine if Obama listened to sane advice on the Middle East. “Why does the president continue to harp on settlements in East Jerusalem, as opposed to expansion of West Bank settlements that would be dismantled under the terms of any peace agreement between the parties? Obama may feel that he has crossed a Rubicon and must push forward. Or he may feel that he must put Netanyahu in his place. … Whatever the reason, Obama’s behavior in Indonesia, and his constant harping on the construction issue, has complicated his avowed search for an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. … The peace process is stalemated, and it is up to the president, who has, perhaps unwittingly, brought on this latest dead end on the long-standing saga of Israeli-Palestinian misery, to come up with a way that lets both sides move forward, even if it means that he personally has to take several steps back in order to do so.”

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After Triumph with Russia on Iran, Obama Signals Return to Appeasement

In his 20 months in office, Barack Obama hasn’t had many foreign-policy triumphs to crow about. But yesterday when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, for once the president could cite an actual diplomatic achievement for his administration. Russia’s announcement that it will not honor the contract it had signed to sell S-300 missiles to Iran showed that efforts undertaken by Obama to sweet-talk Moscow out of acting as an enabler for the rogue regime in Tehran have not been completely in vain.

Stopping the sale of these weapons had been an urgent issue for both the United States and Israel. Had they been deployed by the Iranians, those missiles would have acted as the centerpiece of an air-defense system that would have posed a formidable obstacle to any effort to knock out the Iranians’ nuclear-weapons program from the air. Russia’s willingness to join in the ban on arms sales to Iran puts some teeth in the otherwise mild sanctions that the international community has placed on Tehran.

But despite this setback, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t be too downhearted about the way things have been going for his despotic regime during the UN jamboree in New York this week. Just when the Russian announcement gave Obama something to brag about, the administration was sending signals that it was prepared to step back from its recent tough talk about bringing Iran to heel.

The New York Times reports that: “At a meeting today with France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, diplomats planned what one senior American official described to reporters as a ‘phased approach’ that would include reviving an earlier proposal to supply Iran with enriched fuel for a research reactor in Tehran in return for Iran’s shipping the bulk of its stockpile of uranium to Russia and France. ‘We’re prepared to engage and see if we can’t produce what would be a confidence-building step,’ said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Thus, just when it seemed as if he were making some real progress on isolating Iran, Obama sends Ahmadinejad a signal that he is in no real trouble after all. Dating back to the Bush administration’s own feckless diplomacy on Iran’s nukes, Tehran has happily exploited the West’s efforts to appease it. Every initiative that sought to cajole or bribe the Islamist tyranny to back away from its nuclear ambitions has been welcomed by the ayatollahs. They were only too happy to string European or American diplomats along to buy more time in order to get closer to the day when they could announce their possession of a nuclear device. Last year, the Iranians agreed to a porous deal that called for the export of their uranium stockpile. But then, when it suited them, they repudiated it, leaving Obama and the rest of his foreign-policy team with egg on their faces. As with the rest of Obama’s pathetic attempt to “engage” Iran, such initiatives only convinced Tehran that the new American president was not to be taken seriously. With non-military trade with Russia still booming and with neighboring Turkey’s Islamic government providing Ahmadinejad with a reliable ally and trading partner, the Iranians understand that the UN sanctions are inconvenient but not crippling. And so long as Obama is still wedded to the absurd idea that he can talk them out of their nuclear plans, the Iranians have to be thinking that it will soon be too late for anyone to stop them from gaining a nuclear weapon.

In his 20 months in office, Barack Obama hasn’t had many foreign-policy triumphs to crow about. But yesterday when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, for once the president could cite an actual diplomatic achievement for his administration. Russia’s announcement that it will not honor the contract it had signed to sell S-300 missiles to Iran showed that efforts undertaken by Obama to sweet-talk Moscow out of acting as an enabler for the rogue regime in Tehran have not been completely in vain.

Stopping the sale of these weapons had been an urgent issue for both the United States and Israel. Had they been deployed by the Iranians, those missiles would have acted as the centerpiece of an air-defense system that would have posed a formidable obstacle to any effort to knock out the Iranians’ nuclear-weapons program from the air. Russia’s willingness to join in the ban on arms sales to Iran puts some teeth in the otherwise mild sanctions that the international community has placed on Tehran.

But despite this setback, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t be too downhearted about the way things have been going for his despotic regime during the UN jamboree in New York this week. Just when the Russian announcement gave Obama something to brag about, the administration was sending signals that it was prepared to step back from its recent tough talk about bringing Iran to heel.

The New York Times reports that: “At a meeting today with France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, diplomats planned what one senior American official described to reporters as a ‘phased approach’ that would include reviving an earlier proposal to supply Iran with enriched fuel for a research reactor in Tehran in return for Iran’s shipping the bulk of its stockpile of uranium to Russia and France. ‘We’re prepared to engage and see if we can’t produce what would be a confidence-building step,’ said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Thus, just when it seemed as if he were making some real progress on isolating Iran, Obama sends Ahmadinejad a signal that he is in no real trouble after all. Dating back to the Bush administration’s own feckless diplomacy on Iran’s nukes, Tehran has happily exploited the West’s efforts to appease it. Every initiative that sought to cajole or bribe the Islamist tyranny to back away from its nuclear ambitions has been welcomed by the ayatollahs. They were only too happy to string European or American diplomats along to buy more time in order to get closer to the day when they could announce their possession of a nuclear device. Last year, the Iranians agreed to a porous deal that called for the export of their uranium stockpile. But then, when it suited them, they repudiated it, leaving Obama and the rest of his foreign-policy team with egg on their faces. As with the rest of Obama’s pathetic attempt to “engage” Iran, such initiatives only convinced Tehran that the new American president was not to be taken seriously. With non-military trade with Russia still booming and with neighboring Turkey’s Islamic government providing Ahmadinejad with a reliable ally and trading partner, the Iranians understand that the UN sanctions are inconvenient but not crippling. And so long as Obama is still wedded to the absurd idea that he can talk them out of their nuclear plans, the Iranians have to be thinking that it will soon be too late for anyone to stop them from gaining a nuclear weapon.

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Enough with the Czars

These days, Obama is politically toxic and stymied at every turn. His stimulus plan has been rebuffed by a large segment of his party. He’s not going to get any further pieces of major legislation through, and the Senate has had it with his extreme, wacky nominees. So once again, he placates his base and does an end-around the Senate confirmation process:

President Obama plans to tap Harvard law Professor Elizabeth Warren to a special advisory role so she can help stand up a new consumer financial protection bureau while avoiding a potentially vicious Senate confirmation fight, according to a senior administration official with knowledge of the decision.

The appointment would place Warren in charge of the new watchdog agency she personally proposed three years ago to protect Americans against lending abuses.

Yes, it is brazen and outrageous — another unaccountable czar. The “vicious fight,” by the way, is code for “She is such an extremist, she couldn’t be confirmed.” The reaction is likely to be fierce:

In selecting Ms. Warren, the White House picks an outspoken, populist hero of liberal groups who emerged from the financial crisis as a top critic of Wall Street and banking industry practices. She has blasted the government’s response to the financial crisis and has a penchant for provocative statements. …

Senate Republicans will likely blast the White House’s move, seeing it is a backdoor way of putting Ms. Warren in charge of the agency. The head of the new agency “is unprecedented in the nature of its unfettered and unchecked authorities, which makes the confirmation process even more important to the interests of the American people,” Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama Wednesday, before news broke of her likely appointment.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) earlier this week said it would be a mistake for the White House to put her in an interim role without having her nominated for Senate scrutiny.

There is a solution to this, of course: it’s time for the Congress to reassert its legitimate role. How to do it? First, stop funding any agency or entity (start with the consumer protection agency, which should be defunded anyway) for which the Obami appoint a czar in lieu of a nominee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The power of the purse is Congress’s biggest stick, and it should start wielding it. And second, there are some positions — including those Cabinet ones likely to be vacated after the midterm election — that must be subject to confirmation. Put a halt to those unless and until the White House cuts this out and offloads some of the existing czars.

Extreme? Not really. What is extreme is an administration that treats its co-equal branches with such contempt. Congress has an institutional interest and responsibility to put an end to it.

These days, Obama is politically toxic and stymied at every turn. His stimulus plan has been rebuffed by a large segment of his party. He’s not going to get any further pieces of major legislation through, and the Senate has had it with his extreme, wacky nominees. So once again, he placates his base and does an end-around the Senate confirmation process:

President Obama plans to tap Harvard law Professor Elizabeth Warren to a special advisory role so she can help stand up a new consumer financial protection bureau while avoiding a potentially vicious Senate confirmation fight, according to a senior administration official with knowledge of the decision.

The appointment would place Warren in charge of the new watchdog agency she personally proposed three years ago to protect Americans against lending abuses.

Yes, it is brazen and outrageous — another unaccountable czar. The “vicious fight,” by the way, is code for “She is such an extremist, she couldn’t be confirmed.” The reaction is likely to be fierce:

In selecting Ms. Warren, the White House picks an outspoken, populist hero of liberal groups who emerged from the financial crisis as a top critic of Wall Street and banking industry practices. She has blasted the government’s response to the financial crisis and has a penchant for provocative statements. …

Senate Republicans will likely blast the White House’s move, seeing it is a backdoor way of putting Ms. Warren in charge of the agency. The head of the new agency “is unprecedented in the nature of its unfettered and unchecked authorities, which makes the confirmation process even more important to the interests of the American people,” Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama Wednesday, before news broke of her likely appointment.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) earlier this week said it would be a mistake for the White House to put her in an interim role without having her nominated for Senate scrutiny.

There is a solution to this, of course: it’s time for the Congress to reassert its legitimate role. How to do it? First, stop funding any agency or entity (start with the consumer protection agency, which should be defunded anyway) for which the Obami appoint a czar in lieu of a nominee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The power of the purse is Congress’s biggest stick, and it should start wielding it. And second, there are some positions — including those Cabinet ones likely to be vacated after the midterm election — that must be subject to confirmation. Put a halt to those unless and until the White House cuts this out and offloads some of the existing czars.

Extreme? Not really. What is extreme is an administration that treats its co-equal branches with such contempt. Congress has an institutional interest and responsibility to put an end to it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I suppose the GOP isn’t dead in New England. All four Republican Senate candidates lead Democrat Paul Hodes.

I suppose Obama could be the teacher-in-chief about the evils of anti-Semitism, like he is the explainer-in-chief about Islam. Instead, he’s delegated it to a low-level flunky who’s introduced with inappropriate humor by Hillary Clinton. (Not clear if she cackled as well.)

I suppose there’s some rationale for Rand Paul’s telling us he’s not being as “forthright” as his father. I just can’t think of what it might be.

I suppose nothing will move Obama to leave the UN Human Rights Council. Not even the latest episode in the Goldstone Report — the effort  “to monitor and assess all judicial and other proceedings taken by Israel to respond to the General Assembly’s endorsement of the Goldstone report and its long list of supposed Israeli crimes.” Anne Bayefsky has the goods on the council members and concludes: “The only way to respond is to challenge the legal bona fides of the report and its progeny and expose the venality of the political agenda inseparable from them. The case must begin by refusing to lend any credence to this latest mutation of the UN virus.” Leaving the council would help, but don’t get your hopes up that Obama and Hillary will carry through on pretty promises to defend Israel in international bodies.

I suppose the administration assumes this sort of thing helps: “The Obama Administration said today that its economic policies, especially the Recovery Act, have boosted growth and employment in the United States at a pace quicker than anticipated.” The average person, I think, concludes instead that they are out to lunch.

I suppose the Democrats are in full panic mode: “The House Natural Resources Committee has joined a Senate panel in approving the creation of a bipartisan oil spill commission that would effectively compete against President Obama’s.” They’ve figured out that agreeing to anything with Obama’s name attached is hazardous to their political health.

I suppose when the president is about to drag his party under, there are bound to be spats: “The White House is pushing back against complaints from House Democrats that President Obama is undermining their prospects for 2010 with a memo authored by a senior administration official detailing what the White House is doing to preserve control of Congress. … The barely-veiled reminder was circulated among senior Democrats in Washington on Tuesday, including on Capitol Hill. It was written just hours before Speaker Nancy Pelosi and angry members of her caucus lashed out at the chief House liaison for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ admission Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ that Democrats could lose the House.” Not on the White House “look what we’ve done for the ingrates” list: passing ObamaCare, running up the debt, raising taxes. And frankly, the thought of Obama coming to their districts to campaign at their side probably makes most Democrats retch at this point.

I suppose the GOP isn’t dead in New England. All four Republican Senate candidates lead Democrat Paul Hodes.

I suppose Obama could be the teacher-in-chief about the evils of anti-Semitism, like he is the explainer-in-chief about Islam. Instead, he’s delegated it to a low-level flunky who’s introduced with inappropriate humor by Hillary Clinton. (Not clear if she cackled as well.)

I suppose there’s some rationale for Rand Paul’s telling us he’s not being as “forthright” as his father. I just can’t think of what it might be.

I suppose nothing will move Obama to leave the UN Human Rights Council. Not even the latest episode in the Goldstone Report — the effort  “to monitor and assess all judicial and other proceedings taken by Israel to respond to the General Assembly’s endorsement of the Goldstone report and its long list of supposed Israeli crimes.” Anne Bayefsky has the goods on the council members and concludes: “The only way to respond is to challenge the legal bona fides of the report and its progeny and expose the venality of the political agenda inseparable from them. The case must begin by refusing to lend any credence to this latest mutation of the UN virus.” Leaving the council would help, but don’t get your hopes up that Obama and Hillary will carry through on pretty promises to defend Israel in international bodies.

I suppose the administration assumes this sort of thing helps: “The Obama Administration said today that its economic policies, especially the Recovery Act, have boosted growth and employment in the United States at a pace quicker than anticipated.” The average person, I think, concludes instead that they are out to lunch.

I suppose the Democrats are in full panic mode: “The House Natural Resources Committee has joined a Senate panel in approving the creation of a bipartisan oil spill commission that would effectively compete against President Obama’s.” They’ve figured out that agreeing to anything with Obama’s name attached is hazardous to their political health.

I suppose when the president is about to drag his party under, there are bound to be spats: “The White House is pushing back against complaints from House Democrats that President Obama is undermining their prospects for 2010 with a memo authored by a senior administration official detailing what the White House is doing to preserve control of Congress. … The barely-veiled reminder was circulated among senior Democrats in Washington on Tuesday, including on Capitol Hill. It was written just hours before Speaker Nancy Pelosi and angry members of her caucus lashed out at the chief House liaison for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ admission Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ that Democrats could lose the House.” Not on the White House “look what we’ve done for the ingrates” list: passing ObamaCare, running up the debt, raising taxes. And frankly, the thought of Obama coming to their districts to campaign at their side probably makes most Democrats retch at this point.

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How Obama’s Policy Ensures More Flotillas

The Obama administration plans to use Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla to force Jerusalem to end or at least drastically ease its blockade on Gaza, because “we need to remove the impulse for the flotillas,” a senior administration official told the New York Times. That single statement encapsulates everything that is wrong with Obama’s Mideast policy — and indeed, that of the entire West: willful blindness to facts that inevitably produces counterproductive policies.

First, the statement assumes the flotilla was indeed motivated solely by the blockade. Yet the organizers themselves — the Free Gaza movement and the Turkish group IHH — have both made it clear that their agenda is far broader.

After interviewing Free Gaza co-founder and spokeswoman Greta Berlin last week, the New York Times reported that Berlin “likes to joke” about her two ex-husbands — one Palestinian, one Jewish. “But when she is not joking she says that her detractors in Israel are right, that she does not accept Israel as a Jewish state.”

In short, Berlin isn’t motivated by Gaza’s “humanitarian distress” but rather by a desire to see Israel disappear. Thus her motivation to stage anti-Israel provocations won’t vanish just because the blockade does.

IHH founder Bulent Yildirim, addressing a Hamas rally in Gaza last year, certainly talked a lot about the blockade. But according to MEMRI’s translation, he also declared that “everything is progressing toward Islam”; offered Hamas “the blessings of Saladin,” destroyer of the Crusader Kingdom, to which Islamists often compare Israel; said that if only Hamas hadn’t declared a cease-fire, “all of Turkey would be in Gaza” to help it fight Israel; and warned “the Jews” that “we are here, in Turkey, in Egypt, Syria, and everywhere, and our daughters and our boys can also defeat you.” In short, his agenda, too, is not merely ending the blockade, but ending Israel — unless you assume, as Westerners repeatedly and mistakenly do, that people like Berlin and Yildirim don’t actually mean what they say.

That leads to the second half of the equation: counterproductive policies. Ending the blockade would indeed “remove the impulse” of genuine humanitarian activists, but they were never the problem. Misguided, yes: by letting Hamas rearm freely, ending the blockade would almost certainly lead to war, which would hurt ordinary Gazans far more than the blockade does. But as the Rachel Corrie’s peaceful docking in Ashdod this weekend and previous peaceful dockings by other aid ships show, genuine humanitarians can deliver aid without causing international incidents that inflame the entire world.

People whose goal is Israel’s eradication, however, want to inflame the world against Israel — and also to undermine Israel’s ability to defend itself: both developments further their goal. Last week’s flotilla has already accomplished the first, and ending the Gaza blockade would advance the second.

Thus the administration’s response, far from “removing the impulse” for such provocations, will actually spark more of them, by proving that they are wildly successful. True, they wouldn’t be blockade-busting flotillas anymore. But experienced provocateurs like Berlin and Yildirim will have no trouble devising new forms.

The Obama administration plans to use Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla to force Jerusalem to end or at least drastically ease its blockade on Gaza, because “we need to remove the impulse for the flotillas,” a senior administration official told the New York Times. That single statement encapsulates everything that is wrong with Obama’s Mideast policy — and indeed, that of the entire West: willful blindness to facts that inevitably produces counterproductive policies.

First, the statement assumes the flotilla was indeed motivated solely by the blockade. Yet the organizers themselves — the Free Gaza movement and the Turkish group IHH — have both made it clear that their agenda is far broader.

After interviewing Free Gaza co-founder and spokeswoman Greta Berlin last week, the New York Times reported that Berlin “likes to joke” about her two ex-husbands — one Palestinian, one Jewish. “But when she is not joking she says that her detractors in Israel are right, that she does not accept Israel as a Jewish state.”

In short, Berlin isn’t motivated by Gaza’s “humanitarian distress” but rather by a desire to see Israel disappear. Thus her motivation to stage anti-Israel provocations won’t vanish just because the blockade does.

IHH founder Bulent Yildirim, addressing a Hamas rally in Gaza last year, certainly talked a lot about the blockade. But according to MEMRI’s translation, he also declared that “everything is progressing toward Islam”; offered Hamas “the blessings of Saladin,” destroyer of the Crusader Kingdom, to which Islamists often compare Israel; said that if only Hamas hadn’t declared a cease-fire, “all of Turkey would be in Gaza” to help it fight Israel; and warned “the Jews” that “we are here, in Turkey, in Egypt, Syria, and everywhere, and our daughters and our boys can also defeat you.” In short, his agenda, too, is not merely ending the blockade, but ending Israel — unless you assume, as Westerners repeatedly and mistakenly do, that people like Berlin and Yildirim don’t actually mean what they say.

That leads to the second half of the equation: counterproductive policies. Ending the blockade would indeed “remove the impulse” of genuine humanitarian activists, but they were never the problem. Misguided, yes: by letting Hamas rearm freely, ending the blockade would almost certainly lead to war, which would hurt ordinary Gazans far more than the blockade does. But as the Rachel Corrie’s peaceful docking in Ashdod this weekend and previous peaceful dockings by other aid ships show, genuine humanitarians can deliver aid without causing international incidents that inflame the entire world.

People whose goal is Israel’s eradication, however, want to inflame the world against Israel — and also to undermine Israel’s ability to defend itself: both developments further their goal. Last week’s flotilla has already accomplished the first, and ending the Gaza blockade would advance the second.

Thus the administration’s response, far from “removing the impulse” for such provocations, will actually spark more of them, by proving that they are wildly successful. True, they wouldn’t be blockade-busting flotillas anymore. But experienced provocateurs like Berlin and Yildirim will have no trouble devising new forms.

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White House Throws Reid Under the Bus

In a lengthy portrait of Chuck Schumer and his ambitions to be Senate majority leader, the Washington Post gets some nuggets from the White House, which make it apparent that they think Harry Reid is dead in the water. There is this:

“The president has a record of working well with both,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. “Obviously he has a longer, more personal relationship with Senator Durbin as a result of being home-state colleagues and for his help getting him elected in 2004 and 2008.”

You’d think the White House would have had the restraint to say something like, “Of course Harry Reid is going to get re-elected. We’re not speculating on his successor.” And then it gets worse:

“Chuck Schumer is the next majority leader,” the senior administration official predicted. “He just works it.”

Ouch. I’m no cheerleader for Harry Reid, and he is likely to lose in November. But it’s a sign of how this president and this White House operate — they burn allies, are devoid of personal loyalty, and lack grace — that they would stab with such cynical dispatch the man who, after all, got ObamaCare through the Senate.

In a lengthy portrait of Chuck Schumer and his ambitions to be Senate majority leader, the Washington Post gets some nuggets from the White House, which make it apparent that they think Harry Reid is dead in the water. There is this:

“The president has a record of working well with both,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. “Obviously he has a longer, more personal relationship with Senator Durbin as a result of being home-state colleagues and for his help getting him elected in 2004 and 2008.”

You’d think the White House would have had the restraint to say something like, “Of course Harry Reid is going to get re-elected. We’re not speculating on his successor.” And then it gets worse:

“Chuck Schumer is the next majority leader,” the senior administration official predicted. “He just works it.”

Ouch. I’m no cheerleader for Harry Reid, and he is likely to lose in November. But it’s a sign of how this president and this White House operate — they burn allies, are devoid of personal loyalty, and lack grace — that they would stab with such cynical dispatch the man who, after all, got ObamaCare through the Senate.

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Why Doesn’t Obama “Panic” About Iran?

We are told there is a “little bit of panic” in the White House over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. White House flacks worry it threatens Obama’s aura of competence (if one supposes that sky-high unemployment, the loss of key gubernatorial races and the Massachusetts Senate seat, the gaping deficit, and his sagging poll numbers haven’t already scuffed it up). Politico reports:

“There is no good answer to this,” one senior administration official said. “There is no readily apparent solution besides one that could take three months. … If it doesn’t show the impotence of the government, it shows the limits of the government.”

Hope and change was Obama’s headline message in 2008, but those atop his campaign have always said that it was Obama’s cool competence — exemplified by his level-headed handling of the financial meltdown during the campaign’s waning days — that sealed the deal with independents and skeptical Democrats. The promise of rational, responsive and efficient government is Obama’s brand, his justification for bigger and bolder federal interventions and, ultimately, his rationale for a second term.

I suppose there are symbolic moments that provide a tipping point, but have the reporters not noticed that those bigger and bolder federal interventions are what is driving down his and the Democrats’ popularity? The panic, I think, is indicative not of the magnitude of the issue or the reaction of the public (Does a majority of the public really blame Obama for the oil spill?) but instead of the obsession of this administration (and its media handmaidens) with spin, image, and communication as the answer to every challenge Obama faces. (“‘They weren’t slow on the response; they were slow on talking about it,’ an outside White House adviser said.”)

What is interesting is what isn’t panicking the White House. The “we have no plan” Iran memo from Robert Gates doesn’t panic them. SCUD missiles in Syria only engenders “deep concern.” Sky-high unemployment figures with little prospect of robust job creation? Yawn.

And it’s equally interesting what sort of villian gets the administration’s attention: “At the same time, they’ve identified a villain — BP — with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying he’d keep a ‘boot on the neck’ of the company to ensure it would pay for and toil over a cleanup of historic proportions.” An exasperated reader emails me: “Will we hear Robert Gibbs say, ‘ We will keep the boot on the neck of the Iranian nuclear program'”? Uh, no.

In sum, the oil spill is an illuminating event — in large part because it stands in contrast to the more serious threats and the lackadaisical attitude this administration demonstrates toward everything that doesn’t threaten the president’s image and political standing. But here’s the thing: what’s going to happen to that aura of competence when the mullahs get a nuclear weapon? Ah, now that will be a communications problem.

We are told there is a “little bit of panic” in the White House over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. White House flacks worry it threatens Obama’s aura of competence (if one supposes that sky-high unemployment, the loss of key gubernatorial races and the Massachusetts Senate seat, the gaping deficit, and his sagging poll numbers haven’t already scuffed it up). Politico reports:

“There is no good answer to this,” one senior administration official said. “There is no readily apparent solution besides one that could take three months. … If it doesn’t show the impotence of the government, it shows the limits of the government.”

Hope and change was Obama’s headline message in 2008, but those atop his campaign have always said that it was Obama’s cool competence — exemplified by his level-headed handling of the financial meltdown during the campaign’s waning days — that sealed the deal with independents and skeptical Democrats. The promise of rational, responsive and efficient government is Obama’s brand, his justification for bigger and bolder federal interventions and, ultimately, his rationale for a second term.

I suppose there are symbolic moments that provide a tipping point, but have the reporters not noticed that those bigger and bolder federal interventions are what is driving down his and the Democrats’ popularity? The panic, I think, is indicative not of the magnitude of the issue or the reaction of the public (Does a majority of the public really blame Obama for the oil spill?) but instead of the obsession of this administration (and its media handmaidens) with spin, image, and communication as the answer to every challenge Obama faces. (“‘They weren’t slow on the response; they were slow on talking about it,’ an outside White House adviser said.”)

What is interesting is what isn’t panicking the White House. The “we have no plan” Iran memo from Robert Gates doesn’t panic them. SCUD missiles in Syria only engenders “deep concern.” Sky-high unemployment figures with little prospect of robust job creation? Yawn.

And it’s equally interesting what sort of villian gets the administration’s attention: “At the same time, they’ve identified a villain — BP — with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying he’d keep a ‘boot on the neck’ of the company to ensure it would pay for and toil over a cleanup of historic proportions.” An exasperated reader emails me: “Will we hear Robert Gibbs say, ‘ We will keep the boot on the neck of the Iranian nuclear program'”? Uh, no.

In sum, the oil spill is an illuminating event — in large part because it stands in contrast to the more serious threats and the lackadaisical attitude this administration demonstrates toward everything that doesn’t threaten the president’s image and political standing. But here’s the thing: what’s going to happen to that aura of competence when the mullahs get a nuclear weapon? Ah, now that will be a communications problem.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day — not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day — not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

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Downplay Danger and Willful Ignorance

Like many of us, Stephen Hayes is struggling to understand how it could be that the president could have seemed so misinformed (claiming that the bombing was the work of an “isolated extremist”) and so disengaged in the days following the Christmas Day bombing attack. He writes:

How is it possible that the president of the United States could get a central fact about an attempted terrorist attack—arguably, the central fact—dead wrong in his first public statement, three days after the attack?

President Obama and White House staffers have spent the subsequent two weeks pointing fingers at the intelligence community, detailing the many failures of the bureaucracy, and promising accountability. Given what we know about those failures, that’s appropriate. But in his January 7 statement announcing the results of the review he had ordered, the president boldly declared that the buck stops with him. Strong rhetoric. So what does it mean in practice? The Obama administration’s lack of seriousness on counterterrorism before the attack seems to have been rivaled only by its incompetence afterwards.

As Hayes points out, part of the explanation is that this was a concerted effort, mimicked by Janet Napolitano and Robert Gibbs, to downplay the incident. Nothing much here. No one died. Our decisions to reject the Bush anti-terror policies are working fine. No need for alarm. Can we get back to health care?

After all, the administration had gotten away with this same blasé routine following the Fort Hood incident. The liberal pundits howled over  anyone inferring a religious motivation (they preferred some psychological diagnosis rather than the ample evidence that Major Hassan did this in furtherance of his jihadist ideology.) The army chief of staff insisted that the biggest danger was the ensuing discrimination against Muslims. Given this, the Obami naturally expected that they could get away with another see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-don’t identify-any-evil routine. They must have been shocked that the public and media pounced on them.

But Hayes also suggests that there is genuine cluelessness at work. It’s not that the Obami knew better and lied to us. It is that they have engaged in willful ignorance for so long that they were actually surprised by the incident. Suddenly reality harshly interrupted their slumber. He notes anti-terrorism adviser’s John Brennan’s apparent shock “that an al-Qaeda affiliate that had promised to attack the United States had almost succeeded in doing so.” And this administration, as Hayes’s colleague Thomas Joscelyn points out, saw no problem in releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen:

On December 19, 2009, the Obama administration transferred six detainees to Yemen. Only one Yemeni had been repatriated during the previous 11 months—and the Bush administration, which made many of its own mistakes with respect to detainee transfers, had only repatriated a handful of Yemenis over several years. (At least one of them has since returned to terrorism.) But the Obama administration was confident. The New York Times on December 19 cited a “senior administration official” who said the White House was “gaining confidence in Yemen’s willingness to handle returning detainees.” And at the beginning of last year, in January 2009, Obama’s ambassador to Yemen, Stephen Seche, had said the administration intended to repatriate “the majority” of the Yemenis at Guantánamo.

In short, Obama’s out-to-lunchness was both strategic (downplay the war against Islamic fundamentalists) and the result of abject ignorance, perpetuated throughout his administration, as to just how serious was the threat of a Yemen-hatched plot to attack the American homeland. The ho-hum rhetorical ploy has blown up in the Obami’s faces and is likely to be adjusted, although not to the extent that the president would use the words “Islamic fundamentalist” or some variation thereof to describe our enemy. But what about those who apparently didn’t grasp the nature of the threat we faced?

It is appalling, really, that those who wrapped themselves in a cloak of ignorance and carried out foolhardy policies (e.g., refueling the terrorist pipeline in Yemen) should remain in their jobs. Yes, the president is responsible, but he can’t be fired for another three years. In the meantime, what’s the excuse for keeping everyone else around?

Like many of us, Stephen Hayes is struggling to understand how it could be that the president could have seemed so misinformed (claiming that the bombing was the work of an “isolated extremist”) and so disengaged in the days following the Christmas Day bombing attack. He writes:

How is it possible that the president of the United States could get a central fact about an attempted terrorist attack—arguably, the central fact—dead wrong in his first public statement, three days after the attack?

President Obama and White House staffers have spent the subsequent two weeks pointing fingers at the intelligence community, detailing the many failures of the bureaucracy, and promising accountability. Given what we know about those failures, that’s appropriate. But in his January 7 statement announcing the results of the review he had ordered, the president boldly declared that the buck stops with him. Strong rhetoric. So what does it mean in practice? The Obama administration’s lack of seriousness on counterterrorism before the attack seems to have been rivaled only by its incompetence afterwards.

As Hayes points out, part of the explanation is that this was a concerted effort, mimicked by Janet Napolitano and Robert Gibbs, to downplay the incident. Nothing much here. No one died. Our decisions to reject the Bush anti-terror policies are working fine. No need for alarm. Can we get back to health care?

After all, the administration had gotten away with this same blasé routine following the Fort Hood incident. The liberal pundits howled over  anyone inferring a religious motivation (they preferred some psychological diagnosis rather than the ample evidence that Major Hassan did this in furtherance of his jihadist ideology.) The army chief of staff insisted that the biggest danger was the ensuing discrimination against Muslims. Given this, the Obami naturally expected that they could get away with another see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-don’t identify-any-evil routine. They must have been shocked that the public and media pounced on them.

But Hayes also suggests that there is genuine cluelessness at work. It’s not that the Obami knew better and lied to us. It is that they have engaged in willful ignorance for so long that they were actually surprised by the incident. Suddenly reality harshly interrupted their slumber. He notes anti-terrorism adviser’s John Brennan’s apparent shock “that an al-Qaeda affiliate that had promised to attack the United States had almost succeeded in doing so.” And this administration, as Hayes’s colleague Thomas Joscelyn points out, saw no problem in releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen:

On December 19, 2009, the Obama administration transferred six detainees to Yemen. Only one Yemeni had been repatriated during the previous 11 months—and the Bush administration, which made many of its own mistakes with respect to detainee transfers, had only repatriated a handful of Yemenis over several years. (At least one of them has since returned to terrorism.) But the Obama administration was confident. The New York Times on December 19 cited a “senior administration official” who said the White House was “gaining confidence in Yemen’s willingness to handle returning detainees.” And at the beginning of last year, in January 2009, Obama’s ambassador to Yemen, Stephen Seche, had said the administration intended to repatriate “the majority” of the Yemenis at Guantánamo.

In short, Obama’s out-to-lunchness was both strategic (downplay the war against Islamic fundamentalists) and the result of abject ignorance, perpetuated throughout his administration, as to just how serious was the threat of a Yemen-hatched plot to attack the American homeland. The ho-hum rhetorical ploy has blown up in the Obami’s faces and is likely to be adjusted, although not to the extent that the president would use the words “Islamic fundamentalist” or some variation thereof to describe our enemy. But what about those who apparently didn’t grasp the nature of the threat we faced?

It is appalling, really, that those who wrapped themselves in a cloak of ignorance and carried out foolhardy policies (e.g., refueling the terrorist pipeline in Yemen) should remain in their jobs. Yes, the president is responsible, but he can’t be fired for another three years. In the meantime, what’s the excuse for keeping everyone else around?

Read Less

Rethinking the Criminal-Justice Model

Many liberals are conflicted. They deride the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism paradigm and angrily deny that Obama is treating the war against Islamic fascists (whom he never identifies as such) in an unserious manner. And yet they sense something is amiss. Ruth Marcus is a case in point. She huffs that it is poppycock to suggest that the Obama administration’s conduct reveals its “supposed law enforcement-only mindset.”  But then, turning on a dime, she sounds much like the president’s conservative critics:

Did the administration’s quick pivot to criminal charges — they were filed the next day — interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain maximum information from Abdulmutallab? What if other operatives had been deployed with similar devices? Wouldn’t it have been better to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab — without offering Miranda warnings against self-incrimination, and without providing a lawyer whose first instruction was, no doubt, to stop talking?

And she, too, has figured out the timeline:  ” ‘He proceeded to talk for quite some time and provided useful intelligence long before he obtained an attorney,’ a senior administration official assured me. But the criminal charges were filed a scant 24 hours after the incident. Was that really enough time to exhaust Abdulmutallab’s informational value, no matter how small a fish he is?” No, likely not. She makes the not unreasonable suggestion that the administration and Congress, if they don’t want to treat terrorists as enemy combatants, should come up with an appropriate hybrid system for detaining and interrogating noncitizens.

So what happened to the huffy denials that the Obami have deployed an inappropriate criminal-justice model? Well, when you leave  Bush and Cheney out of it and just talk about common sense and specific cases, there are some reasonable liberals who will agree that the Obama-Holder fixation on extending full constitutional rights to terrorists makes no sense. And it might get people killed. We have enough problems connecting dots. Perhaps then there is some basis for bipartisan discussion and another look at the assumptions that allowed Abdulmutallab to clam up and KSM to prepare for the “trial of the century.”

Many liberals are conflicted. They deride the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism paradigm and angrily deny that Obama is treating the war against Islamic fascists (whom he never identifies as such) in an unserious manner. And yet they sense something is amiss. Ruth Marcus is a case in point. She huffs that it is poppycock to suggest that the Obama administration’s conduct reveals its “supposed law enforcement-only mindset.”  But then, turning on a dime, she sounds much like the president’s conservative critics:

Did the administration’s quick pivot to criminal charges — they were filed the next day — interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain maximum information from Abdulmutallab? What if other operatives had been deployed with similar devices? Wouldn’t it have been better to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab — without offering Miranda warnings against self-incrimination, and without providing a lawyer whose first instruction was, no doubt, to stop talking?

And she, too, has figured out the timeline:  ” ‘He proceeded to talk for quite some time and provided useful intelligence long before he obtained an attorney,’ a senior administration official assured me. But the criminal charges were filed a scant 24 hours after the incident. Was that really enough time to exhaust Abdulmutallab’s informational value, no matter how small a fish he is?” No, likely not. She makes the not unreasonable suggestion that the administration and Congress, if they don’t want to treat terrorists as enemy combatants, should come up with an appropriate hybrid system for detaining and interrogating noncitizens.

So what happened to the huffy denials that the Obami have deployed an inappropriate criminal-justice model? Well, when you leave  Bush and Cheney out of it and just talk about common sense and specific cases, there are some reasonable liberals who will agree that the Obama-Holder fixation on extending full constitutional rights to terrorists makes no sense. And it might get people killed. We have enough problems connecting dots. Perhaps then there is some basis for bipartisan discussion and another look at the assumptions that allowed Abdulmutallab to clam up and KSM to prepare for the “trial of the century.”

Read Less

Saber-Rattling by Proxy

Remember how liberals used to get apoplectic when members of the Bush administration said things like “all options are on the table with Iran”? This was beating the war drums, it was saber-rattling, it was exemplary of all that was wrong with the Bush administration’s approach to the world.

Of course it isn’t surprising that such accusations are not leveled at the Obama administration, which has also regularly employed the all-options-on-the-table formulation — mostly because everyone understands that it isn’t a true statement. But here is a better one: According to the Washington Post, President Obama sent two officials on an advance trip to China before his recent visit. Their message? Sign a toughly worded IAEA statement or the Israelis might attack:

If Beijing did not help the United States on this issue, the consequences could be severe, the visitors, Dennis Ross and Jeffrey Bader, both senior officials in the National Security Council, informed the Chinese.

The Chinese were told that Israel regards Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential issue and that countries that have an existential issue don’t listen to other countries,” according to a senior administration official. The implication was clear: Israel could bomb Iran.

One might go so far as to say that international affairs continues to be dominated by power and force, despite hopenchangey predictions of a new era of dialogue and cooperation. Even accomplishing something as modest as cajoling a Chinese signature on a largely meaningless IAEA statement necessitated the threat of force. “Soft power” and “smart diplomacy” didn’t quite cut it, did they?

China’s inclusion on yesterday’s IAEA statement will be hailed as a great accomplishment for the Obama administration, but it should be apparent that this victory actually represents the hastened disintegration of the administration’s preferred policy — an elegant and high-minded diplomatic campaign. The “Israel will attack” card has now been played, and quite early. What will the White House say to China and Russia when it wishes to pursue sanctions, or even a gasoline embargo? A repetition of the same threat? Wasn’t Obama’s presidency supposed to liberate us from the ugly business of making threats?

Remember how liberals used to get apoplectic when members of the Bush administration said things like “all options are on the table with Iran”? This was beating the war drums, it was saber-rattling, it was exemplary of all that was wrong with the Bush administration’s approach to the world.

Of course it isn’t surprising that such accusations are not leveled at the Obama administration, which has also regularly employed the all-options-on-the-table formulation — mostly because everyone understands that it isn’t a true statement. But here is a better one: According to the Washington Post, President Obama sent two officials on an advance trip to China before his recent visit. Their message? Sign a toughly worded IAEA statement or the Israelis might attack:

If Beijing did not help the United States on this issue, the consequences could be severe, the visitors, Dennis Ross and Jeffrey Bader, both senior officials in the National Security Council, informed the Chinese.

The Chinese were told that Israel regards Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential issue and that countries that have an existential issue don’t listen to other countries,” according to a senior administration official. The implication was clear: Israel could bomb Iran.

One might go so far as to say that international affairs continues to be dominated by power and force, despite hopenchangey predictions of a new era of dialogue and cooperation. Even accomplishing something as modest as cajoling a Chinese signature on a largely meaningless IAEA statement necessitated the threat of force. “Soft power” and “smart diplomacy” didn’t quite cut it, did they?

China’s inclusion on yesterday’s IAEA statement will be hailed as a great accomplishment for the Obama administration, but it should be apparent that this victory actually represents the hastened disintegration of the administration’s preferred policy — an elegant and high-minded diplomatic campaign. The “Israel will attack” card has now been played, and quite early. What will the White House say to China and Russia when it wishes to pursue sanctions, or even a gasoline embargo? A repetition of the same threat? Wasn’t Obama’s presidency supposed to liberate us from the ugly business of making threats?

Read Less

An About-Face, Finally

After publicly bashing the Afghan government for months, airing their doubts as to whether we have a reliable “partner,” and stalling a decision about the troops while the election was redone (but not really, as the challenger dropped out), the Obami have decided to be nice, or nicer, at any rate, to the government we are trying to stabilize. The Washington Post reports:

As President Obama nears a decision on how many more troops he will dispatch to Afghanistan, his top diplomats and generals are abandoning for now their get-tough tactics with Karzai and attempting to forge a far warmer relationship. They recognize that their initial strategy may have done more harm than good, fueling stress and anger in a beleaguered, conspiracy-minded leader whom the U.S. government needs as a partner.

“It’s not sustainable to have a ‘War of the Roses’ relationship here, where . . . we basically throw things at each other,” said another senior administration official . . .

The tension in the relationship stems from the cumulative impact of several White House decisions that were intended to improve the quality of the Afghan government. When Obama became president, he discontinued his predecessor’s practice of holding bimonthly video conferences with Karzai. Obama granted wide latitude to the hard-charging Holbrooke to pressure Karzai to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that have fueled the Taliban’s rise. The administration also indicated that it wanted many candidates to challenge Karzai in the August presidential election.

It turns out that the bullying routine was about as successful in Afghanistan as it has been in the Middle East. But don’t expect much self-reflection. Hillary Clinton is now tasked with the charm offensive. We learn: “As Mr. Karzai begins his new term, Mrs. Clinton has worked to avoid a hectoring tone in her public comments about him. American officials had done too much of that in the past, she said.” The past, meaning the past few months, I suppose.

Once again it seems as though we are having to relearn the lessons of Iraq. There, too, Democrats sneered at the government as hopeless and at its prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, as ineffectual and inept. With the success of the surge and the breathing room to establish a functioning civil government, that perception has changed. And likewise, in Afghanistan, the Obami may be learning belatedly (because they have chosen not to extract any meaningful lessons from the Iraq war, which they were ready to lose) that we actually need to bolster the native government if we hope to defeat our mutual enemy. You’d think smart diplomats would have figured this out much sooner.

After publicly bashing the Afghan government for months, airing their doubts as to whether we have a reliable “partner,” and stalling a decision about the troops while the election was redone (but not really, as the challenger dropped out), the Obami have decided to be nice, or nicer, at any rate, to the government we are trying to stabilize. The Washington Post reports:

As President Obama nears a decision on how many more troops he will dispatch to Afghanistan, his top diplomats and generals are abandoning for now their get-tough tactics with Karzai and attempting to forge a far warmer relationship. They recognize that their initial strategy may have done more harm than good, fueling stress and anger in a beleaguered, conspiracy-minded leader whom the U.S. government needs as a partner.

“It’s not sustainable to have a ‘War of the Roses’ relationship here, where . . . we basically throw things at each other,” said another senior administration official . . .

The tension in the relationship stems from the cumulative impact of several White House decisions that were intended to improve the quality of the Afghan government. When Obama became president, he discontinued his predecessor’s practice of holding bimonthly video conferences with Karzai. Obama granted wide latitude to the hard-charging Holbrooke to pressure Karzai to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that have fueled the Taliban’s rise. The administration also indicated that it wanted many candidates to challenge Karzai in the August presidential election.

It turns out that the bullying routine was about as successful in Afghanistan as it has been in the Middle East. But don’t expect much self-reflection. Hillary Clinton is now tasked with the charm offensive. We learn: “As Mr. Karzai begins his new term, Mrs. Clinton has worked to avoid a hectoring tone in her public comments about him. American officials had done too much of that in the past, she said.” The past, meaning the past few months, I suppose.

Once again it seems as though we are having to relearn the lessons of Iraq. There, too, Democrats sneered at the government as hopeless and at its prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, as ineffectual and inept. With the success of the surge and the breathing room to establish a functioning civil government, that perception has changed. And likewise, in Afghanistan, the Obami may be learning belatedly (because they have chosen not to extract any meaningful lessons from the Iraq war, which they were ready to lose) that we actually need to bolster the native government if we hope to defeat our mutual enemy. You’d think smart diplomats would have figured this out much sooner.

Read Less

The Seminar Drags On

Just when we thought the White House seminars were winding down, we get this report:

That stance comes in the midst of forceful reservations about a possible troop buildup from the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official.

President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Are we back to square one, or is someone in the Obami camp simply trying to gum up the works? Maybe the president would like some more research. Maybe another round of meetings. Who knows? The process seems to have taken on a life of its own, and the president appears unwilling to make a decision, any decision.

Certainly even the most die-hard defenders of the president must be appalled. This is no way to run a war. We are close to a decision. No we aren’t. Gen. Stanley McChrystal will get his men. Oh, maybe not. It is hard to recall a more excruciating decision-making process.

And yet we are told, “The White House has chafed under criticism from Republicans and some outside critics that Obama is dragging his feet to make a decision.” They seem blissfully unaware that the Obami are becoming a ludicrous spectacle, a cringe-inducing display of equivocation. So maybe they’ll take a few more weeks. Consider some more options. Have some more meetings. And what about the troops who are in the field, week after week, awaiting a strategy and support? Oh yes, them. Well, the president can’t be rushed.

Just when we thought the White House seminars were winding down, we get this report:

That stance comes in the midst of forceful reservations about a possible troop buildup from the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official.

President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Are we back to square one, or is someone in the Obami camp simply trying to gum up the works? Maybe the president would like some more research. Maybe another round of meetings. Who knows? The process seems to have taken on a life of its own, and the president appears unwilling to make a decision, any decision.

Certainly even the most die-hard defenders of the president must be appalled. This is no way to run a war. We are close to a decision. No we aren’t. Gen. Stanley McChrystal will get his men. Oh, maybe not. It is hard to recall a more excruciating decision-making process.

And yet we are told, “The White House has chafed under criticism from Republicans and some outside critics that Obama is dragging his feet to make a decision.” They seem blissfully unaware that the Obami are becoming a ludicrous spectacle, a cringe-inducing display of equivocation. So maybe they’ll take a few more weeks. Consider some more options. Have some more meetings. And what about the troops who are in the field, week after week, awaiting a strategy and support? Oh yes, them. Well, the president can’t be rushed.

Read Less




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