Commentary Magazine


Topic: Stephen Hayes

Afternoon Commentary

A member of the Iranian Qods force, an elite branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps, was found to be moonlighting as a Taliban commander. As Stephen Hayes points out at the Weekly Standard, this development is further evidence that the doctrinal differences between Iranians and the Taliban don’t preclude them from working together.

From Scott Brown’s Senate win to Glenn Beck’s big rally, Politico counts down the top 10 political moments of 2010.

While national security experts remain concerned about the growing military capabilities of China’s navy, the Washington Post notes that the country is still struggling with some basic components of its air force technology.

Why do Israelis support a two state solution, but oppose a freeze on settlement construction? Jeremy Sharon argues that it’s because they have become discouraged about the possibility of a peace deal at this point in time: “Support for the notion of ‘two states for two peoples’ remains high at over 60 percent because Israelis acknowledge that ultimately, continued rule over the Palestinians is untenable. But there is no desire to rush into an irreversible agreement which could result not with the shelling of Sderot or Haifa, but of Tel Aviv.”

A member of the Iranian Qods force, an elite branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps, was found to be moonlighting as a Taliban commander. As Stephen Hayes points out at the Weekly Standard, this development is further evidence that the doctrinal differences between Iranians and the Taliban don’t preclude them from working together.

From Scott Brown’s Senate win to Glenn Beck’s big rally, Politico counts down the top 10 political moments of 2010.

While national security experts remain concerned about the growing military capabilities of China’s navy, the Washington Post notes that the country is still struggling with some basic components of its air force technology.

Why do Israelis support a two state solution, but oppose a freeze on settlement construction? Jeremy Sharon argues that it’s because they have become discouraged about the possibility of a peace deal at this point in time: “Support for the notion of ‘two states for two peoples’ remains high at over 60 percent because Israelis acknowledge that ultimately, continued rule over the Palestinians is untenable. But there is no desire to rush into an irreversible agreement which could result not with the shelling of Sderot or Haifa, but of Tel Aviv.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This is presidential. This is a mensch.

Blago is right: “Well, I think the question ought to be to the prosecutor, ‘How much money of taxpayers dollars did you spend on this trial?’ I would guess tens of millions of dollars, to get a guy you targeted for — you know, for six years. And then when we didn’t even put a defense on, you could not show any corruption. And you couldn’t because it didn’t exist. The next question should be why would that person use taxpayer dollars to bring another prosecution again. The Wall Street Journal had said that this is or the Washington Post had said this has turned from a prosecution to a persecution, and should the taxpayers have to pay for a prosecutor who’s out to get somebody?”

Mitch McConnell is optimistic: “‘If the election were tomorrow, we’d have a very good day,’ the Kentucky senator said on NBC’s Meet the Press. ‘There are at least 12 seats in the Senate where Democrats are on defense. That’s pretty unusual.’ McConnell did add, however, that he does worry about ‘irrational exuberance.’”

The White House is delusional: “Throughout this long year, President Obama’s advisers have sometimes looked to Ronald Reagan for comparison and inspiration. If the Gipper could survive a deep recession, low approval ratings and an adverse midterm election in his first two years and win reelection handily two years later, then Obama could easily do the same, they reason.” Perhaps if Obama did a 180 on his agenda and started expressing affection for Americans and their values, he too could be popular again.

Howard Dean is partially correct: “I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while.”

Douglas Schoen is unpopular with his fellow Democrats for saying things like this: “The Obama administration’s policies and programs are not producing real, long lasting results, and there has been no real growth. Put another way, an unprecedented degree of federal government spending and intervention vis-à-vis the $787 billion dollar economic stimulus package, the $81 billion dollar bailouts of GM and Chrysler, and the enactment of health care and financial regulatory and reform bills have done nothing to stimulate our anemic recovery and have fundamentally failed at creating private sector jobs, or generating economic growth necessary for a sustainable, healthy recovery.”

Obama is toxic to his own party. Stephen Hayes on Fox News Sunday: “Well, what matters most is what Democrats are doing on the ground in individual districts in the states. And I was in Wisconsin this week in Menomonee Falls for President Obama’s speech there to an energy company. You know who didn’t show up? Tom Barrett, the Democrat running for governor. Didn’t want to be seen with the president.  … You have [Joe] Donnelly in Indiana who ran an ad taking a shot at the president, taking a shot at Nancy Pelosi. And that, it seems to me, tells us a lot more about what Democrats are thinking than some ad the DNC is doing against George W. Bush.”

Richard Blumenthal is “hopeless, doomed, toast.” Connecticut Democrats have only themselves to blame.

This is presidential. This is a mensch.

Blago is right: “Well, I think the question ought to be to the prosecutor, ‘How much money of taxpayers dollars did you spend on this trial?’ I would guess tens of millions of dollars, to get a guy you targeted for — you know, for six years. And then when we didn’t even put a defense on, you could not show any corruption. And you couldn’t because it didn’t exist. The next question should be why would that person use taxpayer dollars to bring another prosecution again. The Wall Street Journal had said that this is or the Washington Post had said this has turned from a prosecution to a persecution, and should the taxpayers have to pay for a prosecutor who’s out to get somebody?”

Mitch McConnell is optimistic: “‘If the election were tomorrow, we’d have a very good day,’ the Kentucky senator said on NBC’s Meet the Press. ‘There are at least 12 seats in the Senate where Democrats are on defense. That’s pretty unusual.’ McConnell did add, however, that he does worry about ‘irrational exuberance.’”

The White House is delusional: “Throughout this long year, President Obama’s advisers have sometimes looked to Ronald Reagan for comparison and inspiration. If the Gipper could survive a deep recession, low approval ratings and an adverse midterm election in his first two years and win reelection handily two years later, then Obama could easily do the same, they reason.” Perhaps if Obama did a 180 on his agenda and started expressing affection for Americans and their values, he too could be popular again.

Howard Dean is partially correct: “I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while.”

Douglas Schoen is unpopular with his fellow Democrats for saying things like this: “The Obama administration’s policies and programs are not producing real, long lasting results, and there has been no real growth. Put another way, an unprecedented degree of federal government spending and intervention vis-à-vis the $787 billion dollar economic stimulus package, the $81 billion dollar bailouts of GM and Chrysler, and the enactment of health care and financial regulatory and reform bills have done nothing to stimulate our anemic recovery and have fundamentally failed at creating private sector jobs, or generating economic growth necessary for a sustainable, healthy recovery.”

Obama is toxic to his own party. Stephen Hayes on Fox News Sunday: “Well, what matters most is what Democrats are doing on the ground in individual districts in the states. And I was in Wisconsin this week in Menomonee Falls for President Obama’s speech there to an energy company. You know who didn’t show up? Tom Barrett, the Democrat running for governor. Didn’t want to be seen with the president.  … You have [Joe] Donnelly in Indiana who ran an ad taking a shot at the president, taking a shot at Nancy Pelosi. And that, it seems to me, tells us a lot more about what Democrats are thinking than some ad the DNC is doing against George W. Bush.”

Richard Blumenthal is “hopeless, doomed, toast.” Connecticut Democrats have only themselves to blame.

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Sticking with a Losing Economic Plan

Stephen Hayes reminds us that none other than Obama once warned us of the folly of raising taxes in a recession:

Barack Obama understands that it’s bad economics to raise taxes in a recession. It’s “the last thing you want to do,” he said almost exactly one year ago. … Obama was blunt: “Well — first of all, he’s right. Normally you don’t raise taxes in a recession, which is why we haven’t and why we’ve instead cut taxes. So I guess what I’d say to [Elkhart, Indiana resident] Scott [Ferguson] is — his economics are right. You don’t raise taxes in a recession. We haven’t raised taxes in a recession.”

But the Obama team insists, contrary to much available evidence, that we’re in the midst of a recovery — so we can tolerate the liberals’ mischief-making:

When he was asked specifically about raising taxes on top income earners, as is scheduled to happen on January 1, 2011, [Tim] Geithner said, “The country can withstand that. The economy can withstand that. I think it’s good policy.”

It was an interesting word choice: “withstand” a tax hike? So the U.S. economy is strong enough to endure the additional constraints the Obama administration wants to place on it in pursuit of its redistributionist goals? This is the triumph of ideology over economics.

Obama and his brain trust not only ignore their own country’s experience and struggling economy, but also turn a blind eye toward the counter-example in Germany, which resisted Obama’s exhortations to get the government to spend (actually, borrow in order to spend) its nation out of the recession. Germany’s economic recovery (on track for 9 percent annual growth) should serve as a lesson to those still enamored of Obamanomics:

Germany has sparred with its European partners over how to respond to the financial crisis, argued with the United States over the benefits of stimulus versus austerity, and defiantly pursued its own vision of how to keep its economy strong. … By paring unemployment benefits, easing rules for hiring and firing, and management and labor’s working together to keep a lid on wages, Germany ensured that it could again export its way to growth with competitive, nimble companies producing the cars and machine tools the world’s economies — emerging and developed alike — demanded.

When Paul Krugman comes out of hiding, I look forward to his explanation of this one.

Maybe some restraints on spending, some pro-growth and pro-job-creation policies, and a halt to tax increases might be in order. Nah, the Obami insist they have everything under control.

Stephen Hayes reminds us that none other than Obama once warned us of the folly of raising taxes in a recession:

Barack Obama understands that it’s bad economics to raise taxes in a recession. It’s “the last thing you want to do,” he said almost exactly one year ago. … Obama was blunt: “Well — first of all, he’s right. Normally you don’t raise taxes in a recession, which is why we haven’t and why we’ve instead cut taxes. So I guess what I’d say to [Elkhart, Indiana resident] Scott [Ferguson] is — his economics are right. You don’t raise taxes in a recession. We haven’t raised taxes in a recession.”

But the Obama team insists, contrary to much available evidence, that we’re in the midst of a recovery — so we can tolerate the liberals’ mischief-making:

When he was asked specifically about raising taxes on top income earners, as is scheduled to happen on January 1, 2011, [Tim] Geithner said, “The country can withstand that. The economy can withstand that. I think it’s good policy.”

It was an interesting word choice: “withstand” a tax hike? So the U.S. economy is strong enough to endure the additional constraints the Obama administration wants to place on it in pursuit of its redistributionist goals? This is the triumph of ideology over economics.

Obama and his brain trust not only ignore their own country’s experience and struggling economy, but also turn a blind eye toward the counter-example in Germany, which resisted Obama’s exhortations to get the government to spend (actually, borrow in order to spend) its nation out of the recession. Germany’s economic recovery (on track for 9 percent annual growth) should serve as a lesson to those still enamored of Obamanomics:

Germany has sparred with its European partners over how to respond to the financial crisis, argued with the United States over the benefits of stimulus versus austerity, and defiantly pursued its own vision of how to keep its economy strong. … By paring unemployment benefits, easing rules for hiring and firing, and management and labor’s working together to keep a lid on wages, Germany ensured that it could again export its way to growth with competitive, nimble companies producing the cars and machine tools the world’s economies — emerging and developed alike — demanded.

When Paul Krugman comes out of hiding, I look forward to his explanation of this one.

Maybe some restraints on spending, some pro-growth and pro-job-creation policies, and a halt to tax increases might be in order. Nah, the Obami insist they have everything under control.

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Don’t Give Me the Facts, I’ve Got My Story

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

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RE: McChrystal’s Future Looks Bleak

Max, John McCain has since added to his comments with a very helpful suggestion. Stephen Hayes reports:

“If the president fires McChrystal, we need a new ambassador and we need an entire new team over there. But most importantly, we need the president to say what Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates have both said but what the president refuses to say: Our withdrawal in the middle of 2011 will be conditions based. It’s got to be conditions based and he’s got to say it.”

But McCain says that Obama is worried about the political repercussions of that kind of all-in statement.

“He won’t say this because he’s captive of his far-left base.”

McChrystal may have shot himself in the foot, but he has pulled back the curtain on the Obama team’s dysfunction, which is wreaking havoc on our war effort.

And if Obama doesn’t take the sage advice to look at his own misguided time frame for a troop withdrawal and leaves in place the obviously inept and  counterproductive team of civilian officials? Congress can’t win a war, although lawmakers can exercise oversight and demand answers to basic questions — e.g., is the timeline hampering our chances for victory? But ultimately, it is up to the president. He will have to commit himself — or not — to victory. A defeat in war cannot be blamed on a predecessor. It is his responsibility, and it will be his legacy.

McCain’s prediction is most likely accurate. Let’s pray on this one that Obama defies expectations.

Max, John McCain has since added to his comments with a very helpful suggestion. Stephen Hayes reports:

“If the president fires McChrystal, we need a new ambassador and we need an entire new team over there. But most importantly, we need the president to say what Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates have both said but what the president refuses to say: Our withdrawal in the middle of 2011 will be conditions based. It’s got to be conditions based and he’s got to say it.”

But McCain says that Obama is worried about the political repercussions of that kind of all-in statement.

“He won’t say this because he’s captive of his far-left base.”

McChrystal may have shot himself in the foot, but he has pulled back the curtain on the Obama team’s dysfunction, which is wreaking havoc on our war effort.

And if Obama doesn’t take the sage advice to look at his own misguided time frame for a troop withdrawal and leaves in place the obviously inept and  counterproductive team of civilian officials? Congress can’t win a war, although lawmakers can exercise oversight and demand answers to basic questions — e.g., is the timeline hampering our chances for victory? But ultimately, it is up to the president. He will have to commit himself — or not — to victory. A defeat in war cannot be blamed on a predecessor. It is his responsibility, and it will be his legacy.

McCain’s prediction is most likely accurate. Let’s pray on this one that Obama defies expectations.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas's] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas's] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

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Wishful Thinking, Willful Indifference

Stephen Hayes explains that Iran is arming Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, helping to kill Americans just like it did in Iraq. He writes:

The level of Iranian support for the Afghan insurgency does not yet match the crucial support Iran has provided to Shiite militias and Sunni militant groups in Iraq. And the insurgency in Afghanistan would exist with or without Iranian backing. But Iran’s aggressive and deadly activity in Afghanistan is growing, and its support for insurgents in Iraq continues.

Iran is the only nation that is actively supporting the forces fighting against the United States in both places. This war—or proxy war—is not led by rogue elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or military. It is directed by the Iranian government and approved at the highest levels. It is regime policy.

But Obama remains silent on this, for to do otherwise would complicate his wishful thinking on the mullahs. “Since the first moments of his administration the president has chosen to believe that the Iranian regime might voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons program. To a great extent, his approach depends on maintaining that assumption.” This willful indifference is most likely encouraged by our military, which, as others have remarked, was stubbornly opposed to doing much of anything about Iran’s killing of American troops in Iraq.

But Irans’ arming of insurgents, of course, suggests that Obama is badly misreading the Iranian leaders’ intentions. They are in a war with the U.S., even if we are not at war with them. They have no intention of giving up the weapon that could elevate their standing against the Great Satan. Obama is banking on the mullahs’ shedding their ideological identity and abandoning an obvious means of advancing their hegemonic aims. The evidence all suggests otherwise.

This development should also make plain that there will be no containment once Iran obtains a nuclear weapon. We’re doing a miserable job of containing them now, when the lives of American troops are at stake. What makes anyone — especially Iran — think America will stand up to the regime once it gains a nuclear capability? That would involve threats of force or actual use of force to halt Iranian aggression. Do we imagine the Obama administration will do that?

Stephen Hayes explains that Iran is arming Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, helping to kill Americans just like it did in Iraq. He writes:

The level of Iranian support for the Afghan insurgency does not yet match the crucial support Iran has provided to Shiite militias and Sunni militant groups in Iraq. And the insurgency in Afghanistan would exist with or without Iranian backing. But Iran’s aggressive and deadly activity in Afghanistan is growing, and its support for insurgents in Iraq continues.

Iran is the only nation that is actively supporting the forces fighting against the United States in both places. This war—or proxy war—is not led by rogue elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or military. It is directed by the Iranian government and approved at the highest levels. It is regime policy.

But Obama remains silent on this, for to do otherwise would complicate his wishful thinking on the mullahs. “Since the first moments of his administration the president has chosen to believe that the Iranian regime might voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons program. To a great extent, his approach depends on maintaining that assumption.” This willful indifference is most likely encouraged by our military, which, as others have remarked, was stubbornly opposed to doing much of anything about Iran’s killing of American troops in Iraq.

But Irans’ arming of insurgents, of course, suggests that Obama is badly misreading the Iranian leaders’ intentions. They are in a war with the U.S., even if we are not at war with them. They have no intention of giving up the weapon that could elevate their standing against the Great Satan. Obama is banking on the mullahs’ shedding their ideological identity and abandoning an obvious means of advancing their hegemonic aims. The evidence all suggests otherwise.

This development should also make plain that there will be no containment once Iran obtains a nuclear weapon. We’re doing a miserable job of containing them now, when the lives of American troops are at stake. What makes anyone — especially Iran — think America will stand up to the regime once it gains a nuclear capability? That would involve threats of force or actual use of force to halt Iranian aggression. Do we imagine the Obama administration will do that?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

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Consensus Forms: Obama’s Terror Approach Is Mindless

Broad-based criticism is mounting in response to the Obami’s unthinking fixation on handling terrorists within the criminal-justice model. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair got the ball rolling in a testimony concerning the Christmas Day bomber. Stephen Hayes quotes his testimony, in which he acknowledges that no thought was given to designating Abdulmutallab for questioning by the high-value interrogation unit:

Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people and—duh! [here Blair theatrically slaps palm to forehead]—we didn’t put it [into effect] then. That’s what we will do now. .  .  .I was not consulted; the decision was made on the scene. It seemed logical to the people there, but it should have been taken using this HIG format at a higher level.

Hayes explains: “We had a load of information on Abdulmutallab—his background, his movements, his contacts—that never came into play in the cursory questioning of him. And we missed a chance to get a load of information from him which could have greatly aided efforts to head off future attacks and destroy al Qaeda assets in Yemen and elsewhere.”

He is not alone in his condemnation of the Obami’s approach. The Washington Post editors agree that “the decision to try Mr. Abdulmutallab turns out to have resulted not from a deliberative process but as a knee-jerk default to a crime-and-punishment model. . . The administration claims Mr. Abdulmutallab provided valuable information — and probably exhausted his knowledge of al-Qaeda operations — before he clammed up. This was immediately after he was read his Miranda rights and provided with a court-appointed lawyer. The truth is, we may never know whether the administration made the right call or whether it squandered a valuable opportunity.”

How could this be, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Obama made the call. This is his vision of how we should respond to terrorism. He is the author of the “not Bush” anti-terror approach. He has empowered Eric Holder to wage war on the intelligence community and to put Justice Department lawyers, rather than intelligence officials, in the driver seat. If this seems to have been foolhardy and fraught with peril, it will take bipartisan action to reverse it. Oversight hearings, use of the power of the purse, and ultimately legislation to determine the jurisdiction of the federal course are all within the purview of Congress. As Democratic lawmakers have learned on domestic policy, following Obama’s lead is politically unwise. Perhaps it is time they showed some independence and exercised their own constitutional responsibilities to think through our approach and set a sensible policy for handling terrorists whom we capture. The White House sure isn’t doing so.

Broad-based criticism is mounting in response to the Obami’s unthinking fixation on handling terrorists within the criminal-justice model. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair got the ball rolling in a testimony concerning the Christmas Day bomber. Stephen Hayes quotes his testimony, in which he acknowledges that no thought was given to designating Abdulmutallab for questioning by the high-value interrogation unit:

Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people and—duh! [here Blair theatrically slaps palm to forehead]—we didn’t put it [into effect] then. That’s what we will do now. .  .  .I was not consulted; the decision was made on the scene. It seemed logical to the people there, but it should have been taken using this HIG format at a higher level.

Hayes explains: “We had a load of information on Abdulmutallab—his background, his movements, his contacts—that never came into play in the cursory questioning of him. And we missed a chance to get a load of information from him which could have greatly aided efforts to head off future attacks and destroy al Qaeda assets in Yemen and elsewhere.”

He is not alone in his condemnation of the Obami’s approach. The Washington Post editors agree that “the decision to try Mr. Abdulmutallab turns out to have resulted not from a deliberative process but as a knee-jerk default to a crime-and-punishment model. . . The administration claims Mr. Abdulmutallab provided valuable information — and probably exhausted his knowledge of al-Qaeda operations — before he clammed up. This was immediately after he was read his Miranda rights and provided with a court-appointed lawyer. The truth is, we may never know whether the administration made the right call or whether it squandered a valuable opportunity.”

How could this be, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Obama made the call. This is his vision of how we should respond to terrorism. He is the author of the “not Bush” anti-terror approach. He has empowered Eric Holder to wage war on the intelligence community and to put Justice Department lawyers, rather than intelligence officials, in the driver seat. If this seems to have been foolhardy and fraught with peril, it will take bipartisan action to reverse it. Oversight hearings, use of the power of the purse, and ultimately legislation to determine the jurisdiction of the federal course are all within the purview of Congress. As Democratic lawmakers have learned on domestic policy, following Obama’s lead is politically unwise. Perhaps it is time they showed some independence and exercised their own constitutional responsibilities to think through our approach and set a sensible policy for handling terrorists whom we capture. The White House sure isn’t doing so.

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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?

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Enough with the Yemen Terrorist Pipeline

The Obami are a stubborn lot. Even new and troubling evidence regarding the inanity of releasing dangerous Guantanamo detainees cannot shake them from their fixation with closing the facility. Administration background briefers tell the media — still – that we have to shut Guantanamo to protect our “values.” (Does “common sense” or “the right of self-defense” make the list of values?) “Close Guantanamo!” was a campaign slogan devised with little information and pronounced in the heady opening days of the new Obama administration, before the commander in chief could survey the obvious political and practical problems of shuttering a secure, humane facility that could indefinitely hold those who would surely, if given the chance, return to kill more Americans.

Not only Republicans but  Senate Intelligence Chairman Diane Feinstein are pleading with the administration to at the very least halt the release of detainees to Yemen, something which conservatives including Rep. Frank Wolf has been strenuously objecting to for some time. The facts about the Yemen connection are just beginning to emerge:

The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden. Along with a dozen other al Qaeda members, he was allowed to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. His deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi inmate at Gitmo who after his release “graduated” from that country’s terrorist “rehabilitation” program before moving to Yemen last year. About a fifth of the so-called graduates have ended back on the Saudi terror most-wanted list, according to a GAO study this year.

And we are told that investigators (to the extent they can get information from the now-lawyered up “defendant” and from other sources) are exploring whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “was in contact with al-Shihri and another Guantanamo alum who turned up at the AQAP, Muhammad al-Awfi.” We also know from an earlier release study that “one in seven freed Gitmo detainees—61 in all—returned to terrorism. Al-Shihri and Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operations leader in southern Afghanistan, are merely the best known. The Pentagon has since updated its findings, and we’re told the numbers are even worse.” It would be nice to know more about the extent of the Yemen recidivism problem, but as Stephen Hayes has reported, the Obama administration has refused to release that data to members of Congress and the public at large. (We can guess why.) And, finally, it appears that Anwar Al-Awlaki, Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam, who recently escaped a raid in Yemen, provided some “spiritual guidance” to Abdulmutallab, as well.

It is remarkable that before the Christmas Day bombing, the administration thought it was a good idea to dump detainees back into Yemen. After all, the administration — one supposes the president, specifically — did order a predator bombing in that country to strike a hotbed of terrorist activity. So why would they then and even after the Abdulmutallab bombing attack want to persist in effect with resupplying places like Yemen with Guantanamo detainees? It is nothing short of jaw-dropping, really. And it reveals the degree to which ideology has overtaken sound judgment.

The Obami are a stubborn lot. Even new and troubling evidence regarding the inanity of releasing dangerous Guantanamo detainees cannot shake them from their fixation with closing the facility. Administration background briefers tell the media — still – that we have to shut Guantanamo to protect our “values.” (Does “common sense” or “the right of self-defense” make the list of values?) “Close Guantanamo!” was a campaign slogan devised with little information and pronounced in the heady opening days of the new Obama administration, before the commander in chief could survey the obvious political and practical problems of shuttering a secure, humane facility that could indefinitely hold those who would surely, if given the chance, return to kill more Americans.

Not only Republicans but  Senate Intelligence Chairman Diane Feinstein are pleading with the administration to at the very least halt the release of detainees to Yemen, something which conservatives including Rep. Frank Wolf has been strenuously objecting to for some time. The facts about the Yemen connection are just beginning to emerge:

The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden. Along with a dozen other al Qaeda members, he was allowed to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. His deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi inmate at Gitmo who after his release “graduated” from that country’s terrorist “rehabilitation” program before moving to Yemen last year. About a fifth of the so-called graduates have ended back on the Saudi terror most-wanted list, according to a GAO study this year.

And we are told that investigators (to the extent they can get information from the now-lawyered up “defendant” and from other sources) are exploring whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “was in contact with al-Shihri and another Guantanamo alum who turned up at the AQAP, Muhammad al-Awfi.” We also know from an earlier release study that “one in seven freed Gitmo detainees—61 in all—returned to terrorism. Al-Shihri and Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operations leader in southern Afghanistan, are merely the best known. The Pentagon has since updated its findings, and we’re told the numbers are even worse.” It would be nice to know more about the extent of the Yemen recidivism problem, but as Stephen Hayes has reported, the Obama administration has refused to release that data to members of Congress and the public at large. (We can guess why.) And, finally, it appears that Anwar Al-Awlaki, Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam, who recently escaped a raid in Yemen, provided some “spiritual guidance” to Abdulmutallab, as well.

It is remarkable that before the Christmas Day bombing, the administration thought it was a good idea to dump detainees back into Yemen. After all, the administration — one supposes the president, specifically — did order a predator bombing in that country to strike a hotbed of terrorist activity. So why would they then and even after the Abdulmutallab bombing attack want to persist in effect with resupplying places like Yemen with Guantanamo detainees? It is nothing short of jaw-dropping, really. And it reveals the degree to which ideology has overtaken sound judgment.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jamie Fly on Obama’s new expression of “deep admiration” for the Iranian protesters: “Now that the President seems so concerned about the events unfolding on Iran’s streets, perhaps someone should ask the White House whether the President believes that Sen. Kerry should even contemplate a visit to Tehran to meet with the very officials that are ordering the beatings and killings he has just condemned.  The answer might tell us how far he is really willing to go to ‘bear witness.’”

Stephen Hayes observes that Obama’s comments “fell so flat,” given the lack of any “action item” other than calling for the Iranian regime to meet its international obligations. It was a “silly statement,” he says. Charles Krauthammer adds: “Meaningless words. . . This is a hinge of history. . . This is a moment in history and he is missing it.”

It isn’t easy being a Democratic incumbent in the Obama era: “Political observers should expect more retirement announcements from centrist Democrats, according to Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), himself a centrist Democrat.”

Rep. Pete Hoekstra blasts Obama: “After eleven months in office, the president is still sending contradictory messages on national security. . . He says he wants to address the threats yet look at how he has responded to this, how he responded to Fort Hood, how he’s open to prosecuting folks in the CIA, how he’s closing Guantanamo Bay, and how he’s bringing terror suspects to New York City.”

Rory Cooper of Heritage on Obama’s reaction to the Christmas Day bombing attack: “The overwhelming negative opinion of the President’s reaction is a result of Obama’s reckless complacency over the past year. President Obama spent the past 12 months beating up on the men and women of the CIA, on the soldiers who ably run Gitmo, campaigning against the Patriot Act (even though he now recognizes its importance), making terrorism a law enforcement issue, announcing a show trial for KSM in NYC, and cutting defense appropriations in favor of sweetheart stimulus deals. The first thing he did with Abdulmutallab was to read him his rights.”

Only a day before Obama spinmeister Marc Ambinder was praising the “strategy” of having Obama hide after a terrorist attack. Now he muses: “Did Obama, attempting to make a clean break from the Bush years vis-a-vis communicating to the public about terrorism, put too much faith in DHS Secretary Napolitano to serve as the front-line communicator?” Really, the obsession with being “not Bush” is getting to be pathological — Bush talked to the public directly about terrorism so Obama shouldn’t? Good grief.

You want horrifying? Ann Althouse takes us through the entire Janet Napolitano interview. The full interview is actually worse than the “system worked” snippet. Okay, she’s not the real problem but she’s a horrid Homeland Security Secretary and really should go.

Marc Thiessen warns us: “Instead of looking for ways to release these dangerous men, we should be capturing and interrogating more of them for information on planned attacks. But that is something the U.S. no longer does. President Obama has shut down the CIA interrogation program that helped stop a series of planned attacks — and in the year since he took office, not one high-value terrorist has been interrogated by the CIA. . . The problem with this approach is that dead terrorists cannot tell their plans. According to ABC News, Abdulmutallab has told investigators there are ‘more just like him in Yemen who would strike soon.’ Who are these terrorists? Where have they been deployed? We may not find out until it is too late because we launched a strike intended to kill the al-Qaeda leaders who could give us vital intelligence.”

Sobering: “A dangerous explosive allegedly concealed by Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his underwear could have blown a hole in the side of his Detroit-bound aircraft if it had been detonated, according to two federal sources briefed on the investigation.”

Jamie Fly on Obama’s new expression of “deep admiration” for the Iranian protesters: “Now that the President seems so concerned about the events unfolding on Iran’s streets, perhaps someone should ask the White House whether the President believes that Sen. Kerry should even contemplate a visit to Tehran to meet with the very officials that are ordering the beatings and killings he has just condemned.  The answer might tell us how far he is really willing to go to ‘bear witness.’”

Stephen Hayes observes that Obama’s comments “fell so flat,” given the lack of any “action item” other than calling for the Iranian regime to meet its international obligations. It was a “silly statement,” he says. Charles Krauthammer adds: “Meaningless words. . . This is a hinge of history. . . This is a moment in history and he is missing it.”

It isn’t easy being a Democratic incumbent in the Obama era: “Political observers should expect more retirement announcements from centrist Democrats, according to Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), himself a centrist Democrat.”

Rep. Pete Hoekstra blasts Obama: “After eleven months in office, the president is still sending contradictory messages on national security. . . He says he wants to address the threats yet look at how he has responded to this, how he responded to Fort Hood, how he’s open to prosecuting folks in the CIA, how he’s closing Guantanamo Bay, and how he’s bringing terror suspects to New York City.”

Rory Cooper of Heritage on Obama’s reaction to the Christmas Day bombing attack: “The overwhelming negative opinion of the President’s reaction is a result of Obama’s reckless complacency over the past year. President Obama spent the past 12 months beating up on the men and women of the CIA, on the soldiers who ably run Gitmo, campaigning against the Patriot Act (even though he now recognizes its importance), making terrorism a law enforcement issue, announcing a show trial for KSM in NYC, and cutting defense appropriations in favor of sweetheart stimulus deals. The first thing he did with Abdulmutallab was to read him his rights.”

Only a day before Obama spinmeister Marc Ambinder was praising the “strategy” of having Obama hide after a terrorist attack. Now he muses: “Did Obama, attempting to make a clean break from the Bush years vis-a-vis communicating to the public about terrorism, put too much faith in DHS Secretary Napolitano to serve as the front-line communicator?” Really, the obsession with being “not Bush” is getting to be pathological — Bush talked to the public directly about terrorism so Obama shouldn’t? Good grief.

You want horrifying? Ann Althouse takes us through the entire Janet Napolitano interview. The full interview is actually worse than the “system worked” snippet. Okay, she’s not the real problem but she’s a horrid Homeland Security Secretary and really should go.

Marc Thiessen warns us: “Instead of looking for ways to release these dangerous men, we should be capturing and interrogating more of them for information on planned attacks. But that is something the U.S. no longer does. President Obama has shut down the CIA interrogation program that helped stop a series of planned attacks — and in the year since he took office, not one high-value terrorist has been interrogated by the CIA. . . The problem with this approach is that dead terrorists cannot tell their plans. According to ABC News, Abdulmutallab has told investigators there are ‘more just like him in Yemen who would strike soon.’ Who are these terrorists? Where have they been deployed? We may not find out until it is too late because we launched a strike intended to kill the al-Qaeda leaders who could give us vital intelligence.”

Sobering: “A dangerous explosive allegedly concealed by Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his underwear could have blown a hole in the side of his Detroit-bound aircraft if it had been detonated, according to two federal sources briefed on the investigation.”

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The Worst Decision of Them All

As Charles Krauthammer notes, we have frittered away a critical year with Iran with perhaps the stupidest foreign-policy gambit in a generation: the notion that we could prostrate ourselves before tyrannical regime and thus endear ourselves to it and talk it out of its nuclear ambitions. The timing could not have been worse, as he observes:

We lost a year. But it was not just any year. It was a year of spectacularly squandered opportunity. In Iran, it was a year of revolution, beginning with a contested election and culminating this week in huge demonstrations mourning the death of the dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri — and demanding no longer a recount of the stolen election but the overthrow of the clerical dictatorship. . .

Why is this so important? Because revolutions succeed at that singular moment, that imperceptible historical inflection, when the people, and particularly those in power, realize that the regime has lost the mandate of heaven.

And apparently we have only begun to deliver the bouquets of legitimacy, as we consider the first high-level visit since the 1979 revolution by an American official — the president’s unofficial secretary of state. (Hillary Clinton will still be busy with agricultural projects in India or with whatever she does when not singing the praises of the Obami’s non-existent human-rights policy.)

It is, in Krauthammer’s words, “unforgivable,” whether from a human-rights perspective or a nuclear-deterrence standpoint, that we should have given sustenance to the mullahs in a year in which depriving them of the same might have made a very big difference. It is what comes from believing that the world’s problems and the threats to the security of the West arise from misunderstandings or from America’s own “belligerence,” which if muffled would bring forth a new era of cooperation. It is the same mentality that supposes that moving terrorists from Guantanamo to Illinois will earn brownie points with would-be terrorists. Just don’t make them mad and we’ll be safer.

As Stephen Hayes explains in a must-read piece, there was zero evidence that this sort of approach would work with Iran:

The problem, it turns out, was not George W. Bush. It wasn’t a lack of American goodwill or our failure to acknowledge mistakes or our underdeveloped national listening skills. The problem is the Iranian regime. This should have been clear from the beginning, and should have been glaringly obvious after the fraudulent election and the deadly response to the brave Iranians who questioned the results. There were plenty of clues: an Iranian president who routinely denies the Holocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel; a long record of using terrorism as an instrument of state power; the provision of safe haven to senior al Qaeda leaders in the months and years after the 9/11 attacks; and a policy, approved at the highest levels of the Iranian leadership, of trying to kill Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Obami deny being naive about the nature of the regime, but the repetition of their disclaimer suggests they are sensitive on the point. Indeed, their policy “of the extended hand, of the gratuitous apology,” has as its central feature the belief that becoming inoffensive makes aggressors less inclined to pursue their aims. But what historical precedent is there for this? The record is replete with examples to the contrary. Pick your favorite — WWII, the Cold War, etc.

Because the policy of engagement is so nonsensical one is left wondering whether the end game is and has always been some form of  “nuclear containment,” which is itself quite preposterous when it comes to a revolutionary Islamic state that has already announced its regional aspirations (including the elimination of the Jewish state) and compiled a track record of terror sponsorship. But it does explain the Obami’s effort to be inoffensive, talk down military options, and defer sanctions until the time line on halting the mullahs’ nuclear program collapses on itself. (Too late!)

These two explanations are, of course, not mutually exclusive. The Obami’s may have thought they’d give engagement their best shot, with the “back up” plan of learning to live with a nuclear-armed Iran. (Do you feel safer yet?) Regardless, we are in a far worse position at the end of 2009 because we were practicing engagement at the exact moment we should have been pressing for regime change. It was a colossal misjudgment, one which will be viewed, I suspect, (along with the decision to give KSM a civilian trial) as among the worst national-security calls by any president.

As Charles Krauthammer notes, we have frittered away a critical year with Iran with perhaps the stupidest foreign-policy gambit in a generation: the notion that we could prostrate ourselves before tyrannical regime and thus endear ourselves to it and talk it out of its nuclear ambitions. The timing could not have been worse, as he observes:

We lost a year. But it was not just any year. It was a year of spectacularly squandered opportunity. In Iran, it was a year of revolution, beginning with a contested election and culminating this week in huge demonstrations mourning the death of the dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri — and demanding no longer a recount of the stolen election but the overthrow of the clerical dictatorship. . .

Why is this so important? Because revolutions succeed at that singular moment, that imperceptible historical inflection, when the people, and particularly those in power, realize that the regime has lost the mandate of heaven.

And apparently we have only begun to deliver the bouquets of legitimacy, as we consider the first high-level visit since the 1979 revolution by an American official — the president’s unofficial secretary of state. (Hillary Clinton will still be busy with agricultural projects in India or with whatever she does when not singing the praises of the Obami’s non-existent human-rights policy.)

It is, in Krauthammer’s words, “unforgivable,” whether from a human-rights perspective or a nuclear-deterrence standpoint, that we should have given sustenance to the mullahs in a year in which depriving them of the same might have made a very big difference. It is what comes from believing that the world’s problems and the threats to the security of the West arise from misunderstandings or from America’s own “belligerence,” which if muffled would bring forth a new era of cooperation. It is the same mentality that supposes that moving terrorists from Guantanamo to Illinois will earn brownie points with would-be terrorists. Just don’t make them mad and we’ll be safer.

As Stephen Hayes explains in a must-read piece, there was zero evidence that this sort of approach would work with Iran:

The problem, it turns out, was not George W. Bush. It wasn’t a lack of American goodwill or our failure to acknowledge mistakes or our underdeveloped national listening skills. The problem is the Iranian regime. This should have been clear from the beginning, and should have been glaringly obvious after the fraudulent election and the deadly response to the brave Iranians who questioned the results. There were plenty of clues: an Iranian president who routinely denies the Holocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel; a long record of using terrorism as an instrument of state power; the provision of safe haven to senior al Qaeda leaders in the months and years after the 9/11 attacks; and a policy, approved at the highest levels of the Iranian leadership, of trying to kill Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Obami deny being naive about the nature of the regime, but the repetition of their disclaimer suggests they are sensitive on the point. Indeed, their policy “of the extended hand, of the gratuitous apology,” has as its central feature the belief that becoming inoffensive makes aggressors less inclined to pursue their aims. But what historical precedent is there for this? The record is replete with examples to the contrary. Pick your favorite — WWII, the Cold War, etc.

Because the policy of engagement is so nonsensical one is left wondering whether the end game is and has always been some form of  “nuclear containment,” which is itself quite preposterous when it comes to a revolutionary Islamic state that has already announced its regional aspirations (including the elimination of the Jewish state) and compiled a track record of terror sponsorship. But it does explain the Obami’s effort to be inoffensive, talk down military options, and defer sanctions until the time line on halting the mullahs’ nuclear program collapses on itself. (Too late!)

These two explanations are, of course, not mutually exclusive. The Obami’s may have thought they’d give engagement their best shot, with the “back up” plan of learning to live with a nuclear-armed Iran. (Do you feel safer yet?) Regardless, we are in a far worse position at the end of 2009 because we were practicing engagement at the exact moment we should have been pressing for regime change. It was a colossal misjudgment, one which will be viewed, I suspect, (along with the decision to give KSM a civilian trial) as among the worst national-security calls by any president.

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Hiding from Scrutiny — with Good Reason

Stephen Hayes has a blockbuster story on the problem of terrorist recidivism by Guantanamo detainees who we’ve been released:

The Defense Department has now produced an updated version of Return to the Battlefield. According to four separate sources familiar with the study, the rate of recidivism is increasing. One source said there has been a “spike” in the number of former detainees involved in jihad against the United States and its allies. Another called the increase “significant” and ‘deeply troubling.” But the Obama administration–despite its -self-congratulatory claims of transparency–is refusing to release it. A Pentagon spokesman tells us the latest report is classified and there are no plans to release it.

The issue has all the telltale signs that we have come to expect from the Obami’s serial blunders on national security. The problem starts with moral sanctimoniousness and a determination to do the opposite of whatever George W. Bush was doing. If Bush detained terrorists in a secure, offshore location, the Obami would do the opposite. The Obami then engage in much posturing and braying, but they dread scrutiny. (“Many of the recidivists, moreover, are already known — there is no reason for the government to classify those details that can be sourced to newspaper accounts.”) That’s why we see Friday-afternoon document dumps and major announcements (e.g., KSM’s civilian trial). And it’s also why they would rather get tagged as hypocrites for lacking transparency than let the public get a glimpse of what they are up to. And finally, it’s getting impossible to argue that the Obami’s moves are making us safer. As Hayes details, in June 2008 we had 37 cases of “confirmed or suspected” detainees released who went back to terrorism; seven months later the number went up to 61:

In May 2009, when the last report was leaked to the New York Times, the DoD had found that those metric had risen further to 74 — exactly double the Pentagon’s estimate just 11 months before. At that rate, the Pentagon is identifying each month, on average, more than three former Gitmo detainees thought to have returned to terrorism.

But facts don’t deter this gang. On Friday we learned that six more detainees were being sent back to Yemen of all places (where Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam has set up shop), with perhaps another dozen to follow.

It is not surprising that the Obama administration is operating in secret and concealing their policies whenever they can get away with it. Any administration with policies this inimical to Americans’ safety and security would do the same.

Stephen Hayes has a blockbuster story on the problem of terrorist recidivism by Guantanamo detainees who we’ve been released:

The Defense Department has now produced an updated version of Return to the Battlefield. According to four separate sources familiar with the study, the rate of recidivism is increasing. One source said there has been a “spike” in the number of former detainees involved in jihad against the United States and its allies. Another called the increase “significant” and ‘deeply troubling.” But the Obama administration–despite its -self-congratulatory claims of transparency–is refusing to release it. A Pentagon spokesman tells us the latest report is classified and there are no plans to release it.

The issue has all the telltale signs that we have come to expect from the Obami’s serial blunders on national security. The problem starts with moral sanctimoniousness and a determination to do the opposite of whatever George W. Bush was doing. If Bush detained terrorists in a secure, offshore location, the Obami would do the opposite. The Obami then engage in much posturing and braying, but they dread scrutiny. (“Many of the recidivists, moreover, are already known — there is no reason for the government to classify those details that can be sourced to newspaper accounts.”) That’s why we see Friday-afternoon document dumps and major announcements (e.g., KSM’s civilian trial). And it’s also why they would rather get tagged as hypocrites for lacking transparency than let the public get a glimpse of what they are up to. And finally, it’s getting impossible to argue that the Obami’s moves are making us safer. As Hayes details, in June 2008 we had 37 cases of “confirmed or suspected” detainees released who went back to terrorism; seven months later the number went up to 61:

In May 2009, when the last report was leaked to the New York Times, the DoD had found that those metric had risen further to 74 — exactly double the Pentagon’s estimate just 11 months before. At that rate, the Pentagon is identifying each month, on average, more than three former Gitmo detainees thought to have returned to terrorism.

But facts don’t deter this gang. On Friday we learned that six more detainees were being sent back to Yemen of all places (where Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam has set up shop), with perhaps another dozen to follow.

It is not surprising that the Obama administration is operating in secret and concealing their policies whenever they can get away with it. Any administration with policies this inimical to Americans’ safety and security would do the same.

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“Dear Mr. Dictator. . .”

Obama, we’re told, has penned a letter to North Korea’s diminutive thug Kim Jong-il. This is not a good thing. You recall the dreamy letter to Vladimir Putin and the video suck-up-o-gram to the “Islamic Republic of Iran.” Both were ill-fated attempts to lure the unlurable with an open hand. At best they had no impact; at worst they conveyed a desperation and naiveté that no doubt impressed those leaders, albeit not in the way we intended. The news reports don’t say what was in the letter. The administration isn’t saying. But as the Washington Post dryly puts it:

It is relatively unusual for an American president to send the North Korean dictator a personal communication so early in his term. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush eventually sent letters to Kim, but only after extensive diplomatic efforts to restrain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Efforts early in Bush’s term to send a letter were stymied by an intense debate over whether to use an honorific such as “his excellency” to address Kim.

Given the cringe-inducing behavior of the Obami, one can imagine that the letter might be less than the model of toughness and resolve we would hope. We’ve dispatched an envoy to engage in bilateral talks with the North Koreans and gone mute on the regime’s atrocious human-rights record. As Stephen Hayes points out, Obama in his Oslo speech omitted North Korea from his list of human-rights miscreants:

So why wasn’t North Korea mentioned? Was it merely an oversight–did Obama officials simply forget how bad things are there? Or was it a strategic omission–a signal to Kim Jong Il that the U.S. government will set aside concerns about human rights if his regime will return to the nuclear negotiating table? …

The very fact that the high-level face-to-face meetings took place is a blow to human rights in North Korea, as any such discussions necessarily lend legitimacy to the repressive regime in Pyongyang, particularly when such bilateral talks came after repeated demands for them from the North Koreans. And the fact that the Obama administration seems unwilling not only to “call attention to” human rights abuses in North Korea but even to mention them suggests that Obama’s “unwavering commitment” to human rights around the world is mere Oslo rhetoric.

And then there’s the news of a North Korean shipment of 35 tons of arms seized in Thailand en route, perhaps, to Pakistan or Middle East, to be used by those seeking to kill Americans or our allies, one supposes.

Given all this, one wonders why the president is penning missives to the North Korean despot. It seems that the Obami are still enamored of their own charms and still bent on “drawing out” the world’s thugs. Maybe a better gambit would be to fund fully our missile-defense systems. Granted, it’s more expensive than a postage stamp, but it’s a whole lot less foolish than writing “Dear Dictator” letters.

Obama, we’re told, has penned a letter to North Korea’s diminutive thug Kim Jong-il. This is not a good thing. You recall the dreamy letter to Vladimir Putin and the video suck-up-o-gram to the “Islamic Republic of Iran.” Both were ill-fated attempts to lure the unlurable with an open hand. At best they had no impact; at worst they conveyed a desperation and naiveté that no doubt impressed those leaders, albeit not in the way we intended. The news reports don’t say what was in the letter. The administration isn’t saying. But as the Washington Post dryly puts it:

It is relatively unusual for an American president to send the North Korean dictator a personal communication so early in his term. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush eventually sent letters to Kim, but only after extensive diplomatic efforts to restrain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Efforts early in Bush’s term to send a letter were stymied by an intense debate over whether to use an honorific such as “his excellency” to address Kim.

Given the cringe-inducing behavior of the Obami, one can imagine that the letter might be less than the model of toughness and resolve we would hope. We’ve dispatched an envoy to engage in bilateral talks with the North Koreans and gone mute on the regime’s atrocious human-rights record. As Stephen Hayes points out, Obama in his Oslo speech omitted North Korea from his list of human-rights miscreants:

So why wasn’t North Korea mentioned? Was it merely an oversight–did Obama officials simply forget how bad things are there? Or was it a strategic omission–a signal to Kim Jong Il that the U.S. government will set aside concerns about human rights if his regime will return to the nuclear negotiating table? …

The very fact that the high-level face-to-face meetings took place is a blow to human rights in North Korea, as any such discussions necessarily lend legitimacy to the repressive regime in Pyongyang, particularly when such bilateral talks came after repeated demands for them from the North Koreans. And the fact that the Obama administration seems unwilling not only to “call attention to” human rights abuses in North Korea but even to mention them suggests that Obama’s “unwavering commitment” to human rights around the world is mere Oslo rhetoric.

And then there’s the news of a North Korean shipment of 35 tons of arms seized in Thailand en route, perhaps, to Pakistan or Middle East, to be used by those seeking to kill Americans or our allies, one supposes.

Given all this, one wonders why the president is penning missives to the North Korean despot. It seems that the Obami are still enamored of their own charms and still bent on “drawing out” the world’s thugs. Maybe a better gambit would be to fund fully our missile-defense systems. Granted, it’s more expensive than a postage stamp, but it’s a whole lot less foolish than writing “Dear Dictator” letters.

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Get to the Bottom of It

Marty Peretz writes:

Well, yes, of course, you’ve read about the lecture Major Nidal Malik Hasan, M.D., delivered at Walter Reed Hospital in 2007. Hasan’s ostensible topic was “The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military.” It might as well have been titled, as the scholar Barry Rubin suggested, “Why I Intend to Murder 13 American Soldiers at Foot Hood.” But, since nobody in the higher-up military actually noticed that a very shaky psychiatrist, indeed, gave an official medical rounds talk–maybe even grand rounds–on Islam, Hasan did, in fact, go on to kill 13 men and women and wound another 28. Had two police not brought him down he would have gone on to shoot (how?) many others.

The information is piling up, and the public, as they learn of the ample evidence of Hasan’s jihadist predilections, will, I suspect, be demanding some answers. Stephen Hayes and Tom Joscelyn take us through chapter and verse. Part of the problem is eerily reminiscent of the pre-9/11 dilemma:

But the FBI did not know all that the Army knew. And the Army did not know all that the FBI knew. The participants in an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force discussed Hasan’s case briefly and concluded that it did not warrant an investigation. If they had performed even a cursory, unobtrusive examination of this man, his contacts, and his radical views, they would have quickly turned up a great deal of troubling information.

And then there is the connection to Anwar al-Awlaki, which as Hayes and Joscelyn note is troublesome in the extreme. (“A Muslim officer in the U.S. Army was seeking guidance –spiritual? academic? — from an openly pro-jihad cleric whose past was so troubling he had been investigated by the U.S. intelligence community on three separate occasions and whose words had inspired a plot to attack a U.S. Army installation.”) If, in fact, “too little information was shared and too little attention paid to a man whose words and actions demanded attention,” we have a serious lapse in national security, one that, unlike 9-11, cannot be excused by a “failure of imagination.” We know what terror looks like, and we know the identity of the enemy.

The question, however, is whether the will to ignore the obvious, the pressure of political correctness, and a lapse into a pre-9-11 mentality have overtaken us. It would seem a complete, independent, and public evaluation of all this is in order. Why, after all, should we trust the malefactors to investigate themselves? We didn’t after 9/11. There is no reason to do so in the case of the first major terror attack since 9/11.

Marty Peretz writes:

Well, yes, of course, you’ve read about the lecture Major Nidal Malik Hasan, M.D., delivered at Walter Reed Hospital in 2007. Hasan’s ostensible topic was “The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military.” It might as well have been titled, as the scholar Barry Rubin suggested, “Why I Intend to Murder 13 American Soldiers at Foot Hood.” But, since nobody in the higher-up military actually noticed that a very shaky psychiatrist, indeed, gave an official medical rounds talk–maybe even grand rounds–on Islam, Hasan did, in fact, go on to kill 13 men and women and wound another 28. Had two police not brought him down he would have gone on to shoot (how?) many others.

The information is piling up, and the public, as they learn of the ample evidence of Hasan’s jihadist predilections, will, I suspect, be demanding some answers. Stephen Hayes and Tom Joscelyn take us through chapter and verse. Part of the problem is eerily reminiscent of the pre-9/11 dilemma:

But the FBI did not know all that the Army knew. And the Army did not know all that the FBI knew. The participants in an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force discussed Hasan’s case briefly and concluded that it did not warrant an investigation. If they had performed even a cursory, unobtrusive examination of this man, his contacts, and his radical views, they would have quickly turned up a great deal of troubling information.

And then there is the connection to Anwar al-Awlaki, which as Hayes and Joscelyn note is troublesome in the extreme. (“A Muslim officer in the U.S. Army was seeking guidance –spiritual? academic? — from an openly pro-jihad cleric whose past was so troubling he had been investigated by the U.S. intelligence community on three separate occasions and whose words had inspired a plot to attack a U.S. Army installation.”) If, in fact, “too little information was shared and too little attention paid to a man whose words and actions demanded attention,” we have a serious lapse in national security, one that, unlike 9-11, cannot be excused by a “failure of imagination.” We know what terror looks like, and we know the identity of the enemy.

The question, however, is whether the will to ignore the obvious, the pressure of political correctness, and a lapse into a pre-9-11 mentality have overtaken us. It would seem a complete, independent, and public evaluation of all this is in order. Why, after all, should we trust the malefactors to investigate themselves? We didn’t after 9/11. There is no reason to do so in the case of the first major terror attack since 9/11.

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McCain on North Korea

While the mainstream media continues to fawn over Christopher Hill’s efforts in the Six Party talks, John McCain sets out his own views on North Korea (and Asia more generally) in the Asian Wall Street Journal. While much of the piece contains relatively familiar words of support for free trade and strengthening existing alliances, this jumps out:

We must use the leverage available from the U.N. Security Council resolution passed after Pyongyang’s 2006 nuclear test to ensure the full and complete declaration, disablement and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear facilities, in a verifiable manner, which we agreed to with the other members of the six-party talks. We must reinvigorate the trilateral coordination process with Japan and South Korea. And we must never squander the trust of our allies and the respect for our highest office by promising that the president will embark on an open-ended, unconditional personal negotiation with a dictator responsible for running an international criminal enterprise, a covert nuclear weapons program and a massive system of gulags.

The first two sentences are aimed squarely at the Bush administration. Many voices are urging McCain to get to the left of Bush on foreign policy. But here McCain goes the other way, in essence crying foul on the increasingly preposterous attempts (detailed by Stephen Hayes most recently) to ignore North Korea’s nuclear testing and proliferation (not to mention gross human rights abuses) for the sake of what some call “legacy deals.”

McCain continued these themes in a speech today on nuclear proliferation, stating that

North Korea pursues a nuclear weapons program to the point where, today, the dictator Kim Jong-Il has tested a nuclear weapon, and almost certainly possesses several more nuclear warheads. And it has shared its nuclear and missile know-how with others, including Syria. It is a vital national interest for the North Korean nuclear program to be completely, verifiably and irreversibly ended. . . .

Again, this criticism seems to be directed mainly at the unwillingness of the Bush administration to push for verifiable restraints on North Korea’s nuclear program. The latter may not do much to endear McCain to mainstream pundits, but it will likely cheer the conservative base (which has grown increasingly disgusted with Bush’s second term foreign policy record). North Korea is one issue on which McCain seems inclined to break with Bush, albeit not the way most critics envisioned.

While the mainstream media continues to fawn over Christopher Hill’s efforts in the Six Party talks, John McCain sets out his own views on North Korea (and Asia more generally) in the Asian Wall Street Journal. While much of the piece contains relatively familiar words of support for free trade and strengthening existing alliances, this jumps out:

We must use the leverage available from the U.N. Security Council resolution passed after Pyongyang’s 2006 nuclear test to ensure the full and complete declaration, disablement and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear facilities, in a verifiable manner, which we agreed to with the other members of the six-party talks. We must reinvigorate the trilateral coordination process with Japan and South Korea. And we must never squander the trust of our allies and the respect for our highest office by promising that the president will embark on an open-ended, unconditional personal negotiation with a dictator responsible for running an international criminal enterprise, a covert nuclear weapons program and a massive system of gulags.

The first two sentences are aimed squarely at the Bush administration. Many voices are urging McCain to get to the left of Bush on foreign policy. But here McCain goes the other way, in essence crying foul on the increasingly preposterous attempts (detailed by Stephen Hayes most recently) to ignore North Korea’s nuclear testing and proliferation (not to mention gross human rights abuses) for the sake of what some call “legacy deals.”

McCain continued these themes in a speech today on nuclear proliferation, stating that

North Korea pursues a nuclear weapons program to the point where, today, the dictator Kim Jong-Il has tested a nuclear weapon, and almost certainly possesses several more nuclear warheads. And it has shared its nuclear and missile know-how with others, including Syria. It is a vital national interest for the North Korean nuclear program to be completely, verifiably and irreversibly ended. . . .

Again, this criticism seems to be directed mainly at the unwillingness of the Bush administration to push for verifiable restraints on North Korea’s nuclear program. The latter may not do much to endear McCain to mainstream pundits, but it will likely cheer the conservative base (which has grown increasingly disgusted with Bush’s second term foreign policy record). North Korea is one issue on which McCain seems inclined to break with Bush, albeit not the way most critics envisioned.

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Words, Words, Words

Stephen Hayes raises a key point about Barack Obama: rhetoric really does get you far in presidential politics and Obama has enough substance to get by. Attacking his overzealous rhetoric was a sensible but ultimately losing tactic for Hillary Clinton, who could not easily quibble with Obama on actual policy positions and was trying to win on “experience.” However, the best argument for John McCain in the general election is not that there is nothing in all the rhetorical haze (although I think it entirely appropriate to point out that a cult of personality is not exactly in the best tradition of American democracy); it’s that what is there is wrongheaded and downright dangerous.

As Hayes points out, Reagan used rhetoric brilliantly to inspire and lead. However, the underlying message was one that Americans were receptive to–rebuilding America’s military might and strengthening the free market. Once Obama moves beyond the liberal Democratic primary electorate, he may find general election voters markedly less receptive to his vision: more government, retreat in Iraq (coupled paradoxically with the notion that America’s standoffishness is responsible for the world’s ills), and the imposition of a liberal social agenda. Even the most inspiring language won’t motivate people to go where they don’t want to go. In the end, ideas usually trump words.

Stephen Hayes raises a key point about Barack Obama: rhetoric really does get you far in presidential politics and Obama has enough substance to get by. Attacking his overzealous rhetoric was a sensible but ultimately losing tactic for Hillary Clinton, who could not easily quibble with Obama on actual policy positions and was trying to win on “experience.” However, the best argument for John McCain in the general election is not that there is nothing in all the rhetorical haze (although I think it entirely appropriate to point out that a cult of personality is not exactly in the best tradition of American democracy); it’s that what is there is wrongheaded and downright dangerous.

As Hayes points out, Reagan used rhetoric brilliantly to inspire and lead. However, the underlying message was one that Americans were receptive to–rebuilding America’s military might and strengthening the free market. Once Obama moves beyond the liberal Democratic primary electorate, he may find general election voters markedly less receptive to his vision: more government, retreat in Iraq (coupled paradoxically with the notion that America’s standoffishness is responsible for the world’s ills), and the imposition of a liberal social agenda. Even the most inspiring language won’t motivate people to go where they don’t want to go. In the end, ideas usually trump words.

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It Only Gets Worse For Romney

Stephen Hayes, as he usually does, gets to the heart of the matter on the debate last night:

But after all of the back-and-forthing on who said what and who meant what, one reality is likely to emerge for voters who care most about national security: John McCain enthusiastically supported the surge, the key course correction in a battle that all Republicans call the “central front” in the war on terror–and he did so at great political risk.

The next problem for Romney is that the parade of news-stealing endorsements–Arnold Schwarzennegger, U.S. Senators, and the like–will begin to monopolize the media and cement the perception of McCain’s inevitability.

Today, the candidates must reveal their FEC filings for the Fourth Quarter of 2007. That means we will learn how many of Mitt Romney’s millions he spent for all those “silver medals.” Although his defenders rightly say he can spend his own hard-earned money any way he likes, the fact remains that he has continued long past the point other contenders may have dropped out largely because of his bank account. The portrait his critics paint of an artificially created-candidate, the product of consultants’ failed designs and millions in wasted ads, is not a helpful one, but one that will nevertheless be the focus of much of the media analysis today. ( I put the “under-over” at $60M.)

Stephen Hayes, as he usually does, gets to the heart of the matter on the debate last night:

But after all of the back-and-forthing on who said what and who meant what, one reality is likely to emerge for voters who care most about national security: John McCain enthusiastically supported the surge, the key course correction in a battle that all Republicans call the “central front” in the war on terror–and he did so at great political risk.

The next problem for Romney is that the parade of news-stealing endorsements–Arnold Schwarzennegger, U.S. Senators, and the like–will begin to monopolize the media and cement the perception of McCain’s inevitability.

Today, the candidates must reveal their FEC filings for the Fourth Quarter of 2007. That means we will learn how many of Mitt Romney’s millions he spent for all those “silver medals.” Although his defenders rightly say he can spend his own hard-earned money any way he likes, the fact remains that he has continued long past the point other contenders may have dropped out largely because of his bank account. The portrait his critics paint of an artificially created-candidate, the product of consultants’ failed designs and millions in wasted ads, is not a helpful one, but one that will nevertheless be the focus of much of the media analysis today. ( I put the “under-over” at $60M.)

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