Commentary Magazine


Topic: the Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times on the Case

As we noted over the weekend, the letter Tom Campbell wrote to the University of South Florida in 2002 on behalf of Sami Al-Arian has snarled him in yet another controversy over his record on Israel and Islamic terrorism. Now the Los Angeles Times has perked up:

Campbell had previously conceded that he wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf, but had said during a candidates’ debate Friday that he did so before Al-Arian’s interview with O’Reilly. His campaign’s website also said the letter was written before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The text of the letter showed otherwise. Dated Jan. 21, 2002, it said, ” . . . I respectfully wish to convey my sincere alarm that Professor Al-Arian may be treated harshly because of the substance of his views.”

Campbell went on to write that “I have formed this fear because of the paucity of evidence supporting the purported reasons for this discipline against him. I read a transcript of the ‘O’Reilly Factor’ interview last autumn, and I did not see anything whereby Professor Al-Arian attempted to claim he was representing the views of the University of South Florida.”

Now Campbell is changing his tune yet again:

On Monday, Campbell said in an interview that despite the language of his letter, he had never read the full transcript of the O’Reilly interview, specifically the “Death to Israel” language. If he had seen it, he said, he never would have written the letter.

“That’s too zealous,” he said. “Unacceptable. Calling for death to a country or individual is unacceptable.”

This is rather pathetic. He said in the interview that he wasn’t aware of Al-Arian’s inflammatory rhetoric. The letter says he was, in fact, aware of it. But now he says he really didn’t know, although he wrote that he did. This is the meticulous, smart guy his proponents defend? His campaign now states that Campbell’s memory is “foggy.” Perhaps it’s foggy on many counts, and the best thing for Campbell would be to review his own record, come up with a definitive defense for his votes to cut aid to Israel and his association with Islamic terrorists, and then hold a press conference and get it all out in the open. As Chuck DeVore’s campaign spokesman said, “Whether it’s absent-mindedness or deception — the only person who knows that for sure is Tom Campbell — there’s a pattern of inaccuracy whenever Tom Campbell ventures into these subjects. … We have to double-check everything he says about his past associations with these radicals because we can’t trust him to give us the whole truth.”

And when the issue migrates from Israel to terrorism to credibility, there’s a problem. California voters have much to consider, it seems.

As we noted over the weekend, the letter Tom Campbell wrote to the University of South Florida in 2002 on behalf of Sami Al-Arian has snarled him in yet another controversy over his record on Israel and Islamic terrorism. Now the Los Angeles Times has perked up:

Campbell had previously conceded that he wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf, but had said during a candidates’ debate Friday that he did so before Al-Arian’s interview with O’Reilly. His campaign’s website also said the letter was written before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The text of the letter showed otherwise. Dated Jan. 21, 2002, it said, ” . . . I respectfully wish to convey my sincere alarm that Professor Al-Arian may be treated harshly because of the substance of his views.”

Campbell went on to write that “I have formed this fear because of the paucity of evidence supporting the purported reasons for this discipline against him. I read a transcript of the ‘O’Reilly Factor’ interview last autumn, and I did not see anything whereby Professor Al-Arian attempted to claim he was representing the views of the University of South Florida.”

Now Campbell is changing his tune yet again:

On Monday, Campbell said in an interview that despite the language of his letter, he had never read the full transcript of the O’Reilly interview, specifically the “Death to Israel” language. If he had seen it, he said, he never would have written the letter.

“That’s too zealous,” he said. “Unacceptable. Calling for death to a country or individual is unacceptable.”

This is rather pathetic. He said in the interview that he wasn’t aware of Al-Arian’s inflammatory rhetoric. The letter says he was, in fact, aware of it. But now he says he really didn’t know, although he wrote that he did. This is the meticulous, smart guy his proponents defend? His campaign now states that Campbell’s memory is “foggy.” Perhaps it’s foggy on many counts, and the best thing for Campbell would be to review his own record, come up with a definitive defense for his votes to cut aid to Israel and his association with Islamic terrorists, and then hold a press conference and get it all out in the open. As Chuck DeVore’s campaign spokesman said, “Whether it’s absent-mindedness or deception — the only person who knows that for sure is Tom Campbell — there’s a pattern of inaccuracy whenever Tom Campbell ventures into these subjects. … We have to double-check everything he says about his past associations with these radicals because we can’t trust him to give us the whole truth.”

And when the issue migrates from Israel to terrorism to credibility, there’s a problem. California voters have much to consider, it seems.

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Tom Campbell Will Debate on Terrorism and National Security

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that “Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that “Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

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Mainstream Media Discovers Tom Campbell’s Israel Issue

After Phil Klein and I have written about this for a week, the mainstream media, reporting on the Republican Senate primary in California, have finally discovered the controversy concerning Tom Campbell’s record and rhetoric on Israel. The Los Angeles Times has now weighed in:

In a dispute that commingles foreign policy and a quest for political advantage, U.S.-Israel relations have taken an unexpectedly central role in the California race for Senate.

Rivals in the race for the Republican nomination are questioning whether former Rep. Tom Campbell is sufficiently supportive of Israel. They base their criticisms on his voting record, statements about a Palestinian homeland and capital, and some of his past associates.

After some back-and-forth regarding whether his rivals have dubbed him anti-Semitic (they say they have not) we learn that Campbell has rounded up former Secretary of State George Shultz to vouch for him. But then we get to the meat of the concern regarding Campbell’s record:

Criticism of Campbell’s voting record centers on efforts to reduce foreign aid for Israel. While in Congress, Campbell said, he supported military aid for Israel but twice sought to reduce economic aid. In the late 1990s, when foreign aid to other nations was being cut to help balance the budget, Israel’s allocation was not affected. Campbell said he favored allowing the military aid to remain unchanged but supported slightly reducing economic aid.

A second instance occurred when he voted against giving Israel an additional $30 million in economic aid, which was to have been taken from funds set aside for the neediest nations, such as those in Africa. That money, he said, was on top of a $700-million aid request that he supported and an earlier $3-billion appropriation. . . Campbell also drew criticism in the past for saying that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. He said in the interview that he stands by that view.

Now Campbell is back to admitting he did accept a contribution from convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian. (He flatly denied it in his New Ledger interview yesterday.) The story now is:

His opponents also questioned Campbell’s past associates, notably Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to help a terrorist organization. Al-Arian had donated $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 campaign for Senate. Campbell, who was the business school dean at UC Berkeley and now teaches at Chapman University, wrote a letter to the University of South Florida protesting its decision to fire Al-Arian over comments he made. He also visited Al-Arian’s brother in jail.

Campbell said he did not know about Al-Arian’s illegal activities at the time and said that if he had he would not have written the letter.

“None of that had come out,” he said. Al-Arian was also photographed with George W. Bush during his first presidential campaign, Campbell noted.

(Al-Arian had, of course, been the subject of a 1994 documentary, had been under investigation for years before 2000, and had long spewed jihadist rhetoric.)

But on this one, the lede is buried, and perhaps with it Campbell’s standing in the Jewish community:

“He’s a brilliant gentlemen and an engaging personality, and I don’t think he’s particularly pro-Israel,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who has known Campbell since the 1980s. “I think there’s enough there on the record that would send real alarms that this is someone who maybe doesn’t fully understand, doesn’t fully value or fully support a strong ongoing relationship with the state of Israel, an alliance with the state of Israel.”

Campbell can whine all he likes that his rivals’ attacks are “unacceptable” and “personally hurtful,” but that probably isn’t getting him anywhere. He is, however, reportedly to meet with representatives of AIPAC. Perhaps he can convince those Jewish leaders that his record is a stellar one on Israel, that his praise of Alison Weir (not mentioned in the Times report) is nothing, that his support of Al-Arian is also nothing, and that past rhetoric is not indicative of his views on Israel and a Palestinian state. Stranger things have happened. But first he should, on matters such as Sami Al-Arian, pick one story and stick to it.

After Phil Klein and I have written about this for a week, the mainstream media, reporting on the Republican Senate primary in California, have finally discovered the controversy concerning Tom Campbell’s record and rhetoric on Israel. The Los Angeles Times has now weighed in:

In a dispute that commingles foreign policy and a quest for political advantage, U.S.-Israel relations have taken an unexpectedly central role in the California race for Senate.

Rivals in the race for the Republican nomination are questioning whether former Rep. Tom Campbell is sufficiently supportive of Israel. They base their criticisms on his voting record, statements about a Palestinian homeland and capital, and some of his past associates.

After some back-and-forth regarding whether his rivals have dubbed him anti-Semitic (they say they have not) we learn that Campbell has rounded up former Secretary of State George Shultz to vouch for him. But then we get to the meat of the concern regarding Campbell’s record:

Criticism of Campbell’s voting record centers on efforts to reduce foreign aid for Israel. While in Congress, Campbell said, he supported military aid for Israel but twice sought to reduce economic aid. In the late 1990s, when foreign aid to other nations was being cut to help balance the budget, Israel’s allocation was not affected. Campbell said he favored allowing the military aid to remain unchanged but supported slightly reducing economic aid.

A second instance occurred when he voted against giving Israel an additional $30 million in economic aid, which was to have been taken from funds set aside for the neediest nations, such as those in Africa. That money, he said, was on top of a $700-million aid request that he supported and an earlier $3-billion appropriation. . . Campbell also drew criticism in the past for saying that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. He said in the interview that he stands by that view.

Now Campbell is back to admitting he did accept a contribution from convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian. (He flatly denied it in his New Ledger interview yesterday.) The story now is:

His opponents also questioned Campbell’s past associates, notably Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to help a terrorist organization. Al-Arian had donated $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 campaign for Senate. Campbell, who was the business school dean at UC Berkeley and now teaches at Chapman University, wrote a letter to the University of South Florida protesting its decision to fire Al-Arian over comments he made. He also visited Al-Arian’s brother in jail.

Campbell said he did not know about Al-Arian’s illegal activities at the time and said that if he had he would not have written the letter.

“None of that had come out,” he said. Al-Arian was also photographed with George W. Bush during his first presidential campaign, Campbell noted.

(Al-Arian had, of course, been the subject of a 1994 documentary, had been under investigation for years before 2000, and had long spewed jihadist rhetoric.)

But on this one, the lede is buried, and perhaps with it Campbell’s standing in the Jewish community:

“He’s a brilliant gentlemen and an engaging personality, and I don’t think he’s particularly pro-Israel,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who has known Campbell since the 1980s. “I think there’s enough there on the record that would send real alarms that this is someone who maybe doesn’t fully understand, doesn’t fully value or fully support a strong ongoing relationship with the state of Israel, an alliance with the state of Israel.”

Campbell can whine all he likes that his rivals’ attacks are “unacceptable” and “personally hurtful,” but that probably isn’t getting him anywhere. He is, however, reportedly to meet with representatives of AIPAC. Perhaps he can convince those Jewish leaders that his record is a stellar one on Israel, that his praise of Alison Weir (not mentioned in the Times report) is nothing, that his support of Al-Arian is also nothing, and that past rhetoric is not indicative of his views on Israel and a Palestinian state. Stranger things have happened. But first he should, on matters such as Sami Al-Arian, pick one story and stick to it.

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Faking Bipartisanship

Word is leaking out: Obama is not a very sincere guy. It seems the Los Angeles Times has let on that the health-care summit is one big setup. “In a flurry of recent public appearances, Obama has sent a message that he is prepared to embrace Republican ideas. But he is also signaling that if Republicans balk at compromise, he’ll exact a political price.” And sure enough, Republicans have figured out that the health-care summit, following the unveiling of ObamaCare II (to be slammed through by reconciliation), isn’t on the level.

And a White House official cited by the Los Angeles Times demonstrates the depth of the cynicism: “The Massachusetts election obliterated the argument that we could [govern] all on our own. … What we’re doing now is actively reaching out and demonstrating our interest in bipartisanship — but not passively standing by if Republicans are not willing to meet us halfway.” In other words: do it our way, or we’ll use parliamentary tricks and try to make you other guys look intransigent.

Then the New York Times questions Rep. Paul Ryan and gets some candid answers:

Your “Road Map,” we should explain, is a somewhat alarming document that proposes, in 600-plus pages, erasing the federal deficit by radically restricting the government’s role in social programs like Social Security and Medicare. The president described it as “a serious proposal.”

Right. And then the next day his budget director starts ripping me and then the day after that the entire Democratic National Committee political machine starts launching demagogic attacks on me and my plan. So when you hear the word “bipartisanship” come from the president and then you see his political machine get in full-force attack mode, it comes across as very insincere.

He seems genuinely pained by what he has called the “obstinacy” of Congressional Republicans and their just-say-no obstructionism.

You know, casting the other side as somehow nefarious and evil and poorly intended is the oldest trick in the book.

Obama is simply doing what he always does — substituting political tactics for smart policy and at all costs avoiding any rethinking of his agenda. It’s always some new ploy with him. In the first year, Obama tried to convince us he was a moderate while pushing a very radical agenda. Now in the second year, he’s trying to convince us he’s discovered bipartisanship while resorting to some fairly blatant partisan stunts. In both cases, he imagines the voters won’t catch on. But they are smarter, I suspect, than Obama thinks. Otherwise, Year One’s trick would have worked, and we wouldn’t need the Year-Two gambit.


Word is leaking out: Obama is not a very sincere guy. It seems the Los Angeles Times has let on that the health-care summit is one big setup. “In a flurry of recent public appearances, Obama has sent a message that he is prepared to embrace Republican ideas. But he is also signaling that if Republicans balk at compromise, he’ll exact a political price.” And sure enough, Republicans have figured out that the health-care summit, following the unveiling of ObamaCare II (to be slammed through by reconciliation), isn’t on the level.

And a White House official cited by the Los Angeles Times demonstrates the depth of the cynicism: “The Massachusetts election obliterated the argument that we could [govern] all on our own. … What we’re doing now is actively reaching out and demonstrating our interest in bipartisanship — but not passively standing by if Republicans are not willing to meet us halfway.” In other words: do it our way, or we’ll use parliamentary tricks and try to make you other guys look intransigent.

Then the New York Times questions Rep. Paul Ryan and gets some candid answers:

Your “Road Map,” we should explain, is a somewhat alarming document that proposes, in 600-plus pages, erasing the federal deficit by radically restricting the government’s role in social programs like Social Security and Medicare. The president described it as “a serious proposal.”

Right. And then the next day his budget director starts ripping me and then the day after that the entire Democratic National Committee political machine starts launching demagogic attacks on me and my plan. So when you hear the word “bipartisanship” come from the president and then you see his political machine get in full-force attack mode, it comes across as very insincere.

He seems genuinely pained by what he has called the “obstinacy” of Congressional Republicans and their just-say-no obstructionism.

You know, casting the other side as somehow nefarious and evil and poorly intended is the oldest trick in the book.

Obama is simply doing what he always does — substituting political tactics for smart policy and at all costs avoiding any rethinking of his agenda. It’s always some new ploy with him. In the first year, Obama tried to convince us he was a moderate while pushing a very radical agenda. Now in the second year, he’s trying to convince us he’s discovered bipartisanship while resorting to some fairly blatant partisan stunts. In both cases, he imagines the voters won’t catch on. But they are smarter, I suspect, than Obama thinks. Otherwise, Year One’s trick would have worked, and we wouldn’t need the Year-Two gambit.


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Iran, Israel, and the GOP Senate Primary Race

Carly Fiorina, who is in a tough Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in California, has raised a key foreign-policy issue. In a released statement, she notes:

President Ahmadinejad’s order yesterday to begin enriching uranium far past levels needed to power nuclear plants reveals the regime’s true intentions for its nuclear technology. Today’s news only further confirms that Iran is not serious about complying with the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty to which they are a party.

It is abundantly clear: engagement with Iran has failed. Negotiations have shown no progress. We cannot afford to talk any longer. We must act now to implement tough, crippling sanctions to persuade the Iranian regime to suspend its nuclear program and engage in serious negotiations.

Both the Senate and the House have passed strong versions of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. I urge our leaders in Congress to reconcile quickly their differences and present a bill to the President for his immediate signature and immediate implementation.

It will be interesting to see how significant an issue this becomes in the primary race. Her two opponents have yet to weigh in on this issue, but foreign policy — specifically, their stance toward Israel and the existential threat to the Jewish state’s existence posed by a nuclear-armed Iran — may well play a role in the race. One of her opponents, Chuck Devore, has in the past voiced strong support for Israel’s right of self-defense.

Tom Campbell, who has zipped into the lead in early polls, is quite another story. During his time in the House, Campbell was one of the few Republicans with a consistent anti-Israel voting record. In 1999, he introduced an amendment to cut foreign aid to Israel. This amendment, titled the Campbell Amendment, was defeated overwhelmingly on the House floor by a vote of 13-414. In 1999, Campbell was one of just 24 House members to vote against a resolution expressing congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. In 1997, Rep. Tom Campbell authored an amendment (also titled the Campbell Amendment) to cut foreign aid to Israel. The resolution failed 9-32 in committee. In 1990, Campbell was one of just 34 House members to vote against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  The resolution passed the House 378-34. But Campbell has taken positions on more than just aid that have raised concerns about his views on Israel. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2000, Campbell, in his losing race against Dianne Feinstein, “told numerous crowds–including Jewish groups–that he believes Palestinians are entitled to a homeland and that Jerusalem can be the capital of more than one nation.”

By making Iran and foreign policy a focus of her campaign, Fiorina is most likely inviting comparisons with her opponents. We’ll see how California Republicans size up the candidates and whether their stance Iran and Israel become a major source of contention.

Carly Fiorina, who is in a tough Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in California, has raised a key foreign-policy issue. In a released statement, she notes:

President Ahmadinejad’s order yesterday to begin enriching uranium far past levels needed to power nuclear plants reveals the regime’s true intentions for its nuclear technology. Today’s news only further confirms that Iran is not serious about complying with the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty to which they are a party.

It is abundantly clear: engagement with Iran has failed. Negotiations have shown no progress. We cannot afford to talk any longer. We must act now to implement tough, crippling sanctions to persuade the Iranian regime to suspend its nuclear program and engage in serious negotiations.

Both the Senate and the House have passed strong versions of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. I urge our leaders in Congress to reconcile quickly their differences and present a bill to the President for his immediate signature and immediate implementation.

It will be interesting to see how significant an issue this becomes in the primary race. Her two opponents have yet to weigh in on this issue, but foreign policy — specifically, their stance toward Israel and the existential threat to the Jewish state’s existence posed by a nuclear-armed Iran — may well play a role in the race. One of her opponents, Chuck Devore, has in the past voiced strong support for Israel’s right of self-defense.

Tom Campbell, who has zipped into the lead in early polls, is quite another story. During his time in the House, Campbell was one of the few Republicans with a consistent anti-Israel voting record. In 1999, he introduced an amendment to cut foreign aid to Israel. This amendment, titled the Campbell Amendment, was defeated overwhelmingly on the House floor by a vote of 13-414. In 1999, Campbell was one of just 24 House members to vote against a resolution expressing congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. In 1997, Rep. Tom Campbell authored an amendment (also titled the Campbell Amendment) to cut foreign aid to Israel. The resolution failed 9-32 in committee. In 1990, Campbell was one of just 34 House members to vote against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  The resolution passed the House 378-34. But Campbell has taken positions on more than just aid that have raised concerns about his views on Israel. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2000, Campbell, in his losing race against Dianne Feinstein, “told numerous crowds–including Jewish groups–that he believes Palestinians are entitled to a homeland and that Jerusalem can be the capital of more than one nation.”

By making Iran and foreign policy a focus of her campaign, Fiorina is most likely inviting comparisons with her opponents. We’ll see how California Republicans size up the candidates and whether their stance Iran and Israel become a major source of contention.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: “Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: “Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

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The Missing SOTU Eloquence

The New York Times called the State of the Union Address “a reminder that [Obama] is a gifted orator, able to inspire with grand vision,” but the Times did not include any examples to prove its point. The Los Angeles Times found the address “moving and even inspirational at times” but likewise omitted any supporting evidence.

Several prominent conservatives were impressed by the peroration, but it seemed to me more like a collection of well-worn Obama rhetorical flourishes: the values that built America “aren’t Republican values or Democratic values. … They are American values”; we must address the “cynicism” out there; I “never suggested that change would be easy”; and what keeps me “fighting” is the “fundamental decency of the American people.” Obama gave no credit to the American soldiers actually fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for removing two totalitarian dictatorships and bringing representative government — the quintessential American value — to both countries.

Even if the peroration had been impressive, it occurred at the end of a 71-minute address. As the speech entered its second hour, my principal feeling was the fierce urgency of having him finish it now.

It may be that the words not in the speech will eventually prove more significant than the ones that were. Iran received a total of 32 words in the 7,400-word address: it is “more isolated” and will face “growing consequences” (that’s a “promise”). The words of the past — “unacceptable,” “crippling,” “all options on the table” — were missing, as was a description of the consequences themselves, one month after Obama’s latest “deadline” passed.

Historians may note that those in Iran fighting for representative government to replace a brutal theocracy received no encouragement from the president of the United States in his most important speech of the year — no grand vision, no inspirational rhetoric, not even a “yes you can.”

The New York Times called the State of the Union Address “a reminder that [Obama] is a gifted orator, able to inspire with grand vision,” but the Times did not include any examples to prove its point. The Los Angeles Times found the address “moving and even inspirational at times” but likewise omitted any supporting evidence.

Several prominent conservatives were impressed by the peroration, but it seemed to me more like a collection of well-worn Obama rhetorical flourishes: the values that built America “aren’t Republican values or Democratic values. … They are American values”; we must address the “cynicism” out there; I “never suggested that change would be easy”; and what keeps me “fighting” is the “fundamental decency of the American people.” Obama gave no credit to the American soldiers actually fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for removing two totalitarian dictatorships and bringing representative government — the quintessential American value — to both countries.

Even if the peroration had been impressive, it occurred at the end of a 71-minute address. As the speech entered its second hour, my principal feeling was the fierce urgency of having him finish it now.

It may be that the words not in the speech will eventually prove more significant than the ones that were. Iran received a total of 32 words in the 7,400-word address: it is “more isolated” and will face “growing consequences” (that’s a “promise”). The words of the past — “unacceptable,” “crippling,” “all options on the table” — were missing, as was a description of the consequences themselves, one month after Obama’s latest “deadline” passed.

Historians may note that those in Iran fighting for representative government to replace a brutal theocracy received no encouragement from the president of the United States in his most important speech of the year — no grand vision, no inspirational rhetoric, not even a “yes you can.”

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Even Boxer and Feinstein Get It

Even Boxer and Feinstein get it. Well, sort of. They get the prospect of electoral vulnerability, at least. In the wake of Scott Brown’s victory, the Los Angeles Times’ California Politics column quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer today acknowledging that “every state is now in play, absolutely.”

Boxer, who got 57 percent of the vote in her 2004 reelection campaign, faces California voters this fall. Republicans are encouraged that she showed poorly – for her – in a January Rasmussen poll against the GOP contenders, who include former tech-industry CEO Carly Fiorina. Boxer’s best margin was a 46-40 showing against state legislator Chuck DeVore, but his is the interesting figure: with his name recognition lower than Fiorina’s, the historical pattern would have been for him to get a number no better than the low 30s. DeVore’s 40 signifies that voters are likely turning away from Boxer.

It’s not a given that the California GOP gets it, of course. Republican Tom Campbell, who switched from the gubernatorial race to the Senate race after Scott Brown surged in the Massachusetts polls last week, has probably thrown up a fresh obstacle to party unity in November. Some shaking out of cobwebs will be inevitable this year in a state party that has been remarkably unsuccessful for at least two decades.

But President Obama’s support is slipping significantly among Californians, and their dissatisfaction with the direction of the state and the nation is growing. What Republicans need to learn from Scott Brown’s success is that voters respond to forceful, specific, and positive messages. Jennifer captures this in her comments on the Brown victory speech. GOP candidates probably will not have the looming threat of ObamaCare to run against this fall; the Democrats look likely to back off and postpone that reckoning. Without that crystallizing threat in voters’ minds, the candidates’ positive messages will have to do the heavy lifting.

The 2010 opportunity is unique, however. Dianne Feinstein is California’s other occupant of one of the safest Senate seats in the country, and she demonstrated, in just a few words quoted today by the LA Times, that she misreads what voters want to hear:

People are very unsettled. They are very worried. There is anger. There is angst. … You see high unemployment. …You see anger. … The administration has to see it, and we have to see it. And therefore, everything is jobs and the economy and education.

Contrast that with the passage Jennifer cites from Brown’s speech last night:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the agenda of a new establishment in Washington.

In this aspect of the 2010 political environment, it’s Scott Brown who gets it. The American people aren’t writhing in anger and angst, confusedly demanding that government do something about “jobs, economy, and education.” They know exactly what they think is wrong today, and the problem, as Ronald Reagan would have said, is government. Scott Brown’s unvarnished directness has been respectful of voters as thinking citizens. If Republicans take that to heart, they will have an inherent advantage over many long-entrenched Democrats.

Even Boxer and Feinstein get it. Well, sort of. They get the prospect of electoral vulnerability, at least. In the wake of Scott Brown’s victory, the Los Angeles Times’ California Politics column quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer today acknowledging that “every state is now in play, absolutely.”

Boxer, who got 57 percent of the vote in her 2004 reelection campaign, faces California voters this fall. Republicans are encouraged that she showed poorly – for her – in a January Rasmussen poll against the GOP contenders, who include former tech-industry CEO Carly Fiorina. Boxer’s best margin was a 46-40 showing against state legislator Chuck DeVore, but his is the interesting figure: with his name recognition lower than Fiorina’s, the historical pattern would have been for him to get a number no better than the low 30s. DeVore’s 40 signifies that voters are likely turning away from Boxer.

It’s not a given that the California GOP gets it, of course. Republican Tom Campbell, who switched from the gubernatorial race to the Senate race after Scott Brown surged in the Massachusetts polls last week, has probably thrown up a fresh obstacle to party unity in November. Some shaking out of cobwebs will be inevitable this year in a state party that has been remarkably unsuccessful for at least two decades.

But President Obama’s support is slipping significantly among Californians, and their dissatisfaction with the direction of the state and the nation is growing. What Republicans need to learn from Scott Brown’s success is that voters respond to forceful, specific, and positive messages. Jennifer captures this in her comments on the Brown victory speech. GOP candidates probably will not have the looming threat of ObamaCare to run against this fall; the Democrats look likely to back off and postpone that reckoning. Without that crystallizing threat in voters’ minds, the candidates’ positive messages will have to do the heavy lifting.

The 2010 opportunity is unique, however. Dianne Feinstein is California’s other occupant of one of the safest Senate seats in the country, and she demonstrated, in just a few words quoted today by the LA Times, that she misreads what voters want to hear:

People are very unsettled. They are very worried. There is anger. There is angst. … You see high unemployment. …You see anger. … The administration has to see it, and we have to see it. And therefore, everything is jobs and the economy and education.

Contrast that with the passage Jennifer cites from Brown’s speech last night:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the agenda of a new establishment in Washington.

In this aspect of the 2010 political environment, it’s Scott Brown who gets it. The American people aren’t writhing in anger and angst, confusedly demanding that government do something about “jobs, economy, and education.” They know exactly what they think is wrong today, and the problem, as Ronald Reagan would have said, is government. Scott Brown’s unvarnished directness has been respectful of voters as thinking citizens. If Republicans take that to heart, they will have an inherent advantage over many long-entrenched Democrats.

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“Islamic Terrorism” Returns

The Los Angeles Times has a report detailing “a rising threat from homegrown extremism.” It seems that even the Obama administration can’t ignore the obvious:

Anti-terrorism officials and experts see signs of accelerated radicalization among American Muslims, driven by a wave of English-language online propaganda and reflected in aspiring fighters’ trips to hot spots such as Pakistan and Somalia.

The Department of Homeland Security saw fit earlier this year to warn about “right-wing extremism” (all those Second and Tenth Amendment nuts), although strangely it has yet to produce a comprehensive report on the pattern of extreme Islamic terrorist activity. But perhaps Janet Napolitano is waking from her slumber:

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued her strongest public comments yet on the homegrown threat.

“We’ve seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as Al Qaeda,” Napolitano said in a speech in New York. “Home-based terrorism is here. And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront.”

Officials acknowledged that her tone had changed, though they said terrorism has been her focus since becoming Homeland Security chief.

For an administration that had excised “Islamic fundamentalism” and “Islamic extremism” from its vocabulary and referred to the war on terror as “overseas contingent operations,” this is a pleasing turn of events if it does, in fact, mark a change. One by one the excuses for averting our eyes about the nature of the threat we face seem to be losing credibility. Turns out poverty doesn’t breed Islamic radicalism. As the report notes:

Some feel radicalization in the United States has been worse than authorities thought for some time.

“People focused on the idea that we’re different, we’re better at integrating Muslims than Europe is,” said Zeyno Baran, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington. “But there’s radicalization — especially among converts [and] newcomers, such as the Somali case shows. I think young U.S. Muslims today are as prone to radicalization as Muslims in Europe.” …

“The profile in Europe is in general quite different [from U.S. extremists]: more working-class or even underclass,” said a European intelligence official who requested anonymity for security reasons. “But it’s a bit simplistic to make assumptions. We have seen everything in Europe — educated people, doctors involved in terrorism. The underclass argument is not enough.”

And the notion, embraced most specifically by the president, that we can defang Islamic terrorism by humbling ourselves, hobbling our own legitimate security needs, and reaching out to the “Muslim World” by parroting back their victimology seems increasingly dubious. Yet the Times seems mystified that these gambits haven’t really helped: “The Obama administration began the year with gestures to the Muslim world. President Obama promised to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and made a historic speech in Cairo. ” Wow, and with all that, still we have an uptick in homegrown terror.

What’s missing here is any indication that the president himself is willing to drop the pretense of political correctness, address the reality of Islamic radicalism, and revise his approach to national security accordingly. In fact, he and his attorney general seem to be going in the opposite direction, returning to a criminal-justice model for terrorism, blissfully unaware of the danger of providing KSM with a civilian trial to preach and convert to the cause of Islamic radicalism even more potential terrorists. When Obama is willing to call Fort Hood an act of Islamic terror and shut down the KSM circus, we’ll know we’re finally making progress.

The Los Angeles Times has a report detailing “a rising threat from homegrown extremism.” It seems that even the Obama administration can’t ignore the obvious:

Anti-terrorism officials and experts see signs of accelerated radicalization among American Muslims, driven by a wave of English-language online propaganda and reflected in aspiring fighters’ trips to hot spots such as Pakistan and Somalia.

The Department of Homeland Security saw fit earlier this year to warn about “right-wing extremism” (all those Second and Tenth Amendment nuts), although strangely it has yet to produce a comprehensive report on the pattern of extreme Islamic terrorist activity. But perhaps Janet Napolitano is waking from her slumber:

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued her strongest public comments yet on the homegrown threat.

“We’ve seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as Al Qaeda,” Napolitano said in a speech in New York. “Home-based terrorism is here. And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront.”

Officials acknowledged that her tone had changed, though they said terrorism has been her focus since becoming Homeland Security chief.

For an administration that had excised “Islamic fundamentalism” and “Islamic extremism” from its vocabulary and referred to the war on terror as “overseas contingent operations,” this is a pleasing turn of events if it does, in fact, mark a change. One by one the excuses for averting our eyes about the nature of the threat we face seem to be losing credibility. Turns out poverty doesn’t breed Islamic radicalism. As the report notes:

Some feel radicalization in the United States has been worse than authorities thought for some time.

“People focused on the idea that we’re different, we’re better at integrating Muslims than Europe is,” said Zeyno Baran, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington. “But there’s radicalization — especially among converts [and] newcomers, such as the Somali case shows. I think young U.S. Muslims today are as prone to radicalization as Muslims in Europe.” …

“The profile in Europe is in general quite different [from U.S. extremists]: more working-class or even underclass,” said a European intelligence official who requested anonymity for security reasons. “But it’s a bit simplistic to make assumptions. We have seen everything in Europe — educated people, doctors involved in terrorism. The underclass argument is not enough.”

And the notion, embraced most specifically by the president, that we can defang Islamic terrorism by humbling ourselves, hobbling our own legitimate security needs, and reaching out to the “Muslim World” by parroting back their victimology seems increasingly dubious. Yet the Times seems mystified that these gambits haven’t really helped: “The Obama administration began the year with gestures to the Muslim world. President Obama promised to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and made a historic speech in Cairo. ” Wow, and with all that, still we have an uptick in homegrown terror.

What’s missing here is any indication that the president himself is willing to drop the pretense of political correctness, address the reality of Islamic radicalism, and revise his approach to national security accordingly. In fact, he and his attorney general seem to be going in the opposite direction, returning to a criminal-justice model for terrorism, blissfully unaware of the danger of providing KSM with a civilian trial to preach and convert to the cause of Islamic radicalism even more potential terrorists. When Obama is willing to call Fort Hood an act of Islamic terror and shut down the KSM circus, we’ll know we’re finally making progress.

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Obama’s Exit-Strategy Justifications

It occurs to me that I (and most other commentators) might be a trifle unfair to the president in our interpretation of the deadline he set to begin leaving Afghanistan: July 2011. I write in the Los Angeles Times today that “if Afghanistan is indeed a ‘vital national interest,’ as Obama said, why announce an exit strategy? Perhaps he is trying to head off criticism from his liberal supporters.”

Was I too hasty in dismissing the actual justifications for the deadline he offered in the speech? Let’s examine them. In Obama’s speech, he attacked those who might call for an “open-ended escalation of our war effort” by arguing:

I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

The first concern, about the “reasonable cost,” is hard to square with the president’s willingness to fling countless billions of dollars at our health-care system and various pork-barrel projects in public works. Obama is no fiscal conservative, except when spending is proposed for projects about which he is unenthusiastic.

What about his second argument — that a time frame will instill a greater “sense of urgency” into the Afghan government to get its act together? This echoes a favorite talking point offered by Obama and other opponents of the surge in Iraq. They argued at the time that we needed to begin withdrawing American troops to force Iraqi politicians to make compromises. There is no evidence that troop withdrawals would have had this effect; more likely, they would have simply encouraged Iraqis to take more extreme positions to get ready for a looming civil war — something that was already beginning to happen in 2006 before the surge. Since the success of the surge, on the other hand, Iraqi politicos have started to get their act together. Even when they are stymied over a tough issue, such as the present election law, they are settling their differences through backroom horse trading, not guns and bombs.

The experience of Iraq is hardly dispositive, but it does suggest that American time lines are counterproductive. Incentives for compromise and reform are created by American commitments to stay. Otherwise, moderates lose ground, and radicals come to the fore.

In the case of Afghanistan, if Hamid Karzai is to move against corrupt officials implicated in the drug trade (including his own brother), he needs assurances that we will stick around and protect him. If he thinks we’re heading out the door, he will have no choice but to make deals with warlords — precisely the opposite of what Obama would like to see.

Thus neither rationale for the time line makes much sense. At least the second one sounds more sincere, if misguided. I still think the desire to placate his liberal base is a big part of the explanation, but so is another factor: the desire to placate a part of the president’s own mind. Does anyone doubt that if Obama were still in the Senate and President McCain were announcing a troop surge in Afghanistan, he would be in violent opposition? I don’t. It is, therefore, all the more laudable that he has gone against his natural instincts by ordering the surge. But there is obviously still a part of him that is uncomfortable with the policy. Hence the deadline.

It occurs to me that I (and most other commentators) might be a trifle unfair to the president in our interpretation of the deadline he set to begin leaving Afghanistan: July 2011. I write in the Los Angeles Times today that “if Afghanistan is indeed a ‘vital national interest,’ as Obama said, why announce an exit strategy? Perhaps he is trying to head off criticism from his liberal supporters.”

Was I too hasty in dismissing the actual justifications for the deadline he offered in the speech? Let’s examine them. In Obama’s speech, he attacked those who might call for an “open-ended escalation of our war effort” by arguing:

I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

The first concern, about the “reasonable cost,” is hard to square with the president’s willingness to fling countless billions of dollars at our health-care system and various pork-barrel projects in public works. Obama is no fiscal conservative, except when spending is proposed for projects about which he is unenthusiastic.

What about his second argument — that a time frame will instill a greater “sense of urgency” into the Afghan government to get its act together? This echoes a favorite talking point offered by Obama and other opponents of the surge in Iraq. They argued at the time that we needed to begin withdrawing American troops to force Iraqi politicians to make compromises. There is no evidence that troop withdrawals would have had this effect; more likely, they would have simply encouraged Iraqis to take more extreme positions to get ready for a looming civil war — something that was already beginning to happen in 2006 before the surge. Since the success of the surge, on the other hand, Iraqi politicos have started to get their act together. Even when they are stymied over a tough issue, such as the present election law, they are settling their differences through backroom horse trading, not guns and bombs.

The experience of Iraq is hardly dispositive, but it does suggest that American time lines are counterproductive. Incentives for compromise and reform are created by American commitments to stay. Otherwise, moderates lose ground, and radicals come to the fore.

In the case of Afghanistan, if Hamid Karzai is to move against corrupt officials implicated in the drug trade (including his own brother), he needs assurances that we will stick around and protect him. If he thinks we’re heading out the door, he will have no choice but to make deals with warlords — precisely the opposite of what Obama would like to see.

Thus neither rationale for the time line makes much sense. At least the second one sounds more sincere, if misguided. I still think the desire to placate his liberal base is a big part of the explanation, but so is another factor: the desire to placate a part of the president’s own mind. Does anyone doubt that if Obama were still in the Senate and President McCain were announcing a troop surge in Afghanistan, he would be in violent opposition? I don’t. It is, therefore, all the more laudable that he has gone against his natural instincts by ordering the surge. But there is obviously still a part of him that is uncomfortable with the policy. Hence the deadline.

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The President Who Grovels

Could someone in the Chief of Protocol’s Office at the State Department please tell Barack Obama that heads of state do not bow to other heads of state? And for the head of state of the country founded on the idea that “all men are created equal,” that goes double.

When Obama bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the White House denied it: “It wasn’t a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he’s taller than King Abdullah,” said one aide. As a commentator on CNN said, “Ray Charles could see that he bowed.” (h/t PowerLine)

Now he has bowed, extravagantly, to Emperor Akihito of Japan. The Los Angeles Times called it a “wow bow” in its headline and asked “How low will he go?”

President Obama goes abroad apologizing for the supposed sins of a country that defended and extended freedom around the world at a staggering cost in lives and treasure and then grovels before the man whose country has yet to apologize for the Rape of Nanking.

As my mother used to say, “Pardon me while I throw up.”

Could someone in the Chief of Protocol’s Office at the State Department please tell Barack Obama that heads of state do not bow to other heads of state? And for the head of state of the country founded on the idea that “all men are created equal,” that goes double.

When Obama bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the White House denied it: “It wasn’t a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he’s taller than King Abdullah,” said one aide. As a commentator on CNN said, “Ray Charles could see that he bowed.” (h/t PowerLine)

Now he has bowed, extravagantly, to Emperor Akihito of Japan. The Los Angeles Times called it a “wow bow” in its headline and asked “How low will he go?”

President Obama goes abroad apologizing for the supposed sins of a country that defended and extended freedom around the world at a staggering cost in lives and treasure and then grovels before the man whose country has yet to apologize for the Rape of Nanking.

As my mother used to say, “Pardon me while I throw up.”

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Confusion and Leaks Further Mar White House Afghan Policy

The Afghanistan policy review at the White House is getting more farcical — if that’s possible. It’s bizarre enough that every NSC meeting in this endless review is publicly announced and its contents are then leaked for public dissection in the next morning’s newspapers. Now we read in every major newspaper (see, e.g., in the Los Angeles Times, this) that Karl Eikenberry, the retired general who is the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, “has warned in classified cables against any further buildup of American forces in the country … saying that additional troops would be unwise because of the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government.”

One would think that the merits of this position would have been hashed out long ago (like, say, back in March, when the results of the last Afghan policy review were announced) and that President Obama would have concluded by now that we can’t simply write off Afghanistan because of the “corruption and ineffectiveness” of its government. But, no, Eikenberry’s cables seem to have landed with the impact of a mortar round in the White House and, if leaks are to believed, they have further reinforced the president’s tendency toward hesitation and doubt.

It does not exactly inspire confidence to read this account of the latest NSC meeting, from the New York Times:

A central focus of Mr. Obama’s questions, officials said, was how long it would take to see results and be able to withdraw.

“He wants to know where the off-ramps are,” one official said.

So the president is already looking to leave Afghanistan before he has even committed more forces? He’s more interested in an exit strategy than a strategy for success? What a terrible message to send to our troops and what a heartening message to send to our enemies.

It’s hard to know, of course, if this is an accurate reflection of what the man in the Oval Office is thinking — or simply a reflection of what the aides who are providing all these quotes for the media are thinking. Whatever the case, this bespeaks an extraordinarily chaotic and undisciplined White House decision-making process, with the president’s most senior advisers playing out their disagreements in public even after Gen. Stanley McChrystal had been chastised for making his own views known.

Whatever the president now decides, it will place one of our senior representatives in Kabul in a very difficult position. If the president decides to send a large number of additional troops, that will undermine the standing of Eikenberry. If he decides not to send those troops, he will undermine the standing of McChrystal. Either way, it will be harder for the two men to work together after their differences have been so publicly aired.

The Afghanistan policy review at the White House is getting more farcical — if that’s possible. It’s bizarre enough that every NSC meeting in this endless review is publicly announced and its contents are then leaked for public dissection in the next morning’s newspapers. Now we read in every major newspaper (see, e.g., in the Los Angeles Times, this) that Karl Eikenberry, the retired general who is the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, “has warned in classified cables against any further buildup of American forces in the country … saying that additional troops would be unwise because of the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government.”

One would think that the merits of this position would have been hashed out long ago (like, say, back in March, when the results of the last Afghan policy review were announced) and that President Obama would have concluded by now that we can’t simply write off Afghanistan because of the “corruption and ineffectiveness” of its government. But, no, Eikenberry’s cables seem to have landed with the impact of a mortar round in the White House and, if leaks are to believed, they have further reinforced the president’s tendency toward hesitation and doubt.

It does not exactly inspire confidence to read this account of the latest NSC meeting, from the New York Times:

A central focus of Mr. Obama’s questions, officials said, was how long it would take to see results and be able to withdraw.

“He wants to know where the off-ramps are,” one official said.

So the president is already looking to leave Afghanistan before he has even committed more forces? He’s more interested in an exit strategy than a strategy for success? What a terrible message to send to our troops and what a heartening message to send to our enemies.

It’s hard to know, of course, if this is an accurate reflection of what the man in the Oval Office is thinking — or simply a reflection of what the aides who are providing all these quotes for the media are thinking. Whatever the case, this bespeaks an extraordinarily chaotic and undisciplined White House decision-making process, with the president’s most senior advisers playing out their disagreements in public even after Gen. Stanley McChrystal had been chastised for making his own views known.

Whatever the president now decides, it will place one of our senior representatives in Kabul in a very difficult position. If the president decides to send a large number of additional troops, that will undermine the standing of Eikenberry. If he decides not to send those troops, he will undermine the standing of McChrystal. Either way, it will be harder for the two men to work together after their differences have been so publicly aired.

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Did I Write That?

Judith Miller and David Samuels write in the Los Angeles Times:

While no one explicitly suggested that Hasan’s alleged response was commensurate with the insults he suffered, the subtext of the coverage was that he was simply another traumatized victim of America’s wars — and that his alleged actions should prompt us to offer a collective mea culpa.

That’s absolutely ridiculous. But in taking aim at the evasive psycho-babble that dominated early news accounts, the right has engaged in an equally dangerous bias that conflates Hasan’s radicalism with the religious beliefs of mainstream Muslims. In their narrative, any Muslim might suddenly “snap,” as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within.

Attacking what she called “head-scratching and obfuscation,” Jennifer Rubin argued on Commentary’s website that the fear of appearing “anti-Muslim” had led the Army and the American media to ignore “the role of Maj. Hasan’s Muslim beliefs” in the Ft. Hood massacre.

Even the sophisticated analyst Tunku Varadarajan of Forbes.com observed that “Muslims may be more extreme because their religion is founded on bellicose conquest, a contempt for infidels and an obligation for piety that is more extensive than in other schemes.” He also coined the phrase “going Muslim” — a play on “going postal” that even he found disconcerting — to describe the orgy of violence in which Hasan allegedly engaged. Adding sensibly that not all Muslims might be so inclined, Rubin and Varadarajan left it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.

I contacted Ms. Miller to point out that the column distorts — badly so — what I have written. Am I really among those who contend that “any Muslim might suddenly ‘snap,’ as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within”? Why no. In fact, as I pointed out to the authors of that line that my posts say the very opposite. In fact, I wrote here:

To be clear: it is the ultimate red herring, a straw man of gargantuan proportions, to suggest that those pointing to Hasan’s motives and announced intentions (“I am going to do good work for God“) are suggesting that Muslim soldiers as a group are untrustworthy or suspect. No, there is no “backlash” in the works. What there is, and what elite opinion makers should recognize before the public’s fury builds, is that ignoring signs of  Islamic-fundamentalist-inspired animus toward America will get people killed. It has. And it will again unless and until we stop tip-toeing around the obvious link between a murderous ideology and murder.

And here I wrote:

It is the diversity obsession and the give-no-offense mentality that, we fear, allowed Hasan to avoid a stringent inquiry. I suppose Robinson can satisfy himself and those like-minded, squeamish souls who can’t bear to think they’re trampling on the sensibilities of anyone. But let’s be clear: the Army didn’t fail the “Muslim community”; it failed 43 wounded or slain people and their families. And to prevent it from happening again, we need to get over the diversity fetish (which imagines that Americans are too dumb to distinguish between nonviolent Muslims and those who’ve adopted a murderous ideology) and get on with the business of fighting a war against those who want many, many more Fort Hoods.

In short, I did not “leave it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.” I have written to dispute that conclusion and have criticized those who would deploy the red-herring argument.

The irony is not lost on me: if you are going to criticize others for employing imprecise or inflammatory analysis, it is best to be accurate yourself. The authors were unmoved by actual citations from my work — why let what I’ve actually written get in the way of a good LA Times column? — and appear disinclined to correct or amend their distortions. So be it.

Judith Miller and David Samuels write in the Los Angeles Times:

While no one explicitly suggested that Hasan’s alleged response was commensurate with the insults he suffered, the subtext of the coverage was that he was simply another traumatized victim of America’s wars — and that his alleged actions should prompt us to offer a collective mea culpa.

That’s absolutely ridiculous. But in taking aim at the evasive psycho-babble that dominated early news accounts, the right has engaged in an equally dangerous bias that conflates Hasan’s radicalism with the religious beliefs of mainstream Muslims. In their narrative, any Muslim might suddenly “snap,” as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within.

Attacking what she called “head-scratching and obfuscation,” Jennifer Rubin argued on Commentary’s website that the fear of appearing “anti-Muslim” had led the Army and the American media to ignore “the role of Maj. Hasan’s Muslim beliefs” in the Ft. Hood massacre.

Even the sophisticated analyst Tunku Varadarajan of Forbes.com observed that “Muslims may be more extreme because their religion is founded on bellicose conquest, a contempt for infidels and an obligation for piety that is more extensive than in other schemes.” He also coined the phrase “going Muslim” — a play on “going postal” that even he found disconcerting — to describe the orgy of violence in which Hasan allegedly engaged. Adding sensibly that not all Muslims might be so inclined, Rubin and Varadarajan left it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.

I contacted Ms. Miller to point out that the column distorts — badly so — what I have written. Am I really among those who contend that “any Muslim might suddenly ‘snap,’ as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within”? Why no. In fact, as I pointed out to the authors of that line that my posts say the very opposite. In fact, I wrote here:

To be clear: it is the ultimate red herring, a straw man of gargantuan proportions, to suggest that those pointing to Hasan’s motives and announced intentions (“I am going to do good work for God“) are suggesting that Muslim soldiers as a group are untrustworthy or suspect. No, there is no “backlash” in the works. What there is, and what elite opinion makers should recognize before the public’s fury builds, is that ignoring signs of  Islamic-fundamentalist-inspired animus toward America will get people killed. It has. And it will again unless and until we stop tip-toeing around the obvious link between a murderous ideology and murder.

And here I wrote:

It is the diversity obsession and the give-no-offense mentality that, we fear, allowed Hasan to avoid a stringent inquiry. I suppose Robinson can satisfy himself and those like-minded, squeamish souls who can’t bear to think they’re trampling on the sensibilities of anyone. But let’s be clear: the Army didn’t fail the “Muslim community”; it failed 43 wounded or slain people and their families. And to prevent it from happening again, we need to get over the diversity fetish (which imagines that Americans are too dumb to distinguish between nonviolent Muslims and those who’ve adopted a murderous ideology) and get on with the business of fighting a war against those who want many, many more Fort Hoods.

In short, I did not “leave it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.” I have written to dispute that conclusion and have criticized those who would deploy the red-herring argument.

The irony is not lost on me: if you are going to criticize others for employing imprecise or inflammatory analysis, it is best to be accurate yourself. The authors were unmoved by actual citations from my work — why let what I’ve actually written get in the way of a good LA Times column? — and appear disinclined to correct or amend their distortions. So be it.

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Expert Opinions

A number of far-left and far-right websites are featuring excerpts from that classic work of historical scholarship, Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak by Victory S. Navasky, former editor and publisher of the Nation, and Christopher Cerf, a musician who is most notable for his contributions to Sesame Street (I’m not making that up). This is a collection of quotes regarding the Iraq War that is supposed to make supporters of the war effort look stupid. Judging by the mention of me in the excerpt posted online, it’s the authors who look stupid. They write:

On November 6, 2003, President Bush observed: “We’ve reached another great turning point…” On June 16, 2004, President Bush claimed: “A turning point will come two weeks from today.”

That same day the Montreal Gazette headlined an editorial by neoconservative columnist Max Boot: “Despite the Negative Reaction by Much of the Media, U.S. Marines Did a Good Job in Fallujah, a Battle That Might Prove a Turning Point.”

I didn’t recall the article in question, because I have never written a word for the Montreal Gazette. I have, however, written a lot of articles for the Los Angeles Times and other publications that have been syndicated and thus appeared in other publications such as the Montreal Gazette. But it took about ten seconds of digging by my industrious research associate, Mike Scavelli, to discover that the article they refer to ran in the Gazette on December 9, 2004, not on June 16, 2004.

That’s quite a difference: the U.S. mounted two assaults on Fallujah in 2004: the first in April, the second in November. The first assault failed, although U.S. government spokesmen initially tried to spin it as a success. I wasn’t buying it. I wrote about the earlier battle in a May 6, 2004, column entitled, “The U.S. Loses by Quitting in Fallouja.”

The second battle was more successful and my column reflected that. But notwithstanding the headline put on it by the Gazette editors (which contrasted with the more accurate L.A. Times headline: “What We Won in Fallouja”), I didn’t exactly call the second battle of Fallujah a turning point. What I actually wrote (quoting from my original L.A. Times column which was slightly altered in the Gazette) was this:

The news media . . . seem positively despondent over the battle of Fallujah.

It is right and proper . . . to mourn the death of 71 Americans and the wounding of hundreds more . . . But it is wrong to . . . [assume] as so much of the current commentary implicitly does, that war solves nothing and that all casualties are meaningless. In fact, many of the turning points of history have been battles, such as Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, which ended for two centuries, and counting, the threat of French expansionism in Europe.

Obviously, the battle of Fallujah will not be as decisive as Waterloo; few battles are. But that shouldn’t blind us to the accomplishments of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which led the offensive along with U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers.

My article ended with a warning:

Thus, for all their success in Fallouja, we should not expect U.S. troops to completely pacify Iraq anytime soon. What they can do — what they are doing — is to keep the insurgents from derailing a political process that, one hopes, will soon result in the creation of a legitimate government that can field indigenous security forces and defend itself.

Cerf and Navasky don’t actually explain what it is that each of their quoted “experts” got wrong. They seem to expect it should be obvious. Maybe I’m not as smart as a “Sesame Street” lyricist, but I fail to grasp the error in what I wrote.

A number of far-left and far-right websites are featuring excerpts from that classic work of historical scholarship, Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak by Victory S. Navasky, former editor and publisher of the Nation, and Christopher Cerf, a musician who is most notable for his contributions to Sesame Street (I’m not making that up). This is a collection of quotes regarding the Iraq War that is supposed to make supporters of the war effort look stupid. Judging by the mention of me in the excerpt posted online, it’s the authors who look stupid. They write:

On November 6, 2003, President Bush observed: “We’ve reached another great turning point…” On June 16, 2004, President Bush claimed: “A turning point will come two weeks from today.”

That same day the Montreal Gazette headlined an editorial by neoconservative columnist Max Boot: “Despite the Negative Reaction by Much of the Media, U.S. Marines Did a Good Job in Fallujah, a Battle That Might Prove a Turning Point.”

I didn’t recall the article in question, because I have never written a word for the Montreal Gazette. I have, however, written a lot of articles for the Los Angeles Times and other publications that have been syndicated and thus appeared in other publications such as the Montreal Gazette. But it took about ten seconds of digging by my industrious research associate, Mike Scavelli, to discover that the article they refer to ran in the Gazette on December 9, 2004, not on June 16, 2004.

That’s quite a difference: the U.S. mounted two assaults on Fallujah in 2004: the first in April, the second in November. The first assault failed, although U.S. government spokesmen initially tried to spin it as a success. I wasn’t buying it. I wrote about the earlier battle in a May 6, 2004, column entitled, “The U.S. Loses by Quitting in Fallouja.”

The second battle was more successful and my column reflected that. But notwithstanding the headline put on it by the Gazette editors (which contrasted with the more accurate L.A. Times headline: “What We Won in Fallouja”), I didn’t exactly call the second battle of Fallujah a turning point. What I actually wrote (quoting from my original L.A. Times column which was slightly altered in the Gazette) was this:

The news media . . . seem positively despondent over the battle of Fallujah.

It is right and proper . . . to mourn the death of 71 Americans and the wounding of hundreds more . . . But it is wrong to . . . [assume] as so much of the current commentary implicitly does, that war solves nothing and that all casualties are meaningless. In fact, many of the turning points of history have been battles, such as Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, which ended for two centuries, and counting, the threat of French expansionism in Europe.

Obviously, the battle of Fallujah will not be as decisive as Waterloo; few battles are. But that shouldn’t blind us to the accomplishments of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which led the offensive along with U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers.

My article ended with a warning:

Thus, for all their success in Fallouja, we should not expect U.S. troops to completely pacify Iraq anytime soon. What they can do — what they are doing — is to keep the insurgents from derailing a political process that, one hopes, will soon result in the creation of a legitimate government that can field indigenous security forces and defend itself.

Cerf and Navasky don’t actually explain what it is that each of their quoted “experts” got wrong. They seem to expect it should be obvious. Maybe I’m not as smart as a “Sesame Street” lyricist, but I fail to grasp the error in what I wrote.

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Loose Nuclear Advisers

I have recently written here about Barack Obama’s nuclear adviser, Joseph Cirincione here on Connecting the Dots. Today I do so also in the Los Angeles Times under the title: The Failed Theology of Arms Control.

I have recently written here about Barack Obama’s nuclear adviser, Joseph Cirincione here on Connecting the Dots. Today I do so also in the Los Angeles Times under the title: The Failed Theology of Arms Control.

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Good News From Sadr City

The degree of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s leverage over thug cleric Moqtada Sadr is becoming more clear. The New York Times reports that Iraqi troops poured into Sadr City on Tuesday and, meeting little resistance, claimed key positions deep inside the neighborhood that’s been a hub of Shiite militia violence since March. The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung says this operation is actually being carried out in accordance with last week’s ceasefire arrangement between Sadr and the Iraqi government. The government’s plan to root out criminals and militia members is underway and no one in this bastion of Sadr support seems to be doing a thing about it.

There have been no reported casualties. None. Moreover, “Iraqi troops moved forward without any major incidents.” Virtually every detail in the Times story is encouraging. Not the least of which is the report of Iraqi military self-suffiency:

No American ground forces accompanied the Iraqi troops, not even military advisers. But the Americans shared intelligence, coached the Iraqis during the planning and provided overhead reconnaissance throughout the operation. Still, the operation was very much an Iraqi plan.

This is not an American operation with an Iraqi face or even a joint-operation. This is simply what allies do.

The Los Angeles Times quotes U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Stover:

I think this is the turning point where we start seeing the Special Group criminals picked up by the Iraqi security forces and a lasting peace for the Iraqi people. . . And it will be because they did it, not us.

And at CBS News, lefty blogger Kevin Drum makes the following acknowledgment: “And it’s worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too.” Though, with nothing worrying to write about, he tags his coverage thusly: “It may all go to hell tomorrow. Who knows? For now, though, keep your fingers crossed.”

The degree of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s leverage over thug cleric Moqtada Sadr is becoming more clear. The New York Times reports that Iraqi troops poured into Sadr City on Tuesday and, meeting little resistance, claimed key positions deep inside the neighborhood that’s been a hub of Shiite militia violence since March. The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung says this operation is actually being carried out in accordance with last week’s ceasefire arrangement between Sadr and the Iraqi government. The government’s plan to root out criminals and militia members is underway and no one in this bastion of Sadr support seems to be doing a thing about it.

There have been no reported casualties. None. Moreover, “Iraqi troops moved forward without any major incidents.” Virtually every detail in the Times story is encouraging. Not the least of which is the report of Iraqi military self-suffiency:

No American ground forces accompanied the Iraqi troops, not even military advisers. But the Americans shared intelligence, coached the Iraqis during the planning and provided overhead reconnaissance throughout the operation. Still, the operation was very much an Iraqi plan.

This is not an American operation with an Iraqi face or even a joint-operation. This is simply what allies do.

The Los Angeles Times quotes U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Stover:

I think this is the turning point where we start seeing the Special Group criminals picked up by the Iraqi security forces and a lasting peace for the Iraqi people. . . And it will be because they did it, not us.

And at CBS News, lefty blogger Kevin Drum makes the following acknowledgment: “And it’s worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too.” Though, with nothing worrying to write about, he tags his coverage thusly: “It may all go to hell tomorrow. Who knows? For now, though, keep your fingers crossed.”

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Analysis For Dummies

In China’s Great Cultural Revolution, landlords and other capitalist roaders were paraded through the streets wearing dunce caps. The 20,000 analysts in the U.S. intelligence community whose job it is to make sense of the world for the U.S. government are all now compelled to “wear cards around their necks reminding them to remain ‘independent of political considerations.'”

That, at least, is what the Los Angeles Times reports today in a lengthy puff piece about Thomas Fingar, the director of analysis at the ODNI and the fellow who drafted the egregious National Intelligence Estimate of last December that stated, misleadingly, that Iran had halted its nuclear-weapons program in 2003.

The article also describes some of the training new analysts are given in a six-week course called Analysis 101.

During a recent class in northern Virginia, students from a dozen agencies formed teams to work on a war scenario. It was their first day of class, but many seemed to have arrived having absorbed the lessons of Iraq.

Dissent was encouraged. Attempts to goad students into policy debates were rebuffed. As one young analyst went through the mock exercise of briefing a general who was considering an invasion, she offered a pointed warning.

“Once you go into a country and take it over,” she said, “it would be best to have a plan.”

Perhaps a better name for the course is “Analysis for Dummies.”

There are some outstanding people in the U.S. intelligence community, and the fact that we have not been hit a second time after September 11 is testimony to their achievement.

But the stars appear to be those doing operational work, keeping the terrorist watch lists in order, running covert operations, and managing drones armed with Hellfire missiles in places like Waziristan.

Analysis remains a chronic weak spot; the products of this side of the intelligence house are typically either irrelevant or wrong. Indeed, the more one learns about what is going on there, the more convinced one becomes that the CIA and other spy agencies should be concentrating their efforts on purchasing (they are available for a good price in China) 20,000 dunce caps. These would be a good complement to the cards analysts are now required to wear around their necks. Fingar — and his deputy Richard Immerman – should be at the head of the parade.

In China’s Great Cultural Revolution, landlords and other capitalist roaders were paraded through the streets wearing dunce caps. The 20,000 analysts in the U.S. intelligence community whose job it is to make sense of the world for the U.S. government are all now compelled to “wear cards around their necks reminding them to remain ‘independent of political considerations.'”

That, at least, is what the Los Angeles Times reports today in a lengthy puff piece about Thomas Fingar, the director of analysis at the ODNI and the fellow who drafted the egregious National Intelligence Estimate of last December that stated, misleadingly, that Iran had halted its nuclear-weapons program in 2003.

The article also describes some of the training new analysts are given in a six-week course called Analysis 101.

During a recent class in northern Virginia, students from a dozen agencies formed teams to work on a war scenario. It was their first day of class, but many seemed to have arrived having absorbed the lessons of Iraq.

Dissent was encouraged. Attempts to goad students into policy debates were rebuffed. As one young analyst went through the mock exercise of briefing a general who was considering an invasion, she offered a pointed warning.

“Once you go into a country and take it over,” she said, “it would be best to have a plan.”

Perhaps a better name for the course is “Analysis for Dummies.”

There are some outstanding people in the U.S. intelligence community, and the fact that we have not been hit a second time after September 11 is testimony to their achievement.

But the stars appear to be those doing operational work, keeping the terrorist watch lists in order, running covert operations, and managing drones armed with Hellfire missiles in places like Waziristan.

Analysis remains a chronic weak spot; the products of this side of the intelligence house are typically either irrelevant or wrong. Indeed, the more one learns about what is going on there, the more convinced one becomes that the CIA and other spy agencies should be concentrating their efforts on purchasing (they are available for a good price in China) 20,000 dunce caps. These would be a good complement to the cards analysts are now required to wear around their necks. Fingar — and his deputy Richard Immerman – should be at the head of the parade.

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Trouble In the Cave

The terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attack are a frightening bunch of ruthless murderers. But let’s not forget that they are also human beings, some of them perhaps with very charming qualities. Michael Scheuer, who ran the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit in the 1990’s, has gone so far as to describe bin Laden himself as a “gentle, generous, talented, and personally courageous” fellow.

But human as al-Qaeda members are, they have human foibles. The weather can become very hot in some of the countries in which they operate. And who doesn’t have a fondness for air-conditioning?

Here is Mohammed Atef chastising one of his underlings:

I obtained 75,000 rupees for you and your family’s trip to Egypt. I learned that you did not submit the voucher to the accountant, and that you made reservations for 40,000 rupees and kept the remainder claiming you have a right to do so. . . . Also with respect to the air-conditioning unit, . . . furniture used by brothers in Al Qaeda is not considered private property. . . . I would like to remind you and myself of the punishment for any violation.

Atef was a military leader in al Qaeda until 2001 when a U.S. smart bomb fell on his head. Was the AC unit in question a Kenmore, a Friedrich, or some other brand? That information, along with the tax ID number of Atef’s accountant, is not available.

The chastising memo appears in a collection of al-Qaeda documents compiled by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. They paint a picture of an organization that, along with a millenarian mission, has quite a few quotidian concerns. The Los Angeles Times carries a summary of the collection in today’s paper.

Michael Scheuer may or may not be right that Osama bin Laden is “gentle.” There is no evidence for that bizarre judgment in the documents.

The terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attack are a frightening bunch of ruthless murderers. But let’s not forget that they are also human beings, some of them perhaps with very charming qualities. Michael Scheuer, who ran the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit in the 1990’s, has gone so far as to describe bin Laden himself as a “gentle, generous, talented, and personally courageous” fellow.

But human as al-Qaeda members are, they have human foibles. The weather can become very hot in some of the countries in which they operate. And who doesn’t have a fondness for air-conditioning?

Here is Mohammed Atef chastising one of his underlings:

I obtained 75,000 rupees for you and your family’s trip to Egypt. I learned that you did not submit the voucher to the accountant, and that you made reservations for 40,000 rupees and kept the remainder claiming you have a right to do so. . . . Also with respect to the air-conditioning unit, . . . furniture used by brothers in Al Qaeda is not considered private property. . . . I would like to remind you and myself of the punishment for any violation.

Atef was a military leader in al Qaeda until 2001 when a U.S. smart bomb fell on his head. Was the AC unit in question a Kenmore, a Friedrich, or some other brand? That information, along with the tax ID number of Atef’s accountant, is not available.

The chastising memo appears in a collection of al-Qaeda documents compiled by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. They paint a picture of an organization that, along with a millenarian mission, has quite a few quotidian concerns. The Los Angeles Times carries a summary of the collection in today’s paper.

Michael Scheuer may or may not be right that Osama bin Laden is “gentle.” There is no evidence for that bizarre judgment in the documents.

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Two Positions and Two Tall Tales in One Stop For Hillary

At a campaign stop in Philadelphia today, Hillary Clinton proposed an anti-crime package that would put 100,000 more cops on the streets of the U.S.

It’s a good thing, too: Another part of her package calls for letting imprisoned crack users back out on the streets to mix it up with the extra cops. According to the Los Angeles Times, this is all part of a plan to reduce recidivism and achieve fair treatment for blacks and whites under the law. Crack users “are disproportionately black,” and “the law punishes them more harshly than powder cocaine users, who are predominantly white.”

What’s wrong with stiffer penalties all around? Wouldn’t that take care of the imbalance and encourage less recidivism, at least in theory? The problem is, though, it wouldn’t help Hillary achieve her real goal—which is, as always, taking every position so that everyone approves. She wants more cops walking the beat to show she’s tough on crime, but she wants to reduce crack-related sentences to show she’s sympathetic to certain segments of the criminal population. This isn’t about anti-recidivism. It’s about a return to the big house. Another Clinton wants to be president and is employing Clintonian triangulation to get there.

Once again, the self-congratulatory fibs are on display as well:

Claiming that her husband’s administration “reduced crime to historic lows” in the 1990s, Clinton argued that “we have to get back to doing what we know works.”

[…]

“President Bush could have built on the successes of the 1990s,” she said, but instead he “slowly but surely chipped away at all of the building blocks.”

According to the Disaster Center, while the national crime rate did indeed plummet during Bill Clinton’s two terms, there were certainly no “historic lows.” In 1993, when Bill Clinton took office, the crime rate per 100,000 American inhabitants was 5,484.4. In 2001, when he left, it was 4,162.6. But the table also shows that before 1971, the rate was routinely lower than Bill Clinton’s best numbers. So, no historic lows–just a routine, Clintonian one. Furthermore, the crime rate has continued to drop every year of the George W. Bush administration, at least until 2006 when the data stops: the rate for that year is 3808. (And though the above crime breakdown doesn’t reflect the prosecution of high crimes, I’m pretty sure the impeachment rate has plummeted under Bush, as well.)

At a campaign stop in Philadelphia today, Hillary Clinton proposed an anti-crime package that would put 100,000 more cops on the streets of the U.S.

It’s a good thing, too: Another part of her package calls for letting imprisoned crack users back out on the streets to mix it up with the extra cops. According to the Los Angeles Times, this is all part of a plan to reduce recidivism and achieve fair treatment for blacks and whites under the law. Crack users “are disproportionately black,” and “the law punishes them more harshly than powder cocaine users, who are predominantly white.”

What’s wrong with stiffer penalties all around? Wouldn’t that take care of the imbalance and encourage less recidivism, at least in theory? The problem is, though, it wouldn’t help Hillary achieve her real goal—which is, as always, taking every position so that everyone approves. She wants more cops walking the beat to show she’s tough on crime, but she wants to reduce crack-related sentences to show she’s sympathetic to certain segments of the criminal population. This isn’t about anti-recidivism. It’s about a return to the big house. Another Clinton wants to be president and is employing Clintonian triangulation to get there.

Once again, the self-congratulatory fibs are on display as well:

Claiming that her husband’s administration “reduced crime to historic lows” in the 1990s, Clinton argued that “we have to get back to doing what we know works.”

[…]

“President Bush could have built on the successes of the 1990s,” she said, but instead he “slowly but surely chipped away at all of the building blocks.”

According to the Disaster Center, while the national crime rate did indeed plummet during Bill Clinton’s two terms, there were certainly no “historic lows.” In 1993, when Bill Clinton took office, the crime rate per 100,000 American inhabitants was 5,484.4. In 2001, when he left, it was 4,162.6. But the table also shows that before 1971, the rate was routinely lower than Bill Clinton’s best numbers. So, no historic lows–just a routine, Clintonian one. Furthermore, the crime rate has continued to drop every year of the George W. Bush administration, at least until 2006 when the data stops: the rate for that year is 3808. (And though the above crime breakdown doesn’t reflect the prosecution of high crimes, I’m pretty sure the impeachment rate has plummeted under Bush, as well.)

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Trade Lessons

Mainstream media outlets and conservative analysts are in rare agreement on the Democratic contenders’ stance on free trade, calling them either ignoramuses or cynical liars. If the first, they have deceived their advisers, who doggedly stick to the belief that their candidates are really smart enough to know that free trade creates jobs and is an essential component of international economic health and entirely in our own financial and diplomatic interests. They can’t be that dense, their admirers contend. No economist worth his salt would support returning to protectionism.

That leaves the second option. As DLC leader Will Marshall argues:

Apparently, the rule is that in the primaries, facts and evidence don’t matter, so bashing trade becomes a way of validating the emotions of people who feel stressed by global competition, and the facts get trampled underfoot in the process.

On the merits, this is not a tough issue. As to the Colombian trade deal, the Washington Post points out that the result of the deal would be to lift numerous restrictions on U.S. goods going into Colombia. The Post castigates both Democratic candidates for their “flimsy” rationale for opposing the deal. The Los Angeles Times points out that ripping up NAFTA “could spark a trade war with Canada and Mexico and reverse more than a decade of growth for all three North American economies.” There just isn’t much room to argue that the Democrats have attempted to resolve this issue on the merits.

So, if we go with the cynical liar option, the question remains why Democrats and their media supporters do not extrapolate a larger lesson from the candidates’ conduct. If both of them make up facts, play on voters’ fears, and shirk from telling voters unpleasant truths, how is either going to govern? It is not as if trade is unique–most issues which reach the President’s desk require hard choices. It is worth asking whether we should have similar concerns about the candidates’ pronouncements on Iraq, health care, taxes, and every other “hard” issue. This seems to be a “teachable moment” about their leadership style and personal character.

But criticisms of this kind never seem to continue beyond trade: what would follow would be a wholesale indictment of a very old-style type of politics–divisive, dishonest, anti-intellectual and fear-mongering. Too broad a criticism might shed doubt on the entire storyline for both Democratic contenders, and especially for Barack Obama, who is supposed to be above all this. And we can’t have that, can we?

Mainstream media outlets and conservative analysts are in rare agreement on the Democratic contenders’ stance on free trade, calling them either ignoramuses or cynical liars. If the first, they have deceived their advisers, who doggedly stick to the belief that their candidates are really smart enough to know that free trade creates jobs and is an essential component of international economic health and entirely in our own financial and diplomatic interests. They can’t be that dense, their admirers contend. No economist worth his salt would support returning to protectionism.

That leaves the second option. As DLC leader Will Marshall argues:

Apparently, the rule is that in the primaries, facts and evidence don’t matter, so bashing trade becomes a way of validating the emotions of people who feel stressed by global competition, and the facts get trampled underfoot in the process.

On the merits, this is not a tough issue. As to the Colombian trade deal, the Washington Post points out that the result of the deal would be to lift numerous restrictions on U.S. goods going into Colombia. The Post castigates both Democratic candidates for their “flimsy” rationale for opposing the deal. The Los Angeles Times points out that ripping up NAFTA “could spark a trade war with Canada and Mexico and reverse more than a decade of growth for all three North American economies.” There just isn’t much room to argue that the Democrats have attempted to resolve this issue on the merits.

So, if we go with the cynical liar option, the question remains why Democrats and their media supporters do not extrapolate a larger lesson from the candidates’ conduct. If both of them make up facts, play on voters’ fears, and shirk from telling voters unpleasant truths, how is either going to govern? It is not as if trade is unique–most issues which reach the President’s desk require hard choices. It is worth asking whether we should have similar concerns about the candidates’ pronouncements on Iraq, health care, taxes, and every other “hard” issue. This seems to be a “teachable moment” about their leadership style and personal character.

But criticisms of this kind never seem to continue beyond trade: what would follow would be a wholesale indictment of a very old-style type of politics–divisive, dishonest, anti-intellectual and fear-mongering. Too broad a criticism might shed doubt on the entire storyline for both Democratic contenders, and especially for Barack Obama, who is supposed to be above all this. And we can’t have that, can we?

Read Less




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