Commentary Magazine


Topic: United States of America

Actions Undermine Obama’s Words on America’s Greatness

It’s comforting to see President Obama resist talk of American decline. In the State of the Union, for example, he said: “Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Obama is even going so far as to  tout a New Republic essay by Robert Kagan (like me a Romney adviser), based on his forthcoming book “The World America Made.”

Both are an extended–and convincing–argument against the thesis that there is anything inevitable about American decline. Kagan points out that there is nothing new about predictions that our best days are behind us–the same case could have been made, and was made, more convincingly in the 1970s. In fact by most measures of comparative power the U.S. is more powerful than ever today, with only one major rival on the horizon–China–which will have a hard time converting its growing economic power into geopolitical influence to match ours.

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It’s comforting to see President Obama resist talk of American decline. In the State of the Union, for example, he said: “Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Obama is even going so far as to  tout a New Republic essay by Robert Kagan (like me a Romney adviser), based on his forthcoming book “The World America Made.”

Both are an extended–and convincing–argument against the thesis that there is anything inevitable about American decline. Kagan points out that there is nothing new about predictions that our best days are behind us–the same case could have been made, and was made, more convincingly in the 1970s. In fact by most measures of comparative power the U.S. is more powerful than ever today, with only one major rival on the horizon–China–which will have a hard time converting its growing economic power into geopolitical influence to match ours.

Aside from the logical power of the argument, there is another reason why Obama is embracing the anti-declinist case. As Foreign Policy’s website notes: “For the White House, the Kagan article, and the forthcoming book it’s based on, “The World America Made,” offer the perfect rebuttal to GOP accusations that Obama has willingly presided over a period of American decline or has been ‘leading from behind’ on foreign policy.” But of course, Kagan’s work contains no such rebuttal.

It simply says there is nothing inevitable about our decline–it does not say Obama’s policies are staving off that decline. Kagan’s essay (I haven’t seen the book yet) is entirely silent on the subject of the president’s policies. But even if Obama doesn’t believe the U.S. is fated to decline, one can easily argue that his policies–from racking up trillions of dollars in new federal debt to slashing the defense budget–are leading us in that direction.

I believe Charles Krauthammer is right when he writes “decline is a choice” but, as I have noted before, I dissent from his conclusion that Obama has made a conscious decision to minimize American power because he does not believe it is a force for good. This is utterly contrary to human nature–since Obama is the president of the United States, he has every incentive to maximize the power of his own government. But intentions are one thing; actions another. And even if Obama embraces the rhetoric of American greatness, you can make an excellent case, as Romney has, that his actions are undermining that very objective.

 

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The Peepless SOTU Address

Judith Levy at Ricochet is surprised Obama said not a peep about the peace process (“I could have sworn it was a fairly high priority for the administration”). She understands the lack of a peep about Egypt (“Hey, it’s fresh; it’s complicated. Cut the guy some slack.”). But she is Whiskey Tango Foxtrot incredulous about the peepless issue of Lebanon:

How do you not mention Lebanon after what happened this week? A US-friendly prime minister — a guy you just hosted in the Oval Office two weeks ago, Mr. President; remember him? — was overthrown by an Iran- and Syria-backed terrorist organization that assassinated his pro-Western father and has handpicked his successor. Hello?

In last year’s SOTU address, Obama extolled America’s “engagement” around the world:

As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores.  But we also do it because it is right. … That’s why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. (Applause.) Always. (Applause.)

Last night, the only peeps on this subject were his praise for the vote in south Sudan and “that same desire to be free in Tunisia.” At least Tunisia got the coveted let-me-be-clear moment, in a sentence that perhaps technically also covered Egypt and Lebanon:

And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people. (Applause.)

Judith Levy at Ricochet is surprised Obama said not a peep about the peace process (“I could have sworn it was a fairly high priority for the administration”). She understands the lack of a peep about Egypt (“Hey, it’s fresh; it’s complicated. Cut the guy some slack.”). But she is Whiskey Tango Foxtrot incredulous about the peepless issue of Lebanon:

How do you not mention Lebanon after what happened this week? A US-friendly prime minister — a guy you just hosted in the Oval Office two weeks ago, Mr. President; remember him? — was overthrown by an Iran- and Syria-backed terrorist organization that assassinated his pro-Western father and has handpicked his successor. Hello?

In last year’s SOTU address, Obama extolled America’s “engagement” around the world:

As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores.  But we also do it because it is right. … That’s why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. (Applause.) Always. (Applause.)

Last night, the only peeps on this subject were his praise for the vote in south Sudan and “that same desire to be free in Tunisia.” At least Tunisia got the coveted let-me-be-clear moment, in a sentence that perhaps technically also covered Egypt and Lebanon:

And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people. (Applause.)

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Obama’s Moment to Redefine the Modern Middle East

Somehow it’s hard to get too worked up about the formalized rituals of the State of the Union when real news is happening half a world away. In the Middle East, revolutions, for good and for ill, are breaking out, while back in Washington, President Obama is touting the latest clean-energy boondoggles. All he had to say about the ongoing, exciting events was one line: “the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of the people.” What about the people of Lebanon? Or of Egypt? Don’t they deserve support too? And don’t the Tunisians battling for democracy against the security forces of the old regime deserve more than a throwaway line near the end of an hour-long address?

It is quite possible, even likely, that recent upheavals will amount to little. Many people, myself included, got our hopes up in 2005 when the Cedar Revolution overthrew Syrian domination in Lebanon and the people of Iraq turned out in droves to vote. Those hopes were swiftly dashed; indeed, this week the representative of the Cedar Revolution, Saad Hariri, ignominiously lost the prime minister’s job as Hezbollah and its patrons in Syria and Iran flexed their muscles. But it is also possible — not likely but possible — that the toppling of the Tunisian regime could have a ripple effect in this sclerotic region. This could be the most important moment for American diplomacy since the toppling of the Berlin Wall.

Certainly there is little precedent for the mass outpouring of protest in Egypt against the Mubarak regime, which is just as decrepit as was the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia. The stakes in Egypt, however, are much higher, given that it’s much bigger than Tunisia and has a much larger, active Muslim Brotherhood that could take advantage of chaos to seize power.

At a moment like this, it would be comforting to see in the Oval Office an old diplomatic hand like George H.W. Bush — and I say this as someone who was never a big fan of the elder Bush. I do think, however, that despite some missteps (google the Chicken Kiev speech if you’re under 40), he did a brilliant job of managing a volatile situation. I do not mean to slight the contributions of brave dissidents or even of Mikhail Gorbachev, but nevertheless, the creation of democracies across Eastern Europe is in substantial measure the legacy of Ronald Reagan and his predecessors going back to Truman, who confronted the “evil empire,” and of Bush the Elder, who skillfully managed its dissolution. Read More

Somehow it’s hard to get too worked up about the formalized rituals of the State of the Union when real news is happening half a world away. In the Middle East, revolutions, for good and for ill, are breaking out, while back in Washington, President Obama is touting the latest clean-energy boondoggles. All he had to say about the ongoing, exciting events was one line: “the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of the people.” What about the people of Lebanon? Or of Egypt? Don’t they deserve support too? And don’t the Tunisians battling for democracy against the security forces of the old regime deserve more than a throwaway line near the end of an hour-long address?

It is quite possible, even likely, that recent upheavals will amount to little. Many people, myself included, got our hopes up in 2005 when the Cedar Revolution overthrew Syrian domination in Lebanon and the people of Iraq turned out in droves to vote. Those hopes were swiftly dashed; indeed, this week the representative of the Cedar Revolution, Saad Hariri, ignominiously lost the prime minister’s job as Hezbollah and its patrons in Syria and Iran flexed their muscles. But it is also possible — not likely but possible — that the toppling of the Tunisian regime could have a ripple effect in this sclerotic region. This could be the most important moment for American diplomacy since the toppling of the Berlin Wall.

Certainly there is little precedent for the mass outpouring of protest in Egypt against the Mubarak regime, which is just as decrepit as was the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia. The stakes in Egypt, however, are much higher, given that it’s much bigger than Tunisia and has a much larger, active Muslim Brotherhood that could take advantage of chaos to seize power.

At a moment like this, it would be comforting to see in the Oval Office an old diplomatic hand like George H.W. Bush — and I say this as someone who was never a big fan of the elder Bush. I do think, however, that despite some missteps (google the Chicken Kiev speech if you’re under 40), he did a brilliant job of managing a volatile situation. I do not mean to slight the contributions of brave dissidents or even of Mikhail Gorbachev, but nevertheless, the creation of democracies across Eastern Europe is in substantial measure the legacy of Ronald Reagan and his predecessors going back to Truman, who confronted the “evil empire,” and of Bush the Elder, who skillfully managed its dissolution.

Unfortunately, instead of someone like Bush, who had served as an ambassador, CIA director, and vice president, we have in the Oval Office a president with no foreign-policy credentials. This president seems to think that the entire region revolves around the moribund Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Already Obama missed a crucial opportunity in the summer of 2009 to encourage the Green Revolution in Iran. Let us hope that will be a learning experience. This time around, we need a president fully engaged in the moment — a president who will speak for the aspirations of the people of the Middle East (more than one line, please), while also working to provide a soft landing for longtime dictators and to ensure that radicals don’t seize power.

For all his lack of experience, Obama is no newcomer to the job. He is a fast learner, and he has a gift for rhetoric the likes of which always eluded George H.W. Bush. This may very well be his moment: the moment for redefining the modern Middle East. He should seize it — if he’s not too distracted with the domestic priorities that as usual dominated the State of the Union.

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LIVE BLOG: Democracy

Obama reaffirms the importance of supporting democracy movements around the world. This type of rhetoric had been toned down during his administration, and so it’s nice to hear him say it so firmly tonight: “And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.”

Obama reaffirms the importance of supporting democracy movements around the world. This type of rhetoric had been toned down during his administration, and so it’s nice to hear him say it so firmly tonight: “And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.”

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Whose America Is It?

Richard Cohen, who occasionally writes sensible things on race, suggests in his Washington Post column today that among the many reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president is:

She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans — and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.

Palin draws Cohen’s fire for a passage in her new book in which she says that President Obama “seems to believe” that “America — at least America as it currently exists — is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” Cohen suggests that Palin’s comment is proof that she is ignorant of America’s racial history.

I’m not a Palin fan — she lost the right to be taken seriously in my book when she gave up the governorship of Alaska to embark on her career as celebrity politician — but the idea that there is a “black America” or a “Hispanic America” is offensive. Cohen’s reference is also more than a little ironic given President Obama’s own claim that “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Cohen aside, being familiar with the racial injustices of the past and our fight to overcome them should make us more, not less, proud that we are a fundamentally just nation, where equal opportunity remains a principle more honored in the observance than the breach.

Richard Cohen, who occasionally writes sensible things on race, suggests in his Washington Post column today that among the many reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president is:

She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans — and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.

Palin draws Cohen’s fire for a passage in her new book in which she says that President Obama “seems to believe” that “America — at least America as it currently exists — is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” Cohen suggests that Palin’s comment is proof that she is ignorant of America’s racial history.

I’m not a Palin fan — she lost the right to be taken seriously in my book when she gave up the governorship of Alaska to embark on her career as celebrity politician — but the idea that there is a “black America” or a “Hispanic America” is offensive. Cohen’s reference is also more than a little ironic given President Obama’s own claim that “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Cohen aside, being familiar with the racial injustices of the past and our fight to overcome them should make us more, not less, proud that we are a fundamentally just nation, where equal opportunity remains a principle more honored in the observance than the breach.

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Israel’s Left: Swearing Allegiance to Constitution Is ‘Fascist’

If there were an annual award for hypocrisy, the Israeli leftists now protesting a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Law would surely have this year’s title sewed up. The rhetoric has been utterly over the top: the Association for Civil Rights in Israel called the amendment “anti-democratic”; author Sefi Rachlevsky termed it “fascist”; Prof. Gavriel Solomon even compared it to the Nazis’ Nuremberg Laws.

Here are the actual facts. The amendment would require naturalized citizens, who are currently required to take an oath of allegiance only to the State of Israel, to instead swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” That phrase first entered the law books in 1992, when two new Basic Laws on human rights defined the country as a “Jewish and democratic state.”

According to both Israel’s Supreme Court and to all the leftists now vigorously protesting the proposed amendment, the 1992 Basic Laws are part of Israel’s constitution: they supersede all ordinary legislation, and the Supreme Court has the right to overturn ordinary legislation that it deems in contravention of the Basic Laws. Indeed, the only people who challenge the Basic Laws’ constitutional status are conservatives, who argue that laws passed by less than a quarter of the Knesset do not meet the minimal procedural requirements for constitutional legislation.

But if you assume, as the entire left does, that these laws are part of Israel’s constitution, then the proposed amendment does nothing more than require naturalized citizens to swear allegiance to Israel’s constitution.

And that, needless to say, is no more than virtually every other Western democracy requires. The U.S., for instance, requires naturalized citizens to swear to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Indeed, the U.S. goes well beyond that: it also, for instance, requires naturalized citizens to commit to do both army service and civilian national service “when required by the law.” Israel requires no such pledge of its naturalized citizens.

So why do Israeli leftists object to something so seemingly innocuous? Because many of those who would be required to take the new oath are Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs and then seek Israeli citizenship. These Palestinians object to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, as do their Israeli Arab partners. Leftists thus argue that the law is discriminatory, forcing naturalized Palestinians to swear allegiance to something that violates their own beliefs.

But there’s a very simple answer to that. If you can’t bring yourself to swear allegiance to the constitution of the country you’re seeking to become a citizen of, you don’t deserve to be given citizenship. That’s the rule throughout the democratic world, and there’s no reason why Israel should be an exception. And in Israel’s case, swearing allegiance to the constitution means acknowledging the country as a “Jewish and democratic state.”

It takes real creativity to portray an oath of allegiance to the constitution as “fascist.” But then no one ever accused the Israeli left of lacking creativity.

If there were an annual award for hypocrisy, the Israeli leftists now protesting a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Law would surely have this year’s title sewed up. The rhetoric has been utterly over the top: the Association for Civil Rights in Israel called the amendment “anti-democratic”; author Sefi Rachlevsky termed it “fascist”; Prof. Gavriel Solomon even compared it to the Nazis’ Nuremberg Laws.

Here are the actual facts. The amendment would require naturalized citizens, who are currently required to take an oath of allegiance only to the State of Israel, to instead swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” That phrase first entered the law books in 1992, when two new Basic Laws on human rights defined the country as a “Jewish and democratic state.”

According to both Israel’s Supreme Court and to all the leftists now vigorously protesting the proposed amendment, the 1992 Basic Laws are part of Israel’s constitution: they supersede all ordinary legislation, and the Supreme Court has the right to overturn ordinary legislation that it deems in contravention of the Basic Laws. Indeed, the only people who challenge the Basic Laws’ constitutional status are conservatives, who argue that laws passed by less than a quarter of the Knesset do not meet the minimal procedural requirements for constitutional legislation.

But if you assume, as the entire left does, that these laws are part of Israel’s constitution, then the proposed amendment does nothing more than require naturalized citizens to swear allegiance to Israel’s constitution.

And that, needless to say, is no more than virtually every other Western democracy requires. The U.S., for instance, requires naturalized citizens to swear to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Indeed, the U.S. goes well beyond that: it also, for instance, requires naturalized citizens to commit to do both army service and civilian national service “when required by the law.” Israel requires no such pledge of its naturalized citizens.

So why do Israeli leftists object to something so seemingly innocuous? Because many of those who would be required to take the new oath are Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs and then seek Israeli citizenship. These Palestinians object to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, as do their Israeli Arab partners. Leftists thus argue that the law is discriminatory, forcing naturalized Palestinians to swear allegiance to something that violates their own beliefs.

But there’s a very simple answer to that. If you can’t bring yourself to swear allegiance to the constitution of the country you’re seeking to become a citizen of, you don’t deserve to be given citizenship. That’s the rule throughout the democratic world, and there’s no reason why Israel should be an exception. And in Israel’s case, swearing allegiance to the constitution means acknowledging the country as a “Jewish and democratic state.”

It takes real creativity to portray an oath of allegiance to the constitution as “fascist.” But then no one ever accused the Israeli left of lacking creativity.

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This Time, You’ve Got Me

In his article, “Hillary’s Dangerous Mideast Leap” (which Jen discusses here), Leslie Gelb caustically suggests that Hillary Clinton (“Washington’s current flavor of the month”) and her boss (“the administration’s other Middle East expert”) must know something we don’t:

You wouldn’t think the two American leaders would risk the prestige and power of the United States of America on yet another effort to reconcile these two blood enemies without good grounds for doing so, would you?

Gelb hopes that the Obama administration “did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks … just to get them talking to each other,” because once such talks fail, the explosion will likely be greater than if there had been no negotiations at all — an observation Jeffrey Goldberg calls “very smart.”

The peace process is too big to fail after only one month — especially one month before a U.S. election, shaping up as a referendum on Obama — so the administration will likely find a way to get Abbas to back down from his insistence on preconditions, which Obama himself already abandoned. But why would anyone think a process featuring a Palestinian “president” whose term of office ended 20 months ago, who cannot set foot in half his putative state, who cannot schedule local elections even in the half he nominally controls, who has failed to condition his public for compromise, and whose reluctance to negotiate is palpable, might succeed?

Near the end of his 800-page book on The Missing Peace, in a chapter entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Dennis Ross wrote that:

Whenever my exasperation with Arafat was reaching its limits, [Mahmoud Abbas], Abu Ala, or [others] … would remind me that only Arafat had the moral authority among Palestinians to compromise on Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. … “Remember, he is the only one who can concede on fundamental issues.” Often [Abbas] … or other Palestinian negotiators would tell me, “You prefer dealing with us because you see us as more moderate, but we cannot deliver, only he can.”

Ross wrote that the U.S. had created a process that became “self-sustaining and essentially an end in itself” — which seems a good description of the process in which Obama is currently engaged. The failed peace processes of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush should have cautioned against simply starting a new one, but Obama rushed right back in, from the first week of his presidency, and now is deeply invested in a process he cannot allow to end, even if it is obvious that it cannot succeed. What was he thinking?

In his article, “Hillary’s Dangerous Mideast Leap” (which Jen discusses here), Leslie Gelb caustically suggests that Hillary Clinton (“Washington’s current flavor of the month”) and her boss (“the administration’s other Middle East expert”) must know something we don’t:

You wouldn’t think the two American leaders would risk the prestige and power of the United States of America on yet another effort to reconcile these two blood enemies without good grounds for doing so, would you?

Gelb hopes that the Obama administration “did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks … just to get them talking to each other,” because once such talks fail, the explosion will likely be greater than if there had been no negotiations at all — an observation Jeffrey Goldberg calls “very smart.”

The peace process is too big to fail after only one month — especially one month before a U.S. election, shaping up as a referendum on Obama — so the administration will likely find a way to get Abbas to back down from his insistence on preconditions, which Obama himself already abandoned. But why would anyone think a process featuring a Palestinian “president” whose term of office ended 20 months ago, who cannot set foot in half his putative state, who cannot schedule local elections even in the half he nominally controls, who has failed to condition his public for compromise, and whose reluctance to negotiate is palpable, might succeed?

Near the end of his 800-page book on The Missing Peace, in a chapter entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Dennis Ross wrote that:

Whenever my exasperation with Arafat was reaching its limits, [Mahmoud Abbas], Abu Ala, or [others] … would remind me that only Arafat had the moral authority among Palestinians to compromise on Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. … “Remember, he is the only one who can concede on fundamental issues.” Often [Abbas] … or other Palestinian negotiators would tell me, “You prefer dealing with us because you see us as more moderate, but we cannot deliver, only he can.”

Ross wrote that the U.S. had created a process that became “self-sustaining and essentially an end in itself” — which seems a good description of the process in which Obama is currently engaged. The failed peace processes of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush should have cautioned against simply starting a new one, but Obama rushed right back in, from the first week of his presidency, and now is deeply invested in a process he cannot allow to end, even if it is obvious that it cannot succeed. What was he thinking?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama’s baddest critic warns him about flip-floppery on the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Obama, you are not the mayor of Podunk arguing with the City Council over sewer versus septic; you are the president of the United States of America , the greatest country in the world! It may be that your utterances are sounding like indefensible rubbish to more and more of us, but at the very least you, the presidential enunciator of them, ought to have the courage to defend them —especially when they’re already in writing.”

Greg Sargent warns anti-Israel Democrats that the Emergency Committee for Israel is putting them “on notice that if they criticize Israel, they can expect to be targeted, too.” Or, to put it differently, it will be harder to fake being pro-Israel.

Charlie Cook warns Democrats that the Connecticut Senate race will tighten. And sure enough: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Connecticut Voters finds that Democrat Richard Blumenthal has slipped below the 50% mark of support this month against Republican Linda McMahon in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Bill Kristol warns the left to get a grip: “The ‘f*ck tea’ movement [the real name of a new leftist undertaking] — that’s what the left has come to. They can’t defend the results of Obama’s policies or the validity of Krugman’s arguments. They know it’s hard to sustain an antidemocratic ethos in a democracy. They realize they’ve degenerated into pro-am levels of whining and squabbling. So they curse their opponents.”

The Gray Lady warns politicians to avoid Michelle Obama’s vacation gaffe: “Forget the lush beaches of Bora Bora or the Campari-soaked cafes along the Côte d’Azur. And don’t even think about Rome or Paris. Astute Washington politicians have long known that when it comes to politically palatable summer vacations, it is best not to cross any oceans. Or even seas. Michelle Obama violated one of this city’s most sacrosanct unwritten rules when she went to Spain — during a recession, no less — with her daughter and a few friends.”

Senate Republicans warn the administration that its pick for ambassador to Turkey is a no-go: “The nomination of Frank Ricciardone to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey is being held up in the Senate and the GOP has no intention of allowing a vote on the nomination any time soon. … The administration might be wary of spending its limited political capital to push through the Ricciardone nomination to a floor debate in the Senate because it could open up a broader public discussion of Turkey policy the White House might not think is useful given the delicate diplomatic environment.”

Douglas Schoen warns fellow Democrats: “The recent discouraging economic news is a watershed for the Obama administration — at least as far as the midterms are concerned. It discredits one of the administration’s few remaining positive arguments: that the administration ushered in an economic recovery that otherwise might not have occurred.”

Bibi warns the world, explains George Will: “If Iran were to ‘wipe the Zionist entity off the map,’ as it vows to do, it would, Netanyahu believes, achieve a regional ‘dominance not seen since Alexander.’ … He says that 1948 meant this: ‘For the first time in 2,000 years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack.’ And he says: ‘The tragic history of the powerlessness of our people explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.’ If Israel strikes Iran, the world will not be able to say it was not warned.” Nor will it be able to say that, by leaving the job to Israel, Obama fufilled his role as leader of the Free World.

Obama’s baddest critic warns him about flip-floppery on the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Obama, you are not the mayor of Podunk arguing with the City Council over sewer versus septic; you are the president of the United States of America , the greatest country in the world! It may be that your utterances are sounding like indefensible rubbish to more and more of us, but at the very least you, the presidential enunciator of them, ought to have the courage to defend them —especially when they’re already in writing.”

Greg Sargent warns anti-Israel Democrats that the Emergency Committee for Israel is putting them “on notice that if they criticize Israel, they can expect to be targeted, too.” Or, to put it differently, it will be harder to fake being pro-Israel.

Charlie Cook warns Democrats that the Connecticut Senate race will tighten. And sure enough: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Connecticut Voters finds that Democrat Richard Blumenthal has slipped below the 50% mark of support this month against Republican Linda McMahon in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Bill Kristol warns the left to get a grip: “The ‘f*ck tea’ movement [the real name of a new leftist undertaking] — that’s what the left has come to. They can’t defend the results of Obama’s policies or the validity of Krugman’s arguments. They know it’s hard to sustain an antidemocratic ethos in a democracy. They realize they’ve degenerated into pro-am levels of whining and squabbling. So they curse their opponents.”

The Gray Lady warns politicians to avoid Michelle Obama’s vacation gaffe: “Forget the lush beaches of Bora Bora or the Campari-soaked cafes along the Côte d’Azur. And don’t even think about Rome or Paris. Astute Washington politicians have long known that when it comes to politically palatable summer vacations, it is best not to cross any oceans. Or even seas. Michelle Obama violated one of this city’s most sacrosanct unwritten rules when she went to Spain — during a recession, no less — with her daughter and a few friends.”

Senate Republicans warn the administration that its pick for ambassador to Turkey is a no-go: “The nomination of Frank Ricciardone to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey is being held up in the Senate and the GOP has no intention of allowing a vote on the nomination any time soon. … The administration might be wary of spending its limited political capital to push through the Ricciardone nomination to a floor debate in the Senate because it could open up a broader public discussion of Turkey policy the White House might not think is useful given the delicate diplomatic environment.”

Douglas Schoen warns fellow Democrats: “The recent discouraging economic news is a watershed for the Obama administration — at least as far as the midterms are concerned. It discredits one of the administration’s few remaining positive arguments: that the administration ushered in an economic recovery that otherwise might not have occurred.”

Bibi warns the world, explains George Will: “If Iran were to ‘wipe the Zionist entity off the map,’ as it vows to do, it would, Netanyahu believes, achieve a regional ‘dominance not seen since Alexander.’ … He says that 1948 meant this: ‘For the first time in 2,000 years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack.’ And he says: ‘The tragic history of the powerlessness of our people explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.’ If Israel strikes Iran, the world will not be able to say it was not warned.” Nor will it be able to say that, by leaving the job to Israel, Obama fufilled his role as leader of the Free World.

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ObamaCare Doesn’t Justify Secession

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

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How Dare You Fire the Hezbollah Cheerleader!

As one might imagine, the pro-terrorist lobby (wait — you’ll see it’s appropriate in this context) is raising a fuss over CNN’s decision to can an editor for praising a Hezbollah leader. This is particularly revealing:

“This is unbelievable what is happening in the United States of America,” said Osama Siblani, the publisher of the Arab American News. “You can say anything you want – except when it comes to Israel.”

He accused CNN of a double standard, citing what he said was CNN host Wolf Blitzer’s history of working for the Jerusalem Post and for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). “But for Octavia Nasr to make a statement that’s in agreement with millions of people around the world, has become a firing offense at CNN. It’s incredible the level we have sunk to.”

You know, he says “double standard” like it’s a bad thing. Actually, it’s good to have one standard for those who are infatuated with terrorists — so infatuated that while employed in a “news” capacity, they sing their praises — and another standard for those who used to work in Israel or for a Jewish organization who, in their current capacity, rather objectively report the news. I think if Wolf Blitzer started sending tweets about his deep and abiding respect for Bibi, he’d be in hot water too. But more to the point, it’s revealing that Arab groups and the Israel-hating John Zogby consider it an outrage that CNN would fire someone who did not merely praise Palestinians or their cause but praised an avowed terrorist. Speaks volumes about the accusers, doesn’t it?

As one might imagine, the pro-terrorist lobby (wait — you’ll see it’s appropriate in this context) is raising a fuss over CNN’s decision to can an editor for praising a Hezbollah leader. This is particularly revealing:

“This is unbelievable what is happening in the United States of America,” said Osama Siblani, the publisher of the Arab American News. “You can say anything you want – except when it comes to Israel.”

He accused CNN of a double standard, citing what he said was CNN host Wolf Blitzer’s history of working for the Jerusalem Post and for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). “But for Octavia Nasr to make a statement that’s in agreement with millions of people around the world, has become a firing offense at CNN. It’s incredible the level we have sunk to.”

You know, he says “double standard” like it’s a bad thing. Actually, it’s good to have one standard for those who are infatuated with terrorists — so infatuated that while employed in a “news” capacity, they sing their praises — and another standard for those who used to work in Israel or for a Jewish organization who, in their current capacity, rather objectively report the news. I think if Wolf Blitzer started sending tweets about his deep and abiding respect for Bibi, he’d be in hot water too. But more to the point, it’s revealing that Arab groups and the Israel-hating John Zogby consider it an outrage that CNN would fire someone who did not merely praise Palestinians or their cause but praised an avowed terrorist. Speaks volumes about the accusers, doesn’t it?

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Brown on Israel

Scott Brown might not be a rock-ribbed conservative on domestic matters — he’s gone along with the Democrats on finance reform and a overstuffed spending bill  (inaptly named a “jobs bill”), but on foreign policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Republican — other than Marco Rubio — who is as full-throated in his support for Israel and for an un-Obama foreign policy as Brown. At an AIPAC leadership meeting in Boston, he went after Obama’s shoddy performance:

Brown, addressing a pro-Israel group in Boston, tied Israel and the United States together in fighting against terrorism. He also called for further sanctions on Iran, saying “there is no greater strategic threat facing the world than a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“I don’t need polling or political strategists to help define a nuanced stance on Israel,” Brown said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “We are engaged in a worldwide struggle against radical, violent jihad. It is the defining issue of our time. Our best friends and the strongest allies in this fight are in the State of Israel.”

“Let’s remember – Israel is our ally. Israel is a democracy,” Brown added. “Hamas is a terrorist group with clear and genuine intentions of destroying Israel’s way of life.”

He made clear that Israel’s security and that of the U.S. are inseparable:

Now I know I am still the new guy on the block, with a little more than 100 days in the Senate under my belt, but I have placed U.S. – Israeli security as one of the most significant and highest priorities on my agenda,” he added.

Brown also said that one of his first acts in the senate was to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that “the senate could not take its eye off the ball in regards to the threat of Iran.”

“A safe, secure Israel, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States and its allies is essential to the continued liberty of our nations,” Brown said. “Our fates have never been more intertwined. May God continue to bless Israel and the United States of America.”

While his opposition to ObamaCare was a central focus of his campaign, he was also forceful on terrorism (his line objecting to paying for terrorist lawyers brought the house down at his victory rally), and his campaign took off in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. As much as low taxes and the repeal of ObamaCare, opposition to Obama’s brand of foreign policy (ingratiating ourselves with foes and spurning allies, indulging Israel’s enemies, ignoring human rights and democracy promotion, etc.) has become a fixture of the conservative agenda and a key theme in campaigns this year. It is both correct policy and offers a check, if not a complete antidote, to Obama’s not-at-all-smart diplomacy. But it is also popular with voters who haven’t seen foreign policy this badly run and our national security more perilous since the Carter years. At some point, even Democrats may realize this too.

Scott Brown might not be a rock-ribbed conservative on domestic matters — he’s gone along with the Democrats on finance reform and a overstuffed spending bill  (inaptly named a “jobs bill”), but on foreign policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Republican — other than Marco Rubio — who is as full-throated in his support for Israel and for an un-Obama foreign policy as Brown. At an AIPAC leadership meeting in Boston, he went after Obama’s shoddy performance:

Brown, addressing a pro-Israel group in Boston, tied Israel and the United States together in fighting against terrorism. He also called for further sanctions on Iran, saying “there is no greater strategic threat facing the world than a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“I don’t need polling or political strategists to help define a nuanced stance on Israel,” Brown said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “We are engaged in a worldwide struggle against radical, violent jihad. It is the defining issue of our time. Our best friends and the strongest allies in this fight are in the State of Israel.”

“Let’s remember – Israel is our ally. Israel is a democracy,” Brown added. “Hamas is a terrorist group with clear and genuine intentions of destroying Israel’s way of life.”

He made clear that Israel’s security and that of the U.S. are inseparable:

Now I know I am still the new guy on the block, with a little more than 100 days in the Senate under my belt, but I have placed U.S. – Israeli security as one of the most significant and highest priorities on my agenda,” he added.

Brown also said that one of his first acts in the senate was to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that “the senate could not take its eye off the ball in regards to the threat of Iran.”

“A safe, secure Israel, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States and its allies is essential to the continued liberty of our nations,” Brown said. “Our fates have never been more intertwined. May God continue to bless Israel and the United States of America.”

While his opposition to ObamaCare was a central focus of his campaign, he was also forceful on terrorism (his line objecting to paying for terrorist lawyers brought the house down at his victory rally), and his campaign took off in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. As much as low taxes and the repeal of ObamaCare, opposition to Obama’s brand of foreign policy (ingratiating ourselves with foes and spurning allies, indulging Israel’s enemies, ignoring human rights and democracy promotion, etc.) has become a fixture of the conservative agenda and a key theme in campaigns this year. It is both correct policy and offers a check, if not a complete antidote, to Obama’s not-at-all-smart diplomacy. But it is also popular with voters who haven’t seen foreign policy this badly run and our national security more perilous since the Carter years. At some point, even Democrats may realize this too.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Fine Speech in Afghanistan

Barack Obama made an excellent — even inspiring — speech Sunday, before American and other coalition troops in Afghanistan. He expressed a boundless appreciation of our soldiers and a sense of ongoing commitment to the fight there.

The president told the audience in uniform, “You’ve earned your place next to the very greatest of American generations.” That’s more than an expression of gratitude; it’s a declaration that reflects the historic magnitude of their fight.

On winning, Obama said, “I am confident all of you are going to get the job done right here in Afghanistan,” and he described “our mission” to “disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies.” One could quibble with the absence of the word victory, but it hardly seems worth it. After all, as he talks about the “defeat” of our enemies, our own victory is self-evident.

The line that earned the biggest spontaneous show of enthusiasm was about commitment: “The United States of America does not quit once is starts on something. You don’t quit, the American armed services does not quit. We keep at it and we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that.” After the long, uncertain policy-decision period last fall, it’s important that he hammer that message home as frequently as possible.

Obama talked about “bringing hope and opportunity to a people who have known a lot of pain and a lot of suffering.” It would have been nice to hear him mention freedom or consensual governance, but it’s important to remember that this was not a policy speech. It was a morale booster for the men and women fighting abroad.

The president offered his most robust defense of American exceptionalism since his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in December. “In an uncertain world the United States of America will always stand up for the security of nations and the dignity of human beings,” he said. “That is who we are. That is what we do.”

This was a contender for the best speech of Obama’s presidency thus far. May he continue to inspire on Afghanistan. And may some of that inspiration leak into other foreign policy areas, where notions of America’s commitment and the protection of human dignity have been found disgracefully absent.

Barack Obama made an excellent — even inspiring — speech Sunday, before American and other coalition troops in Afghanistan. He expressed a boundless appreciation of our soldiers and a sense of ongoing commitment to the fight there.

The president told the audience in uniform, “You’ve earned your place next to the very greatest of American generations.” That’s more than an expression of gratitude; it’s a declaration that reflects the historic magnitude of their fight.

On winning, Obama said, “I am confident all of you are going to get the job done right here in Afghanistan,” and he described “our mission” to “disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies.” One could quibble with the absence of the word victory, but it hardly seems worth it. After all, as he talks about the “defeat” of our enemies, our own victory is self-evident.

The line that earned the biggest spontaneous show of enthusiasm was about commitment: “The United States of America does not quit once is starts on something. You don’t quit, the American armed services does not quit. We keep at it and we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that.” After the long, uncertain policy-decision period last fall, it’s important that he hammer that message home as frequently as possible.

Obama talked about “bringing hope and opportunity to a people who have known a lot of pain and a lot of suffering.” It would have been nice to hear him mention freedom or consensual governance, but it’s important to remember that this was not a policy speech. It was a morale booster for the men and women fighting abroad.

The president offered his most robust defense of American exceptionalism since his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in December. “In an uncertain world the United States of America will always stand up for the security of nations and the dignity of human beings,” he said. “That is who we are. That is what we do.”

This was a contender for the best speech of Obama’s presidency thus far. May he continue to inspire on Afghanistan. And may some of that inspiration leak into other foreign policy areas, where notions of America’s commitment and the protection of human dignity have been found disgracefully absent.

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Not Getting Anywhere

The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations joins other prominent Jewish organizations in blasting the administration, declaring in a lengthy statement that, “the unusually harsh comments made since then by members of the Administration have resulted in increased tensions. The interests of all concerned would best be served by a prompt commencement of the proximity talks that had been previously agreed to by all parties, and all parties should act in a manner that does not undercut such talks.” But it is the Presidents’ remarks on the Obami’s cough-up-more-concessions gambit that are most noteworthy in that they directly confront the premise of the Obami’s tactics:

Israel has consistently stated that it is prepared to return to direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without preconditions, and recently has agreed to enter into proximity talks that would lead to face-to-face discussions. The Palestinians also had agreed to such proximity talks. Notwithstanding that apparent sign of progress, the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab League have repeatedly looked for ways to avoid discussions that might lead to a peace agreement and have imposed conditions never demanded of previous Israeli governments. Despite this, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have declared an unprecedented settlement freeze in the West Bank and have taken important steps to remove roadblocks and to otherwise promote conditions to improve life in the Palestinian territories. This conduct by Israel, supported by the United States, together with action undertaken by the Palestinian Authority, has resulted in tangible improvement for those living under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The United States of America should capitalize on these improved conditions and insist that the Palestinians operate in good faith and live up to their commitment to begin new talks.

The recent disclosure by Israel of its intention to build additional housing units in eastern Jerusalem at a future date does not contradict its announced commitment to freeze settlement building for a limited period, and a cessation to building in Jerusalem was never a condition of the proximity talks. Israel has always claimed a right to build in its capital city. The apparent refusal by the Palestinian Authority to avoid discussions now until the plans regarding the 1600 future units are withdrawn is yet another instance of the Palestinians missing an opportunity to move toward a resolution of the conflict. The true test of peaceful intentions is the willingness to engage in negotiations.

Israel’s commitment to participate in proximity talks is in sharp distinction to the continued incitement by the Palestinian Authority and its public relations organs which have consistently acted in violation of its agreements with Israel. Only last week, coincident with the visit of Vice President Biden to the region, the Palestinians went ahead with the dedication of a public square in honor of  Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who was responsible for the massacre of 37 Israelis and American photographer Gail Rubin in 1978. It is such conduct which merits the attention and condemnation of those who seek to achieve peace.

It took a while, but Jewish organizations — the ADL, AIPAC, AJC, and now the Conference — have recoiled against Obama’s notion that the problem in the “peace process” is Israel and that the solution is to extract more concessions to toss to the Palestinians. The Obami’s take on the situation is not grounded in fact. (Which party has been making steps toward peace and which has been naming squares after terrorists?) As we’ve seen for over a year, it is also bad bargaining. Now we see it’s bad politics.

And the Israeli government? For now, Bibi Netanyahu is thanking Hillary Clinton for her last round of platitudinous comments. (“The State of Israel appreciates and respects the warm words said by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the deep bond between the U.S. and Israel, and on the U.S.’ commitment to Israel’s security.” But how bonded and  committed is the administration to pick a fight, risk emboldening Palestinians bent on terror, and signal to the region that Obama is not on the same page with the Israeli government?) However, on the substance of the Obami’s demands, Netanyahu isn’t buying the Obama narrative either:

“With regard to commitments to peace, the government of Israel has proven over the last year that it is commitment to peace, both in words and actions,” said the statement. …

The statement cited as examples Netanyahu’s inaugural foreign policy speech made at Bar Ilan University, the removal of hundreds of roadblocks across the West Bank, and its decision to freeze temporarily construction in West Bank settlements. The latter, said the statement, was even called by Clinton an “unprecedented” move.

The Israeli government reiterated its call for the Palestinians “to enter the tent of peace without preconditions, because that is the only way to reach a settlement that will ensure peace, security and prosperity for both nations.”

So let’s take stock: no mainstream Jewish organization supports the Obami’s gambit, neither does any elected official who has publicly spoken up. The Israeli government is not persuaded to make any more moves. The Palestinians are calling for “rage” over the restoration of a synagogue in Jerusalem. In short, Obama’s Middle East policy is a complete flop, both domestically and internationally. Whoever thought up this latest move — Axelrod? Emanuel? — might want to consider going back to making hash out of health care.

The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations joins other prominent Jewish organizations in blasting the administration, declaring in a lengthy statement that, “the unusually harsh comments made since then by members of the Administration have resulted in increased tensions. The interests of all concerned would best be served by a prompt commencement of the proximity talks that had been previously agreed to by all parties, and all parties should act in a manner that does not undercut such talks.” But it is the Presidents’ remarks on the Obami’s cough-up-more-concessions gambit that are most noteworthy in that they directly confront the premise of the Obami’s tactics:

Israel has consistently stated that it is prepared to return to direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without preconditions, and recently has agreed to enter into proximity talks that would lead to face-to-face discussions. The Palestinians also had agreed to such proximity talks. Notwithstanding that apparent sign of progress, the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab League have repeatedly looked for ways to avoid discussions that might lead to a peace agreement and have imposed conditions never demanded of previous Israeli governments. Despite this, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have declared an unprecedented settlement freeze in the West Bank and have taken important steps to remove roadblocks and to otherwise promote conditions to improve life in the Palestinian territories. This conduct by Israel, supported by the United States, together with action undertaken by the Palestinian Authority, has resulted in tangible improvement for those living under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The United States of America should capitalize on these improved conditions and insist that the Palestinians operate in good faith and live up to their commitment to begin new talks.

The recent disclosure by Israel of its intention to build additional housing units in eastern Jerusalem at a future date does not contradict its announced commitment to freeze settlement building for a limited period, and a cessation to building in Jerusalem was never a condition of the proximity talks. Israel has always claimed a right to build in its capital city. The apparent refusal by the Palestinian Authority to avoid discussions now until the plans regarding the 1600 future units are withdrawn is yet another instance of the Palestinians missing an opportunity to move toward a resolution of the conflict. The true test of peaceful intentions is the willingness to engage in negotiations.

Israel’s commitment to participate in proximity talks is in sharp distinction to the continued incitement by the Palestinian Authority and its public relations organs which have consistently acted in violation of its agreements with Israel. Only last week, coincident with the visit of Vice President Biden to the region, the Palestinians went ahead with the dedication of a public square in honor of  Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who was responsible for the massacre of 37 Israelis and American photographer Gail Rubin in 1978. It is such conduct which merits the attention and condemnation of those who seek to achieve peace.

It took a while, but Jewish organizations — the ADL, AIPAC, AJC, and now the Conference — have recoiled against Obama’s notion that the problem in the “peace process” is Israel and that the solution is to extract more concessions to toss to the Palestinians. The Obami’s take on the situation is not grounded in fact. (Which party has been making steps toward peace and which has been naming squares after terrorists?) As we’ve seen for over a year, it is also bad bargaining. Now we see it’s bad politics.

And the Israeli government? For now, Bibi Netanyahu is thanking Hillary Clinton for her last round of platitudinous comments. (“The State of Israel appreciates and respects the warm words said by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the deep bond between the U.S. and Israel, and on the U.S.’ commitment to Israel’s security.” But how bonded and  committed is the administration to pick a fight, risk emboldening Palestinians bent on terror, and signal to the region that Obama is not on the same page with the Israeli government?) However, on the substance of the Obami’s demands, Netanyahu isn’t buying the Obama narrative either:

“With regard to commitments to peace, the government of Israel has proven over the last year that it is commitment to peace, both in words and actions,” said the statement. …

The statement cited as examples Netanyahu’s inaugural foreign policy speech made at Bar Ilan University, the removal of hundreds of roadblocks across the West Bank, and its decision to freeze temporarily construction in West Bank settlements. The latter, said the statement, was even called by Clinton an “unprecedented” move.

The Israeli government reiterated its call for the Palestinians “to enter the tent of peace without preconditions, because that is the only way to reach a settlement that will ensure peace, security and prosperity for both nations.”

So let’s take stock: no mainstream Jewish organization supports the Obami’s gambit, neither does any elected official who has publicly spoken up. The Israeli government is not persuaded to make any more moves. The Palestinians are calling for “rage” over the restoration of a synagogue in Jerusalem. In short, Obama’s Middle East policy is a complete flop, both domestically and internationally. Whoever thought up this latest move — Axelrod? Emanuel? — might want to consider going back to making hash out of health care.

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Too Much of a “Light” Thing

The profile of Country A in Yemen associates it with domestic military raids by the corrupt, ineffective central government. Country B’s profile in Yemen involves contracts to build a railroad and new electric power plant and sell the Sanaa government billions in new military equipment. Country C is Yemen’s largest trading partner, representing more than a third of its foreign trade, its biggest source of foreign investment, and the majority of its oil and gas sales.

Country A is, of course, the United States of America. Countries B and C are Russia and China. The year is 2010, and the war on terror is relying as never before on assassination strikes against terrorist leaders in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen. Standoff drone attacks have increased in the AfPak theater – dramatically so this month. For the new push in Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), U.S. reliance is on facilitating strikes performed by the national government. America has promised to double security assistance to Yemen, offering $150 million in 2010 for fighting AQAP. Humanitarian assistance from USAID, meanwhile, is projected to increase to $50 million in 2010. The U.S. also proposes to help the Saleh government fight internal corruption and improve its democratic practices.

As a Voice of America reporter points out from on-scene in Sanaa, Yemenis are not taking the increase in outside intervention well. The Saleh government faces a serious challenge in its effort to downplay the dimensions of foreign involvement. The Obama administration’s preference for light-footprint, standoff antiterrorism operations would seem to accord nicely with the Yemeni government’s desires, but there is hardly a one-to-one correspondence in the size of our presence and its effective political profile. AQAP, which claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt, already seeks to attack Americans; it will not be appeased by the absence of conventionally organized U.S. ground troops in Yemen. Yemenis themselves are now associating their government’s attacks, in which civilians are being killed, with American backing.

Trying to play this game without “skin” in it is likely to backfire on us and on our partner in Yemen, the Saleh government. In the coming months, that already-weak government will face a cadre of American advisers urging it to do things that make it more and more unpopular. Three other foreign governments – in Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia – will be bringing cash and looking for opportunities that may conflict directly with the course we have chosen, including competition for Saleh’s favor and loyalty. Iran will continue to jockey for a surrogate foothold on the peninsula and will find our commitment there a made-to-order front on which to oppose and confound the U.S.

The latter factor alone ought to prompt formation of the interagency task force proposed on Jan. 14 by Frederick Kagan and Christopher Harnisch. But our administration’s emerging reliance on targeted “leadership” strikes – now to be conducted by proxy in Yemen – is also widening an uncomfortable gap between its actual policy and the ideal of constructive use of all forms of national power. There is a real risk of doing just enough to enrage AQAP and the Yemeni populace but not enough to improve conditions and promote a long-term favorable outcome. Now is the time to mount a more deliberate approach.

The profile of Country A in Yemen associates it with domestic military raids by the corrupt, ineffective central government. Country B’s profile in Yemen involves contracts to build a railroad and new electric power plant and sell the Sanaa government billions in new military equipment. Country C is Yemen’s largest trading partner, representing more than a third of its foreign trade, its biggest source of foreign investment, and the majority of its oil and gas sales.

Country A is, of course, the United States of America. Countries B and C are Russia and China. The year is 2010, and the war on terror is relying as never before on assassination strikes against terrorist leaders in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen. Standoff drone attacks have increased in the AfPak theater – dramatically so this month. For the new push in Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), U.S. reliance is on facilitating strikes performed by the national government. America has promised to double security assistance to Yemen, offering $150 million in 2010 for fighting AQAP. Humanitarian assistance from USAID, meanwhile, is projected to increase to $50 million in 2010. The U.S. also proposes to help the Saleh government fight internal corruption and improve its democratic practices.

As a Voice of America reporter points out from on-scene in Sanaa, Yemenis are not taking the increase in outside intervention well. The Saleh government faces a serious challenge in its effort to downplay the dimensions of foreign involvement. The Obama administration’s preference for light-footprint, standoff antiterrorism operations would seem to accord nicely with the Yemeni government’s desires, but there is hardly a one-to-one correspondence in the size of our presence and its effective political profile. AQAP, which claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt, already seeks to attack Americans; it will not be appeased by the absence of conventionally organized U.S. ground troops in Yemen. Yemenis themselves are now associating their government’s attacks, in which civilians are being killed, with American backing.

Trying to play this game without “skin” in it is likely to backfire on us and on our partner in Yemen, the Saleh government. In the coming months, that already-weak government will face a cadre of American advisers urging it to do things that make it more and more unpopular. Three other foreign governments – in Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia – will be bringing cash and looking for opportunities that may conflict directly with the course we have chosen, including competition for Saleh’s favor and loyalty. Iran will continue to jockey for a surrogate foothold on the peninsula and will find our commitment there a made-to-order front on which to oppose and confound the U.S.

The latter factor alone ought to prompt formation of the interagency task force proposed on Jan. 14 by Frederick Kagan and Christopher Harnisch. But our administration’s emerging reliance on targeted “leadership” strikes – now to be conducted by proxy in Yemen – is also widening an uncomfortable gap between its actual policy and the ideal of constructive use of all forms of national power. There is a real risk of doing just enough to enrage AQAP and the Yemeni populace but not enough to improve conditions and promote a long-term favorable outcome. Now is the time to mount a more deliberate approach.

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Obama Will Not Accept Second Place…

…for the United States of America. He will not allow America to be second place when it comes to statist measures!

…for the United States of America. He will not allow America to be second place when it comes to statist measures!

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So Much for New Politics

On Sunday, the New York Times fessed up:

Nasty charges of bribery. Senators cut off mid-speech. Accusations of politics put over patriotism. Talk of double-crosses. A nonagenarian forced out after midnight for multiple procedural votes.In the heart of the holiday season, Senate Republicans and Democrats are at one another’s throats as the health care overhaul reaches its climactic votes, one of which is set for 1 a.m. Monday. A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse.

Well, yes they have. How did we get to this point? Well, for starters, Obama, who ran on his determination to transcend partisan divisions, remained a passive and aloof figure when it came to the drafting and the details, allowing partisan passions to run wild. His sole concern was winning, not building a broad-based coalition for revolutionary legislation. Indeed, he contributed to partisan furies by labeling opponents as confused and misinformed and by repeating a series of partisan and baseless accusations against Republicans (the principal one — that they had “no alternative” — was easily disproved by the plethora of conservative plans and proposals). Obama had a reason for proceeding in this way — he wanted to rely on the muscle of large Democratic majorities to obtain the most liberal bill he could get. On Sunday John McCain explained:

There’s been a change. It’s more partisan. It’s more bitterly divided than it’s been. I have never been asked to engage in a single serious negotiation on any issue, nor has any other Republican. Now they’ve brought single Republicans down to try to pick off one or two Republicans so you can call it, quote, bipartisan. There’s never been serious across-the-table negotiations on any serious issue that I have engaged in with — I and others have engaged in with other administrations, both Republican and Democrat.

And if comity and Obama’s own credibility were sacrificed along the way, well, that’s simply what a Chicago pol must do to win.

It’s not a pretty picture, as even the Times must concede:

On Sunday, Republicans did not mince words when characterizing provisions put in the health care bill to attract the final votes for passage, particularly that of Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska. Some suggested that special Nebraska considerations in the bill amounted to bribery and corruption. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was reflective of “seedy Chicago politics.”

“In order to try to get the 60 votes, there has been basically a pay to play approach to this, and it’s just repulsive,” [Sen. John] Cornyn said.

Now some say that bipartisanship is overrated. But Obama wasn’t one of them. He got himself elected, in large part, because he promised to rise about the naked partisanship that had alienated so many voters. No Blue and Red States, just the United States of America and all that. So the question remains whether having jettisoned that tone and approach to politics, the president and his party will face any consequences. It’s not hard to imagine that once the dreamy idealism of young voters, the optimism of independents (who had grown disgusted with politics as normal), and the self-delusion of some Republicans (convinced that Obama was a man of reason, not of bare-knuckle politics) are drained away, the Democrats will face a motivation deficit in 2010 and perhaps beyond.

Having adopted the worst qualities of his hyper-partisan predecessors, Obama has left the “outsider” and “change” message by the wayside. We’ll see if his opponents are savvy enough to grab it and run for daylight.

On Sunday, the New York Times fessed up:

Nasty charges of bribery. Senators cut off mid-speech. Accusations of politics put over patriotism. Talk of double-crosses. A nonagenarian forced out after midnight for multiple procedural votes.In the heart of the holiday season, Senate Republicans and Democrats are at one another’s throats as the health care overhaul reaches its climactic votes, one of which is set for 1 a.m. Monday. A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse.

Well, yes they have. How did we get to this point? Well, for starters, Obama, who ran on his determination to transcend partisan divisions, remained a passive and aloof figure when it came to the drafting and the details, allowing partisan passions to run wild. His sole concern was winning, not building a broad-based coalition for revolutionary legislation. Indeed, he contributed to partisan furies by labeling opponents as confused and misinformed and by repeating a series of partisan and baseless accusations against Republicans (the principal one — that they had “no alternative” — was easily disproved by the plethora of conservative plans and proposals). Obama had a reason for proceeding in this way — he wanted to rely on the muscle of large Democratic majorities to obtain the most liberal bill he could get. On Sunday John McCain explained:

There’s been a change. It’s more partisan. It’s more bitterly divided than it’s been. I have never been asked to engage in a single serious negotiation on any issue, nor has any other Republican. Now they’ve brought single Republicans down to try to pick off one or two Republicans so you can call it, quote, bipartisan. There’s never been serious across-the-table negotiations on any serious issue that I have engaged in with — I and others have engaged in with other administrations, both Republican and Democrat.

And if comity and Obama’s own credibility were sacrificed along the way, well, that’s simply what a Chicago pol must do to win.

It’s not a pretty picture, as even the Times must concede:

On Sunday, Republicans did not mince words when characterizing provisions put in the health care bill to attract the final votes for passage, particularly that of Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska. Some suggested that special Nebraska considerations in the bill amounted to bribery and corruption. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was reflective of “seedy Chicago politics.”

“In order to try to get the 60 votes, there has been basically a pay to play approach to this, and it’s just repulsive,” [Sen. John] Cornyn said.

Now some say that bipartisanship is overrated. But Obama wasn’t one of them. He got himself elected, in large part, because he promised to rise about the naked partisanship that had alienated so many voters. No Blue and Red States, just the United States of America and all that. So the question remains whether having jettisoned that tone and approach to politics, the president and his party will face any consequences. It’s not hard to imagine that once the dreamy idealism of young voters, the optimism of independents (who had grown disgusted with politics as normal), and the self-delusion of some Republicans (convinced that Obama was a man of reason, not of bare-knuckle politics) are drained away, the Democrats will face a motivation deficit in 2010 and perhaps beyond.

Having adopted the worst qualities of his hyper-partisan predecessors, Obama has left the “outsider” and “change” message by the wayside. We’ll see if his opponents are savvy enough to grab it and run for daylight.

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Where Do They Stand?

The 9/11 Coalition to Never Forget is holding a rally in Foley Square in New York City today to protest the Obama administration’s decision to try KSM and his fellow 9/11 terrorists in a civilian court. A group of Hollywood stars including Robert Duval, Jon Voight, and Brian Dennehy have signed a letter, which reads:

Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 mastermind and four other terrorists in a civilian court, rather than by the military justice system, should not be allowed to remain without challenge. Not only does it put the national security of the United States of America at risk, but it is a travesty of our justice system. It brings additional heartache to the families and friends of the 9/11 victims, the first responders, and the concerned citizens of New York whose lives were changed forever.

This is not just a New York tragedy, but a terrorist threat to our country and freedom loving people around the world. It provides a platform for these terrorists to spew their propaganda and hatred to the world from a courthouse just blocks from Ground Zero.

We stand with 9/11 families, New York City’s first responders and the U.S. military who will be forced to cope with the consequences of this dangerous decision if it is not reversed.

Perhaps congressmen and senators will pay attention and consider what they might do to reverse the administration’s appalling decision. Andy McCarthy suggests:

If Congress does not want the war criminals in the war it has authorized swaddled in the Bill of Rights and given the Manhattan pulpit they seek, the solution is very simple: Congress can direct that those who fit the definition of “enemy combatants” — which was spelled out in Section 948a of the 2006 Military Commissions Act — must be tried by military commission for any war crimes. That is, Congress can divest the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear these cases. Furthermore, Congress can make its will emphatically clear by denying appropriations for the transfer of detainees into the U.S. and for the trial of detainees in the civilian federal courts.

Really, if lawmakers do nothing, they are in effect ratifying Holder’s decision and deserve to be held accountable by the voters.

The 9/11 Coalition to Never Forget is holding a rally in Foley Square in New York City today to protest the Obama administration’s decision to try KSM and his fellow 9/11 terrorists in a civilian court. A group of Hollywood stars including Robert Duval, Jon Voight, and Brian Dennehy have signed a letter, which reads:

Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 mastermind and four other terrorists in a civilian court, rather than by the military justice system, should not be allowed to remain without challenge. Not only does it put the national security of the United States of America at risk, but it is a travesty of our justice system. It brings additional heartache to the families and friends of the 9/11 victims, the first responders, and the concerned citizens of New York whose lives were changed forever.

This is not just a New York tragedy, but a terrorist threat to our country and freedom loving people around the world. It provides a platform for these terrorists to spew their propaganda and hatred to the world from a courthouse just blocks from Ground Zero.

We stand with 9/11 families, New York City’s first responders and the U.S. military who will be forced to cope with the consequences of this dangerous decision if it is not reversed.

Perhaps congressmen and senators will pay attention and consider what they might do to reverse the administration’s appalling decision. Andy McCarthy suggests:

If Congress does not want the war criminals in the war it has authorized swaddled in the Bill of Rights and given the Manhattan pulpit they seek, the solution is very simple: Congress can direct that those who fit the definition of “enemy combatants” — which was spelled out in Section 948a of the 2006 Military Commissions Act — must be tried by military commission for any war crimes. That is, Congress can divest the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear these cases. Furthermore, Congress can make its will emphatically clear by denying appropriations for the transfer of detainees into the U.S. and for the trial of detainees in the civilian federal courts.

Really, if lawmakers do nothing, they are in effect ratifying Holder’s decision and deserve to be held accountable by the voters.

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Obama Color Blind When It Comes to the Recession

Is the Barack Obama of “There is not a black America and a white America . . . but the United States of America” back? On Wednesday, 10 members of the Black Caucus  boycotted a key House committee vote on financial regulations to pressure their fellow members and the White House to focus more attention on targeting assistance to blacks and other minority businesses in the recession. But the president refused to be mau-maued by the caucus. In an interview with USA Today, President Obama said in response to a question about why he is not doing more to help blacks specifically:

The most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again.

He may not have much of a clue about how best to do that, but at least he’s not turning the recession into a racial issue. Putting distance between himself and Maxine Waters or Jesse Jackson (whom I recently debated on “The Color of Recession” before a D.C. audience) is not only good politics; it’s also good policy.

Is the Barack Obama of “There is not a black America and a white America . . . but the United States of America” back? On Wednesday, 10 members of the Black Caucus  boycotted a key House committee vote on financial regulations to pressure their fellow members and the White House to focus more attention on targeting assistance to blacks and other minority businesses in the recession. But the president refused to be mau-maued by the caucus. In an interview with USA Today, President Obama said in response to a question about why he is not doing more to help blacks specifically:

The most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again.

He may not have much of a clue about how best to do that, but at least he’s not turning the recession into a racial issue. Putting distance between himself and Maxine Waters or Jesse Jackson (whom I recently debated on “The Color of Recession” before a D.C. audience) is not only good politics; it’s also good policy.

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LIVE BLOG: America in the World

Obama takes some dramatic license in recounting his record:

I have spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World – one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.

Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values – for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.  That is why we must promote our values by living them at home – which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the moral source of America’s authority.

It would have been grand had he done all that! But to his credit, he also gives one of his more robust defenses of America’s role in the world:

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

More of that would be nice to hear — and when he is talking to other nations, and not just to the cadets at West Point.

Obama takes some dramatic license in recounting his record:

I have spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World – one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.

Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values – for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.  That is why we must promote our values by living them at home – which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the moral source of America’s authority.

It would have been grand had he done all that! But to his credit, he also gives one of his more robust defenses of America’s role in the world:

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

More of that would be nice to hear — and when he is talking to other nations, and not just to the cadets at West Point.

Read Less




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