Presidential Commitments Then and Now

The White House “outrage” at the “open letter” to Iran signed by 47 senators, led by Sen. Tom Cotton, was reinforced by Vice President Biden’s formal statement, which intoned that “America’s influence depends on its ability to honor its commitments,” including those made by a president without a vote of Congress. Perhaps we should welcome Biden’s belated insight. As Jonathan Tobin notes, President Obama on taking office in 2009 refused to be bound by the 2004 Gaza disengagement deal in the letters exchanged between President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced that such commitments were “unenforceable”–that they were non-binding on the new administration. In 2009, Obama disregarded previous commitments not only to Israel but also to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Georgia; he “fundamentally transformed” America’s previous commitments, as he likes to describe the essential element of his entire presidency.

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Presidential Commitments Then and Now

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Only an Outsider Sees the Obvious

A sensible policy on Iran and North Korea.

Almost a year into the Trump presidency, this administration’s foreign policy could be best described as confused. Reports suggest that the president is in a constant state of displeasure with his subordinates in the foreign-service establishment, and the feeling is mutual. On issues ranging from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s conflicts in Yemen and Qatar to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, the president and the administration he leads frequently contradict one another. Trump’s reckless antagonism toward strategic competitors like China strikes a perplexing contrast with his conciliatory appeals toward Russia. And no one in the White House seems to know what the trade deficit is.

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The Opportunist

A conversion of convenience.

While Republicans are wrestling over whether to fully embrace a lecherous scofflaw, Democrats are finally breaking with one. This is how the latter party would prefer the nation’s narrative-shapers frame the left’s apparent determination to confront the allegations against President Bill Clinton. The fact that this great coming to terms occurs at a moment of utmost political opportunity is, they’d contend, pure coincidence.

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The Democrats’ Faith-Based Initiative

Myths and fables.

The Democrats seem to have three and only three principles when it comes to tax policy.

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Moral Panics and the Nation That Loves Them

Podcast: The great outing of sexual harassers.

On the first of this holiday week’s COMMENTARY podcasts, we delve into the question of what the sexual harassment scandals of the past seven weeks have in common with previous moments in American history. And we talk tax reform and where you can get a cheap cooked turkey. Give a listen.

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Reverse BDS

A shameful movement ashamed?

Since 2002, student activists have tried to pass anti-Israel divestment resolutions at the University of Michigan. This month, they succeeded on a 23-17 vote of the university’s Central Student Government. But opponents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement should not be demoralized by this result.

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