October 3, 2012

Barack Obama in all his Class-Warfare Glory

Via National Review, we have Barack Obama in full class-warfare mode. Following is a clip uncovered by Morgen Richmond and taken from a January, 21 2002 speech he gave at the University of Chicago

Money quote

"I don't know if you've noticed, but rich people are all for nonviolence. Why wouldn't they be? They've got what they want. They want to make sure people don't take their stuff"

Here's the transcript:

"The philosophy of non-violence only makes sense if the powerful can be made to recognize themselves in the powerless; only makes sense if the powerless can be made to recognize themselves in the powerful. The principle of empathy gives broader meaning, by the way, to Dr. King's philosophy of non-violence. I don't know if you've noticed, but rich people are all for non-violence. Why wouldn't they be? They've got what they want. They want to make sure nobody's going to take their stuff! But the principle of empathy recognizes that there are more subtle forms of violence to which we are answerable. The spirit of empathy condemns not only the use of fire hoses and attack dogs to keep people down but also accountants and tax loopholes to keep people down. I'm not saying that what Enron executives did to their employees is the moral equivalent of what Bull Connor did to black folks, but I tell you what, the employees of Enron feel violated. When a company town sees some distant executives made some decisions despite wage concessions, despite tax breaks, and they see their entire economy collapses, they feel violence."
It's typical Obama; all class-warfare and grievance mongering all-the-time.

Interestingly, he seems to be disparaging the principle of non-violence in politics... or at least mocking it when it comes to people he doesn't like. Interesting, and makes me wonder what his views on that subject really are.

As for the Enron employees who lost their 401k money, let's recall that to a large extent they were victims of their own greed. No one forced them to invest that money in Enron stock, and they could have sold it at any time, rather than riding it to the bottom as so many did.

More, much more, at Breitbart, including clips and good commentary.

Patterico has more disturbing clips, and the story behind its surfacing now.

Posted by Tom at 8:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 25, 2012

Obama at the United Nations: The Apology Tour Continues

This morning President Obama addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. Here is one excerpt from his remarks that I found

While there were many fine words and phrases in his speech, in general it was a disgrace. Following is some of what he said, full text here:

That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.

I know a liberal who insists that Obama has never apologized for the U.S., that it's all a fiction of the right. He might not use the word apology, but if you can't see this for the apology it is you need a lesson in English comprehension.

Worse, he's still pushing the fiction that it was the video that sparked the attack that killed our ambassador and the three others. This is incredible. It's also clearly meant to intimidate Americans into not criticizing Islam. As I said the other day, if this isn't an attempt to suppress the First Amendment, nothing is.

In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. And extremists understand this. Because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They don't build; they only destroy.

And these "peaceful protests" have lead to a jihad-totalitarian government in Egypt, something no doubt similar in Libya, and most likely something similar in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are the extremists, Mr. President

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt -- it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted, "Muslims, Christians, we are one." The future must not belong to those who bully women -- it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.

And he's an idiot if he thinks that this represents anything more than a minority opinion in the Muslim Middle East.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.

The second sentence is a throw-away line, as it's become painfully clear that Obama only cares when Muslims are the target. As my congressman, Frank Wolf (R-VA-10) says, this administration has the worst human--rights record of any he's seen in his 30 years in the House. When anyone else is persecuted, this administration is silent.

Bottom line is that Obama only cares when Muslims are insulted.

For that matter, Obama has never spoken up about the "art" workPiss Christ, or the Broadway musical Book of Mormon, both of which are horribly offensive. Secretary of State Clinton even went and saw the latter, and stood with the rest of the audience and cheered it. Charming.

I'd say it's all unreal but it's become all too real from this president.

It's all enough to confuse any normal person as to why our president is acting this way, but David French helps out with "The three rules of (leftist) Middle East morality:"

Rule 1: Nations who attempt genocide against Israel shall not suffer any lasting consequences.

Rule 2: Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity -- unless Jews are purged from Muslim lands.

Rule 3: Religious fundamentalism is a relic of the dark ages and should be condemned -- unless it's Muslim fundamentalism.

Finally, lest you have any doubt as to what the people of Egypt want, take a look at the results of this 2010 Pew Research Opinion poll of Egyptians:

• 82% of Egyptians dislike the U.S. -- the highest unfavorable rating of the 19 Muslim nations surveyed.

• 49% of Egyptians said Islam had played only a "small role" in public affairs under President Hosni Mubarak, while 95% preferred the religion play a "large role in politics."

• 77% think thieves should have their hands cut off.

• 54% support a law segregating women from men in the workplace.
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• 54% believe suicide bombings that kill civilians can be justified.

• Nearly half support the terrorists Hamas, 30% have a favorable opinion of Hezbollah and one in five have positive views of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

Scary. And we have a president who is totally clueless about it all.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 14, 2012

The World Obama Created

This editorial sums up my thoughts pretty well. Obama has been in office for three and three-quarters years, so it's time for him and his minions to stop blaming previous administrations and own up. They have had plenty of time to "reset" relations, and improve relations. But it obviously hasn't worked.

Instead, the White House insists that the Islamist/Jihadist/Terrorist Muslim government in Egypt is an "ally," but the president won't meet with the Israeli prime minister. This is Obama's world, and the results are plain for all to see.

The World Obama Created
Leading from behind leads to global chaos
The Washington Times
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The tragic events that took place in Libya and Egypt this week were the inevitable consequences of weak U.S. leadership. America and the world cannot afford four more such years.

In Benghazi, four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens were murdered in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate by Islamic militants. On the same day, al Qaeda released a video in which leader Ayman al-Zawahri eulogized Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan al Qaeda commander believed killed in June by a U.S. drone strike. This was no coincidence.

In Cairo, demonstrators -- upset over an allegedly anti-Islamic film trailer being circulated on YouTube -- spray-painted the outside of the U.S. embassy with anti-American slogans, then scaled the walls, hauled down the American flag and ripped it to pieces. Old Glory was replaced by a black jihadist banner as the crowd chanted, "Obama, Obama there are still a billion Osamas."

American inadequacy was compounded in the communications crisis surrounding the incident. Our Cairo embassy put out a statement even before the flag was torn down denouncing the "misguided" film and voicing U.S. support for Islam. This semi-apology clearly had no effect, unless it was to embolden the crowd. After the flag was torn to shreds, there followed a bizarre Twitter debate between an embassy employee and an Egyptian activist in which the staffer seemed to be more concerned with denouncing the purported pretext for the mob's riot than condemning the violence itself. "We consistently stand up for Muslims around the world and talk abt [sic] how Islam is a wonderful religion," the tweeter explained.

These messages were later deleted and serve as a good illustration why Twitter and diplomacy don't mix. If the Obama administration wanted to send a brief missive to the demonstrators, it should have opted for the one suggested by columnist Charles Krauthammer: "Go to Hell."

Both of these crises could have been avoided. They were obviously timed for the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. In the past, U.S. facilities at home and abroad were placed on high alert on Sept. 11 to be prepared for such situations. There is no evidence of any such warnings going out this year. More disturbingly, according to White House records, President Obama skipped every daily intelligence briefing from Sept. 6-11. The question now is: Did the United States have any prior warning about the impending attacks that might have been acted on had Mr. Obama been paying closer attention?

The brewing crisis in North Africa is a symptom of a foreign policy adrift. It was with respect to Libya that an Obama administration official admiringly coined the expression "leading from behind," a lame attempt to portray Mr. Obama as a deft manager of international crises. However, the term quickly caught on as a more pointed critique of a president who was frequently behind, but never leading. In general, he has been disengaged. A government employee who attended the Pentagon's Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony said Mr. Obama "looked bored," and that while his speech said the right things, "the words never rose up into his eyes."

Mr. Obama points with pride to his foreign-policy record, but there is little to respect. America's global reputation has declined since January 2009. There is no region in the world where U.S. interests are advancing.

The United States no longer has a strong leadership position in Europe. The trans-Atlantic relationship has withered. America is playing no important part in trying to resolve the European debt crisis which threatens to plunge the world into a new recession, if it is not already there. Germany, which has assumed the lead role in addressing the problem, is now voicing concerns that the record amounts of debt being accumulated by the Obama administration will be the catalyst for a new economic collapse.

Mr. Obama has tried to remain flexible for Russia, an adversary state whose leader Vladimir Putin isn't short on ambition. Moscow agreed to the 2010 New START nuclear-arms reduction treaty because it was a bad deal for America. Now the Obama administration is talking about further nuclear cuts, which will weaken our strategic deterrent at a time when Russia and China are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and proliferator states like North Korea and Pakistan ponder how best to expand their nuclear programs. Washington has no evident influence on Chinese behavior and relies on Beijing to continue to assume responsibility for buying up our mounting debt. U.S. influence in Central and South America is in decline.

There is no evident progress being made in the world's hotspots. The war in Afghanistan grinds on, producing higher casualties and greater volatility. The only thing Mr. Obama can say for certain about that unfortunate country is American troops are departing, and soon. Pakistan remains a haven for terrorists, while Iraq is seeing a spike in sectarian violence. There is no steady hand anywhere across the arc of instability.

Tehran continues its march to nuclear-weapons capability, and the Obama administration seems more concerned with setting red lines for Israel than for Iran. Relations between Mr. Obama and the Israeli prime minister are so frosty that the president has refused to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu when both will be at the United Nations this month. Mr. Obama petulantly cutting off communications will virtually guarantee a major crisis in the region; it's only a matter of time.

The fallout from the much-heralded Arab Spring continues. In Syria, a full-scale civil war is under way which the United States has chosen not to decisively influence. In Egypt, the world is beginning to witness the results of what the State Department described as "legitimate Islamism." Present in the mob outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Tuesday was the family of blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has promised to seek Rahman's release. Anti-American sentiment is growing, non-Muslim religious minorities are facing increased persecution, and Egypt's peace treaty with Israel that has maintained regional stability for three decades is under assault.

The analogy to the failed Carter presidency is striking. Both Democrats came to power offering a moral critique of U.S. foreign and national-security policy. Both exploited war weariness and a desire for U.S. retrenchment. Both were greeted with enthusiasm from a global community skeptical of American activism. And both were taken advantage of by adversary states who understood that these liberals were weak leaders. Jimmy Carter also saw a diplomat killed on his watch: Adolph "Spike" Dubs, the U.S. representative to Afghanistan who was murdered in Kabul in 1979.

The one positive decision Mr. Obama can point to -- taking out Osama bin Laden -- is his weakest argument for a second term. After all, bin Laden is dead, and that operation cannot be repeated.

It's easier to allow global chaos to emerge than to do the hard work of maintaining stability. It's simpler to make speeches and curry favor than take tough positions needed to advance U.S. interests. Over his term in office, Mr. Obama hasn't shown the necessary qualities for a global leader, and the considerable damage caused by his policies speak for themselves. The world is teetering on the brink of disaster because Mr. Obama has failed to lead. The United States cannot afford another four years of empty-chair diplomacy.

Posted by Tom at 6:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 13, 2012

The Result of Obama's Weakness

It is said that in the days of the Roman Republic and Empire, Roman citizens enjoyed a level of protection simply by virtue of their status. If the locals abused them, or brigands set upon them, sooner or later the Legions would show up and lay waste to the area.

Roman authorities, including soldiers, throughout the Empire knew they had to give special treatment to Roman citizens or they, too, would pay. Acts 22:22-29 is illustrative:

The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!"

As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?"

When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen."

The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?"

"Yes, I am," he answered.

Then the commander said, "I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship."

"But I was born a citizen," Paul replied.

Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

That the brigands of the world should know that if they abuse an American sooner or later our Legions would arrive.

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.

The Prince
by Nicolo Machiavelli

Liberals are obsessed with the idea that others should like us. We should be concerned with whether they fear and respect us. And in this world, respect comes more from fear than respect. I write more about the fear of consequences from the boss, than fear of a Stalin.

"Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!"

Theodore Roosevelt

To be sure Roosevelt's bluster was just about that, and the situation not that straightforward, but would that we had a president - of either party - that issued that sort of threat.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Ronald Reagan

Some of Reagan's own advisers kept telling him it was too abrasive and inflammatory and he had to take it out of his speech. Reagan kept it in. Would it be that we had a president bold enough to tell off dictators like he did. This is the only language they respect.

Some recent events have exposed President Obama's weakness for all to see:

In Benghazi, four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens were murdered in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate by Islamic militants. On the same day, al Qaeda released a video in which leader Ayman al-Zawahri eulogized Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan al Qaeda commander believed killed in June by a U.S. drone strike. This was no coincidence.

In Cairo, demonstrators -- upset over an allegedly anti-Islamic film trailer being circulated on YouTube -- spray-painted the outside of the U.S. embassy with anti-American slogans, then scaled the walls, hauled down the American flag and ripped it to pieces. Old Glory was replaced by a black jihadist banner as the crowd chanted, "Obama, Obama there are still a billion Osamas."

Well I guess Obama's famous (or infamous?)1990 Cairo speech, "A New Beginning," didn't exactly have the effect he had intended.

At the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago our idiot-savant Vice President Joe Biden said ""America is NOT in decline. I've got news for Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, it has never, never, ever, been a good bet to bet against the American people."

Apparently they didn't get the message in the Middle East. They're betting against us, and right about now I'd put odds on them winning.

We abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, and the world took notice. They found out that standing up for freedom got you nowhere with the U.S.

Meanwhile, we cower before the false "freedom" of the so-called Arab Spring in the Sunni world. We refuse to condemn the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the serial lies of Mohammed Morsi, the new president of Egypt.

As we are seeing, foreign policy is not a "distraction." A strong America as the world leader is integral to who we are and what we should remain. Both the Ron Paul right and Code Pink left are wrong.

The problem is not insults against Islam. Insulting things are said about Christianity every day, and if you search you will find hundreds if not thousands of anti-Christian diatribes on YouTube and everywhere else. Does anyone see Christians rioting anywhere?

Of course not. Jews also never riot. For that matter, I don't see Hindus or Buddhists rioting either.

Far from Islam being under attack, the reality is that religious minorities in Muslim countries are under attack today in a way that we have not seen in decades.

The excuse from the left is that it was only a "few extremists" involved in the rioting. What nonsense. This type of thing is encouraged or winked at by Arab/Muslim governments. They won't condemn these attacks, nor will they arrest and try the perpetrators. They want "independent" mobs to do this so that their fingerprints aren't on it. The mob is doing the work of the government.

And let's be clear; Egypt has a terrorist government. The Muslim Brotherhood is a Jihadist organization, and the only difference between them and al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Hamas is tactical.

t is not the business of the United States government what private individuals say about anything, or what films they make. The idea that we are suppose to "understand" the sensitivities of Muslims who rampage an riot over an obscure video is insane. No. They grow up and change their behavior. You do not riot over what someone says about you or your religion period.

Mitt Romney correctly called the Obama Administration's Carteresque response "disgraceful." Predictably, the idiots at MSNBC are more outraged at what Romney said than the attacks on Americans. The left says Romney is "politicizing" the situation. What a load of bull. They're just upset because they know that Obama is vulnerable and they are spinning like tops. 9-11 came when Bush had only been in office for eight months, and was more the result of Clinton's policies than his own. This comes after more than three and a half years of Obama, and is clearly the result of U.S. weakness. That Romney's response is being criticized by liberal media types tells me he's doing the right thing. They love Republicans who are ineffective and only offer "may I please comment on the president's policies?" criticisms, and fear Republicans who call out Obama for what he is really doing to our country.

They attack the U.S. when they believe we are vulnerable and weak. When they believe we will not respond strongly. Right now they don't think we will cut off aid, or impose diplomatic or economic sanctions, much less actually attack rioters who kill Americans.

Strength dissuades attacks on our country. Equivocation and a weak response only invites more attacks.

What do we expect when Obama has not been going to his National Security Briefings? When he doesn't have time to even meet with the Prime Minister of Israel? But he does have time for a fundraiser with Jay z and Beyonce?

Meanwhile, the Iranians are hard at work on a bomb, and what are we going to do about that? Nothing, I am sure.

Posted by Tom at 8:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2012

Obama's "you didn't build that" Absurdity

I know I'm late to the party on this, but I just saw this article which quotes the president at length and explains perfectly why the president is so wrong-headed.

Obama's defenders make numerous excuses, mostly that he was taken out of context or that he meant something other than what conservatives say he meant. The problem with the former is that the context makes what he said worse, not better. The problem with the latter is that it's contradicted by the plain meaning of what he said. Here is just an excerpt of Yuval Levin's piece, but read the whole thing:

The Hollow Republic
By Yuval Levin
August 6, 2012

President Obama must surely wish he could undo the campaign speech he delivered in Roanoke, Va., on July 13. That was where he offered up the view that "if you've got a business, you didn't build that, somebody else made that happen." It is a line that could haunt him right to November, revealing as it does an unwillingness to credit success and a hostility toward the culture of entrepreneurship. But the remark came in the context of a broader argument that was just as telling on a different point, and no less troubling.

After laying out his plans to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, the president said this to his audience:

You know, there are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. They know they didn't -- look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, Well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that, somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, "You know what, there's some things we do better together." That's how we funded the GI Bill, that's how we created the middle class. That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That's how we invented the Internet, that's how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that's the reason I'm running for president, because I still believe in that idea: You're not on your own, we're in this together.

This remarkable window into the president's thinking shows us not only a man chilly toward the potential of individual initiative, and not only a man deluded about the nature of his opponents and their views, but also (and perhaps most important) a man with a staggeringly thin idea of common action in American life.

The president simply equates doing things together with doing things through government. He sees the citizen and the state, and nothing in between -- and thus sees every political question as a choice between radical individualism and a federal program.

But most of life is lived somewhere between those two extremes, and American life in particular has given rise to unprecedented human flourishing because we have allowed the institutions that occupy the middle ground -- the family, civil society, and the private economy -- to thrive in relative freedom. Obama's remarks in Virginia shed a bright light on his attitude toward that middle ground, and in that light a great deal of what his administration has done in this three and a half years suddenly grows clearer and more coherent, and even more disconcerting.

Again and again, the administration has sought to hollow out the space between the individual and the state. Its approach to the private economy has involved pursuing consolidation in key industries -- privileging a few major players that are to be treated essentially as public utilities, while locking out competition from smaller or newer firms. This both ensures the cooperation of the large players and makes the economy more manageable and orderly. And it leaves no one pursuing ends that are not the government's ends. This has been the essence of the administration's policies toward automakers, health insurers, banks, hospitals, and many others.

It is an attitude that takes the wealth-creation capacity of our economy for granted, treats the chaotic churning and endless combat of competing firms (which in fact is the source of that capacity) as a dangerous distraction from essential public goals, and considers the business world to be parasitic on society -- benefiting from the infrastructure and resources provided by the genuine common action of the state. Of course, the state's benevolence is made possible precisely by the nation's wealthiest citizens, but the president seems to see that as simply an appropriate degree of "giving something back." His words and his administration's actions imply that he views the government as the only genuine tribune of public desires, and therefore seeks to harness the private economy to the purposes and goals of those in power.
....

And to deal directly with Obama's "you didn't build that" crap, Mitt Romney has the perfect one-liner response:

"When a young person makes the honor roll, I know he took a school bus to get to the school, but I don't give the bus driver credit for the honor roll,"

Yup.

Beyond the philosophical absurdity of his "you didn't build that line, is that his reason for using it is an excuse to hike taxes. It's all part of his extortion scheme; plan ball or or I'll destroy you.

Senator Scott Brown went after his non-Indian opponent, Elizabeth Warren, who said something similar to Obama the other day, and he nailed it on the head:

My opponent says that no one succeeded on their own. She points to roads and bridges and government services we all use. But to downplay individual initiative as nothing more than a byproduct of big government is to fundamentally misunderstand our free enterprise system, and it is a backward view of who we are as Americans.

Government services don't distinguish success from failure. However, they are a convenient excuse for politicians to take undue credit for the success that you create.

Professor Warren's twisted logic dictates that because businesspeople like you take advantage of government services, then you owe "a hunk" of their success back to the government in the form of higher taxes. Forget about the rather large "hunk" they already pay.

This philosophy is a dangerous one, and it turns the American Idea on its head. Because once you accept the premise that government is responsible for success, there is no limit to what you can justify taking because there is no restraining principle that says, "that is not mine to take." That so-called "hunk" will get bigger and bigger.

In 2009 I wrote about the left's war on charities, and it looks like I was onto something. These folks would actually be happy if religious institutions like the Catholic Church were forced to close their hospitals and charitable institutions. All the better, in their view, because then the government could step in and take over.

Ditto with everything else. Part of the attack on the Boy Scouts is over their common-sense refusal to accept gay scoutmasters. But what I think really grates is just their insistence on remaining independent from politically-correct leftist thought, and for that they are to be punished. The HHS mandate that has caused such an uproar is only the tip of the iceberg.

What they want is to create a situation where there is no escape from their mandates. In their ideal state, individuals will not be able to get out from under their mandates. You will not be allowed to be without health insurance, and you will be made to pay for it. You will be forced to subsidize abortion. Your private organization will be made to obey all manner of offensive rules.

Brave New World, here we come.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 8, 2012

Obama in Never-Never Land

Once again, VDH dissects Obama in a way that exposes him for the fraud he is:

Obama in Never-Never Land
Victor Davis Hanson
August 7, 2012

The chief tenet of postmodernism is that truth and facts are arbitrary constructs, set up by the privileged to manipulate others less fortunate. In the case of our first postmodernist president, Barack Obama, there cannot be facts, past or present, only a set of shifting assertions that gain credence to the degree that they prove transitorily useful for progressive causes. A sympathetic biographer, David Maraniss, noted that almost all the touchstone events in Barack Obama's mythographic memoir were fabricated. Of course, Obama would object to such a value-laden term and instead call them composites, impressions stitched together and presented as truth to serve the higher moral narrative: a young biracial idealist searching for his identity in a mostly racist and oppressive America. To the degree that Dreams from My Father enhanced that narrative, then all of what was in it was "true" -- even the literary agent's bio attesting that the exotic author was born in faraway Kenya.

For the fabulist Obama, the past is a vague mess with shifting narratives that can serve noble contemporary causes. Take World War II -- the old war that supposedly proves that victory is now an obsolete term, since, as Obama explained, Japanese Emperor Hirohito capitulated to General MacArthur, apparently on the deck of the Missouri, in a rare act never to happen again. Obama's own grandfather was in the forefront of stopping Nazism, and the more dramatic the circumstances the better -- so who cares whether the Russians, and not an American unit, liberated Auschwitz and Treblinka?

Indeed, the war is a sort of a vague haze where Nazi death camps become "Polish" and Pearl Harbor was hit with "the bomb." If it is useful while speaking in Cairo to pretend that the Islamic world helped to prompt the European Renaissance (which benefitted enormously from the flight of Greek scholars as Constantinople was threatened by the Ottoman Turks) and Enlightenment (which ignited a Romantic interest in freeing Greece from Islam), then so be it. If Córdoba had few, if any, Muslims during the Spanish Inquisition, who cares, if we wish to hold up the Muslims there as beacons of tolerance in comparison to murderous Catholics?

No American has any idea whether recess appointments, executive privilege, executive orders, or filibusters are to be considered good, bad, or indifferent, since Senator/President Obama has damned and embraced them all. I vaguely remember that at one time Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, and preventive detention were either of no value or unconstitutional, and trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court and prosecuting CIA agents for supposedly too harsh interrogations were good. But that was all more than three years in the past, and hundreds of "Make no mistake about it"s and "Let me be perfectly clear"s ago.

I recall that there were once admonitions that President Obama could not by fiat enact amnesty or special programs for African-Americans based on race, and that he could not come out unequivocally for gay marriage. But who knows, since someone did enact amnesty, set up a special bureau for African-American education, and use support for gay marriage as a wedge issue in the 2012 campaign.

It is demagogic to suggest that anyone in the Obama administration deliberately leaked national-security secrets to favored New York and Washington reporters, so leaks about Predator-drone targeting, cyber war against Iran, double agents in Yemen, and the details of the Osama bin Laden mission were not really leaks at all, or, if they were, they came from non-administration sources.

The Obama health-care plan was once different from Hillary Clinton's in that it never included an individual mandate, but then it did have a mandate, then it had a tax instead, and it ended up with a penalty. The only constant is that names change as circumstances dictate. Barack Obama does not take money from oil companies, hire lobbyists, approve of earmarks, or raise money from Wall Street, but somebody with that name did. The new civility is "punish our enemies." Voter intimidation is asking for an ID at the polls -- it is not trying to make it more difficult for those in the military to vote. Developing domestic energy means canceling the Keystone pipeline and putting vast areas of federal lands off limits to gas and oil production. If the private sector goes ahead, despite federal regulations and discouragement, with new fracking and horizontal drilling, then the Obama administration achieved record levels of domestic oil and gas production.

Someone said something about cutting the deficit in half within four years and, through borrowing, forcing unemployment under 6 percent, but I am not sure any more who it was -- given that that was 42 months of 8 percent-plus unemployment and $5 trillion in borrowed money ago.

No one knows what "reset" with Russia was, or is, or will be; it didn't so much fail as simply got erased. Nor can anyone figure out whether the dissidents in the streets of Tehran in 2009 were noble or to be ignored, or why exactly we belatedly supported the ouster of Mubarak, or what exactly turned Qaddafi from a monstrous oil exporter who had to be appeased to a really monstrous oil exporter who had to be removed, or why we had to reopen our embassy in Damascus as a gesture to the "reformer" Assad, who is now a murderous non-reformer who must go.

I am sure Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush flip-flopped and did things that they had said they would not, but there was always the clear sense that their hypocrisies were adjudicated by some sort of standard. With President Obama there is neither a reality nor a standard, just words that so often have no connection to the real world, past or present.

-- NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.

Thursday Update

If Dr. Hanson should have waited another day to publish his piece he could have included this from today's Washington Times:

As the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama co-sponsored a bill to restrict the U.S. government's military support of countries that use children as soldiers. But President Obama has waived those very same sanctions in the name of "national interest," bypassing the findings of a State Department report and allowing millions of dollars in military aid to flow to countries where children as young as 11 have been conscripted to fight -- many of whom have died in one bloody conflict after another.

Mr. Obama's actions have inflamed an army of critics, who say the waivers have put at-risk children in even greater danger.

"The implementation of the law by President Obama has been a big disappointment," said Jo Becker, children's rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. She said countries won't get serious about ending the use of child soldiers until they think the United States is serious about withholding aid. "U.S. tax dollars should not go to governments that use child soldiers."

Posted by Tom at 9:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 10, 2012

How Predictable, Obama is for Gay Marriage

So President Obama now says that he is "personally" for gay marriage. We are supposed to think he is oh so very brave.

The reality is that just about the least brave thing you can do in America today is be in favor of gay marriage. Do so and the liberal media outlets (which is to say, most all media outlets) say wonderful things about you on their editorial pages and treat you favorably in their news section. TV personalities throw softball questions at you. The Hollywood crowd invites you to their exclusive parties and the rich and famous wine and dine you.

Come out against gay marriage, on the other hand, and all of the above call you a "bigot," intolerant, extremist, and racist and sexist for boot. The media treat you like a throwback to the 19th century, and if you get on their TV shows you'll get insults and hardball questions. The Hollywood crowd wants nothing to do with you.

Part of me, though, doesn't blame Obama for lying waffling dissembling, er "changing his mind" about the issue. After all, liberal politicians are caught in a terrible bind.

On the one hand, their working class, black, and Hispanic constituencies are almost entirely against it, the blacks and Hispanics especially so. Religious black leaders in particular are uncompromising on the issue.

On the other side, their supporters in Hollywood, academia, and the media are unanimously for it. Many upper-middle class guilt-ridden white yuppies are in favor of gay marriage to.

So how do liberal politicians resolve the dilemma?

They lie. They tell their their working class, black, and Hispanic constituencies that they are against it, but then they appoint liberal judges hoping that they'll do their dirty work for them by inventing a right to gay marriage in much the same way Harry Blackmun invented a right to abortion in Roe v Wade. This way, in the wake of a suitable court decision, they can look at their working class, black, and Hispanic constituencies and say "I didn't do it," then giving a "wink wink" to the Hollywood, academia, media, and liberal yuppie types.

Obama now pretends that his position on the issue has been "evolving," and if you believe that I've got a bridge to sell you. Like almost all other liberal Democrats, he's been in favor of gay marriage from day one; he just found it politically expedient to pretend like he was against it until now.

But the economy is bad, the deficit continues to skyrocket, and his signature health care program is wildly unpopular, so he can't run on his record. Instead, we have a series of invented issues such as a "war on women," the "Buffett rule," and so on. This latest foray into the politics of marriage is just another attempt to shore up his liberal base.

The editors of National Review have it right:

The Devolution of Marriage
National Review
May 10, 2012 4:00 A.M.
By The Editors

President Obama is getting credit, even from some critics, for finally being honest and consistent in his position on same-sex marriage now that he has announced his support for it. But he is still being neither honest nor consistent. And his dishonesty is not merely a matter of pretending that he has truly changed his mind about marriage, rather than about the politics of marriage.

His claim that he believes that states should decide marriage policy is also impossible to credit. One of the purposes of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was to block this scenario: A same-sex couple that resides in a state that does not recognize same-sex unions as marriages goes to a state that does so recognize them, gets married there, returns home, sues in federal court to make the home state recognize the "marriage," and prevails. Obama has long favored the repeal of the act. He does not truly want states to be able to continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

And really, why should he, given his premises? Does anyone doubt that he believes that the marriage laws of most states are not just wrong but unjust? His spokesmen have repeatedly said as much when registering his opposition to states' attempts to undo judicial decisions to impose same-sex marriage. If these marriage laws amount to unjust discrimination against certain persons, then it follows that states have no right to enforce them. If Obama's appointees to the Supreme Court join a majority that requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages, does anyone think that he will do anything but applaud? There is no reason to believe that Obama's long-advertised "evolution" on marriage is now complete.

All people, whatever their sexual orientation, have equal dignity, worth, and basic rights, by virtue of being human beings. We have previously explained why we believe that this premise does not entail the conclusion that the marriage laws should be changed (and defended our views from critics). For now, we will merely repeat one point: The only good reason to have marriage laws in the first place -- to have the state recognize a class of relationships called "marriage" out of all the possible strong bonds that adults can form -- is to link erotic desire to the upbringing of the children it can produce.

We have already gone too far, in both law and culture, in weakening the link between marriage and procreation. To break it altogether would make the institution of marriage unintelligible. What possible governmental interest is there in encouraging long-term commitments with a sexual element, just as such? What reason is there to exclude from recognition caring long-term relationships without such an element? (In one of the editorials mentioned above we mention the case of two brothers who raise a child together following a family tragedy; other hypotheticals are easy to devise.)

Many people who support same-sex marriage sincerely believe that they are merely expanding an institution to a class of people who have been excluded from it rather than redefining it. But this view is simply mistaken. We will not make our society more civilized by detaching one of our central institutions from its civilizing task.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

May 3, 2012

No, "Julia," the government does not owe you a living and no I'm not going to pay for your life

This has got to be the most breathtakingly stupid - and revealing - thing the Obama campaign has concocted:

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Full "The Life of Julia" slide show here at barackobama.com

Follow the link and watch the whole thing, but the short version is that the Obama campaign concocted a mythical "Julia" and follows her through her life, from age 3 to retirement at 67. At every step along the way Julia's success is because she takes advantage of of an Obama-created or perpetuated government program. Far from doing anything on her own without government assistance, everything she does is with government assistance.

Either the creators of this monstrosity didn't know that "Julia" was the name of Winston Smith's girlfriend in Orwell's 1984?

There are so many things wrong with with Obama's image of what a good life entails it's hard to know where to start, but a few observations on a few of Julia's stops along the way are in order:

At age 23 Julia starts her job as a web designer, but is protected by the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, because, you know, everyone discriminates against women.

At age 25 Julia graduates (a bit late, don't you think? Oh wait, liberals always have advanced degrees) She has cheap student loans which she can pay off thanks to Obama. Which will also have the effect of increasing college tuition...

At age 27 she takes a job as a web designer (all that school for that?) of course she gets "free" contraception.

At age 31 she "decides to have a child." No marriage or man is ever mentioned in the slide show.

At age 42 she starts her own business, of course with a government loan. Because we know no one can start a business without the government (especially women).

At age 67 she retires and starts to receive social security payments. No mention of private savings.

The New Soviet Woman comes to America!

Rich Lowry, writing in National Review, gets to the heart of the matter:

Julia's central relationship is to the state. It is her educator, banker, health-care provider, venture capitalist, and retirement fund. And she is, fundamentally, a taker. Every benefit she gets is cut-rate or free. She apparently doesn't worry about paying taxes. It doesn't enter her mind that the programs supporting her might add to the debt or might have unintended consequences. She has no moral qualms about forcing others to pay for her contraception, and her sense of patriotic duty is limited to getting as much government help as she can.

Bingo

David Harsanl's also summarizes the whole thing well in a piece at Human Events:

Who the hell is "Julia," and why am I paying for her whole life?
by David Harsanyi
05/03/2012

In the new Barack Obama campaign piece The Life of Julia, voters can "Take a look at how President Obama's policies help one woman over her lifetime -- and how Mitt Romney would change her story." It is one of the most brazenly statist pieces of campaign literature I can ever remember seeing.

Let's, for the purposes of this post, set aside the misleading generalizations regarding policy in the ad (no one is innocent on that account, obviously). What we are left with is a celebration of a how a woman can live her entire life by leaning on government intervention, dependency and other people's money rather than her own initiative or hard work. It is, I'd say, implicitly un-American, in the sense that it celebrates a mindset we have -- outwardly, at least -- shunned.

It is also a mindset that women should find offensively patronizing. When they're old enough, I hope my two daughters will find the notion that their success hinges on the president's views on college-loan interest rates preposterous. Yet, according to the "Life of Julia," women are helpless without the guiding hand of Barack Obama.

Julia can enroll in a Head Start program to help get her ready for school. Because of steps President Obama has taken to improve the program ... Julia can take the SATs because she was trained by the useless "Race to the Top" program, yes, implemented by President Obama ... During college, Julia undergoes surgery, which is thankfully covered by her insurance due to parents' coverage until she turns 26 ... thanks to Obama.

Julia works as a full-time web designer, and thanks to Obamacare, her health insurance is required to cover birth control and preventive care, "letting Julia focus on her work rather than worry about her health..."

...because children are bad for your health, obviously.

And so on and so forth.

Julia then has a son named Zachary (who has no father around, as far as I can tell) and we can start the entire storyline again.

Finally, Julia retires. "After years of contributing to Social Security, she receives monthly benefits that help her retire comfortably, without worrying that she'll run out of savings...

This allows her to volunteer at a community garden."

If you think Social Security benefits allow you to live your retirement without worry, you deserve Barack Obama.

Most decent people believe that government should be there to assist and help those who find themselves in legitimately rough or desperate circumstances. But an adult Julia, from what I can tell, does not qualify.


Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2012

Around the News

I've got too little time and there's too much going on for a separate post on everything that's going on, so here are a few things that caught my eye and my thoughts on each.

Buffett Rule Baloney

The Buffett Rule: Free-Lunch Egalitarianism
Obama's disguised tax hike on capital gains
National Review
April 12, 2012 8:00 P.M.
By Charles Krauthammer

...Let's do the math. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates this new tax would yield between $4 billion and $5 billion a year. If we collect the Buffett tax for the next 250 years -- a span longer than the life of this republic -- it would not cover the Obama deficit for 2011 alone.

As an approach to our mountain of debt, the Buffett Rule is a farce. And yet Obama repeated the ridiculous claim again this week. "It will help us close our deficit." Does he really think we're that stupid?

Yes and no.

Yes in that those who want to believe it will. No in that the purpose of the tax is not about raising revenue. One, he is sending a not-so-subtle message to the wealthy: Support me or I will punish you. Two, it satisfies his base who simply want to see the wealthy punished.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal call it right:

The Obama Rule
He says taxation is about fairness, not growth or revenue
The Wall Street Journal
April 11, 2012, 7:04 p.m. ET

Forget Warren Buffett, or whatever other political prop the White House wants to use for its tax agenda. This week the Administration officially endorsed what in essence is the Obama Rule: Taxes must be high simply to spread the wealth, never mind the impact on the economy or government revenue. It's all about "fairness," baby.
...
The Buffett rule is really nothing more than a sneaky way for Mr. Obama to justify doubling the capital gains and dividend tax rate to 30% from 15% today. That's the real spread-the-wealth target. The problem is that this is a tax on capital that is needed for firms to grow and hire more workers. Mr. Obama says he wants an investment-led recovery, not one led by consumption, but how will investment be spurred by doubling the tax on it?

The only investment and hiring the Buffett rule is likely to spur will be outside the United States--in China, Germany, India, and other competitors with much more investment-friendly tax regimes.

Exploiting Trayvon Martin

I made most of my thoughts on the Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman affair clear in a long comment on this post, but a few more comments are in order:

The New Black Panthers' Unpunished Threats
The Department of Justice appears uninterested in pursuing the group.
National Review
April 13, 2012 4:00 A.M.
By John Fund

...Wednesday, (Attorney General Eric Holder) appeared before the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network to praise Sharpton "for your partnership, your friendship, and your tireless efforts to speak out for the voiceless, to stand up for the powerless, and to shine a light on the problems we must solve, and the promises we must fulfill."

This is the same Al Sharpton who has led several rallies against Zimmerman, in which he called for civil disobedience and an "occupation" of Sanford, Fla., where the shootingThis is the same Al Sharpton who has never apologized to Steven Pagones, the assistant district attorney he falsely accused of raping Tawana Brawley, a black teenager. The "dastardly deed" Sharpton accused Pagones of was found to be a complete fabrication. In 1998, Sharpton was found liable for seven defamatory statements he'd made against Pagones and ordered to pay $65,000.

Earlier in the 1990s, Sharpton had become famous exacerbating racial tensions in New York's Crown Heights neighborhood, tensions that led to the killing of Anthony Graziosi. In 1995, Sharpton denounced the owners of Freddy's Fashion Mart in Harlem as "bloodsuckers" and "white interlopers" over a rent dispute the business had with tenants. A short time later, a man entered Freddy's and told all the black people present, patrons and employees alike, to leave. Once they did, the man firebombed the building, killing seven people -- including a black security guard. Sharpton insisted he bore no responsibility for the incident, saying it was only a tenant/landlord dispute that had escalated out of control. occurred, if an arrest wasn't made.

So AG Eric Holder congratulates Al Sharpton. That Obama would appoint someone who praises Sharpton speaks volumes about our president. But given that he went to a racist church for 20 years, listened to a kook hatemonger preacher and wrote nice things about him in his autobiography, we should not be surprised.

More, if Mr. Holder is so concerned with civil rights, why doesn't he investigate the New Black Panther party? When confronted with this, liberals typically respond that the NBP is small and insignificant. Maybe and maybe not, but what difference does that make? I didn't know that the criminality of death threats depended on the number of people making them.

Conservative opinion on the charges filed against Zimmerman is split. David French says that there's enough evidence to warrant Zimmerman's arrest, but John Lott sees Prosecutorial misconduct. Some conservatives have come out strong for Zimmerman, which is a mistake. Most professional conservative writers and pundits, though seem to be taking a "wait and see" attitude towards guilt or innocence while condemning the circus the left has created.

I've never taken sides in that I don't pretend to know whether Mr. Zimmerman is guilty of anything or not. My problem has been with the disgraceful behavior of Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, the liberal media, and liberal activists in general. These people, and yes I include our president and his attorney general, have done little but fan the flames of racial division since this thing began.

Does Hillary Hate Israel?

The Secretary of State Hillary, that is.

The Other Hillary Still Just As Appalling
NRO The Corner
By Andrew C. McCarthy
April 12, 2012 3:55 P.M.

As a fitting follow-up to Nina's post on the U.S. government's shocking indifference to the persecution of Christians by Muslims, let's shift to something the Obama administration cares passionately about: the good will of Muslims who wear on their sleeves their hatred for Israel.

In a story that's gotten very little attention, involving a town hall meeting in Tunisia last weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked how the U.S. could expect people in Muslim countries like Tunisia and Egypt to trust American politicians given that, during the U.S. election season, those politicians cozy up to their "enemy" (in context, an obvious reference to Israel) and "run towards the Zionist lobbies").

Mrs. Clinton responded that she thought this was "a fair question." Really? And the answer to this fair question? Madame Secretary explained that these Muslims who regard Israel as their enemy should understand that "a lot of things are said in political campaigns that should not bear a lot of attention." She also thought they'd find it comforting that President Obama "will be reelected president" and that if people in Tunisia and Egypt just "watch what President Obama says and does" they'll realize they don't need to worry.

Appalling but, by now, not surprising. See CNS News, here, for video & transcript.

Either the secretary hates Israel, she's saying that Obama does but will lie about his true fealings for political expediency, or she's just and idiot.

If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try, Again

North Korea admits missile failure
Financial Times
By Christian Oliver in Seoul, Geoff Dyer in Washington and Mure Dickie in Tokyo
Last updated: April 13, 2012 11:27 pm

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights.

North Korea made rare admission of failure on Friday, confirming one of its rockets had failed in its mission to put a satellite into orbit, but the abortive launch was enough to prompt the US to quickly cancel a food-aid programme.

The launch, which many outsiders saw as a cover for a ballistic missile test, went badly for the hermit state, with the missile breaking up after only 90 seconds, although that was long enough to cause fatal damage to an agreement with the US made in February.

The failure will pile pressure on Kim Jong-eun, the new leader of North Korea, whom analysts believe may seek to restore his credentials by conducting a nuclear test.

In recent days, South Korean media have reported that North Korea was already planning another nuclear test. It followed a long-range missile launch in 2009 with an atomic test.

South Korea and the US said the Eunha-3 (Galaxy) rocket blasted off at 7.39am local time, but broke apart after about 90 seconds, sending the shattered fuselage into the Yellow Sea.

In an unusual move for a country that almost never admits internal problems, a newscaster on state television said the rocket had not put a satellite into space.

Do I have to say it? They're just going to keep trying and sooner or later they'll get it right. If this regime survives sooner or later not only will they figure out how to make their missiles work, they'll figure out how to make nuclear warheads for them.

That's the easy part. The hard part is that the DPRK is an impossibly hard not to crack and there really are no good options for us. Certainly engaging in endless talks whereby they promise us this and that and they reneg on every agreement is foolish, but there's not much more we can do to pressure them by way of sanctions. They're already quite isolated, and it affects their behavior not a bit.

What the missile launch does tell us though is that our policy of "engagement" has not tempered them at all. They're just as militant, and whatever our policy is, theirs is to intimidate us.

Another policy (or part of the same one) is that their new leader feels he has to show his generals how "tough" he is. This may mean that he's just as bad as his father... or he has to stage a few displays of strength so he will have credibility to negotiate with a softer line... who knows. They don't call it the "hermit kingdom" for nothing.

It is interesting, though, that they admitted to the failure. This might signal a change, perhaps even a Gorbachev-style glasnost, or it might mean nothing. If the former, then one wonders if Kim Jong-eun understands the forces he is unleashing. Gorbachev didn't but at least when the Soviet Empire collapsed it came in for a soft landing. We should hope the same happens to North Korea.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 20, 2012

Palin Power and the Hypocrisy of Barack Obama and the Liberals

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Bristol Palin, second child and oldest daughter of former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, wrote this open letter to President Obama.

Mr. President, When Should I Expect Your Call?
Posted on March 18, 2012
by Bristol Palin

Dear President Obama,

You don't know my telephone number, but I hope your staff is busy trying to find it. Ever since you called Sandra Fluke after Rush Limbaugh called her a slut, I figured I might be next. You explained to reporters you called her because you were thinking of your two daughters, Malia and Sasha. After all, you didn't want them to think it was okay for men to treat them that way:

"One of the things I want them to do as they get older is engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on," you said. "I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. And I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they're being good citizens."

And I totally agree your kids should be able to speak their minds and engage the culture. I look forward to seeing what good things Malia and Sasha end up doing with their lives.

But here's why I'm a little surprised my phone hasn't rung. Your $1,000,000 donor Bill Maher has said reprehensible things about my family. He's made fun of my brother because of his Down's Syndrome. He's said I was "f---d so hard a baby fell out." (In a classy move, he did this while his producers put up the cover of my book, which tells about the forgiveness and redemption I've found in God after my past - very public -- mistakes.)

If Maher talked about Malia and Sasha that way, you'd return his dirty money and the Secret Service would probably have to restrain you. After all, I've always felt you understood my plight more than most because your mom was a teenager. That's why you stood up for me when you were campaigning against Sen. McCain and my mom -- you said vicious attacks on me should be off limits.

Yet I wonder if the Presidency has changed you. Now that you're in office, it seems you're only willing to defend certain women. You're only willing to take a moral stand when you know your liberal supporters will stand behind you.

But...

What if you did something radical and wildly unpopular with your base and took a stand against the denigration of all women... even if they're just single moms? Even if they're Republicans?

I'm not expecting your SuperPAC to return the money. You're going to need every dime to hang on to your presidency. I'm not even really expecting a call. But would it be too much to expect a little consistency? After all, you're President of all Americans, not just the liberals.

Ms Palin won't get a call from Obama because she's a conservative and it would hurt him politically. And the liberals would go nuts because they are not about protecting women but advancing their radical agenda.

Posted by Tom at 8:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The One Religion You Can Persecute

Other than my own congressman, Frank Wolf (R-VA-10), not many politicians spend a lot of time defending Christians against the horrible persecution they face around the world, especially China and around the Middle East. As I mentioned on this blog, President Bush didn't do much of anything about it, and neither did Clinton, Bush41, Reagan, Carter... on back it goes. So on the one hand this editorial in the Washington Times attacking Obama may seem unfair. On the other hand, the attacks on Christians has gotten worse in recent decades. Some will no doubt blame this on American policies, but that's rather beside the point; there was no organized effort to kill Muslims and/or burn their houses of worship before or after 9-11.

Destroy all churches
Obama silent while Saudi grand mufti targets Christianity
The Washington Times
March 16, 2012

If the pope called for the destruction of all the mosques in Europe, the uproar would be cataclysmic. Pundits would lambaste the church, the White House would rush out a statement of deep concern, and rioters in the Middle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most influential leader in the Muslim world issues a fatwa to destroy Christian churches, the silence is deafening.

On March 12, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region." The ruling came in response to a query from a Kuwaiti delegation over proposed legislation to prevent construction of churches in the emirate. The mufti based his decision on a story that on his deathbed, Muhammad declared, "There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula." This passage has long been used to justify intolerance in the kingdom. Churches have always been banned in Saudi Arabia, and until recently Jews were not even allowed in the country. Those wishing to worship in the manner of their choosing must do so hidden away in private, and even then the morality police have been known to show up unexpectedly and halt proceedings.

This is not a small-time radical imam trying to stir up his followers with fiery hate speech. This was a considered, deliberate and specific ruling from one of the most important leaders in the Muslim world. It does not just create a religious obligation for those over whom the mufti has direct authority; it is also a signal to others in the Muslim world that destroying churches is not only permitted but mandatory.

The Obama administration ignores these types of provocations at its peril. The White House has placed international outreach to Muslims at the center of its foreign policy in an effort to promote the image of the United States as an Islam-friendly nation. This cannot come at the expense of standing up for the human rights and religious liberties of minority groups in the Middle East. The region is a crucial crossroads. Islamist radicals are leading the rising political tide against the authoritarian, secularist old order. They are testing the waters in their relationship with the outside world, looking for signals of how far they can go in imposing their radical vision of a Shariah-based theocracy. Ignoring provocative statements like the mufti's sends a signal to these groups that they can engage in the same sort of bigotry and anti-Christian violence with no consequences.

Mr. Obama's outreach campaign to the Muslim world has failed to generate the good will that he expected. In part, this was because he felt it was better to pander to prejudice than to command respect. When members of the Islamic establishment call for the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing, the leader of the free world must respond or risk legitimizing the oppression that follows. The United States should not bow to the extremist dictates of the grand mufti, no matter how desperate the White House is for him to like us.

Posted by Tom at 8:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 28, 2012

An Apology Too Far

From the article below, here are the facts about what happened in Afghanistan:

The facts are that the Korans were seized at a jail because jihadists imprisoned there were using them not for prayer but to communicate incendiary messages. The soldiers dispatched to burn refuse from the jail were not the officials who had seized the books, had no idea they were burning Korans, and tried desperately to retrieve the books when the situation was brought to their attention.

The local commander apologized. Then the Secretary of Defense apologized. Now President Obama has apologized. And what did we get for it? More of this:

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As Andy McCarthy says, this is insane:

Why Apologize to Afghanistan?
The reaction to an accidental Koran-burning was inexcusable
By Andrew C. McCarthy
February 25, 2012

We have officially lost our minds.

The New York Times reports that President Obama has sent a formal letter of apology to Afghanistan's ingrate president, Hamid Karzai, for the burning of Korans at a U.S. military base. The only upside of the apology is that it appears (based on the Times account) to be couched as coming personally from our blindly Islamophilic president -- "I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. . . . I extend to you and the Afghani people my sincere apologies." It is not couched as an apology from the American people, whose frame of mind will be outrage, not contrition, as the facts become more widely known.

The facts are that the Korans were seized at a jail because jihadists imprisoned there were using them not for prayer but to communicate incendiary messages. The soldiers dispatched to burn refuse from the jail were not the officials who had seized the books, had no idea they were burning Korans, and tried desperately to retrieve the books when the situation was brought to their attention.

Of course, these facts may not become widely known, because no one is supposed to mention the main significance of what has happened here. First, as usual, Muslims -- not al-Qaeda terrorists, but ordinary, mainstream Muslims -- are rioting and murdering over the burning (indeed, the inadvertent burning) of a book. Yes, it's the Koran, but it's a book all the same -- and one that, moderate Muslims never tire of telling us, doesn't really mean everything it says anyhow.

Muslim leaders and their leftist apologists are also forever lecturing the United States about "proportionality" in our war-fighting. Yet when it comes to Muslim proportionality, Americans are supposed to shrug meekly and accept the "you burn books, we kill people" law of the jungle. Disgustingly, the Times would inure us to this moral equivalence by rationalizing that "Afghans are fiercely protective of their Islamic faith." Well then, I guess that makes it all right, huh?

Then there's the second not-to-be-uttered truth: Defiling the Koran becomes an issue for Muslims only when it has been done by non-Muslims. Observe that the unintentional burning would not have occurred if these "fiercely protective of their Islamic faith" Afghans had not defiled the Korans in the first place. They were Muslim prisoners who annotated the "holy" pages with what a U.S. military official described as "extremist inscriptions" in covert messages sent back and forth, just as the jihadists held at Gitmo have been known to do (notwithstanding that Muslim prisoners get their Korans courtesy of the American taxpayers they construe the book to justify killing).

Do you know why you are supposed to stay mum about the intentional Muslim sacrilege but plead to be forgiven for the accidental American offense? Because you would otherwise have to observe that the Koran and other Islamic scriptures instruct Muslims that they are in a civilizational jihad against non-Muslims, and that it is therefore permissible for them to do whatever is necessary -- including scrawl militant graffiti on their holy book -- if it advances the cause. Abdul Sattar Khawasi -- not a member of al-Qaeda but a member in good standing of the Afghan government for which our troops are inexplicably fighting and dying -- put it this way: "Americans are invaders, and jihad against the Americans is an obligation."

Because exploiting America's hyper-sensitivity to things Islamic advances the jihad, the ostensible abuse of the Koran by using it for secret communiqués is to be overlooked. Actionable abuse occurs only when the book is touched by the bare hands of, or otherwise maltreated by, an infidel.
...

Understand this: Muslims are killing Muslims all the time. Sunnis attack Shiites, Shiites attack Sunnis. Ahmadi Muslims are attacked in sundry Islamic countries. Often, these Muslim-on-Muslim atrocities involve not only murder but also the torching of the other sect's homes and mosques -- necessarily meaning Muslims are burning Korans, and with far more mens rea than the American personnel had in Afghanistan. None of these atrocities incite global Islamic rioting -- it is just Muslim-on-Muslim violence, the numbing familiarity of which calls for no comment, except perhaps to mumble that it must have something to do with how "fiercely protective of their Islamic faith" Muslims are. (Actually, it has to do with Muslims' deeming the perceived heresies of other Muslims to be apostasy, for which sharia prescribes the death penalty.)

Also understand this: In sharia societies, non-Muslim religious articles are confiscated and destroyed every single day as a matter of policy. In Saudi Arabia, where sharia is the law of the land, where Mecca and Medina are closed to non-Muslims, government guidelines prohibit Jews and Christians from bringing Bibles, crucifixes, Stars of David, and similar artifacts emblematic of their faith into the country. When that prohibition is violated, the offending items are seized and burned or otherwise destroyed.
...

In spite of this shameful, conscious, systematic abuse of non-Muslims and their religious articles, King Abdullah has yet to send a letter of apology to Obama.
...

That, however, cannot be the end of it. If, according to the president, we need to apologize to Muslims because we must accept that they have such an innate, extraordinary ardor for their religion that barbaric reactions to trivial slights are inevitable, then they should not be invited to enter a civilized country. At the very least, our immigration laws should exclude entry from Muslim-majority countries unless and until those countries expressly repeal repressive sharia laws (e.g., the death penalty for apostates) and adopt American standards of non-discrimination against, tolerance of, and protection for religious minorities.

If you really want to promote freedom in Islamic countries, an immigration policy based on civil-rights reciprocity would be a lot more effective, and a lot less expensive, than dispatching tens of thousands of troops to build sharia "democracies." It would also protect Americans from people whose countries and cultures have not prepared them for the obligations of citizenship in a free society.

I disagree with McCarthy's recommendation as regards our immigration policy, but his analysis of the monumental hypocrisy is spot-on.

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February 27, 2012

Energy Policy: We Cannot Afford Four More Years of Obama

President Obama's anti-energy policies are not just costing us now, they will cost us far into the future. It takes time to build pipelines and drill for oil; a long time between giving the green light and when construction and drilling actually starts. No, drilling alone will not solve our energy problems, but that's a straw man the left likes to knock down. But it will help, whereas fantasies about "green energy" will only harm us. Joseph Curl at The Washington Times has it about right:

Can you really afford four more years?
by Joseph Curl
The Washington Times
Sunday, February 26, 2012

In January 2009, when President Obama was sworn in, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $1.68.

Today, it's more than double that: The price has reached $5 in parts of California and $6 just outside Florida's Disney World. In fact, prices have set a record, being so high so early in the year. By Memorial Day, America's first big travel weekend of the year, gas nationwide will average $4 and above, industry analysts predict.

Candidate Obama made political hay of the issue throughout 2008, boldly asserting that he - and he alone - was most able to bring prices down. He repeatedly said there was "no silver bullet" and "no quick fix," but on the campaign trail in Indianapolis, he told Americans, "You shouldn't have to accept any more excuses as to why it can't be done."

More than three years into office, that's all Mr. Obama offers - excuses. He blames oil companies for making a profit; blames "speculators" for pushing up the price of oil; blames Congress for not doing away with oil-industry tax breaks; blames world producers for limiting outflow to drive up prices.

But this past weekend, the president made a startling claim: "Under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years."

The claim is true, but as always, a very crafty lie of omission. America is producing more oil than eight years ago, but not because of anything the president has done. In fact, production is up only because Americans are resourceful and have battled past the obstructions Mr. Obama has erected.

"Since taking office, he has declared 85 percent of our offshore areas off-limits, decreased oil and gas leases in the Rockies by 70 percent, rejected the Keystone XL pipeline and has 10 federal agencies planning more regulation of hydraulic fracturing, which is key to oil and natural-gas development," says Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.

The administration's own Energy Information Agency "estimates that oil production in the Gulf was down 22 percent in 2011 and projected to be down 30 percent in 2012" after Mr. Obama's Gulf moratorium policies were put in place, the API said.

So, how on Earth is America producing more oil? Because of action taken by President Bush, and even his predecessors.

"That production is a direct result of leases issued before this administration and as result of development on private and state lands," Mr. Gerard said, according to Fox News.

"On private lands, oil production is booming," wrote Fox reporter Jim Angle. "In North Dakota, the oil and gas are on private or state land and beyond the president's control. The state has gone from producing a small amount of oil to some 450,000 barrels a day. Unemployment is 3.3 percent, the lowest in the country. And the state has a budget surplus in the billions."

In this weekend's speech, Mr. Obama made more excuses. "There are no quick fixes to this problem, and you know we can't just drill our way to lower gas prices." Wrong. In fact, just saying America is going to drill for its own oil has a dramatic effect on prices. In July 2008, when gas was $3.28 a gallon, Mr. Bush lifted the executive ban on offshore drilling and urged Congress to lift the federal moratorium. Crude-oil futures plummeted nearly $10 the next day, the largest decline in 17 years.

What's more, early in Mr. Bush's tenure, debate raged over opening a tiny part of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling (just 8 percent of the more than 19 million acres in the reserve). Democrats killed the Republican proposal, saying the billions of barrels of oil wouldn't come to market for a decade.

In 2012, that oil - estimated at 1 million barrels a day for 30 years, nearly the amount the U.S. imports from Hugo Chavez's Venezuela - would be flowing.

Just last year, Mr. Obama said, "Our energy policy still is just a hodgepodge." It is just that today. Yet the president continues to push "green" energy, claiming the only answer to America's problems is to pursue an "all of the above" strategy. Last week, he said his administration is forging ahead with alternative-energy sources such as "a plant-like substance, algae."

Yes ... pond scum. Mr. Obama is officially out of ideas.

But one claim he made this weekend is absolutely true: "In 2010, our dependence on foreign oil was under 50 percent for the first time in more than a decade."

The reason? Americans can't afford to fill their cars up anymore.

A few months ago, exactly a year out from Election Day 2012, Mr. Obama pleaded for support: "I'm going to need another term to finish the job."

But America can't afford four more years of trying to turn a community organizer into a president. They'd be better off trying to turn pond scum into fuel.

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February 19, 2012

More Reasons Why Obama Wants to Talk About Contraception

One reason why President Obama wants to talk about contraception is that he wants to show those Catholics and other Christians who's boss. Another is this:


Photobucket

Ouch

Chart via Powerline

Here's another:


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February 15, 2012

A Political Budget Divorced From Reality Part II

It's not just us dastardly right-wingers who've noticed that President Obama's budget is a fake. An email I received today from the RNC goes through a whole host of media outlets that blast the president over his fraudulent budget proposal. You know he's in trouble when he's losing NPR:

Obama's Budget Is A Political Document That Breaks His Promises On The Deficit While Shirking His Duties To Tackle The Nation's Debt OBAMA'S BUDGET IS A POLITICAL DOCUMENT FOR RUNNING A RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN, NOT A GOVERNMENT

Bloomberg's Julianna Goldman: "What It Really Does Is It Fleshes Out The President's Blueprint For His Campaign." "The White House says that this budget fleshes out the President's blueprint for America, but what it really does is it fleshes out the President's blueprint for his campaign. He's essentially putting deficit-reduction on the back burner." (Bloomberg's " With Betty Liu," 2/13/12)

* Bloomberg 's Juliana Goldman: "This Is A Real Miss For The President." "Well, when you look at the projections for the deficit, this is a real miss for the President. Remember, he had promised to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, Betty." (Bloomberg's "With Betty Liu," 2/13/12)
* Watch Video Here

National Public Radio: "Rather than a realistic road map for government spending, the White House budget is likely to serve as a political tool in the president's re-election bid." (Scott Horsley, "Obama's Budget: Political Tool Or Spending Plan?" National Public Radio , 2/13/12)

ABC News: Obama "Doubles Down On Populist Proposals Central To His Re-Election Campaign." "President Obama today officially unveils a 2013 budget that outlines his tax and spending priorities for the coming year, and doubles down on populist proposals central to his re-election campaign." (Devin Dwyer, "Obama Budget Doubles Down on Populist Proposals," ABC News, 2/13/12)

The New York Times: The Budget Is "Seen As More A Platform For The President's Re-Election Campaign Than A Legislative Proposal." "But the latest budget document can be seen as more a platform for the president's re-election campaign than a legislative proposal for budget debates that will begin next week." (Jackie Calmes, "Obama's Budget To Focus On Cutting Deficit And Adding Jobs," The New York Times, 2/10/12)

The Wall Street Journal: "Administration Officials Acknowledge That The Bulk Of Their Plan Is A Campaign Blueprint More Than Anything." "But administration officials acknowledge that the bulk of their plan is a campaign blueprint more than anything-at least until the end of the year." (Damian Paletta and Laura Meckler, "Budget Sets Stage For Year-End Clash," The Wall Street Journal, 2/13/12)

OBAMA IS BREAKING HIS PLEDGE TO CUT THE DEFICIT IN HALF AND ACTUALLY INCREASES DEFICITS IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein: "The Obama Administration Is Officially Breaking Its Promise To Halve The Deficit By The End Of Their First Term." (Ezra Klein, "Wonkbook: 5 Things To Watch In Obama's 2013 Budget," The Washington Post 's Wonkbook, 2/13/12)

* Klein: "The 2013 budget envisions a deficit of more than $1 trillion -- not halved by any stretch of the imagination." (Ezra Klein, "Wonkbook: 5 Things To Watch In Obama's 2013 Budget," The Washington Post's Wonkbook, 2/13/12)

The New York Times: Obama's Budget "Will Show Mr. Obama Has Failed To Meet His Pledge To Cut The Deficit In Half By The End Of His First Term." "But the document's numbers will show Mr. Obama has failed to meet his pledge to cut the deficit in half by the end of his term, and for Republicans, that will be the bottom line." (Jackie Calmes, "Obama's Budget To Focus On Cutting Deficit And Adding Jobs," The New York Times, 2/10/12)

USA Today : Obama Will Fall "Far Short Of His Goal To Halve The Deficit In Four Years." "President Obama's proposed 2013 budget will forecast a $901 billion deficit for next year, falling far short of his goal to halve the deficit in four years." (Richard Wolf, "Obama Budget To Miss Deficit Goal," USA Today's "The Oval," 2/10/12)

* USA Today: "The Budget Will Show A Higher Deficit This Year Than In 2011." "The budget will show a higher deficit this year than in 2011, up from $1.3 trillion to $1.33 trillion. And the projected decline to $901 billion in 2013 is dependent on enactment of the president's policies, including spending reductions agreed to last summer and ending George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy at the end of this year." (Richard Wolf, "Obama Budget To Miss Deficit Goal,"USA Today's "The Oval," 2/10/12)

ABC News: "But despite such cuts, the president's budget would mark the fourth straight year that deficit spending exceeds $1 trillion and falls well short of his 2009 promise to 'cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.'" (Devin Dwyer, "Obama Budget Doubles Down on Populist Proposals," ABC News, 2/13/12)

Politico: "And Looking Back At Obama's First Budget In May 2009, He Almost Appears To Be Alice's Red Queen, Running Hard Just To Stay In Place." "Republicans were quick to pounce on the higher deficit numbers, reported earlier in the day by the Wall Street Journal. And looking back at Obama's first budget in May 2009, he almost appears to be Alice's Red Queen, running hard just to stay in place." (David Rogers, "Obama Budget Goes Big On Highways," Politico, 2/10/12)

* Politico: "The $1.33 Trillion Deficit For This Fiscal Year, Ending Sept. 30, Is Almost Identical To The $1.25 Trillion Deficit Obama Predicted Then For Fiscal 2010." (David Rogers, "Obama Budget Goes Big On Highways," Politico, 2/10/12)

OBAMA'S BUDGET IS A CLEAR SIGNAL THAT HE HAS NO INTENTION OF TAKING THE NATION'S LONG-TERM FISCAL CHALLENGES SERIOUSLY

Former U.S. Comptroller David Walker: "We Are Not Going To See Any Significant Tax, Social Insurance Or Other Reforms Before The Election." (CNBC's, "Squawk Box" 2/13/12)

* Walker: "It Should Have Been Much More Specific, Much More Substantive Than It Is." (CNBC's, "Squawk Box" 2/13/12)
* Watch The Video

The Hill: Obama Is Not Going To Outline A Plan For Medicare's "Long-Term Demographic Challenge." "He has so far not outlined a plan that would deal with Medicare's long-term demographic challenge. Experts do not expect him to do so, giving the GOP a chance to once again draw a contrast." (Erik Wasson, "Obama's Budget: 10 Takeaways," The Hill, 2/11/12)

* The Hill: "Nothing Is Expected On Social Security." (Erik Wasson, "Obama's Budget: 10 Takeaways," The Hill, 2/11/12)

Los Angeles Times: "But The President's Budget, Like His Previous Proposals, Steers Clear Of Major Changes." (Kathleen Hennessey and Christi Parsons, "Obama Budget Is Preview Of Election Battle," Los Angeles Times, 2/13/12)

The Boston Herald: "President Barack Obama has apparently decided that he is not going to be part of the solution to the nation's enormous deficit - which would make him, yes, part of the problem." (Editorial, "Obama Punts On Budget," The Boston Herald, 2/13/12)

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February 14, 2012

A Political Budget Divorced From Reality

President Obama's budget is designed soley to pick a fight with Republicans. It is not a serious proposal because almost all Democrats in Congress will vote against it. The budget he introducted hikes taxes, increases spending, and which results in gargantuan deficits as far as the eye can see. He makes not even a symbolic attempt to reform our unsustainable entitlement programs. Spending on Social Security and Medicare will go up faster than any conceivable economic growth and/or increase in tax rates can possibly pay for.

Liberals need to explain why, if Obama's budget is so great, not a single Democrat is poised to support it.

What Obama wants is to draw a clear line between his vision and that of the GOP. He wanted to pick a fight. The sole purpose of his budget to position himself for November. This, I think was also why he, through Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, issued the order that even religious organizations must cover contraception and abortifacients in their health care plans; because he knew that it would stir a great big controversy that would make him look good to his leftist base.

Obama Unveils Fiscal 2013 Budget
The Washington Times
by Dave Boyer
February 13, 2012

Unveiling a $3.8 trillion election-year federal budget loaded with deficits, tax increases and hundreds of billions of dollars in new stimulus spending, President Obama said Monday that his plan will "restore an economy where everybody gets a fair shot."

"The economy is growing stronger, the recovery is speeding up," Mr. Obama said at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., where he also proposed a new job-training program. "We can't cut back on those things that are important for us to grow."

Drawing a number of battle lines for the fall campaign, Mr. Obama is inviting another clash with congressional Republicans by calling for short-term spending to create jobs with proposals that GOP lawmakers already have rejected. He would spend $50 billion immediately on transportation infrastructure, $30 billion to modernize schools and $30 billion to hire teachers and emergency workers.
...

His budget -- which calls for a total of $350 billion in short-term stimulus spending, a $475 billion highway program and $1.5 trillion in tax increases on wealthier Americans -- has virtually no chance of passing as is, but is intended to highlight the differences between the two parties as Mr. Obama seeks re-election. It would impose a 30 percent minimum tax on those earning $1 million or more.

Mr. Obama also proposes to raise taxes on investment income for families earning more than $250,000. He would tax dividends as ordinary income, raising the top tax rate from 15 percent to 39.6 percent. Taxes on capital gains for the top income bracket would rise from 15 percent to 20 percent.

The president said families earning more than $250,000 per year don't need more tax breaks, but the country needs the money from tax hikes to pay for essential programs for the middle class.
...

The president's budget request for fiscal 2013 anticipates borrowing a total of $901 billion, which would be the first time since Mr. Obama took office that the deficit falls below $1 trillion. But the spending plan pegs the deficit for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, at $1.33 trillion, nearly the same level it was three years after the president promised to cut it in half by the end of 2012.

What did I tell you? More spending, fake cuts, higher taxes, and gargantuan deficits. And as we shall see, once again Obama is understating what he 2013 deficit will be.

And this from a president who came into office promising to cut the deficit.

With all this spending, you'd think that all parts of the government would be growing. But one part will suffer.

Pentagon Budget Cuts Weapons, Troops in 2013
The Washington Times
by Rowan Scarborough
February 12, 2013

The Pentagon is not cutting just manpower to reach deficit-reduction targets: Its 2013 budget released Monday shows the military will spend less on new weapons after two grueling wars.

The procurement line in the $525 billion spending plan calls for $108 billion next year to buy big and small weapon systems such as guns, ships and jet fighters, down nearly 30 percent from 2011.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced budget details last month, with a focus on how the Army and Marine Corps will shed 90,000 troops to save money over the next decade.

The detailed budget shows the services will have less buying power too, as the Air Force copes with an aging fleet of tactical combat aircraft whose average age of 22 years puts them near retirement.

The Navy has $13.5 billion to buy new ships, down from $15 billion two years ago. Analysts doubt the 285-ship Navy can reach its goal of 313 ships in the next five years.
Army procurement drops to $21 billion, from $34 billion in 2011 and $24 billion last year.

The squeeze is part of the Pentagon's blueprint to slash $487 billion in projected spending over the next 10 years to comply with the Budget Control Act. The $525 billion base budget is about $5 billion lower than this year's, setting the stage for a defense downturn not seen since the post-Soviet 1990s.

At a time when China and Iran are on the march, we are disarming.

Krauthammer's Take
February 14, 2012
From Fox's Special Report with Bret Baier | Monday, February 13, 2012
On President Obama's 2013 budget:

The first two years he said "I can't do anything about debt because the recession is on. So I'll appoint a commission which will report after the mid-term election and do it." Of course the [Simpson Bowles] commission reports in December of 2010 and he does nothing about it. He submits a budget last year which was so preposterous -- did nothing about debt, increased it -- that the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, rejected it 97 to 0. Which is why the budget he submitted today, which is even worse than last year's, is something that Harry Reid doesn't want to go to the Senate floor because it will be rejected and laughed out of the Senate.

How big are the deficits?

Ball Four
National Review
The Editors
February 14, 2012

President Obama's first budget projected 2010-2012 annual deficits of $1.17 trillion, $912 billion, and $581 billion, respectively. The actual deficits for those years were $1.29 trillion, $1.3 trillion, and (a projected) $1.33 trillion.

More on the insanity

Spend, Tax, Retreat National Review
by Rich Lowry
February 14, 2012

Over ten years, spending will increase from $3.8 trillion to $5.8 trillion, for $47 trillion total. Spending doesn't decline in any year. As recently as the end of the Clinton years, spending was about 18 percent of GDP. President Obama plans to spend more than 22 percent of GDP every single year of his hoped-for two terms in office. In 2022, spending will be almost 23 percent of GDP. The increase in spending that we were told was an emergency response to the recession becomes the new normal.
...

The president wants to chase the new spending with almost $2 trillion in new taxes -- higher taxes on income, on dividends, on capital gains, and on sundry other targets. Tax receipts will double from $2.5 trillion to $5.1 trillion and hit a little more than 20 percent of GDP in 2022, well above the average since 1940 of 17.4 percent.
...

Overall security spending -- a broad category that includes more than just defense -- will go from 5.2 percent of GDP to 3.4 percent. At the same time we are told we are pivoting toward an Asia threatened by a rising China.

But It's Bush's Fault!

Er, no. His deficits, while too high, were small compared to what Obama is doing

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February 13, 2012

Obama's Fake "Compromise" on Contraception and Abortifacients

It's bad enough that abortion up to birth has to be legal, but the Obama Administration demands that everyone pays for it as well. Their recent ruling on contraception and abortifacients is one of their more abhorrent along these lines. The recently announced compromise is a joke.

During the 2008 election, I showed numerous times in posts that Obama was one of the most extreme politicians in the country with regard to abortion.

He also doesn't care much for the rights of religious organizations, or their sense of ethics and morality. But what do we expect from a man who went to Trinity United for 20 years and listened to Pastor Jeremiah Wright.

Obama's Free Abortion Pills
Revised White House contraception rule changes nothing
The Washington Times
February 10, 2012

Someone should tell President Obama there's no such thing as a free abortion pill. The White House is trying to douse a political wildfire sparked by an Obamacare mandate forcing religiously affiliated institutions to provide a full range of contraception measures for employees - including pills that induce abortions. Catholic and other religious leaders with principled objections cried foul, citing promises that they and their affiliates would be covered by a "conscience waiver" for any provisions of the law that created this kind of moral dilemma. On Friday Mr. Obama proposed a new rule whereby the onus would be on the insurance companies who cover the employees to reach out with cost-free contraceptives.

It was typical of the administration to make the proposed deal a giveaway program. Mr. Obama seems to be saying that if you don't see who is paying for the abortion pills then no one is. "Religious organizations won't have to pay for these services," he said. But of course they will. Insurance companies may be required by law to provide these services at no cost to the recipient, but costs are still involved. Employers will still be directly subsidizing the birth control plan. It was a classic Obama compromise; he gets 100 percent of what he wants and the other side gets a lecture about fairness.

Mr. Obama accused his opponents of politicizing the issue, which is what he usually says when people object to his extravagant use of government power. His proposed new rule is a pure election-year ploy. The White House cannot afford to bend on this issue and risk alienating feminists. Obama campaign planners may even see it as a useful wedge issue to keep women voters in the Democratic column. Even though Mr. Obama announced his decision "as a citizen and as a Christian," the White House is under no illusions that they will win the majority of votes of religiously observant Americans. According to Gallup weekly poll data, Americans who attend church weekly track 7 points below Mr. Obama's average approval rating, while those who seldom or never attend church are 4 points above. In a contest between the believers and the feminists, the Christians are clearly expendable.

The new rule does not address the root of the problem, which is nationalized health care. Mr. Obama's assumed power to dictate what types of coverage insurance companies must provide, and consequently what services employers must pay for, is what created this issue. Obscuring how religiously affiliated employers will have to support things they consider morally objectionable does not address the core principle. Mr. Obama still believes that the government has the power to force its will on religious institutions in the name of liberal dogma.

The fundamental issue is not health care, but freedom. America was founded in part as a haven for the exercise of religious liberty. A one-size-fits-all government mandated health care system necessarily will impinge on the rights of any religious denomination. No cleverly crafted, politically motivated tweaking of the rules will change that. Catholics will still be paying for abortion pills, like it or not.

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February 4, 2012

Reverend Obama and the Gospel of Taxes

It's apparently ok to mix religion and politics if you're a liberal trying to jack up taxes for your favorite social programs. From the Powerline Blog:

Render Unto Barry
by Scott Johnson
February 3, 2012

President Obama advertised some big endorsements for his tax-the-rich more policies and class warfare reelection strategy yesterday. In a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast -- text here, video below -- Obama made the case that Jesus, Muhammad, Moses and Plato (?!) are all on board with him, although that may be understating the matter:

[W]hen I talk about shared responsibility, it's because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it's hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. I think to myself, if I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that's going to make economic sense.
But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus's teaching that "for unto whom much is given, much shall be required." It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who've been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

Reverend Obama not only offers up the endorsement of Jesus for his economic policies, he also presents himself as standing in the shoes of Jesus, requiring much from those to whom much is given.

I don't recognize the teachings of traditional Judaism in the heart of Obama's teaching. Compare Maimonides' "eight degrees of charity." As for Obama's invocation of Jesus, when Obama demands that "the rich" pay their "fair share" -- the text implicitly underlying yesterday's sermon -- Obama is closer to Caesar than to God.

Good grief. Couple of points here.

The verse the president cited is from Luke 12:48, and rather than quote the the entire book I suggest readers follow the link (or whip out your bible) and read it for themselves. What it essentially means is that you should not be stingy with what you have, but that you should give generously. This includes time, talent, and money. It also means to the church as well as the poor.

But the Bible also makes clear that it's all to be voluntary (and yes I've read the entire Bible front to back). Indeed, that's the point. Giving, like Faith, must be voluntary to be meaningful. A forced conversion to any religion is no faith at all, and forced contributions to a government or any other entity defeats the entire purpose of what God is trying to achieve. He wants you to believe in Him and give generously of your time, talent, and money, but He also gives you the free will to make the decision for yourself.

It's all summed up in Matthew 6: 1-4 (NIV):

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

So while we are commanded to be generous, we must also not brag about it.

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January 28, 2012

Obama's Wrongheaded Concept of American Greatness

If President Obama's ideas are so bad, perhaps it is because his concept of American history is so flawed. But what do you expect from someone who went to Trinity United and listened to Jeremiah Wright for 20 years?

Andrew Cline explains:

Obama and American Greatness The Corner at National Review By Andrew Cline January 25, 2012

If you want a good distillation of this president's wrongheaded view of the United States of America, look no further than this rhetorical bit from the end of tonight's State of the Union address: "No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other's backs."

Unity is central to American identity, but not the way Obama envisions it. E pluribus unum is not Latin for, "Hey, bro, let's invest in some infrastructure together." The notion that this nation is one big team that acts collectively toward shared goals set by the state would be completely foreign to the men who founded it. But that is Obama's concept of America.

The Founders thought the nation was great, or could become great, because its people had secured individual liberty for themselves and their descendants by strictly limiting the power and reach of the state. The president uttered the word "liberty" only once tonight, and that was in relation not to the American people, but to emerging regimes in the Middle East: "We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty."

By contrast, Ronald Reagan in his 1982 SOTU said the word four times. "In forging this new partnership for America, we could achieve the oldest hopes of our Republic -- prosperity for our nation, peace for the world, and the blessings of individual liberty for our children and, someday, for all of humanity," Reagan said. And he concluded with this: "Let us so conduct ourselves that two centuries from now, another Congress and another President, meeting in this Chamber as we are meeting, will speak of us with pride, saying that we met the test and preserved for them in their day the sacred flame of liberty -- this last, best hope of man on Earth."

We have gone from "the sacred flame of liberty" to "we get each other's backs." It gives new meaning to the epithet, "President Downgrade."

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January 27, 2012

Obama Can Dish It Out But He Can't Take It

Despite that in this photo Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is pointing her finger at the President, it is Obama who tried to lecture her when he landed in Phoenix earlier this week:

Photobucket

Thou Shalt Not Write Bad Things About Obama
The Weekly Standard
by Jonathan V. Last
Jan 25, 2012

Drudge has a story about Obama getting off of Air Force One in Arizona, greeting Republican governor Jan Brewer, and immediately giving her a piece of his mind. Evidently our president did not appreciate something Brewer wrote about him. According to the pool report, they had a testy exchange from which the president walked away as Brewer was still speaking.

Sound familiar? Bobby Jindal got the same treatment when Obama came to visit Louisiana and the governor met him on the tarmac. Jindal would later recount in his book:

I was expecting words of concern about the oil spill, worry about the pending ecological disaster, and words of confidence about how the federal government was here to help. Or perhaps he was going to vent about BP's slow response. But no, the president was upset about something else. And he wanted to talk about, well, food stamps. Actually, he wanted to talk about a letter that my administration had sent to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack a day earlier.
The letter was rudimentary, bureaucratic, and ordinary. .  .  . We were simply asking the federal government to authorize food stamps for those who were now unemployed because of the oil spill. Governors regularly make these sorts of requests to the federal government when facing disaster.

But somehow, for some reason, President Obama had personalized this. And he was upset.

There was not a word about the oil spill. He was concerned about looking bad because of the letter. "Careful," he said to me, "this is going to get bad for everyone."

Obama is a lot less concerned with the state of our country than the state of his own popularity. And why not? Throughout the campaign he experienced nothing but the fawning adoration of both voters and most of the media. He is vain, conceited, arrogant, and narcissistic.

President Obama dismisses the episode, saying that it was:

..."blown out of proportion." In the end, he said, "it's always good publicity for a Republican if they're in an argument with me. But this was really not a big deal."

More reaction by Governor Brewer:

"It was [as] though President Obama thought he could lecture me, and I would learn at his knee," she wrote, according to Capitol Media Services. "He thinks he can humor me and then get rid of me."

Knowing Obama, I'm taking the governor's side. Raw video here, watch it for yourself.


Not the way to get along with the political opposition.

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January 26, 2012

Obama was for Subsidies to Corporations Before He was Against Them

Jonah Goldberg at National Review points out an obvious contradiction in Obama's State of the Union speech:

This is from the same speech:
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world's number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.

We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.

And:

It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.

For all his fancy talk in the first paragraph, Obama is admitting to giving big business a bug fat bailout. And we know why he did it; all those Democrat voting UAW members. Got to keep the unions happy.

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State of the Union 2012: What is Tax Fairness?

Consider this from Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night:

We don't begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it's not because they envy the rich. It's because they understand that when I get a tax break I don't need and the country can't afford, it either adds to the deficit or somebody else has to make up the difference, like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet.

That's not right. Americans know that's not right. They know that this generation's success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to the future of their country, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That's how we'll reduce our deficit. That's an America built to last.

What is "fair share?" What does that even mean? Obama seems to assume that we all share his vision of a steeply "progressive" tax whereby those who have money over a certain amount are obligated to pay whatever amount he deems necessary to fund the government programs that he thinks necessary.

But there's no reason that should be so.

What is "Wealthy?"

First, how do we even define "the wealthy?" Is it someone who makes over a million dollars a year? Half a million? One hundred thousand? Is it measured in total income or in total net worth? Does it matter whether you get your income from salary, investments, playing the stock market or the horses at the track?

I'm not saying that there's no such thing as "wealthy," just that we all have our own concept of what that is, and my observation is that it's nearly always somewhere greater than our own personal situation. However much money or holdings anyone has, that person will almost all of the time point to someone else as truly "wealthy."

Further, what constitutes paying your "fair share?" Once again, Obama talks as if it's obvious. But there are no stone tables carved in the sky outlining any of this. It's all subjective.

Half Pay No Federal Income Taxes

Worse, almost half (46.4) of all Americans pay no federal income tax. This is terribly unfair, and for a number of reasons.

One, if you're going to consume services you need to pay something somewhere for them. When you have to pay for something, no matter how little, you develop the mentality of having a stake making sure it works well. When you get something for nothing, you don't care, and want more and more and more and more... and demand that someone else keep paying more and more and more for it.

Finally, if Obama's going to talk about us all being in it together and benefiting from our history, previous generations, and government a then fine. But if according to him we all share in the benefits, we all must share in the costs.

So I don't care how little someone makes, everyone should pay something in federal income taxes every year, even if it's only $10. A symbolic payment of something, just to inculcate the attitude of responsibility.

You want tax fairness? Fine; then fair is when everyone pays something.

Speaking of Fairness...

John Hood explains why "those who defend Buffett's false claim about the undertaxed wealthy are either ignorant or dishonest."

The wealthy pay a significant higher share of their income in taxes than the middle class or the poor do. If you combine federal, state, and local taxes together and divide by income, the top quintile of U.S. households pay about twice as much in taxes as a share of their incomes as the bottom quintile does. Because government spending disproportionately benefits lower-income households, the progressivity of government's fiscal structure is even more steep than the tax data alone would show.

If you want to defend this level of progressivity, fine. If you want to argue that the system ought to be even more punitive at higher income levels, go for it. But denying that the wealthy already pay a disproportionate share of taxes is an act of gross irresponsibility.

Why Do Democrats Want Higher Taxes on the Wealthy?

So why do Democrats and liberals like higher taxes those they consider to be wealthy?

Punishment is a large part of it. Liberals believe that people who they see as wealthy got that way because they cheated, stole, exploited the poor, or got lucky.

Political intimidation is a large part of it too. "Get on board and support our policies or we'll tax you more" is the clear message. You can bet that if Mitt Romney was pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, and supported Obamacare there wouldn't be any talk about where he got his money or whether he was paying the right amount of taxes.

So when I hear politicians rail at "the wealthy," who don't pay their "fair share of taxes," you can be sure that they're simply demagogues using all the threatening power of the state to extort money for government programs that they deem are worthy.

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December 27, 2011

Tragedy in Iraq... and don't think it will stay there

There's nothing like being personally involved in local politics to make you realize that by comparison simple blogging about far away issues is small potatoes indeed. One day maybe I'll get back to this, and then again maybe not. Until then posts will be few and far between, but you've already figured that out.

Here we go. Last month Frederick and Kimberly Kagan warned about the crisis unfolding in Iraq in the wake of President Obama's ill-considered decision to withdraw willy-nilly from Iraq. In an article posted today they tell us that the country is going, going...

With administration officials celebrating the "successful" withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, thanking antiwar groups for making that withdrawal possible, and proffering outrageous claims about Iraq's "stability," "sovereignty," and the "demilitarization" of American foreign policy even as Iraq collapses, it is hard to stay focused on America's interests and security requirements. Especially in an election year, the temptation will only grow to argue about who lost Iraq, whether it was doomed from the outset, whether the current disaster "proves" either that the success of the surge was inherently ephemeral or that the withdrawal of U.S. troops caused the collapse. The time will come for such an audit of Iraq policy over the last five years, but not yet. For the crisis in Iraq is still unfolding, and the United States continues to have a huge stake in the outcome. The question of the moment is not "Who lost Iraq?" but rather "Is Iraq definitely lost?"

It certainly seems so.

I will answer the question they avoid doing; it is impossible to know whether the venture was doomed from the outset but it was President Obama who lost it, and he did so deliberately. All to satisfy the kook left, of course.

And if you detect a bit of bitterness from team Kagan in today's piece, consider that they started out the December warning piece I mentioned with this gen

We interrupt President Obama's celebration of keeping a campaign promise to bring you news from Iraq, where a political crisis has been unfolding since just hours after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta departed on Thursday

I can't say I blame them. We've come so far, and gone though so much, only to have out idiot president throw it all away, partially for the sake of electoral expediency, partially to satisfy the Democrat party's kook left, and partially because he's part of that kook left himself.

It didn't have to be this way. As team Kagan pointed out last month

Some will say that the failure of the Iraqi political and sectarian settlement was inevitable, that the "surge"--as they predicted--produced only temporary results, and that Iraq was irretrievably lost the moment American forces invaded in 2003. Those arguments are simply wrong. The ethno-sectarian settlement endured tremendous tests from its tentative establishment in 2007 until President Obama announced the end of American presence in Iraq. Its endurance was unquestionably underwritten by the presence of American troops, who provided critical double-guarantees: they guaranteed Maliki against the Sunni coup d'état he evidently fears so much, and they guaranteed the Sunni Arabs against precisely the sort of vengeful misuse of Iraq's security forces now occurring. Interestingly, they continued to be effective in that guarantor's role even after they had withdrawn from combat operations, were taking virtually no casualties, and were not even moving around the country very much. It may be that an American military presence of 10,000-15,000 troops (as General Lloyd Austin ultimately suggested) would have been required for a long time to help the settlement not only endure, but harden into something that could stand on its own. Such a presence would still have been smaller than what the U.S. has in Korea today--and has had there for 60 years. The decision to abandon Iraq entirely will stand as one of the monumental strategic follies of the 21st century, and the cost of that disastrous choice are already emerging starkly.

American options for trying to mitigate the damage are limited, but nevertheless important. The U.S. should immediately threaten to withhold assistance, including the shipment of military aircraft Iraq recently ordered, if Maliki does not back down and adhere to the commitments he made to the Sunni bloc. Washington should engage Ankara energetically to enforce a common front toward the Kurds. Kurdish parliamentarians--and security forces--remain key players in this drama, but they have been acting selfishly and fearfully, always with one eye on the door out of Iraq and into independence. Many Kurdish leaders apparently believe that even if the U.S. will not back them, Turkey will. But it is no more in Turkey's interest than in ours to see Iraq once more in flames. Now is the time for some smart power in the region.

Above all, however, now is the time to show that this administration actually cares about what happens in Iraq. It is not enough for the vice president to phone it in. The secretary of state should go to Baghdad, not to celebrate our withdrawal, but to play an active role in mediating the aftermath. Obama should invite Maliki and his Sunni and Kurdish counterparts to a summit somewhere in the West to hash this out. If not, we will no doubt be treated to yet another series of visits by Iraqi leaders to Tehran as the Iranians again demonstrate their willingness to engage where Americans withdraw.

But of course Obama didn't do any of these things because he doesn't really care.

We all knew that things would get tricky as American troops left, and violence did indeed rise, so it's not as if Obama couldn't have seen this coming. but then, he would have had to cared.

If I still have to point out the obvious then I will; our enemies are watching and laughing. All along they bet that we would not have the willpower to stick it out for the long haul and once again they may have been proven correct. They watched us leave Vietnam, pull out of Beirut, run from Mogadishu (have I missed anything?) and now we're giving up on Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who blather about "redeployment" don't realize that our enemies have discovered that they can make us leave anywhere if they keep up the pressure long enough.

Oh well, Obama may well strike Iran. If he does we will be assured by his supporters that this "proves" that he is really a tough guy yada yada. Well, we'll see if he does, and whether he's willing to sustain a weeks long bombardment (yes I said weeks long as in plural, as in many weeks of continuous fighting because that's what it will take), whether he's willing to let our navy sink blow every Iranian vessel out of the water regardless of whether it is a "threat" to our forces, and whether he is willing to tell both the striped pants set at the State Department and the moral relativist set at the United Nations to pound sand. If he does all these my hat will be off to him... but he'll still have been the president who lost Iraq.

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October 24, 2011

Obama Announces Complete Withdrawal From Iraq

The story from The Washington Times

President Obama declared Friday that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year, ending talks for an extended deployment with Baghdad and ruling against the earlier advice of some senior military commanders who had recommended keeping several thousand troops there into 2012. ...

The decision ends one of America's longest wars, and caps months of unsuccessful negotiations with Iraq over the issue of immunity for American troops should they stay beyond 2011. Mr. Obama made the announcement after speaking with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a private video conference.

Currently there are nearly 40,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. While Mr. Obama declared that the war is over, the schedule for total withdraw of U.S. troops is in accordance with a deal struck by President George W. Bush in 2008.

In September, the administration aired plans to reduce the U.S. troop strength in Iraq to about 3,000 by year's end. Some senior military advisers were said to be "livid" about the reduction in force, arguing that more troops were needed to keep training Iraqi forces and to serve as a guard against renewed influence in the country by neighboring Iran.

And while violence is down sharply from its peak levels of five years ago, sectarian violence remains a constant feature of Iraqi life, with both Sunni and Shiite militants regularly staging bombings and other attacks. In just the latest incident, Iraqi officials said a triple bombing in the capital of Baghdad killed at least three people this week.

U.S. military officials have expressed growing alarm in recent weeks about aid they say is being given to Iraqi insurgents from Iran.
...

The U.S. and Iraq had been in talks about keeping more American troops there beyond 2011, but Iraqi leaders, facing fierce domestic political cross-currents, refused to give U.S. soldiers immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. The U.S. refused to allow its soldiers to stay without such a guarantee.

"We talked about immunity," said Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser to the president. "We feel like we got exactly what we needed to protect our interests."

The Questions

Did the president try to get a better deal from the Iraqis or did he just give up quickly?

Is this withdrawal in our national interests?

What are the probabilities for Iraq now that the president has taken this action?

Reaction

I'm only going to quote the people I trust. I also don't have much time, so for anyone who doesn't know this blog, that means neither the Daily Kos nor Ron Paul. As a committed neo-con, I buy neither the prescriptions of the far left or the far right.

Key general calls Iraq pullout plan a 'disaster'
Others echo call for strength against Iran
The Washington Times
Sunday October 23, 2011

President Obama's decision to pull all U.S. forces out of Iraq by Dec. 31 is an "absolute disaster" that puts the burgeoning Arab democracy at risk of an Iranian "strangling," said an architect of the 2007 troop surge that turned around a losing war.

Retired ArmyGen. John M. Keane was at the forefront of persuading President George W. Bush to scuttle a static counterinsurgency strategy and replace it with 30,000 reinforcements and a more activist, street-by-street counterterrorism tactic.

Today, even with that strategy producing a huge drop in daily attacks, Gen. Keane bluntly told The Washington Times that the United States again is losing.

"I think it's an absolute disaster," said Gen. Keane, who advised Gen. David H. Petraeus when he was top Iraq commander. "We won the war in Iraq, and we're now losing the peace."

U.S. troops will be vacating Iraq at a time when neither Baghdad's counterterrorism skills nor its abilities to protect against invasion are at levels needed to fully protect the country, say analysts long involved in the nearly nine-year war.

"Forty-four hundred lives lost," Gen. Keane said. "Tens of thousands of troops wounded. Over a couple hundred thousand Iraqis killed. We liberated 25 million people. There is only one Arab Muslim country that elects its own government, and that is Iraq.

"We should be staying there to strengthen that democracy, to let them get the kind of political gains they need to get and keep the Iranians away from strangling that country. That should be our objective, and we are walking away from that objective."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday warned Iran not to miscalculate the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops.

"No one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our continuing commitment to and with the Iraqis going forward," she said in an interview with CNN from Uzbekistan.

I have news for our secretary of state; Iran is not interested in your words. They pay attention to our actions.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney asks the relevant question to which I think we know the answer:

President Obama's astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.

Patrick Brennan points out that while Obama must share much of the blame it's not his fault entirely:

While this is hardly the most inspiring commitment to a nation which was intended to become our staunch democratic Middle Eastern ally, it should be noted that this is not the Obama administration's own decision -- and probably isn't for lack of effort, either. The Iraqi parliament refused to continue legal immunity for U.S. troops, beyond the couple hundred or so who would remain as diplomatic security. Without such a concession, the U.S. had little choice but to abide by the existing Status of Forces Agreement ratified under the Bush administration and by the Iraqi government -- mandating withdrawal by December 2011. It seems that the Obama administration's prodigious reputation for negotiation and diplomacy has failed, again, to protect the security interests of America and her allies.

Even so, the editors of National Review get the big picture and what it means right:

If the Iranians pride themselves on playing chess while we play checkers, they never could have expected us to walk away from the board.

But that's our next move in Iraq. President Obama announced on Friday that all of the roughly 40,000 U.S. troops will leave the country by the end of the year. We are thus handing the Iranians a goal they have sought for years -- to remove us from Iraq entirely so they can better influence the country for their ends.

It once seemed that Iraq could be a strategic ally and base for our influence in the Middle East; it now may become both those things for our foremost enemy in the region. The Iranians must think they either are very lucky or -- more likely very good. The announcement of our total withdrawal comes just weeks after the revelation of an Iranian plot to execute the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on our soil. It comes as Iran's key Arab ally, the Assad regime in Syria, is rocked by a revolt. Just as Tehran's dangerousness is put in stark relief and as events in Syria threaten to deal it a strategic setback, it gets this windfall.

The Obama administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth on Iraq. On the one hand, it says the total withdrawal is the blessed advent of one of President Obama's most cherished campaign promises, proof of how committed he's always been to ending the Iraq War. On the other, it says on background that this is all the Iraqis' fault, that we wanted to maintain troops on the ground after 2011 but the Iraqis wouldn't budge. It appears that the first factor played into the second -- the administration's lack of commitment to Iraq was the crucial backdrop to its poor handling of inherently difficult negotiations with the Iraqis.

To continue to maintain troops in Iraq after the expiration of the current deal for our presence at the end of the year, we needed the Iraqis to agree to give our troops immunity. This is obviously always a sensitive issue. And negotiations with the Iraqis over almost anything tend to drag out to the breaking point. None of this should have necessarily deep-sixed a deal, given how many top Iraqi leaders say privately that they want to keep American forces in the country. The Obama administration foolishly insisted that the Iraqi Council of Representatives endorse an immunity deal, a political impossibility. But it's hard to believe that if the administration truly wanted to make a deal happen it couldn't have worked something out with enough patience and ingenuity.

Instead, President Obama took to the podium on Friday for a snap announcement of the end of the war. His commanders on the ground wanted to keep more than 20,000 troops in Iraq (the administration had bid this number down to several thousand, perhaps convincing Iraqi political players that cutting a painful deal on immunity wouldn't have enough of a corresponding upside). Such a force would have enhanced our political leverage in Baghdad, checked Iran's already considerable influence, ensured against a return of al-Qaeda, and helped keep a lid on Arab-Kurdish tensions in the north. Now, we'll simply have to hope for the best. Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis McDonough said Iraq is "secure, stable, and self-reliant." It is none of these things. Its government is still inchoate and it is not capable of defending itself from Iran in the air or on the ground.

Our pullout is a bonanza for Tehran. Its militias were already active in Iraq. Now, it can use Iraq for bases for its proxy forces to spread its tentacles in the rest of the Persian Gulf. Independent ayotollahs in Iraq will have an incentive to keep their heads down. Political decisions of the Iranian-influenced Shiite bloc running the country are sure to begin to tilt more and more Iran's way. Our diplomatic leverage will diminish, even as maintain our largest embassy in the world in Baghdad. The Iranians will crow in Iraq and throughout the region that they were right that the Americans would eventually leave.

We expended a great deal of blood and treasure to topple Saddam Hussein, and then to establish enough order so that George W. Bush's successor would only have to consolidate our gains. President Obama is careless enough to risk throwing it all away, and shameless enough to call it success.

In short, Obama didn't try very hard to get a better deal because he doesn't really care and most likely made his decision based more on how it would look for his reelection prospects, and if you don't think this is a victory for Iran you're dreaming.

Update

Max Boot nails it:

If there is one constant of American military history it is that the longer our troops stay in a country the better the prospects of a successful outcome. Think of Germany, Italy, Japan or South Korea. Conversely when U.S. troops rush for the exits hard-won wartime gains can quickly evaporate. Think of the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, post-1933 (and post-1995) Haiti, post-1972 Vietnam, or, more recently, post-1983 Lebanon and post-1993 Somalia.

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October 22, 2011

The Obama Economic and Fiscal Record

Today's Questions for the President
National Review

October 21, 2011 10:24 A.M.

By Peter Kirsanow

In a December, 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey, you graded your own job performance as "a good, solid B+." You added that "if I get health care passed, we tip into A-." Obamacare has since passed.

* The '"misery index" today is at its highest level in 28 years.
* The unemployment rate has been above 9 percent for 27 of the last 29 months.
* Long-term unemployment is at its highest level in more than 70 years.
* The national debt is $14.8 trillion -- nearly $5 trillion more than four years ago.
* The federal deficit is $1.3 trillion -- more than eight times higher than four years ago.
* Federal spending is $3.57 trillion -- nearly $1 trillion more than four years ago.
* The United States' credit rating has been downgraded for the first time in history.
* You spent $814 billion on a stimulus program so unemployment wouldn't rise above 8 percent and would drop to 6.5 percent by today. Since then, unemployment has never dropped below 8 percent and is 9.1 percent today.
* A record 45 million Americans (nearly one in seven) use the food-stamp program -- 20 million more than four years ago.
* A record 3.8 million foreclosures were filed last year.
* Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.

In an interview with Jake Tapper a few days ago, you didn't give yourself a specific grade but stated that you "believe all the choices we've made have been the right ones." Is it correct to assume, then, that you were actually shooting for the above results?

What might the above figures be if you had made just one wrong choice? What would the above figures have to be in order for you to give yourself a "D" ?

How long was the wait list for your constitutional-law class?

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October 19, 2011

Obama On Occupy Wall Street: "We are on their side"

When President Obama speaks about the Occupy Wall Street crowd he is "on their side:"

"The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side, and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you're supposed to do, is rewarded," Obama tells ABC News. "And that people who are irresponsible, who are reckless, who don't feel a sense of obligation to their communities and their companies and their workers that those folks aren't rewarded."

Ok then, now that he's gone on record as supporting them, what are they all about?

Polling the Occupy Wall Street Crowd
In interviews, protesters show that they are leftists out of step with most American voters. Yet Democrats are embracing them anyway.

The Wall Street Journal
October 18, 2011

By DOUGLAS SCHOEN

President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement--and it may cost them the 2012 election.

Last week, senior White House adviser David Plouffe said that "the protests you're seeing are the same conversations people are having in living rooms and kitchens all across America. . . . People are frustrated by an economy that does not reward hard work and responsibility, where Wall Street and Main Street don't seem to play by the same set of rules." Nancy Pelosi and others have echoed the message.

Yet the Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people--and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform.

The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.

Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.

The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%).

An overwhelming majority of demonstrators supported Barack Obama in 2008. Now 51% disapprove of the president while 44% approve, and only 48% say they will vote to re-elect him in 2012, while at least a quarter won't vote.

Fewer than one in three (32%) call themselves Democrats, while roughly the same proportion (33%) say they aren't represented by any political party.

What binds a large majority of the protesters together--regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education--is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.

Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement--no matter the cost. By a large margin (77%-22%), they support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but 58% oppose raising taxes for everybody, with only 36% in favor. And by a close margin, protesters are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary (49%) or unnecessary (51%).

Thus Occupy Wall Street is a group of engaged progressives who are disillusioned with the capitalist system and have a distinct activist orientation. Among the general public, by contrast, 41% of Americans self-identify as conservative, 36% as moderate, and only 21% as liberal. That's why the Obama-Pelosi embrace of the movement could prove catastrophic for their party.

In 1970, aligning too closely with the antiwar movement hurt Democrats in the midterm election, when many middle-class and working-class Americans ended up supporting hawkish candidates who condemned student disruptions. While that 1970 election should have been a sweep against the first-term Nixon administration, it was instead one of only four midterm elections since 1938 when the president's party didn't lose seats.

With the Democratic Party on the defensive throughout the 1970 campaign, liberal Democrats were only able to win on Election Day by distancing themselves from the student protest movement. So Adlai Stevenson III pinned an American flag to his lapel, appointed Chicago Seven prosecutor Thomas Foran chairman of his Citizen's Committee, and emphasized "law and order"--a tactic then employed by Ted Kennedy, who denounced the student protesters as "campus commandos" who must be repudiated, "especially by those who may share their goals."

Today, having abandoned any effort to work with the congressional super committee to craft a bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction, President Obama has thrown in with those who support his desire to tax oil companies and the rich, rather than appeal to independent and self-described moderate swing voters who want smaller government and lower taxes, not additional stimulus or interference in the private sector.

Rather than embracing huge new spending programs and tax increases, plus increasingly radical and potentially violent activists, the Democrats should instead build a bridge to the much more numerous independents and moderates in the center by opposing bailouts and broad-based tax increases.

Put simply, Democrats need to say they are with voters in the middle who want cooperation, conciliation and lower taxes. And they should work particularly hard to contrast their rhetoric with the extremes advocated by the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

Mr. Schoen, who served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton, is author of "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond," forthcoming from Rowman and Littlefield.

There are five possibilities: One, President Obama is woefully ignorant of the OWS movement. Two, he makes off-the-cuff statements without thinking through the implications. Three, that he actually agrees with them. Four, he knows he is losing the left and is pandering to them. Five, that the reporter just happened to interview the very few radicals in the crowd and somehow missed that the vast majority are normal middle class suburbanites who just want a better life for them and their children.

Ok that last one was a joke. My guess is that it's a combination of the first three. Either way, he looks bad.

For what it's worth I've been to a few dozen right-wing and left-wing rallies and protests in and around Washington DC. See "Rallies and Protests" and "Walter Reed" under Categories at right. My observation is that right-wingers are a lot better behaved, do not carry signs with vulgar messages, clean up after themselves,and dress as normal people dress. The leftists are the opposite in every regard.

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August 4, 2011

Spare Us the Sermons, Mr. President

Once again, VDH hits it out of the park

Spare Us the Sermons, Mr. President
And explain why your policies aren't working.
National Review
August 4, 2011
Victor Davis Hanson

During the recent debt crisis, President Obama talked about the need for bipartisan compromise and, as in the past, he urged civility. Giving ground and engaging in polite discourse, of course, can be noble aims. But, like most one-eyed-jack politicians, Obama has rarely embraced the admirable qualities he advocates -- a fact increasingly evident to a skeptical public.

In 2006, then-senator Obama voted against the Bush administration's request to raise the debt ceiling -- when the national debt was about 60 percent of what it is now. He did not show up for similar votes in 2007 and 2008. In that regard, Senate majority leader Harry Reid opposed every request when Republicans were in control of the Senate to raise the debt ceiling. Of course, such an unthinking party-line voter is exactly the sort of partisan senator or congressman that President Obama now deplores.

In fact, in 2007 the National Journal found that Obama's voting record was the most partisan in the entire U.S. Senate -- farther to the hard-line left than the Senate's only self-described socialist, Bernie Sanders, and more predictably partisan than even the most consistently conservative senator that year, Jim DeMint. At the time, Senator Obama unapologetically wished to advance a hardcore liberal agenda, and he saw no reason to backtrack from it or compromise on it.

President Obama has repeatedly derided the sort of Republican partisanship that led the current minority party in the Senate to filibuster some of his appointments -- most prominently his nomination of Goodwin Liu to the federal bench. But Senator Obama not long ago strongly advocated such partisan obstructionism; while out of power he praised the filibuster as much as he now deplores it while in power. Indeed, he joined a filibuster to deny votes on the nominations of both Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court and John Bolton to the U.N. ambassadorship.

After the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.), President Obama made yet another call for a new civility, urging us all to tone down our partisan rhetoric. But slash-and-burn talk is unfortunately the mother's milk of politics -- and no one knows that better than Chicago politician and apparent amnesiac Barack Obama, who as a state legislator, U.S. senator, and president has always excelled in the use of uncivil rhetoric and personal invective.

During the last three years, in almost every debate -- deficit reduction, taxes, illegal immigration -- Obama has smeared the motives of his political opponents. He suggested that critics of illegal immigration wished to add moats and alligators to help close the border and that they planned to arrest parents and children on their way to get ice cream. He advised that Latinos "should punish our enemies." He accused opponents who wanted balanced budgets of abandoning children suffering from autism and Down syndrome.

Obama's partisan rhetoric has always been rough. He called his political adversaries on taxes and the debt "hostage takers" who engaged in "hand-to-hand combat," and needed to be relegated to the proverbial back seat. Obama even suggested that AIG executives were metaphorical terrorists: "They've got a bomb strapped to them and they've got their hand on the trigger."

In an appeal to voters, Obama urged that they not act calmly, but get angry: "I don't want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry!" The polarizing talk was the logical follow-up to his campaign hype of 2008, when he ridiculed the "clingers" of Pennsylvania, called on his supporters to confront his opponents and "get in their face," and at one point even boasted, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." His jokes about Nancy Reagan and the Special Olympics were needlessly tasteless and crass.

Obama's inflammatory language and tough metaphors are not all that unusual in the American political tradition. But what is odd is that a habitual participant in brass-knuckles political combat should call for the sort of civility that he himself did not and will not abide by.

We are now engaged in a continuing debate about debt, taxes, and spending. Both sides have vastly different ideas about how to solve our financial problems, and they will continue to embrace tough talk to win over public opinion to their respective sides. We hope for the best argumentation but expect the worst -- democratic politics being what it is. And President Obama, the past master of bare-fisted partisan invective, knows that better than anyone.

So spare us any more of the bottled piety, Mr. President. Instead, just make the argument to the public that borrowing $4 billion a day is still necessary and sustainable -- and explain how it came to be that this post-recession recovery on your watch is the weakest since World War II.

-- Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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May 19, 2011

There will be no Peace in the Middle East and Obama is an Idiot Part Five Million

In The World Turned Upside Down, British author Melanie Phillips says that one's view of the Middle East is a sure guide to their view of the world. If someone believes that Israel, despite her faults, is generally on the side of what is right, good, and true, and that the Palestinians and Arabs are mostly at fault, that person can be counted on to have a rational view of the world. If, on the other hand, they see Israel as the oppressor, equate it's policies with apartheid, and see the Palestinians as victims, they are almost always "moral and cultural and relativists who invert truth and lies, right and wrong over a wide range of issues, and are incapable of seeing that their beliefs do not accord with reality."

That so many take that latter view is why indeed the world is, as Phillips says, turned upside down. Take today's news:

Obama prods Mideast allies to embrace reform, make peace
The Washington Post
by Scott Wilson
May 19, 2011

President Obama prodded Israel on Thursday to pursue a peace deal with the Palestinians based on boundaries defined more than half a century ago, the first time an American president has articulated such a stance, and urged Arab governments to carry out the democratic reforms their citizens have demanded.
...

The president pressed Israel, in unusually frank terms, to reach a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, citing the boundaries in place on the eve of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War as the starting point for negotiation about borders.

The formulation goes beyond principles outlined by President George W. Bush, who stated during his first term that "it is unrealistic to expect" Israel to pull back to the 1967 boundaries, which were based on cease-fire lines established in 1949. Obama said the negotiations about final borders, which he indicated may include land swaps to accommodate Israel's large settlement blocs, should result in "a viable Palestine, a secure Israel."

Which is completely impossible with an Israel confined to the 1967 borders. If an independent Palestinian state was to be formed, especially one in which Hamas had a role, all we'd end up with is yet another terrorist state dedicated to the eradication of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows this perfectly well. From an Associated Press story carried in the Washington Times today:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday rejected a key aspect of President Obama's Middle East policy speech, saying that a return to his country's 1967 borders would spell disaster for the Jewish state.

In a statement released late Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu called the 1967 lines "indefensible."

I have been to Israel. I stood on a mounaintop on the Golan Heights and looked out into Syria. I went through part of the "West Bank" and saw the so-called "settlements." You don't have to be a military genius to know that it would be pretty easy to overrun the country if you broke through a line or two of defense. And with their rocket arsenals Hizbollah and Hamas can pretty much hit the whole of Israel - weapons Egypt and Syria did not have in 1967 and 1973.

We've heard recently of a "reconciliation" agreement between Fatah/Palestinian Authority and Hamas. If true, this spells a serious shift toward radicalism/Jihadism/rejectionism whatever you want to call it, but it's bad news for Israel.

Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Post, explains how the Obama Administration and our lovely European "allies" have responded:

Mahmoud Abbas's formula for war
The Washington Post
by Jackson Diehl
May 18, 2011

The Obama administration and its allies appear suitably alarmed by all this. But their principal reaction so far might be summed up as, "Now we really have to put the screws to Netanyahu."

"It's more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table," Obama declared after a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah on Tuesday. Senior European diplomats who have recently phoned or met with Netanyahu have made clear what that means: Unless he can engage Abbas in negotiations before September, their governments will probably vote for the U.N. declaration of statehood.

Embedded in these demands is what might be called the soft bigotry of wishful thinking about Arab strongmen. U.S. and European leaders indulgently swallow the private assurances they receive from suit-wearing, English-speaking men like Abbas, rather than judging them by their actual behavior.

Insanity.

And someone needs to remind our president that Egypt, the military colossus of the Arab world, is under new management. The Muslim Brotherhood may not end up in total control, but it will have a lot of influence, and they will never agree to anything other than the total destruction of Israel.

Meanwhile, not too far away, Iran marches on towards acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to put them on. It may we awhile yet before they have that capability, but given enough time, it'll happen.

It is true, as Charles Krauthammer points out, that the idea of returning to the 1967 borders has "been the working premise for negotiations since 2000. But no president had ever before publicly and explicitly endorsed the 1967 lines." This because they know that although it's all very nice in theory in practice it could only lead to disaster.

Elliot Abrams gets it right:

Obama's Empty Speech
In "balanced" terms, Obama treated Assad as a potential democrat, and proposed a non-plan for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
National Review
by Elliot Abrams
May 19, 2011

(Obama's) idea was to put off Jerusalem and refugees, two impossible issues, and instead negotiate borders and security. But in fact, the border issues in the farther northern and southern areas are often simple, and most of the time the Israeli security fence is actually on or very near the 1949 armistice line, often mistakenly called "the 1967 border." The far harder matter is the Jerusalem area, and if Jerusalem is not solved, borders cannot be solved. It won't work. Nor will it work to solve security issues in isolation from others, such as whether Palestinians really accept the permanent existence of the Jewish state at all. Hamas's prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said last week he had "great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine," and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said, "We will never give up the right of return," by which he means flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees." In 2004 President Bush told Prime Minister Sharon that "an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel." That Bush position, contained in a letter to Prime Minister Sharon, was then endorsed by both houses of Congress. President Obama's failure to restate it will rightly strike Israelis as a dangerous shift in position, and one can only hope that he clarifies the matter when he addresses AIPAC on Sunday.

The Israelis aren't going to give up what they call Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") because they know it would put their very existence at risk. The Palestinians don't just want a homeland, they want to eradicate Israel. Everyone in the Middle East understands these two realities. Why can't Obama?

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April 4, 2011

Strange Contradictions Over Libya

VDH sees through the nonsense spewed by the administration:

Into the Libyan Labyrinth
National Review
Victor Davis Hanson
April 1, 2011

We should watch for some very strange things in Libya in the days ahead:

(a) Euros bet on the wrong rebel horse, and if Qaddafi survives, he will surely "renegotiate" his massive oil exports to Europe, or perhaps prefer to deal with the Chinese. So Britain, Italy, and France will become increasing panicky and want us to ratchet things up.

(b) Expect to hear less and less about the UN and the Arab League as Obama, to win, needs more and more to ignore their restrictions on using American ground troops and direct bombing of Libya's assets.

(c) Expect the Left to get increasingly antsy as it weighs the viability of Obama's progressive domestic agenda versus their own humiliation at having to keep still and support a preemptive bombing campaign against a Muslim, Arab, oil-exporting nation, without congressional approval, that was not a national-security threat to the U.S. The Left is going to have to accept Obama's rendering inoperative the UN and Arab League restrictions when he inserts some ground troops or orders some Milosevic-like bombing. His supporters also will have to endure the fact that Obama's prior pledges of "turning over" and "toning down" a war that we would supposedly fight neither on the ground nor by sustained aerial bombardment are simply untrue -- and this on top of everything from the now jim-dandy Guantanamo and A-OK renditions.

(d) We are quickly evolving beyond the choices of both a Mogadishu- or Beirut-like clean skedaddle and a 12-year-Iraq-like-no-fly-zone humanitarian mission, and most likely are considering either bombing Qaddafi like crazy or sending in some troops or both.

Bottom line: It is always a dangerous thing for a president to start a war without Congress, without a consistent mission, without a coherent methodology, without a plausible end game, and without a clue who our rebel allies are or just how strong their opponent actually might be -- contingent on a fickle UN, impotent but oil-enthused allies, and a passive-aggressive Arab world, all to prove a point that we could reinvent our military into a humanitarian rescue force, subordinate to international unelected bodies -- and all the more dangerous during the golfing, basketball-playoffs, and resort seasons.

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March 22, 2011

Confusion Over Libya

I have no idea what the president is trying to achieve in Libya. Tony Blankley doesn't either:

President Obama, March 4: "Let me just be very unambiguous about this. Col. [Moammar] Gadhafi needs to step down from power and leave."

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, March 20: It "isn't about seeing [Col. Gadhafi] go." Asked whether it was possible that the mission's goals could be achieved while leaving Col. Gadhafi in power, Adm. Mullen said, "That's certainly potentially one outcome."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, "It is not about regime change."

Then what is this war about? On Friday, Mr. Obama, in announcing our military intervention, cited as justification that Col. Gadhafi might kill "thousands the region could be destabilized the democratic values that we stand for would be overrun." But he also wanted to be "clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops. We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya."

So we want to topple Gadhafi, but we don't. We are there to protect the civilians, but we're attacking Libyan military installations that have little to do with that objective.

Do we not quit until Gadahfi is gone... or not? If he doesn't leave, how long do we protect the civilians?

Not to worry, though, the Brits are just as confused:

On Sunday, Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, said that targeting Gaddafi personally "would potentially be a possibility" under the terms of the UN resolution. When the same question was put to General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, yesterday, he replied: "Absolutely not. It is not allowed under the UN resolution and it is not something I want to discuss any further."

And the conflict between the UN resolution and Obama's objective is just as bad:

The U.N. Security Council's stated objective is "the immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence." This is entirely incompatible with President Obama's stated objective of getting Moammar Gaddafi "to step down from power and leave." If the violence ends, Gaddafi will not leave. To the contrary, if military intervention succeeds in achieving the United Nations' goal of forcing a cease-fire on the warring parties, it will lock in the status quo on the ground.

Obama's attitude seems to wish that the whole thing would go away. As such, he ran from Washington to South America, where he could be on what amounts to a vacation. Yes, trade with Brazil is important. No it is not more important than a disaster that killed thousands in Japan and a Middle East that is exploding at warp speed.

Obama apparently thought that if he ignored Libya long enough those troublesome foreigners would go away. But the UN passed a resolution, the Arab League wanted a no-fly zone, and France said it wanted to take action. Faced with irrelevancy, Obama had no choice but to go along.

As a result he has inherited a policy rather than made one. Because we are the strongest power, we will bear the brunt of any military action no matter who is nominally "in charge" or "leading."

Right now a lot of things are happening at home and abroad. There are showdowns in several states between Republicans and public sector unions. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are in tense negotiations over the budget. A huge disaster in Japan has killed thousands. Egypt just underwent a revolution, and Libya, Bahrain and Yemen are in the middle of one. Did I miss anything? Iran inches closer to the bomb.

What we need is a president who exerts firm leadership, and instead we have someone who has punted on all of the above. He's more interested in his March Madness picks than in governing. He sent more troops to Afghanistan, but it's clear that he did so reluctantly and his heart isn't in it, something you can be sure the Afghans and Taliban have picked up on (why do you think Hamid Karzai is hedging his bets?).

So now we mount an operation meant to enforce a "no fly zone," but clearly it's gone way beyond that. We're attacking ground targets, military storage depots, and bombing this and that.

As if all this wasn't bad enough, the entire act of going to war against Libya contradicts what candidate Obama said while on the campaign trail:

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

December 2010

But this is exactly what Obama, now as President, has done. He accepts the UN resolution as enough but doesn't see the need to go to Congress.

Finally, if Gadhafi is killed or captured (and that's what it will have to be, he's not leaving), will we go in and at least try to help the rebels set up a decent government? Did we attempt to approach them before the airstrikes with a sort of quid pro quo; we help you overthrow the dictator, give you aid, and you agree to take our advice on x, y, and z when you win. We condition future aid on you setting up a decent government. Did we try that? Sure, they'd probably reneg on at last some of it, and who knows who we're even negotiating with, but you've at least got to try, I'd think.

My position: The president should have formulated a firm policy one way or the other as soon as the Libyan revolution started. He should have exerted strong U.S. leadership for whatever policy he thought best and got other important countries on board. Either immediate strong unilateral intervention or complete hands-off is better than this half-way confused muddle by a disengaged president we have now.

Where will this go? My guess is it "ends" in a sort of stand-off in which Gadhafi controls most of the country but the rebels have an enclave. We continue to fly strikes and patrols for years. Reminds of of another place not too far away, and look what we eventually had to do there.

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March 17, 2011

A Few Quick Comments on Some of the Issues of the Day

Not having much time to blog these days, I won't be able to do my usual in depth analysis of the issues of the day. It's a terrible confluence of events; I get involved in some big projects just as the world goes nuts. On the other hand, while it bugged me greatly for a while to be away from the blog, pretty soon you get used to it. About three of four years ago I decided to just up TV entirely because it was just taking up too much time. For a few weeks I missed my shows, but now I can't imagine going back to it.

The Japanese Nuclear Crisis

Yes the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is serious. Let's also recall that it was hit by not only an earthquake that registered a whopping 9 on the Richter scale, but a tsunami as well. This is not Three Mile Island... which oh by the way didn't kill anyone.

The bigger question is what the effect will be on nuclear power as a source of electricity. One can only despair after looking at the news, which is in full meltdown over the situation. The extreme environmentalists are licking their chops, figuring that (finally!) they can stop new plants from being built and shut down existing ones.

Amazingly, over 50 percent of Americans still think that nuclear power is generally safe. Unfortunately, another poll shows that half of all voters see Obama as being serious about reducing the deficit, so I guess we shouldn't put too much faith in either polls or the intelligence of the American people, take your pick.

The bottom line is that there is no energy source that is free of pitfalls. Nuclear plants run the risk of meltdown. Coal, oil, and natural gas emit greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, which the enviros now tell us is a pollutant (who would have guessed?). There are no more locations for hydrodynamic dams, and solar and wind are a joke. Biofuels based on sugar products, grass, or waste hold some promise, but only barely. Only nuclear and fossil fuels can produce enough electricity to matter, and of course the enviros are against both.

Yes let's make nuclear plants safer. Yes let's learn from this and make sure that if they're in earthquake zones they are more survivable. But we either need them as a power source or the enviros need to stop complaining about fossil fuels.

And yes I would be perfectly fine if they built a nuclear power plant in my neighborhood.

The Libyan Revolution

The unrest started on Feb 15, and within a week or two it was clear that a revolution was under way. Unlike his Egyptian neighbor Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi has decided to stay and fight it out. No doubt the Mubarak left because he lost the support of the army, whereas Ghaddafi has cobbled enough of a force from mercenaries and his own army to put up a good fight. In fact, some say he's winning.

"The world," has mostly told Ghaddafi that shooting his own civilians isn't so good, which is kind of ironic since the government in most of those nations would do the same thing if they felt their rule threatened.

On March 10 France even went so far as to recognize the rebel National Transitional Council as the legitimate government.

Most recently, the UN Security Council has approved a no-fly zone over Libya. "The world" seems to see that something needs to be done. Unlike, that is, our own president. But more on that below.

Gasoline Prices

Gas is about $3.50 a gallon where I live. From what I can see there are two general reasons for the rise; the crisis in the Middle East and our own refusal to exploit our own reserves.

Yes we risk spills if we drill. And no it won't solve all our problems. But if you don't like drilling then come up with your own energy source... and please don't embarrass yourself by talking about electric cars, wind, or solar.

I hear Obama and his advisers want to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Big mistake. One, the reserve was meant for a true crisis, and we're not near that. Two, it's only a short-term solution.

The Federal Budget Standoff

Democrats want to spend, Republicans want to make a few tepid cuts. The entire federal budget is about $3.8 trillion. Republicans want to cut a measly $61 billion, and the Dems a pathetic $6 billion.

Put in context, the Republicans want to cut 61 cents of a budget of 380 dollars, and the Dems 6 cents on the same.

Guess what? The Dems tell us the world will come to an end if we cut any more than $6 billion.

Oh and the deficit is about $1.5 trillion, and by his own projections Obama will have doubled the national debt. But no one aside from those crazy Tea Party types seems to want to do anything about it.

Wisconsin

Chris Christie is getting some competition for status most admired governors among conservatives. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has rode the storm in his state admirably and refused to back down in the face of an unprecedented level of threats and intimidation from union thugs. He kept his party together, and as a result they have achieved the unthinkable; a serious rollback of union abuses.

You don't have to believe everything muckrackers like Upton Sinclair wrote to know that abuses in the workplace were horrendous a hundred or so years ago. I would have been a union organizer myself in the 19th and early 20th centuries. When it comes to coal mines I'm still sympathetic to unions.

But today over 50 percent of union members are white collar workers. The only reason unions were or are needed is to ensure workplace safety and obtain more than starvation wages. There is no reason for labor unions in most work environments today, let alone in white collar environments.

Public sector unions are especially odious, especially so if they have collective bargaining power. The reason is pretty straightforward: The people elect legislators to determine the salaries of public employees. When public sector unions put forth a special representative to bargain with these legislators, they've effectively elected their own special legislator. Worse, they're doing it all with our tax dollars.

This is an usurpation of democracy. The "seat at the table" for public sector employees is and must be only through normally elected legislators. They don't get another seat, or a special representative. If they don't like their salaries they need to work to elect different legislators.

As if this wasn't bad enough, the incredible thuggish behavior of the unions in Wisconsin foretold of what will happen around the country if we do not get a handle on this situation now. As mentioned earlier, while union membership is declining among blue-collar workers it is increasing among public-sector white-collar workers. While workers everywhere should have the right to form an organization (provided they do it on their own time and not at the workplace), the absolutely must not have collective bargaining power.

In the old days there was an implicit agreement in the trade-off of benefits between private and public sector employment. You got higher wages in the private sector, but your job was always somewhat at risk. Public sector employees made less, but had more job security, to the point where in some professions such as teaching you basically have a guaranteed job for life.

Public sector employees now want it all. They want wages equal to or greater than their counterparts in the private sector. The latest rationale is that public sector employees are supposedly more talented and thus deserve more. Besides being arrogant and condescending, such an argument ignores the fact that public sector employment enjoys better job security.

The NPR Scandal

That a few big shots at NPR have whacko leftist views and are willing to take money from the world's biggest Jihadist-terrorist organization is in a way not news. Conservatives have known this for years.

If the big media - "mainstream media" - did their jobs NPR would have been exposed long ago and their funding eliminated. As it is they don't care because with the exception of Fox News and a few other conservative outlets they are only different by degree, not by kind.

The NPR scandal comes on the heals of other citizen-journalist pieces by James O'Keefe and Lila Rose exposing ACORN and Planned Parenthood. What's amazing, and irritating at the same time, is that all three of these; NPR, ACORN, and Planned Parenthood, were ripe targets just waiting to be picked. Everyone who is not drinking the liberal cool-aide knows they're corrupt. And it was so easy to trip them up. If a few ordinary young folks could do it with cheap store-bought equipment, why can't the big media with their millions of dollars in resources?

Instead of introspection on such questions, though, we are treated to idiotic pieces about how "There is no ethical canon or tradition that would excuse such deception on the part of a professional journalist." Yeah that's the important part.

What's scary is what the liberal media must have gotten away with in the days before the internet.

Where's Obama?

So where's our president? Dithering, of course. Playing golf. Going to fundraisers. Consulting with Michelle over this year's vegetable garden. Having fun being president, I guess, but whatever he's up to the issues of the day don't seem to concern him.

His supposedly pro-nuclear power secretary of energy is mostly silent on nuclear power.

He doesn't seem to care a whit about Libya. He and his SecState are always "consulting," but this is a process, not a policy. We have no policy. The UN can pass any resolution it wants about no-fly zones, but we all know that only the US can enforce it.

Worse, he seems to treat foreign policy problems as annoyances, not concerns that should be at the front and center for any president. The only thing that seems to bother him are Israeli "settlements" on the West Bank.

Union thugs? He's behind them. Some on the right say it's all about the money and donations to the Democrat Party, but it's more than that. Public sector unions are integral to his plan to bring European-style socialism to this country.

Before the election Obama told us that "under my plan... electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." If that's his plan for electricity, why should he think any differently for gasoline?

And the budget? He's AWOL on that too, letting the Dems in Congress do the negotiating for him.

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December 7, 2010

The Tax Deal is a Good Deal

President Obama and Congressional Republicans reached a deal which will extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels while also extending unemployment benefits. There were spending reductions to match the tax cuts, and there is no plan to pay for the unemployment benefits:

* Extends unemployment insurance for 13 months. Two million workers in December, and 7 million over the next year, would have lost benefits otherwise.
* Provides a one-year, 2% reduction in employees' Social Security payroll taxes, lowering the rate from 6.2% to 4.2%, at a cost of $120 billion.
* Keeps the Earned Income Tax Credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit increases from last year's economic stimulus law, for another $40 billion in tax cuts for families and students.
* Allows business to write off 100% of their capital purchases next year.
* Sets the estate tax at 35% for two years, with a $5 million asset limit that's higher than last year's $3.5 million.

Economically, the tax cuts will help the economy, or at least not extending them would certainly hurt it. At (I think) 99 weeks unemployment benefits are too long anyway, and at that point I think all they do is reduce the incentive to find work.

Contrary to what some knee-jerk supply siders say, tax cuts do not always pay for themselves. In the long run sometimes they do, but not always, because it depends where you are on the Phillips Curve.

Politically, you don't have to go far to see that most Republicans and conservatives generally like the compromise, while Democrats and the liberal base hate it. Much, much, more importantly, Obama doesn't seem to like it.

That alone tells me it was a good deal!

Obama's Base Seems to Hate the Deal

Powerline reports that

A poll conducted by Survey USA provides a sense of the left's dismay at the tax deal President Obama agreed to. Survey USA polled 1,000 people who contributed time or money to the Obama presidential campaign. 74 percent strongly oppose the deal and 57 percent say they are less likely to contribute in 2012 to Democrats who support it.

President Obama Gets Angry!

I haven't found a video that I can post here, but I will post excerpts of the transcript of his press conference on the deal. Various news reports describe the president as "visibly angry." I have underlined the most interesting parts, where Obama describes Republicans as hostage takers and bomb throwers and says that he is itching for a fight:

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Before I answer a few questions, I just wanted to say a few words about the agreement we've reached on tax cuts.

My number one priority is to do what's right for the American people, for jobs, and for economic growth. I'm focused on making sure that tens of millions of hardworking Americans are not seeing their paychecks shrink on January 1st just because the folks here in Washington are busy trying to score political points.
...

Q (Chuck Todd) Mr. President, what do you say to Democrats who say you're rewarding Republican obstruction here? You yourself used in your opening statement they were unwilling to budge on this. A lot of progressive Democrats are saying they're unwilling to budge, and you're asking them to get off the fence and budge. Why should they be rewarding Republican obstruction?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me use a couple of analogies. I've said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts. I think it's tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.
,,,

Q Tell that to the left -- they weren't happy --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, but that's my point. My point is I don't make judgments based on what the conventional wisdom is at any given time. I make my judgments based on what I think is right for the country and for the American people right now.

And I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I'm itching for a fight on a whole range of issues. I suspect they will find I am. And I think the American people will be on my side on a whole bunch of these fights. But right now I want to make sure that the American people aren't hurt because we're having a political fight, and I think that this agreement accomplishes that.
...

Q (Marc Ambinder)Just in the sense that they'll say essentially we're not going to raise the -- we're not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you're willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have --

THE PRESIDENT: Look, here's my expectation -- and I'll take John Boehner at his word -- that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That's something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he's going to have responsibilities to govern. You can't just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

What language! How angry! How... prickly.

The Root of Obama's Problem

Barack Obama never had any difficult election races, and is used to people adoring him. No, he's used to them fawning over him. So when the going gets tough, he has no idea what to do. He's not used to having to negotiate from a position of relative weakness and doesn't know how to do it.

Most conservatives and happy with the deal and most liberals are angry because, as Ezra Klein points out, Republicans got that the things that "they really, really wanted," wheras liberals are angry because "Obama and the Democrats didn't fight" for what they gave up but simply caved at the first opportunity. Klein tries to put a happy face on the whole thing, but he's not convincing.

Will Congress Support The Deal?

In the end the leadership of both sides can make any deal they want, but if the rank and file won't support it the whole thing collapses. I don't think we have a solid feel for where this is going, but my guess is it'll probably pass, though it may get changed a bit.

Tea Party Senator Jim DeMint opposes the deal, objecting that the unemployment benefits must be paid for, and that the tax cuts should be paid for.

But just as important, Rep. Ryan (R., Wis.), who is very influential in conservative-Tea Party circles, likes the deal, reasoning that "All things considered, I think it's the best deal we were going to get. It's clearly not a good as we would've wanted, but far better than the alternative route."

House Speaker and Minority-Leader to be Nancy Pelosi says she opposes the deal, saying that "the estate tax in the bill is a bridge too far."

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) doesn't like it either: "I don't think it's a fair deal. I think a ransom was paid, and it was a very high price."

As for the rest of the Democrats, NRO reports that "Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) tells reporters that the just-complete Democratic conference lunch with Vice President Biden was "difficult," but there is "no rebellion . . . not yet.""

Conclusion

I'm happier with the politics than the economics of the deal, although extending the tax cuts for all income earners will help the economy (or keep it from getting worse). The politics count, because getting that right paves the way to future victories.

Byron York explains how the Democrats were hoist by their own petard, having boxed themselves into this position by refusing to pass a budget this year. Essentially, they outsmarted themselves and are paying the price.

The Republicans look like they're in a better spot, but that will change if Boehner and McConnell can't keep their troops in order. But the leftist Obama base is angry, and that can only be a good thing.


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December 6, 2010

The Wikileaks Scandal Shows the Obama Administration to be "Shallow, and "Amateurish'

In part of yesterday's post about the growing Wikileaks challenge I blogged about how Wikileaks leader Julian Assange had distributed a "poison pill" document across the Internet. Assange said he would release the key to what he implied were very sensitive documents if he was arrested or his website brought down.

In other words, he is blackmailing us. The thing about blackmailers, though, is that they keep upping the ante. Buying them off, then, only works in the short term.

And we're seeing today that short-term to Assange is about 24 hours. Today's news informs us that

(Dec. 6) -- WikiLeaks has released a list of "critical" industries and assets around the world, from vaccine factories in Belgium to oil pipelines in Georgia, that the U.S. considers vital to its national security...

"There are strong and valid reasons information is classified, including critical infrastructure and key resources that are vital to the national and economic security of any country," said Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state, The Times of London reported. "[WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange may be directing his efforts at the United States, but he is placing the interests of many countries and regions at risk. This is irresponsible."

No kidding. Now let's do something about it.

But because we have dallied and dithered, the wolves circle, baring their fangs. Imitators see that the United States can be bullied. This story from the New York Times is simply incredible:

Hundreds of WikiLeaks Mirror Sites Appear
Dec 5, 2010
By Ravi Somaiya

LONDON -- The battle lines between supporters of the whistle-blowing Web site WikiLeaks and its detractors began to form on Sunday, as supporters erected numerous copies of the site on the Internet and the United States put pressure on Switzerland not to offer a haven to the site's founder, Julian Assange.

Since several major Internet companies cut off services to WikiLeaks in recent days, activists have created hundreds of mirror sites, Web sites that host exact copies of another site's content, making censorship difficult.

The collective Anonymous, an informal but notorious group of hackers and activists, also declared war on Sunday against enemies of Mr. Assange, calling on supporters to attack sites companies that do not support WikiLeaks and to spread the leaked material online.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Topping even the above insanity is this from CBS News:

WikiLeaks' Assange Continues Assault on U.S. Officials
December 5, 2010
CBS staff

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continued his assault on U.S. government officials, calling for President Obama to resign if it is proven that he approved of spying on UN officials by U.S. diplomats.

Assange told El Pais, "The whole chain of command who was aware of this order, and approved it, must resign if the US is to be seen to be a credible nation that obeys the rule of law. The order is so serious it may well have been put to the president for approval."

If Obama did in fact approve spying on the UN then I say give him a medal.

What's incredible is that Assange things that is a bad thing and that it's so terrible and or unusual or whatever.

I remember in 1979 after the Iranian "students" had seized our embassy, and they used as their justification that we had been using the embassy for spying. I remember thinking "yes, and your point is?"

The Obama Administration is "Naive" and Amateurish"

Say what you will about former Speaker Gingrich, in this case he nails it:

Gingrich: Leaks show Obama administration 'shallow,' 'amateurish'
By Shane D'Aprile
2/05/10 10:59 AM ET

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday that President Obama and the White House deserve a large share of the blame for the massive amounts of classified information revealed through WikiLeaks.

Gingrich said the leaks are "a scandal of the first order" and that they demonstrate the Obama administration is "shallow" and "amateurish" when it comes to national security.

"You have a private first class who downloads a quarter million documents, and the system doesn't say, 'Oh, you may be over extended?' I mean, this is a system so stupid that it ought to be a scandal of the first order," Gingrich said. "This administration is so shallow and so amateurish about national security that it is painful and dangerous."

He also said the U.S needs to act fast in shutting down WikiLeaks and finding Julian Assange. "Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism, and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism," said Gingrich. "He should be treated as an enemy combatant."

Bingo.

And think whatever you want of former Ambassador John Bolton too, but he gets to the heart of the problem with this administration:

WikiLeaks cables: Barack Obama is a bigger danger
The Guardian
by John Bolton
December 5, 2010

WikiLeaks has yet again flooded the internet with thousands of classified American documents, this time state department cables. More troubling than WikiLeaks' latest revelation of US secrets, however, is the Obama administration's weak, wrong-headed and erratic response. Unfortunately, the administration has acted consistently with its demonstrated unwillingness to assert and defend US interests across a wide range of threats, such as Iran and North Korea, which, ironically, the leaked cables amply document....

All of this underscores the real problem. It is not WikiLeaks that ultimately imperils our national security, but the failing Obama administration, which ignores the nature and extent of threats we face, and which is too often unwilling to act to thwart them. While our economic difficulties have dominated the national debate for two years, national security will inevitably again come to the fore, as Americans see the full extent of the devastation left by Obama's policies. That shift cannot come too soon.

No it cannot, Mr Bolton. And I will certainly be doing my part to ensure that the shift takes place.

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December 5, 2010

The Wikileaks Insanity: Obama's Carter Moment?

It's become clear to me that the Obama Administration, and liberals in general, do not realize the danger posed by Julian Assange and his Wikileaks organization. What Wikileaks is doing is positively toxic unless stopped, and stopped in a (brutal) and ruthless manner.

This is so not so much for any specific information that they've revealed, for most of it is more diplomatically embarrassing than anything else.

It's like those situations on the playground when one kid starts to pick on another. The bullies watch to see how the one kid reacts; will he or won't he punch his aggressor? If so, then the bullies will leave him alone. If not, they, too, soon join in the "fun."

This is what is happening around the world. The bullies are watching how Obama is responding to things like the North Korean artillery attack and the constant releasing of our secrets by Wikileaks. If we respond weekly, the bullies will see it as a green light for them to move ahead with their nefarious agendas.

Given that the first Wikileaks release was over four months ago, they're starting to draw the conclusion that Barack Obama is another Jimmy Carter.

The time Obama has to change this growing perception is dangerously short.

As of this writing there have been absolutely no consequences to anyone involved with Wikileaks. The most our government can do is have State Dept Legal Advisor Harold Koh write what amounts to a "cease and desist" letter, which the Wikileaks people promptly denounced.

Professor William Jacobson describes some consequences of our inaction that will really end up being the least or our worries:

Whether or not someone gets killed as a direct result of a Wikileaks disclosure, the damage to our country is deep, as allies and sources among enemies will stop cooperating with us for fear of exposure, our diplomats will be hesitant to speak frankly with headquarters, and our intelligence on al-Qaeda and others will be compromised.

These are the sorts of things that each in and of itself won't make front-page news. To be sure, there is the danger of one of the rogue nations of the world; Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, etc, doing something dramatic, but just as bad in the long run is the slow, almost unnoticed on a daily basis, erosion of our ability to conduct foreign policy or have an influence in the world.

Much more serious consequences are laid out by Victor Kotsev in the Asia Times (h/t Belmont Club:

The worst-case scenario for the American administration would be if the violence in the Korean Peninsula escalated and it could not find an appropriate way to save face and de-escalate the confrontation. ...

This still outlines only the start of the potential ripple effect. The situation of several other American allies is already so bad that they hardly even need a Korean paradigm to despair. Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, for example, just went hat-in-hand to Tehran and started a diatribe against Israel, in an apparent sign that he is ready to toe the Iranian line if that is what it will take to ensure his survival.

n Iraq, the Western-backed Iyad Allawi was elbowed out of forming a government by his Iran-backed Shi'ite rivals despite winning the popular election earlier this year. In Afghanistan, an already-alienated President Hamid Karzai is looking on as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization effort to prop him up continues. ... In Yemen, too, the government is getting desperate against al-Qaeda militants and Iran-backed Houtini rebels, and, according to some reports, is considering playing both sides.

The bully boys are licking their chops, and potential victims are looking for protection by anyone but the United States. The danger from the bully states is exacerbated by the Findlanization of the weaker ones.

The Latest Wikileaks Challenge

Fox News:

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has circulated across the internet an encrypted "poison pill" cache of uncensored documents suspected to include files on BP and Guantanamo Bay.

One of the files identified this weekend by The Sunday Times -- called the "insurance" file -- has been downloaded from the WikiLeaks website by tens of thousands of supporters, from America to Australia....

One of the key files available for download -- named insurance.aes256 -- appears to be encrypted with a 256-digit key. Experts said last week it was virtually unbreakable.
Assange has warned he can divulge the classified documents in the insurance file and similar backups if he is detained or the WikiLeaks website is permanently removed from the internet. He has suggested the contents are unredacted, posing a possible security risk for coalition partners around the world.

Assange is holding the United States, and indeed all civilized countries hostage; either we allow him the freedom to continue his activities or he will release damaging material.

How we respond is critical.

We Have No Choice

If we do nothing, Assange will continue to release documents. He might not release the worst, at least not now, but we must be under no illusion that we can buy long-term security by leaving him along. We would get a short term benefit, yes, in that the material would not be released.

If we act strongly to take him down and permanently ensure that the Wikileaks team is out of business, the contents of insurance.aes256 and no doubt other files will be released. This will be damaging to be sure.

But it will also show other would be Wikileaks imitators that there the cost to such activities is a lifetime in Supermax. It will also teach the bully nations that we are not to be trifled with and that they must keep their actions in check. The weaker nations will be reassured, and will look to the United States for guidance and protection.

Update

Yes I aware the Wikileaks released it's first document in December of 2006, when George W. Bush was president. But if you look at their pre-2010 releases any but the most rabid pro-Obama partisan will have to agree that they did not really harm our national security. Their releases this year, however, have been exponentially more important and damaging.

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September 4, 2010

Does Obama Even Care About Iraq or Afghanistan?

Last week President Obama gave a major address about the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq. It was remarkable for his lack of passion on the subject, and that he used the opportunity to segue into domestic issues. When he announced his new Afghanistan strategy last year, he did so in a half-hearted speech in which it was clear that his heart wasn't in it. It was as if he was only sending the additional 30,000 troops because he felt he was pushed into doing so, not because he really cared.

This from one of the great orators of our day. The President saves his soaring rhetoric for healthcare and stimulus spending. I understand that Obama, like most presidents, has domestic issues as his primary focus. But that's no excuse, for as Charles Krauthammer says, most presidents don't get to decide whether they become wartime leaders or not.

Our Distracted Commander-in-Chief
Some presidents may not like being wartime leaders. But they don't get to decide; history does.
September 3, 2010 12:00 A.M.
Charles Krauthammer

Many have charged that President Obama's decision to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan ten months from now is hampering our war effort. But now it's official. In a stunning statement last week, Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Conway admitted that the July 2011 date is "probably giving our enemy sustenance."

A remarkably bold charge for an active military officer. It stops just short of suggesting aiding and abetting the enemy. Yet the observation is obvious: It is surely harder to prevail in a war that hinges on the allegiance of the locals when they hear the U.S. president talk of beginning a withdrawal that will ultimately leave them to the mercies of the Taliban.

How did Obama come to this decision? "Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics," an Obama adviser at the time told Peter Baker of the New York Times. "He would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration."

If this is true, then Obama's military leadership can only be called scandalous. During the past week, 22 Americans were killed over a four-day period in Afghanistan. This is not a place about which decisions should be made in order to placate congressmen, pass health-care reform, and thereby maintain a president's political standing. This is a place about which a president should make decisions to best succeed in the military mission he himself has set out.

But Obama sees his wartime duties as a threat to his domestic agenda. These wars are a distraction, unwanted interference with his true vocation -- transforming America.

Such an impression could only have been reinforced when, given the opportunity in his Oval Office address this week to dispel the widespread perception in Afghanistan that America is leaving, Obama doubled down on his ambivalence. After giving a nod to the pace of troop reductions being conditions-based, he declared with his characteristic "but make no mistake" that "this transition will begin -- because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people's."

These are the words of a man who wants out. Most emphatically on Iraq, where from the beginning Obama has made clear that his objective is simply ending combat operations by an arbitrary deadline -- despite the fact that a new government has not been formed and all our hard-won success hangs in the balance -- in order to address the more paramount concern: keeping a campaign promise. Time to "turn the page" and turn America elsewhere.

At first you'd think that turning is to Afghanistan. But Obama added nothing to his previously stated Afghan policy while emphatically reiterating July 2011 as the beginning of the end, or more diplomatically, of the "transition."

Well then, at least you'd then expect some vision of his larger foreign policy. After all, this was his first Oval Office address on the subject. What is the meaning, if any, of the Iraq and Afghan wars? And what of the clouds that are forming beyond those theaters: the drone-war escalation in Pakistan, the rise of al-Qaeda in Yemen, the danger of Somalia falling to al-Shabaab, and the threat of renewed civil war in Islamist Sudan as a referendum on independence for southern Christians and animists approaches?

This was the stage for Obama to explain what follows the now-abolished Global War on Terror. Where does America stand on the spreading threats to stability, decency, and U.S. interests from the Horn of Africa to the Hindu Kush?

On this, not a word. Instead, Obama made a strange and clumsy segue into a pep talk on the economy. Rebuilding it, he declared, "must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as president." This in a speech ostensibly about the two wars he is directing. He could not have made more clear where his priorities lie, and how much he sees foreign policy -- war policy -- as subordinate to his domestic ambitions.

Unfortunately, what for Obama is a distraction is life or death for U.S. troops now on patrol in Kandahar province. Some presidents may not like being wartime leaders. But they don't get to decide. History does. Obama needs to accept the role. It's not just the U.S. military, as Baker reports, that is "worried he is not fully invested in the cause." Our allies, too, are experiencing doubt. And our enemies are drawing sustenance.


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September 1, 2010

Obama's End of Combat Operations in Iraq Speech

From late 2006 on, I covered the Iraq War pretty intently here at Redhunter. I watched and blogged on every press briefing by one of our combat commanders. I listened carefully to what they said, and whether it contradicted what I'd read in the news elsewhere. I paid a lot of attention to the questions the reporters asked, and where they challenged our commanders and where they did not. I read all sorts of analytical pieces, and not too long ago wrote an extensive book review of Kimberly Kagan's The Surge: A Military History. See Iraq and Book Reviews under Categories at right.

None of this makes me an authority on Iraq, but I did pay attention to what was going on.

Last night President Obama gave a major speech marking the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq.

Obama Iraq Speech Aug 2010

Photo and transcript, Los Angeles Times

I don't have time to do an exhaustive review of the address, but following are some excerpts and my thoughts.

The President:

Good evening. Tonight, I'd like to talk to you about the end of our combat mission in Iraq, the ongoing security challenges we face, and the need to rebuild our nation here at home. ...

The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given. They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people. Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future. They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people; trained Iraqi Security Forces; and took out terrorist leaders. Because of our troops and civilians -and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people - Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.

Yes, and no thanks to you, Mr. President.

Does it make me a cad if I point out that while he was still a senator, Obama opposed the surge, saying it wouldn't work?

The fact is that Obama was wrong about the biggest military decision our country has made since the Gulf War.

Not that I expect any politician to apologize and say they were wrong about anything. If they do so, partisans on the other side simply use their apology against them . But you can appeal to the more reasonable members on the other side, and to those in the middle. President Obama could have at least mentioned the surge.

This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office. Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq's Security Forces and support its government and people.

Not exactly. Your plan was to withdraw the troops regardless of whether we had achieved victory over the insurgents or not.

Ending this war is not only in Iraq's interest- it is in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people -a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page.

It is trite to say that "ending x war is not only in y's interest - it is in our own." Ending World War II was in Germany's interest as much as our own, but only because we had defeated the Nazis.

No we did not win because "we" persevered. You and your party bailed on the war sometime in 2004, as I recall. And I don't recall any talk from Democrats then of shared beliefs with the Iraqi people.

More, and I'll say it again; no thanks to you, Mr. President, or your party, that "a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization." If you had had your way we'd have left the Iraqis to fight it out on their own sometime in 2006 if not earlier.

As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It's well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush's support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq's future.

Not nearly as far as I'd have liked him to go, but I'm sure that saying anything good about George W drives the left into paroxysms of rage. Indeed, Newsbusters reports that what little Obama said in the paragraph quoted above drove MSNBC host Rachel Maddow nearly 'round the bend.

Indeed, one of the lessons of our effort in Iraq is that American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone. We must use all elements of our power -including our diplomacy, our economic strength, and the power of America's example -to secure our interests and stand by our allies. And we must project a vision of the future that is based not just on our fears, but also on our hopes -a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist around the world, but also the limitless possibility of our time.

Yes, and I've said this ad nauseum. It's fair to say that our initial approach to Iraq was military-centric, though again in fairness we were told by the anti-war people that it would be a huge challenge just to defeat the Iraqi Army in the initial invasion (remember the "Battle of Baghdad" that so many predicted, and how the Iraqi Army would wall off the city and it would take us weeks or months to break through?)

Although it was difficult the U.S. military changed it's doctrine and figured out that we weren't going to win the war just by killing the bad guys. It took time to develop a true counterinsurgency doctrine and put the right diplomats in place, but we eventually did it.

But while civilians are vital, they can only do their work after the military objectives have been met. The proper order is and must be; defeat the enemy in the field first, then the political process can start and the economy can be rebuilt. In 2006/7 the left insisted it be the other way around and they were simply proven wrong.

Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy. We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil.

I guess someone told him that the economy was an issue.

Although of course he did not do so, Barack Obama has much to thank George W. Bush for. By winning the war he mostly took the issue off of the table, and for the time being at least we don't have to worry about "another South Vietnam" and tens of thousands of "boat people." seeking refugee status. There won't be another Khmer Rouge and mass murder in that region, at least not soon and not in Iraq.

But despite our military victory, we can still lose the peace in Iraq. The politicians are deadlocked, and no new government has been formed. A war with Iran could set of sectarian violence. The status of the Kurds has not really been resolved. A million things could go wrong.

This is why it is so important that President Obama not simply declare "mission accomplished" as Bush did and walk away from Iraq, thinking that a caretaker force will wrap things up. He must stay engaged, think strategically, and realize that for all the trouble he has domestically, a foreign disaster could destroy his presidency. There is much at stake, for Iraqis and for us.

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August 18, 2010

Obama's Post-American Moment

Last Friday, at the White House Ramadan Dinner President Obama endorsed the plan.

"Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground," Obama said at a White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. "But let me be clear: As a citizen and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances."

Then on Saturday he flipped again

But on Saturday, Obama seemed to contradict himself, telling reporters at one point, "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about. And I think it's very important, as difficult as some of these issues are, that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about."

Unfortunately for the President, the New York Times has the scoop in a story last Friday:

Aides to Mr. Obama say privately that he has always felt strongly about the proposed community center and mosque, but the White House did not want to weigh in until local authorities made a decision on the proposal, planned for two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

At best this is yet another example of how Obama is now out of touch with the American people. At worst is shows that he really is a post-American president. Sadly, I'm inclined toward the latter view.

Americans as a whole always give a new president every chance to prove himself. Indeed as often as not a majority of the opposition party goes along with most of his new legislation. What makes Obama unique is that he completely alienated the opposition party and pushed through a series of massive bills that have already made him the most divisive president in modern American history (I examined his record in congress as against other presidents and major pieces of legislation, so I don't say this lightly).

"Not One of Us"

The danger to Obama is not one of being on the wrong side of an issue. This is not about politics or political philosophy.

As the New York Times piece above says, Obama "has always felt strongly about the proposed community center and mosque"

"Strongly?"

People, and I don't mean conservatives, but middle-of-the-road Joe and Sally Suburban, are going to start looking at Obama and saying "he's not one of us>"

And no, I don't mean "not white" or "not Christian." Obama is something else. He's... just not really American like the rest of us. And I mean "rest of us" regardless of whether you are on the right or left.

But there is a certain weirdness, otherworldlyness if you will, about Obama, that we haven't seen with other recent Democrat presidents. Jimmy Carter had been a U.S. Navy officer in Rickover's nuclear submarine fleet. Bill Clinton was more pragmatic than hard left. It's hard to imagine either of them proclaiming himself a "citizen of the world," as Obama did in his July 2008 speech in Berlin. And if they, or any Republican, made such a remark, we'd know that they meant it in a totally different way than Obama means it.

There is an ultimate political question of "who are you?" Throughout history this has been answered in different ways. It was usually answered in terms of religion or social class. Until the American Civil War many in this country owed their primary political allegiance to their region or state. The modern Western nation-state grew out of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, and over time turned into the concept of nationalism that we've seen over the past few hundred years. Most Americans today answer that ultimate political question with an "I'm an American."

But Obama thinks himself beyond nationalism. He's past thinking of himself as an American first. He's post-American.

Bactk to Cordoba House

I've blogged on this before, but a bit more can't hurt.

Let's be clear about what this "Cordoba House" mosque is and is not about.

This has nothing to do with rights, the First Amendment, tolerance, or any of that. There are hundreds of mosques and Islamic community centers in the United States, and there is no serious opposition to them. We have a bunch of Sikh temples in my area of Loudoun County VA, and no one cares about them, either. We are the most tolerant nation on earth.

Rather, this is a direct in-your-face-screw-you to the "Great Satan." It is a strong statement that they are stronger than us, that their religion is stronger. That we are a bunch of idiot weaklings who can be pushed around. That Islam can build on (virtually on, damn close enough) to the rubble of the "Great Satan" to show its superiority.

It is therefore no mistake that it is called "Cordoba House" after the great mosque in Cordoba Spain build on the top of a church after the Muslims conquered that country.

Behind this no doubt is the Muslim Brotherhood and their mentality. They are conducting a "civilizational jihad" (their term from the 1991 document "An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America") against us.

Make no mistake - this is not about a mosque. This is about the "grand jihad," which is the attempt to reestablish the caliphate and institute the sharia. It proceeds one small step at a time.

But many, mostly but not exclusively on the left, have taken what Andy McCarthy calls an attitude of "Willful Blindness" to what is going on. So sad that it is those who proclaim themselves the guardians of civil liberties to be the ones defending Islamism, an ideology that would destroy all that they, we, hold dear. I can explain it in a million ways, but either see the danger or you don't.

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July 11, 2010

"Why Israeli's Distrust Obama"

This is spot-on:

Why Israelis distrust Obama
New York Post
July 10, 2010

President Obama says he knows why polls show Israelis overwhelmingly consider him pro-Palestinian, while less than 10 percent believe he supports the Jewish state.

"Some of it may just be the fact that my middle name is Hussein, and that created suspicion," he told Israeli TV.

Of course, there might be other reasons why Israelis and their supporters view Obama with suspicion. Such as:

* His public humiliation last March of Bejamin Netanyahu at the White House, when Obama walked out of their talks to go have dinner with his family, leaving Israel's prime minister alone for over an hour, and then refused to release even a photo of their meeting.


* His disturbing comparison, during that "outreach" speech to the Arab world in Cairo, of the Palestinians' "daily humiliations" and "intolerable" situation to the Nazi Holocaust.

* His administration's public demand that Israeli leaders "demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process" -- a demand Sen. Chuck Schumer labeled "terrible" and "counterproductive."

* His continued push for closer US ties with Syria -- an ally of Iran, state sponsor of terrorism and major backer of both Hamas and Hezbollah.

* His decision to join the farcical UN Human Rights Council -- which devotes most of its time to denouncing Israel.

Obama's public reconciliation this week with Netanyahu is welcome, although the timing -- heading into critical midterm elections -- is a tad suspicious.

Supporters of Israel, in other words, are less concerned with Obama's name than with his record. And they believe this president, too, must demonstrate, "not just through words but through specific actions," that he is fully committed to Israel's security.


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July 6, 2010

Obama's Screwed Up Priorities

Unemployment is at a whopping 9.6%, the oil spill in the gulf continues unabated, and Iran merrily continues to build an atomic bomb. And what our our president's priorities?

Rather than enforce our immigration laws, Obama is suing those who do:

Justice Dept. expected to sue Ariz. on immigration, citing 'preemption' grounds
By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 6, 2010; A02

The Justice Department has decided to file suit against Arizona on the grounds that the state's new immigration law illegally intrudes on federal prerogatives, law enforcement sources said Monday.

The lawsuit, which three sources said could be filed as early as Tuesday, will invoke for its main argument the legal doctrine of "preemption," which is based on the Constitution's supremacy clause and says that federal law trumps state statutes. Justice Department officials believe that enforcing immigration laws is a federal responsibility, the sources said.

A federal lawsuit will dramatically escalate the legal and political battle over the Arizona law, which gives police the power to question anyone if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an illegal immigrant. The measure has drawn words of condemnation from President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and opposition from civil rights groups. It also has prompted at least five other lawsuits.

The truth is that Obama and those who oppose Arizona's S.B. 1070 are in favor of illegal immigration and just don't want to admit it.

This is easily proven by asking anyone who is against S.B. 1070 on "civil rights" grounds to write a law themselves which achieve the same thing while preserving the civil liberties they so claim to cherish.

Of course, they never do.

This next one is just bizarre:

NASA Chief: Next Frontier Better Relations With Muslim World
July 05, 2010
FoxNews.com

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his "foremost" mission as the head of America's space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world.

Though international diplomacy would seem well outside NASA's orbit, Bolden said in an interview with Al Jazeera that strengthening those ties was among the top tasks President Obama assigned him. He said better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel.

Madness.

Charles Krauthammer says it's "a new height in fatuousness" and I couldn't agree more.

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June 23, 2010

Afghanistan: McChrystal Out, Petraeus In

We've got a new top dog in Afghanistan:

President Obama said Wednesday he feels no "personal insult" from Gen. Stanley McChrystal but accepted his resignation as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan because he couldn't abide scathing comments by McChrystal and his aides that appeared in an article out this week in Rolling Stone magazine.

"The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that's necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan," Obama said.

In Rose Garden remarks, Obama nominated Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command and the former commanding general in Iraq, to replace McChrystal. Petraeus' confirmation hearing in the Senate could come as early as Thursday.

The president said he had no disagreements with McChrystal's policy or conduct in the war in Afghanistan, and the change in personnel does not mean a change in policy. He said the two were on the same page in terms of war strategy, but no "diversion" to the mission was acceptable.

President Obama absolutely did the right thing. We simply cannot have the military publicly criticizing their civilian bosses.

Yesterday, in Yes, Gen. Stanley McChrystal Should be Fired, I wrote that Obama should fire him but probably wouldn't. This is one instance in which I am glad I was wrong.

The most famous incident in which a president fired a general was, of course, when Truman dismissed Douglas MacArthur. The general had criticized the president's limited war strategy, particularly his desire to avoid involving China.

Forty years ago, in another incident that caused much controversy at the time, President Carter fired General john Singlaub over comments the latter publicly criticized the President's decision to withdraw troops from Korea.

More recently, in 2008 President Bush essentially fired Admiral William Fallon, commander of CENTCOM. Fallon had made comments to a reporter from Esquire in which he indicated that if it wasn't for him Bush would be at war with Iran. The story that came out was that Fallon retired, but there is no doubt that it was a case of "retire or be fired."

In all three cases the president did the right thing. Whether the general or admiral was right in some existential sense is irrelevant.

In the case of Afghanistan, the war effort will be in good hands with Petraeus. If anyone can put us on the path to victory, it is him.

To be sure, most liberals and liberal media outlets are being completely hypocritical about generals who criticize their president. But of course.

All in all, I'm in agreement with Rich Lowry that Obama hit a home run:

I'm not sure how Obama could have handled this any better. He was genuinely graceful about McChrystal and his explanation of why he had to go made perfect sense. He called for unity within his adminstration in pursuing the war and sounded quite stalwart about both the war and about the strategy. More importantly, his choice of Petraeus as a replacement for McChrystal is a brilliant move: He gets a heavy-weight, an unassailable expert in this kind of warfare, and someone who presumably can step in pretty seamlessly. He also picked someone who has expressed (very diplomatic) misgivings about the July 2011 deadline and who will have the clout and credibility to tell the president that he can't afford to go down in troops when July comes, should circumstances warrant. (It should also be noted that this is a step down for Petraeus and he can't relish directly managing another war -- that he will do so speaks to his selfless patriotism.) In short, Obama has made the most of a rotten situation.

There, can't say I never said anything good about our president.

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June 20, 2010

The World is Catching On to Obama the Incompetent

How's that hope and change working out now?

Pretty lousy, and that from the perspective of the "international community" that we were told Obama would woo and have in his back pocket.

Via Mark Steyn over at NRO (emphais added):

World Sees Obama as Incompetent and Amateur
The president is well-intentioned but can't walk the walk on the world stage
By Mortimer B. Zuckerman
Posted June 18, 2010

...
The reviews of Obama's performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America's role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world's leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America's foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one's own tribe while in the lands of others.

Even in Britain, for decades our closest ally, the talk in the press--supported by polls--is about the end of the "special relationship" with America. French President Nicolas Sarkozy openly criticized Obama for months, including a direct attack on his policies at the United Nations. Sarkozy cited the need to recognize the real world, not the virtual world, a clear reference to Obama's speech on nuclear weapons. When the French president is seen as tougher than the American president, you have to know that something is awry. Vladimir Putin of Russia has publicly scorned a number of Obama's visions. Relations with the Chinese leadership got off to a bad start with the president's poorly-organized visit to China, where his hosts treated him disdainfully and prevented him from speaking to a national television audience of the Chinese people. The Chinese behavior was unprecedented when compared to visits by other U.S. presidents.
...

What did they expect from a "community organizer" who never held a real job or had any executive experience?

In his Cairo speech about America and the Muslim world, Obama managed to sway Arab public opinion but was unable to budge any Arab leader. Even the king of Saudi Arabia, a country that depends on America for its survival, reacted with disappointment and dismay. Obama's meeting with the king was widely described as a disaster. This is but one example of an absence of the personal chemistry that characterized the relationships that Presidents Clinton and Bush had with world leaders. This is a serious matter because foreign policy entails an understanding of the personal and political circumstances of the leaders as well as the cultural and historical factors of the countries we deal with. ...

The end result is that a critical mass of influential people in world affairs who once held high hopes for the president have begun to wonder whether they misjudged the man. They are no longer dazzled by his rock star personality and there is a sense that there is something amateurish and even incompetent about how Obama is managing U.S. power. For example, Obama has asserted that America is not at war with the Muslim world. The problem is that parts of the Muslim world are at war with America and the West.
...

America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, "We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends."

No kidding.

"But he's so smart" we are told by the smart set, so easily impressed they are by degrees.

Well how have those academic smarts helped him deal with the oil spill in the gulf? Mark Steyn quotes our Commander-in-Chief:

"Just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation's best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge - a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation's Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

"As a result of these efforts, we've directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology."

Excellent. The president directed his Nobel Prize-winning Head of Meetings to assemble a meeting to tackle the challenge of mobilizing the assembling of the tackling of the challenge mobilization, at the end of which they directed BP to order up some new tackle and connect it to the thingummy next to the whachamacallit. Thank you, Mr. President. That and $4.95 will get you a venti oleaginato at Starbucks.

I've got a bachelors degree in history from Radford University and I could have figured out in 3 seconds that I should direct BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology.

And the "international community" is catching on that they, too, could have figured that out. We may sit back, wag our fingers, and say "see, I told you so," but there are real-world consequences. The good guys and bad guys alike have figured out Obama is both weak and incompetent. The former will be tempted to either strike deals with the bad buys or or just strike them period. And the bad guys will be tempted to cause much trouble. The change I'm hoping for in 2012 can't come too soon.

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June 8, 2010

Obama Flails

In this interview our president inadvertently makes clear hehas no idea what he's doing

No doubt the lefties don't see it that way, because he's going to stick it to those evil oil companies! And it's all Bush's fault anyway! Yeah! And Dick Cheney! And probably Halliburton!

President Obama's response has been all politics and no management. He and his followers seem content to blame Bush and use the incident to attack BP, who we are now to believe is the worst company in the world, apparently surpassing Halliburton. Those with long memories, and these days that means over a few weeks, will recall that it wasn't too many years ago that the pharmaceutical industry was public enemy number one. But their usefulness as whipping boys diminished when the Democrats passed ObamaCare, starting us on the road to socialized medicine.

It's not that I think Obama should dive down 5,000 feet and cap the thing himself. Or that he has the technical expertise to figure out how to do it. It's more that the man has shown no real concern for anything other than using the crisis to get in a few good photo ops for himself and bashing the GOP. He's adept at holding White House parties and being serenaded by washed up rock stars but not at taking care of a serious crisis.

Instead of fixing the problem first and afixing blame later, the Obama Administration has proceeded in typical leftist fashion, taking Rahm Emanuel's advice of "never let a serious crisis go to waste." Robert Alt & Brian Walsh have the story:

As oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, what the region needs most is the nation's best experts to plug the well and clean up the mess. It doesn't need Justice Department prosecutors threatening criminal charges. Yet that's exactly what it's getting.

The Obama administration has launched a criminal investigation and may prosecute BP and others for their roles in the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig disaster. At best, this is premature. It is also predictable and disturbing.

Buffeted by accusations that President Obama has failed to take decisive action, his administration is seeking shelter from the real issues raised by the oil spill by playing up to the call to "do something." After all, there's nothing like prosecuting someone to show that you are "doing something."

The catastrophe in the Gulf must be taken seriously, which is why the Justice Department shouldn't float the idea of criminal punishment unless and until there's good evidence of actual criminal wrongdoing. The potential civil fines and liability for financial damages alone could be crippling for BP. Dangling the Damocles sword of criminal liability over the heads of those who are now trying to contain the spill only multiplies the difficulties of the tasks they face. It puts the fear of incarceration and personal destruction upon people who, so far as anyone knows, have tried hard to comply with the (often conflicting) requirements of the thousands of federal laws, rules, and regulations that govern oil exploration.

As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, Attorney General Eric Holder "declined to specify the target of the investigation because he said authorities aren't 'clear on who should ultimately be held liable.'"

This is criminal prosecution as fishing expedition -- scouring the federal code to find anything that might possibly work to provide criminal penalties. That's counterproductive to the number-one priority, which must be stopping and containing the oil spill. Announcing criminal investigations to score political points or stave off political damage is an abuse of one of the most awesome powers of the state, the power to deprive an individual of his or her personal liberty."

The purpose of the Obama-Holder investigation is not to find fault as traditionally defined. It is to 1) divert attention from Obama's own incompetence, and 2) use this crisis as an excuse to over-regulate the hated oil industry. Of course Obama and Holder are abusing the Department of Justice to achieve a political goal; it's who they are.

And let's be clear by what I mean "over-regulation." We're not talking safety, folks. That's not what the Obama Administration has in mind. We're talking de facto control of private enterprise, government ownership in everything but name. Obama has made clear his utter contempt for the private sector, and his desire for redistribution of wealth to anyone who bothers to listen to him. This is just one more step towards his goal.

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April 14, 2010

What is the Job of a Supreme Court Justice?

Wesley Pruden sums up what I've been thinking about the role of a Supreme Court Justice

Chance for 41 votes and a spine
The Washington Times
by Wesley Pruden
April 13, 2010

President Obama probably isn't looking for another "wise Latina" to put on the Supreme Court to replace John Paul Stevens, but he's apparently looking for a rabble-rouser. He promised on his return from Prague that he will nominate someone who knows "that in a democracy powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens."

Ordinarily, this sort of boiler-plate civics-lesson blah-blah is easily dismissed as a politician's instinctive blather, but this is community-activism writ large, reflecting what Barack Obama actually believes and wants to impose on the court if he means what he says.

The voices of ordinary citizens are important, and it's important to make sure their voices aren't "drowned out" by "powerful interests," but once upon a time that was not the job of judges. The job description for a Supreme Court justice was about allegiance and dedication to the Constitution, which would take care of the citizens, ordinary and otherwise. A justice of the Supreme Court understood that he was to look to the law and leave community organizing to someone like Barack Obama.

Alexander Hamilton thought "the judiciary will always be the least dangerous institution to the Constitution" because it has neither "the sword nor the purse." He never imagined that judges could, or would want to, steal from Congress the power and authority to write the nation's laws. Robert Yates, the chief justice of the New York Supreme Court, tried to warn the constitutional convention of 1787 of what the U.S. Supreme Court might come to because "a court of justice" had never been invested "with such immense powers, and yet placed in a situation so little responsible." The Supreme Court, he warned, could "extend the limits of the general government gradually ... and melt down the states into one entire government for every purpose."

And so it came to pass. The states -- with Congress going happily along -- have been "melted down" so that presidents with a majority can now expect his senators, whose first allegiance is to party and partisanship, to rubber-stamp whomever he chooses. Some Republicans promise a rousing opposition to Mr. Obama's nominee if he (or more likely she) is a nominee outside the "mainstream." But more likely the Senate, a weak and skulking lot of badgers and hedgers, will indulge their usual appetite for debate and discussion, which is to say, none at all. Orrin Hatch of Utah, ever eager to argue that he and his fellows aren't quite as bad as everyone thinks they are, set the tone for the loyal opposition with his hint that he might endorse Hillary Clinton, if the president is tempted to use the court as the town dump, as presidents before him have done to rid themselves of ambitious allies.

With 59 sure votes, the Democrats could confirm a melancholy Dane, an imam or a Hottentot if the president insists, but with 41 votes, a spine and the threat of a filibuster the Republicans could make the debate over the nominee a teaching moment, particularly with the November elections casting a dark and deepening shadow over the proceedings. The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, the "wise Latina," ultimately succeeded, but the debate unfolded as the teaching moment the conservatives intended. They can repeat this modest success again.

The Republicans in the Senate will be tempted to resign themselves to contributing polite argument and then polite applause, to sit back in the warm embrace of self-satisfaction for the job they imagine they have done on the president, his agenda and his party over the past year. The polls show the president's approval ratings continuing the slide; the passage of health care "reform" has only accelerated the slide. The Republican pols imagine they did it, that all they have to do now is coast toward November and reward.

But the unraveling of the Obama myth is the refining work of reality, which is a harsh teacher who grades on a steep curve. The Tea Party protests, much maligned by polite and prissy folk, have turned the nation's politics upside down and there's scant sign that anything will turn them aright again. The meek and mild Republican strategists have been neutered by the accusation that theirs has become "the party of No." Indeed it has, and for one brief, shining moment it has the old politics on the run. This is no time to go wobbly.

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March 31, 2010

Obama Care is about the Redistribution of Wealth

Over the weekend we got some honesty from former Vermont Governor and DNC chairman Howard Dean and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) both admitted that much of ObamaCare was about good old fashioned socialist redistribution of wealth.

No one who paid attention during the campaign can say this is a surprise. We all recall then-Senator Obama's infamous encounter with Joe the Plumber:

"Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" the plumber asked, complaining that he was being taxed "more and more for fulfilling the American dream."

"It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too," Obama responded. "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody ... I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

via Gateway Pundit, first up is Howard Dean:

Next we have Senator Baucus, also via Gateway Pundit:

"This is also an income shift, it's a shift, a leveling, to help lower middle income Americans. Too often, much of late, the last couple three years the mal-distribution of income in America is gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind. Wages have not kept up with increased income of the highest income in America. This legislation will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America, because health care is now a right for all Americans, and because health care is now affordable for all Americans."

And on what basis is health care now a right? Because you say so? Because we passed a law? I thought we were supposed to justify these things by natural law, natural rights, or at least a reference to, you know, the Constitution. For that matter, where exactly in the Constitution does it specify that it is the role of government to level incomes?

More, if enough Democrats say this sort of thing often enough, can we just admit that this is what Obama and most leading Democrats are about?

The New York Times gets it

In Health Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality

By David Leonhardt

March 23, 2010

For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government's biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.

Everybody's Old Favorite

Barack Obama in a 2001 interview with Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ:

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I'd be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the Federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendancy to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

Liberals object loudly whenever we on the right call Obama a socialist, and from a tactical standpoint we may want to avoid using that term.


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March 28, 2010

Obama Insults Our Ally and is Weak Towards our Enemy

If this story is even half true it's enough to set your teeth on edge. The Telegraph reports on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to the White House:

The Israeli prime minister arrived at the White House on Tuesday evening brimming with confidence that the worst of the crisis in his country's relationship with the United States was over.....

But Mr Obama was less inclined to be so conciliatory. He immediately presented Mr Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Key among those demands was a previously-made call to halt all new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.

When the Israeli prime minister stalled, Mr Obama rose from his seat declaring: "I'm going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls."

As he left, Mr Netanyahu was told to consider the error of his ways. "I'm still around," Mr Obama is quoted by Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper as having said. "Let me know if there is anything new."

For over an hour, Mr Netanyahu and his aides closeted themselves in the Roosevelt Room on the first floor of the White House to map out a response to the president's demands.

Although the two men then met again, at 8.20 pm, for a brief second meeting, it appeared that they failed to break the impasse. White House officials were quoted as saying that disagreements remained. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, added: "Apparently they did not reach an understanding with the United States."

Meanwhile, Obama is softening his sanction plan against Iran. But of course.

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March 24, 2010

Barack Obama: The Most Divisive President Ever

How many times over the past twenty years or so have you heard liberals call conservatives "divisive?" Hundreds? Thousands? That and the charges of "racism" and "sexism" were their all-purpose responses to subjects they did not want to talk about. Democrats, we are told, are uniters who just want us to all get along, while it's those dastardly Republicans who are always so "divisive."

Carrying forth this theme during the campaign, Obama said he could unite the country better than Hillary:

Sen. Barack Obama said in an interview that he has the capacity she may lack to unify the country and move it out of what he called "ideological gridlock."

"I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can," Obama said. "I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the '90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be running."

Has Obama united us? One way to tell is whether his legislation has received bipartisan support. Let's take a look at the legislative record.

President Obama

All vote tallies are: Yes, No, Absent/Abstain

The Stimulus - H.R. 1: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

House - January 28, 200, 244 - 188: Democrats 244-11-0 GOP 177-0-1
Senate - February 10, 2009, 61 - 37: Democrats 58 - 0 - 1 GOP 3 - 37 - 0 Indep(Leiberman) 1 yes

Cap and Trade - American Clean Energy and Security Act "ACES", or Waxman - Markey Bill

House - June 26, 2009, 219 - 212: Democrats 211-44 -1 GOP 8-168-2
Senate - There has been no Senate action on this bill

2010 Budget

House - April 2, 2009, 223 - 196: Democrats 233-20-1 GOP 0-176-2
Senate - April 2, 2009, 55 - 43: Democrats 53-3-1 GOP 0-40-0

Health Care - H.R.4872 and H.R. 3590 Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010

House - March 21, 2010, 220 - 211: Democrats 220-33-0 GOP 0-178-0
Senate - Because this is being done as a "reconciliation" bill it has not yet been voted on in the Senate, but given that all it takes is a simple majority it's passage is a fait accompli. More importantly, I think we're all aware that Zero Republicans would vote for the measure, where as Obama has to bribe Democrats into voting for it

Landmark Legislation in History

Let's go through some of the landmark history of the past century and examine the breakdown in voting between the two parties (for the sake of clarity, and because it doesn't really matter for our purposes, I have not included the votes from third parties in this legislation)

President Roosevelt

Social Security Act of 1935

House - August 8, 1935, 365 - 30: Democrats 284-15-20, GOP 81-15-4
Senate - August 9, 1935, 76 - 6: Democrats 60-1-8 GOP 16-5-4

President Johnson

Social Security Amendments of 1965 (Medicare and Medicaid)

House - April 8, 1965, 313 - 116: Democrats 237-48-8 GOP 70-68-2
Senate - July 27, 1965: 70 - 24: Democrats 57-7-4 GOP 13-17-2

Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("Civil Rights Act")

House - August 3, 1965, 328-74: Democrats: 217-54 GOP Republicans: 111-20
Senate - August 4, 1965, 49 - 18: Democrats: 49-17 GOP 30-1

President Reagan

Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 "Kemp - Roth Tax Cut

House - July 30, 1981, 323 - 107: (I cannot find the breakdown, but the party breakdown in the House for the 97th Congress were: Democrats 244, Republicans 191, so clearly many Democrats voted yes)
Senate - July 1981, 89 - 11: Democrats 37-9 GOP 52-1

Conclusion

While this is hardly an exhaustive list of legislation, I believe it to be a fair sampling of landmark legislation passed over the past 75 years. Before President Obama, in every single case the legislation was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Obama's legislation, however, is opposed almost unanimously by the Republicans. Worse, he can't even get all of his Democrats to go along with him without virtual bribes that stink to high heaven and legislative tricks that are foreign to most people.

Obama is worse than partisan; opposition to his bills is bipartisan, while support is strictly partisan. Obama even divides his own party.

This makes Barack Obama the most divisive president in modern history. This from the party that for the past few decades lectured the rest of us on the perils of "divisiveness." And this from the followers of Obama who told us how "divisive" George W Bush was and how Obama would unite us all. Liberals, I hope you're happy!

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 20, 2010

Obama: The Great Divider

B. Daniel Blatt at GayPatriot has such a brilliant insight I'll steal both the title of his post and the theme (while giving credit, of course!).

For years the left complained that George W. Bush was "the great divider, not uniter." The charge did have a certain amount of merit, in that for a time the war in Iraq bitterly divided the nation. Never mind, of course, that most Democrats voted for the war. But it is true that for various reasons, most of them dishonest, I think, they turned against it.

But Obama has divided America like no president for the past century. His proposals, from the "stimulus" to this insane health care bill have been met with almost unanimous opposition from Republicans. He has made no meaningful attempt to reach out to the right and incorporate any of our ideas.

Instead, Obama has shown himself the most vain, arrogant, narcissistic president since.... I don't know, Teddy Roosevelt? No, Obama even beats him. With large congressional majorities he proclaimed "we won" and that was that.

This is not how public policy should be enacted.

As much as I'd like all pieces of legislation to toe the conservative line one hundred percent, I know that's not possible (this is also what separates me from the purists on the right). As a practical matter, all legislation will take some bipartisanship to enact, which is why the Democrats are having such trouble. And as a policy standpoint, you want at least some buy-in from at least some people on the other side of the isle.

Consider that all of the major pieces of legislation over the past 100 years; Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, were passed with mostly bipartisan majorities. Not this one. This shows an astounding ignorance or contempt of history by this president and his minions in congress, and they will pay a steep price at the polls this November if they enact it.

In a much quoted column in the Wall Street Journal, , Peggy Noonan nails it

And so it ends, with a health-care vote expected this weekend. I wonder at what point the administration will realize it wasn't worth it--worth the discord, worth the diminution in popularity and prestige, worth the deepening of the great divide. What has been lost is so vivid, what has been gained so amorphous, blurry and likely illusory. Memo to future presidents: Never stake your entire survival on the painful passing of a bad bill. Never take the country down the road to Demon Pass.

("demon pass" being a reference to how "deem and pass" sounds).

Whether this bill passes or not, Obama will have divided this nation like nothing I've ever seen. We've had temporary divides, like the impeachment of President Clinton, but that was a special situation. With Obama its over policy, and a lot of them. And it just seems to get worse and worse as time goes by. Whatever will he do if the Republicans make strong gains in November, perhaps even taking back one or both houses of congress?

Note on Peggy Noonan because this is bound to come up

Yes yes, fellow conservatives, I know that Noonan was once a sort-of supporter of Obama. But isn't that just the point?

If the normally clear-thinking Peggy Noonan was fooled but now smells the coffee, imagine how many others are also having second thoughts? A poll I saw after the last election showed that 20 percent of self-identified conservatives voted for Obama. We've certainly got them back. Many in the middle voted for him. We can get them back. All on the left voted for him, but are now disappointed. They may not vote for anyone in 2012 and will certainly not campaign as hard and contribute as much money. All of this presents us with an opportunity. Rather than beat up on people like Noonan, let's forgive them and move on.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 2, 2010

Obama and the Arrogance of the Liberal Elites

I'm busy this week with projects, and so have no time to post much original writing. This piece though sums up much that is wrong with the progressive movement

An FDR lesson Obama missed
by Wesley Pruden
The Washington Times

Barack Obama is trying to be the new FDR before the concrete settles around his image as the new Jimmy Carter. History will ultimately decide, but last week's celebrated health care summit made him look more like Mr. Jimmy than FDR.

The president was full of self-righteous talk, mostly about himself, and he twice felt it necessary to remind everyone that he's the president, recalling Richard Nixon's bizarre reassurance that he was not a crook. Some things are self-evident, and if they're not, such things are usually not true. We can stipulate that, like it or not, he's the president.

The Democrats relished the opportunity to portray the Republicans as the wrinkled party of "no," a crabby relic of the 20th century, devoid of anything that anybody could want, and Barack Obama's low-church eloquence would melt skepticism like butter on warm toast. But it didn't happen. Setting out the idea of a plain and simple alternative to Obamacare -- smaller measures to reform, taken step by step -- the Republicans sounded like the party of common sense, purveyors of the kind of kitchen-table solution that would work a lot better than an elaborate welfare-state scheme.

The health care summit was not the demolition derby the Democrats expected, instead it's a pothole the president and his party will have difficulty climbing out of. The first public-opinion polls this week will measure who won and who lost. But the prospect of a lot of changed minds in the wake of the talkfest is a small prospect.

The president was in his favorite role, the long-winded professor trying hard to be patient with half-bright students who hadn't done their homework. Like most liberals, he suffers from a severe occupational hazard. Anyone who disagrees with him must be dumb, unlettered and redneck crazy. If Lamar Alexander, John McCain and Eric Cantor had only gone to the right Ivy League university they could understand the prescription for what's good for them. It's a fatal mindset that afflicts the cult. Jonathan Chait of New Republic put it plainly in a revealing blog post: "President Obama is so much smarter and a better communicator than members of Congress in either party. The contrast, side by side, is almost ridiculous."

The contrast was so stark that he could only liken the professor's summit seminar to basketball, our least cerebral sport, where oversized men in gaudy underwear run up and down a court to stuff a ball down a hole. The president is "treating [Republicans] really nice, letting his teammates take shots and allowing the other team to try to score. 'Nice try, Timmy, you almost got it in.' But after a couple minutes I want him to just grab the ball and dunk on these clowns already."

No one would have confused FDR -- or Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan -- with somebody shooting hoops on a schoolyard. Nor would anyone have confused one of those presidents with a professor showing off his mastery of detail and trivia by presiding over a congressional seminar. Mr. Obama should remind himself that he's the president, not a professor.

The president who would be FDR has squandered much of his authority and mystique in pursuit of something the people clearly don't want. The more he pursues it the more the people don't want it. He has yet to understand any of the parts of "no." He is learning too late, if he is learning at all, that too much of a good thing is too much. The powerful hold a president can have on the public is weakened by too much visibility. "The public psychology," FDR once wrote to a friend, "cannot be attuned for long periods of time to a constant repetition of the highest note on the scale."

Mr. Obama's profligate use of the highest note on the scale follows the example of his immediate predecessors, and it may be that the presidential mystique, with its power to accomplish a president's aims, was gravely wounded by the invention of the jet airplane. Air Force One is not only an impressive presidential icon, it makes every congressional district convenient to visit, and presidents are tempted to use it ever more frequently. In his 15 years in the White House, FDR, who preferred trains and was the first president to fly, never got around to visiting all the states.

A visit by a president meant something. Now it's often a hindrance and a distraction. Last week, Mr. Obama should have stood in bed. That may be the ultimate lesson from his great health care summit.

Posted by Tom at 7:00 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

February 23, 2010

The "most open and transparent administration in history" sets record for avoiding press conferences

Get this:

Obama tops Bush at ducking reporters
The Washington Times
February 22, 2010
by Joseph Curl

President Obama, who pledged to establish the most open and transparent administration in history, on Monday surpasses his predecessor's record for avoiding a full-fledged question-and-answer session with White House reporters in a formal press conference.

President George W. Bush's longest stretch between prime-time, nationally televised press conferences was 214 days, from April 4 to Nov. 4, 2004. Mr. Obama tops that record on Monday, going 215 days - stretching back to July 22, according to records kept by CBS Radio's veteran reporter Mark Knoller.

The president has seemingly shunned formal, prime-time sessions since his last disastrous presser, when he said police in Cambridge, Mass., "acted stupidly" by arresting a Harvard professor who broke into a home that turned out to be his own. The off-the-cuff comment took over the news cycle for a week, overshadowing his push for health care reform, and culminated in a White House "Beer Summit," where the president hosted white police officer James Crowley and the black Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr.

"He does seem a little snakebit on the whole presser thing," said Julie Mason, a longtime White House reporter and board member of the White House Correspondents' Association.

"At his last big press conference in July, he lost control of the message with his response to the Gates question, and then returns six months later with an unannounced, five-question avail in the briefing room - on a snow day. Was it something we said?"

Earlier this month, the president did field a few questions from reporters in a "mini-presser." He dropped by the White House briefing room unannounced at midday just after Washington's second snowstorm, right when the daily briefing by the press secretary was to occur. The "press availability" lasted only 33 minutes and encompassed questions from just five reporters - plus one after Mr. Obama tried to head for the door.

In contrast, a typical White House press conference is usually announced well in advance and takes place in the far more formal White House East Room. The prime-time sessions - carried live by all TV networks - last at least an hour and include questions from 12 to 15 reporters, sometimes more.

"I don't count that five-question, surprise 'avail,' as a presser," Miss Mason said.

Still, Mr. Obama has held plenty of tightly controlled sessions with reporters. He has given 66 interviews since July 22 - including two that day, according to Mr. Knoller's records. But that doesn't satisfy White House veterans.

"The administration will point you to all the interviews he does, but that is all about control. We are naturally at cross-purposes with him, because he wants to come out with his talking points and the press wants to knock him off those talking points - so the result is he just doesn't come around anymore," Miss Mason said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama tops his predecessor in total output. He has given 43 press conferences of various degrees, six of which were solo White House sessions, Mr. Knoller said. During the same period, Mr. Bush gave 24 press conferences, of which four were formal, solo White House sessions.

So since the last one didn't go as he wanted it to he's not giving any more? This Administration has a penchant not only for insisting it control the message but for acting like children when they can't. Remember how they threw those reporters off the campaign airplane? They ones they tossed worked for newspapers whose editorial boards had endorsed McCain: The Dallas Moring News, The New York Post and The Washington Times. This was said to be coincidence, but I doubt it.

Anyway, it is one thing for Obama to go after Fox News. The rest of the media couldn't care less about that. But avoiding full-fledged press briefings... that could be dangerous. Most members of the media may love him, and let him get away with things that would sink a conservative, but they also don't like being "dissed." Obama's honeymoon with the media will be longer than most, but even they have their limits with him. And I think if Obama keeps this up he's going to find that out the hard way.

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February 16, 2010

Obama's Cynical War on Terror

Ever get the impression that our president doesn't have any idea what he's doing in the War on Terror? Victor Davis Hanson summarizes the situation perfectly:

Is there any logic in the confusion of the Obama administration's actions and statements on fighting the war on terror?

On the one hand, we had a two-year campaign (2007-08) of damning the Bush protocols, from renditions and military tribunals to Guantanamo and Predator strikes. Then, the Obama administration unleashed Eric Holder and John Brennan, who in highly partisan fashion attacked the anti-terrorism policies implemented from 2001-08 and reflected the themes voiced by Obama himself in his al-Arabiya interview and Cairo speech, many of which were reified by the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber and the announced civilian trial of KSM in New York.

But all that said, Obama never shut down Guantanamo; has not tried KSM in New York; has kept the wiretaps, intercepts, renditions, and tribunals he once castigated; has escalated the war in Afghanistan; and has kept the status-of-forces agreements that Bush negotiated with the Iraqis -- and Joe Biden now claims that Bush's Iraq agreements were Obama's greatest success!

Most importantly, Obama has vastly increased the Predator assassination missions along the Afghan-Pakistani border. If one were to sort out the politics of all this, one would conclude that Obama's cynical strategy looked something like this:

1) Run against Bush as the candidate of the Democratic party's hard-Left, anti-war, pro-ACLU base.

2) When elected, pacify that same base with soaring multicultural-outreach rhetoric of the Cairo sort and grand gestures, such as promising to close Guantanamo, investigate former CIA interrogators, appoint a Muslim-American liaison to the Islamic world, and end waterboarding.

3) Meanwhile, up the fighting in Afghanistan and the Predator assassination missions to prevent another 9/11-style attack.

Bottom line?

a) Obama really does (privately) believe that radical Islamists wish to kill us, and apparently has decided the only effective means of combating them is to copy the Bush strategy but drop the "smoke 'em out" rhetoric and substitute hope-and-change therapeutic banalities as we blow up suspected killers. The more conservatives rail about the KSM trial, the more Obama gains trust with the Left, and the more he can keep quietly killing suspected terrorists in Waziristan. (Dead men need no Miranda rights.)

b) So at home, Obama's calculation is even more cynical: He assumes that left-wing hatred of Bush's war on terror was never principled, but was always about partisan politics, and that left-wingers were far "angrier" about Bush's waterboarding of three admitted terrorists than they ever will be about Obama's assassinating suspected terrorists along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

c) Conservatives are then supposedly put in a bind: They may be angry that Obama demagogued the issue for two years as a candidate, and they may be upset that he so brazenly reversed course and emulated what he had demonized, and they may be mad about the hypocrisy of the hard Left -- but they are also relieved that Obama is fighting terror and killing terrorists, and might even be impressed that he is doing so as a Nobel Peace laureate immune from the criticism that nearly destroyed Bush, and as someone who quietly executes suspected terrorists by remote control but worries publicly about confessed detainees in Bush's gulag.

I think that sums up the present Obama policy, which is far more cynical than confusing. I have no idea whether it is sustainable.

Posted by Tom at 9:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 4, 2010

President Obama Calls for Civility

No joke. From the Washington Post:

Obama pleads for civility, cooperation in politics

By BEN FELLER
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 28, 2010; 11:57 PM

TAMPA, Fla. -- Trying to bury a year of polarization, President Barack Obama on Thursday escalated his appeal for politicians and voters alike to settle differences without tearing each other apart. His plea: "Let's start thinking of each other as Americans first."
...

Coming one day after his State of the Union address, and one day before meeting with House Republican leaders with whom he continues to battle, Obama's emphasis on civility was a nod to political reality. He needs Republicans more than ever to get his agenda passed, and he is getting saddled with more public blame for the partisanship he promised to change.

Even the AP reporter couldn't report this one with a straight face.

It's a typical Democrat/liberal ploy. Attack, vilify, and slander, then as soon as you suffer a setback demand "civility" from the other side.

The level of hypocrisy is stunning, even for Obama

A call for civility from the party that spent 6 or more years saying "Bush Lied!" at every opportunity, and otherwise savaging him in all manner of ways. This from the party whose senators (John Kerry and Chuck Schumer) have started to use the vulgar term "teabagger" to describe the Tea Party movement. Of course anyone who criticizes Obama too effectively risks being labeled a racist, something we saw quite often during the campaign. And this from the movement of a zillion "Bushitler" and "ChimpyMcHitler" references.

Barack Obama himself is hardly civil, treating anyone who doesn't agree with him as worthy of contempt.

Finally, there was the insane level of attacks on Sarah Palin and her family.

It just like the schoolyard bully; tough and mean when he's on top, but the first to cry foul when he's received a good knock on the head.

But don't Republicans attack and vilify their opponents, you ask? Yes we do. But with rare exceptions we don't then demand civility when the tables are turned.

Also, don't suddenly call for civility when you've been out of power and then win the White House, as Democrats did after Obama won. After years and years of "Bush Lied!" and all the rest of it, I'm in no mood to listen to such hypocrisy.

Look, political discourse is what it is. Yes each side does bad things. But don't be a hypocrite about it and suddenly demand civility from the other side when you suddenly the tables are turned.

Posted by Tom at 9:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 28, 2010

Krauthammer: Obama's "Spending Freeze" is a Fraud

I don't have time to cover much of last night's State of the Union speech, but here's one part that deserves attention:

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

Charles Krauthammer makes mincemeat of it:

Text of Krauthammer below the fold

The reason it's a fraud is that what Obama is doing here is not just excluding all the other spending we know about, discretionary spending, social security and the military, and it doesn't include the stimulus. What he's saying is, 'I'm going to do a freeze on the regular departments.' But what he doesn't tell you is that last year, in their first year in office when they had a free ride in spending, they ratcheted up the spending for all of these departments astronomically, an average over the last half of fiscal '09 and all of fiscal '10 an average of about 20%. Now that's huge because normally year over year you'd increase a department's spending by 3%, 4%, especially with low inflation.

So for example, last year alone they increased the EPA budget by 35%. So if you're instituting a freeze, what you're doing is you're ratcheting in, you're locking in the higher spending that Obama slid in last year.

So after hiking up spending to unheard of levels, Obama now poses as a fiscal hawk. Note also that his "freeze" won't even go into effect until 2011.

I suppose you can say that "all politicians dissemble," or blame Bush, but Obama is president and we were told he was going to change Washington and all that. I guess not.

Update

Veronique de Rugy explains that

...the centerpiece of his plan is a three-year freeze on everything but 84 percent of the budget. That's right -- it affects only 16 percent of the budget in FY2011. Plus, there are so many caveats and loopholes that this plan is little more than a joke. For instance, the freeze won't apply to the half-trillion in unspent stimulus funds. Nor will it apply to the $247 billion of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds or to any of the programs that cash from repaid TARP funds will pay for, such as the $30 billion to prop up community bank lending to small businesses proposed by the president during his speech.

FY 2011 Projected Spending

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January 15, 2010

Obama's Political Bank Tax

So President Obama is angry at the banks and wants "our money back:"

My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed. And my determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people -- folks who have not been made whole, and who continue to face real hardship in this recession.

We want our money back, and we're going to get it. And that's why I'm proposing a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be imposed on major financial firms until the American people are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street. If these companies are in good enough shape to afford massive bonuses, they are surely in good enough shape to afford paying back every penny to taxpayers.

I'm not quite sure how this is going to "bring us all together, but the way he tells it the American people have been ripped off and he intends to make us good.

Or is that really what's going on?

I think that Peter Wallsten, writing in the Wall Street Journal, is on to something:

Central to the strategy is the new White House plan to tax big banks as punishment for their role in the financial crisis. President Barack Obama announced the proposal Thursday amid reports that financial institutions bailed out by the government are enjoying healthy profits and paying generous bonuses, and as a bipartisan commission began hearing testimony on banks' role in the economic crisis.

But events Friday in Massachusetts showed how the White House and top Democrats aim to use the bank tax as a political weapon:Senate candidate Martha Coakley, Vice President Joe Biden and others used the issue to portray Ms. Coakley, who is vying to succeed the late Edward Kennedy, as tough on bank executives and portray Republican Scott Brown as coddling them.

Wallsten goes on to point out that all polls show the Democrat's healthcare plans are unpopular with the American people, and so a new message is needed. Scott Brown is now running ahead of Martha Coakley to replace Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, and much of his message is centered around opposing the Democrat's healthcare plans. Seeing a disaster in the making, Obama has decided that a new approach was needed.

Playing her part, Ms Coakley is using Obama's proposed tax to attack Brown. The WSJ article quotes Democrat strategists as realizing that the Tea Party movement is hurting them, and that with the bank tax "we can take populism back to our side."

Politics aside, it turns out that the tax doesn't even make sense. Charles Krauthammer explains:

This is being sold with incredible demagoguery as a payment. The president says I want my money back. In fact, the majority of banks have repaid. Some of the banks never received any of the TARP money, and some of them were forced into receiving it at the point of a gun in the Bush administration.

And, as you pointed out, the real delinquents here, GM and Chrysler, are not being asked to pay anything because of Democratic ties with Michigan and the UAW.

Now, there is merit here if it were portrayed in a different way. The banks, the larger banks, have, as a result of what happened in '09 and '08, an implicit understanding around the world that the U.S. government will step in.

So there is an implicit guarantee of their loans, which means they have preferential advantage in receiving loans because everybody understands in the end the U.S. government will step in. That might be worth taxing. It would be returning the favor.

But, only if you walled off the money and you kept it as a way to bail out the banks if they failed, the way that the FDIC imposes a fee on the regular banks that is set aside and held in case of a bankruptcy.

But this is not how it's portrayed. The way Obama is selling it, it is a punishment for old behavior rather than a fee that you would collect in return for a certain advantage as a result of what happened in '08 and '09.

In the end, the tax will be imposed, and it'll be passed onto consumers in seen and unseen ways.

Don't think that I'm defending the banks. As I said in A Pox On All Their Houses, "conservatives should not defend AIG or the bonuses," because when your company takes bailout money from the government "you do not pay anyone a bonus for anything."

Taxing banks is about the least of what Obama and his radical Democrats want to do. Barney Frank wants to wants to set pay caps on executives at all corporations, whether they took bailout money or not. Seeing where this was going, in
If You take the King's Shilling, You do the King's Bidding
I pointed out that "this is exactly why bailouts are so bad. Once you take aid from the government, you are beholden to them."

Indeed we never should have started down this path. We should have let Bear Stearns, AIG, and the others fail the old-fashioned way. It would certainly have been painful in the short term, but the long term consequences of bailouts are obvious to everyone now, and they're not good at all.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 6, 2010

Obama's Nuclear Free Fantasy World

Let's get this out of the way up front; that Ronald Reagan said he wanted a nuclear free world is no excuse for Barack Obama to make the same mistake.

Yes, I said "mistake." Reducing nuclear weapons from Cold War levels may be a good thing, but there is a certain point below which we should not go. The reasons are pretty simple, and boil down to two. One, no way we're going to get the nations ruled by tyrants and evil-doers to give up theirs, and two, a nuclear free world would make the world safe for war. Even going down below a certain minimum increases the chance of war, because it eliminates Mutual Assured Destruction and thus makes their use thinkable.

I discussed the use of nuclear weapons in more detail in my series on just war theory a few years ago. Essentially my conclusion was that MAD is just if it entails a counter-force strategy and not counter-value. The former means targeting the enemy's military, the latter their population.

The honest truth is that a "nuclear free world" has always meant a nuclear-free United States, because as I said earlier there is no way the other nuclear armed countries of this world would be so stupid as to follow suit, and yes that includes France.

When Reagan was in office the idea of a nuclear weapons free United States as pie in the sky stuff. With the radical leftist Obama, it's a frightening possibility.

Two recent articles in the Weekly Standard, both by John Noonan lay out the current situation and why Obama's idea is so dangerous.

A World without Nukes
by John Noonan
April 8, 2009 10:51 AM

Great idea if you can get the other guys to play ball, but -- let's face it -- the other guys never play ball. Which is precisely why the idea has been unsuccessfully advocated during the tenures of the past five US presidents.

In today's world, America's nuclear arsenal is as important as ever. Consider that Russia is undergoing a nuclear renaissance, upgrading its bombers, building new ballistic missile submarines, and bending the language of the START treaty in order to buff up their ICBM force. China, currently limited to a one-dimensional MRBM/ICBM strategic force, is working to construct a nuclear triad similar to that of the United States and Russia. North Korea is trying to build a bomb and a delivery system, as is Iran, and as were the Syrians until the Israelis brought an abrupt halt to construction. India and Pakistan remain at the ready to paint each other green, while Japan flirts with the idea of developing a deterrent of their own. Cuba and Venezuela are courting the Russians to base long-range strategic bombers on their soil (because that worked so well the first time the Cubans did it), while every Jihadist from Brooklyn to the Hindu Kush scours the globe for anything and everything that even sounds atomic.

The United States, on the other hand, has steadily shrunk and neglected its nuclear stockpile for the past 17 years. We haven't even tested a bomb since the mid-90s. Our primary nuclear bomber, the B-52, was built in the 1950s and our Minuteman III ICBMS were built in the 1960s. We're currently the only nuclear power not actively upgrading, or planning to upgrade, its strategic force, and we stopped growing nuclear weapon experts circa 1992. The USAF has allowed its nuclear focus to slip to the point where they accidentally shipped four nosecone fuses for the Minuteman III missile to Taiwan and lost custody of six bombs (later found halfway across the country) last year. America's nuclear enterprise, though still capable, is sailing into troubled waters.

President Reagan was mocked for preaching the abolition of nuclear arms while reinvigorating America's strategic triad. A few years later, no one was laughing. Reagan's genius was its simplicity. The stronger we are, the more eager the other guy is to talk. President Obama has already announced his intention to gut our conventional arsenal, and our enemies are smelling blood. Should he treat our nuclear forces the same way, things could get downright dangerous.

Obama's Nuke-Free Vision Impacts with Reality
by John Noonan
January 4, 2010 2:33 PM

Today's LA Times has an admirably even piece on the shadowy barfight between Pentagon officials and White House staffers over the future of our nation's nuclear arsenal.

President Obama's ambitious plan to begin phasing out nuclear weapons has run up against powerful resistance from officials in the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies, posing a threat to one of his most important foreign policy initiatives.

Obama laid out his vision of a nuclear-free world in a speech in Prague, Czech Republic, last April, pledging that the U.S. would take dramatic steps to lead the way. Nine months later, the administration is locked in internal debate over a top-secret policy blueprint for shrinking the U.S. nuclear arsenal and reducing the role of such weapons in America's military strategy and foreign policy.

Obama made some bold statements about nuclear weapons while on the campaign trail, pledges that were ideologically grounded and too simplistic to match complex reality. The new multipolar world's relationship with nuclear weapons requires a carefully tailored strategic calculus, but the White House is using algebra. Obama's core premise, that the US can't make an effective case for a nuke-free world without first shedding our massive arsenal, is ridiculous. Our strategic nuclear forces are 20 percent of what they were two decades ago, but global nuclear proliferation has continued to spread like a bad virus.

This was an inevitable confrontation between the military and the administration. Defense planners are pulling their hair out trying to balance rising nuclear powers like China, North Korea, and Iran, while maintaining the razor thin deterrence equation with Russia that has kept America safe for six decades. Targets are skyrocketing, nuclear assets needed to neutralize targets are plummeting. The military is tackling the nuclear posture review with hardnosed strategic realities, like counterforce planning, contingencies in the event that deterrence fails, and continued protection of non-nuclear allies, while the White House seems to be running their whole nuclear-disarmament initiative off a grossly simplified talking point, that nukes are bad.

If the White House's stance on disarmament is indeed that elementary, we might have a real problem. For better or for worse, America's mighty strategic vanguard has served as one of the most powerful global stabilization tools in history. We shouldn't abandon it simply to appease a gaggle of Scandanavian peaceniks, nor should we sacrifice America's security because we're off chasing utopian fantasies.

This wouldn't be the first utopian fantasy Obama has chased, of course. And it's another reason why Barack Obama is a dangerous man to have as president.

Posted by Tom at 7:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 27, 2009

Iranians Protest: Obama is AWOL Again

Last June, while protests raged in the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, President Obama remained silent. I and other like-minded protested, conservative pundits and politicians raged, and Obama finally made a few tepid remarks in support of the protesters.

Like deja vu all over again, protests rage throughout Iran and once again our president is silent. Nile Gardiner sums up my feelings exactly in the Telegraph:

I wrote back in June about the shameful silence of the Obama administration during the mass street protests that greeted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fraudulent re-election victory as President of Iran. As White House spokesman Robert Gibbs ludicrously put it, the administration was "impressed by the vigorous debate and enthusiasm this election generated." Or in Vice President Joe Biden's words on NBC's Meet the Press, describing Ahmadinejad's victory - "we're going to withhold comment... I mean we're just waiting to see."

Embarrassingly for Washington, even many European leaders showed more backbone in condemning the Iranian regime's brutal suppression of protestors, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton humiliatingly outflanked by her French and German counterparts, who had no qualms about speaking out swiftly and firmly against the election result and the actions of the Iranian government.

In the six months that have followed, Barack Obama's high-risk engagement strategy has simply encouraged more repression from the Mullahs, as well as ever greater levels of defiance over Iran's nuclear weapons programme. As Con Coughlin noted in an excellent piece for The Wall Street Journal last month, Obama's Iran diplomacy isn't working:

"Iranian human-rights groups say that since the government crackdown began in late June, at least 400 demonstrators have been killed while another 56 are unaccounted, which is several times higher than the official figures. The regime has established a chain of unofficial, makeshift prisons to deal with the protesters, where torture and rape are said to be commonplace. In Tehran alone, 37 young Iranian men and women are reported to have been raped by their captors."

Now once again huge street protests have flared up on the streets of Tehran and a number of other major cities, with several protesters shot dead this weekend by the security forces and Revolutionary Guards, reportedly including the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, and dozens seriously injured. And again there is deafening silence from the Commander-in-Chief as well as his Secretary of State. And where is the president? On vacation in Hawaii, no doubt recuperating from his exertions driving forward the monstrous health care reform bill against the overwhelming will of the American public and without a shred of bipartisan support.

For all the talk about human rights and the danger of theocracy that comes from the left, you'd think they could bring themselves to at least say something in support of people who are protesting true dictatorial theocrats.

I've heard all the excuses and they're all bullcrap; because of our role in the Mohammed Mossadeq affair, we're not allowed to ever again interfere in Iran's internal affairs, that even speaking in support of the protesters will backfire, giving the government the excuse it wants to crack down, that silent diplomacy works best, or that the protesters don't live up to our Jeffersonian standards so are probably little better than the government.

Funny how these arguments didn't apply to apartheid South Africa.

Just as with his failed attempt to bring the 2016 Olympics to the Chicago, this is all about Obama. He didn't care about the Olympics, he just wanted to make himself look good by getting them. Likewise, he doesn't care about the well-being of the Iranian people, he just wants to make himself look good by negotiating a deal that will end Iran's nuclear program.

President Obama needs to take a lesson from Ronald Reagan and stand with the protesters in Iran. End this silence, lets end the mullah's regime, and let's bring real democratic change to Iran.

Previous
Why President Obama Should Stand for Freedom in Iran June 27, 2009
Terror in Tehran... But is the Government Getting the Upper Hand? June 24, 2009
More Action, Protests, Remberences of Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran June 23, 2009
One and a Half Cheers for Obama June 23, 2009
Will The Protesters In Iran Succeed In Overturning the Government? June 21, 2009
Violence in Iran, and Obama Shifts His Position...Sort of June 20, 2009
House and Senate Democrats Diss Both Obama and Liberal Bloggers June 20, 2009
Reagan v Obama: How To Handle Tyranny June 17, 2009
Obama to Iranian Protesters: You're On Your Own June 16, 2009
A Few Thoughts On The Iranian Elections June 14, 2009


Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 3, 2009

President Obama's New Plan for Afghanistan: Additional Commentary

Two days ago I reviewed President Obama's speech in which he announced his new plan for Afghanistan. Following is some commentary that I found insightful:

Posted just before the speech, Kim R. Holmes explains why failure is not an option:

The alternative to victory in Afghanistan is a return to chaos and, quite possibly, genocide. Al-Qaeda and its local Taliban enablers would immediately fill the ensuing power vacuum, turning that benighted land into an apocalyptic failed state. This would recreate the exact conditions that produced the 9/11 attacks.

Only this time, things could be worse. We could witness a regional conflagration that quickly turned nuclear and went global. Afghanistan borders on Pakistan, a nuclear nation with many Taliban sympathizers (especially among its ethnic Pashtuns).

A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan could easily inject further instability in Pakistan, strengthening extremist forces in the region that also threaten India. The likelihood of war between India and Pakistan -- a war that could potentially go nuclear -- would rise significantly. Remember, these two countries have already fought three wars since the partition of British India in 1947, and enmity between the two still abounds.

These are the stakes in Afghanistan. Defeating our enemies there and leaving behind a stable state is a national-security priority. President Obama must make this case without hesitation, obfuscation, or qualification.

Remember how for these past 6 or 7 years we had to listen to the left insist that while Iraq was "the wrong war," they were raring to go fight in Afghanistan? They chided Bush for failing to get bin Laden but once they got power they were going to fix that.

Reviewing the speech, Andy McCarthy reminds us of these promises and takes Obama and his movement apart:

If you accept, as I do, the premise that President Obama is an Alinskyite, last night's speech was totally predictable. From 2003 forward, he and his party cynically raised the Afghanistan mission into a noble calling -- not because they thought it really was one, but because it made their political attack on the war in Iraq more effective. Now, Obama is cratering in the polls and his party is in even worse shape. Politically, they can't afford to abandon the noble calling at this point: Even the legacy media couldn't protect them from the fallout, which would intensify when the Taliban overran Karzai right as we headed into our midterm elections next year.

So we can't leave, but we can't wage war either. The Obama Left can tolerate, barely, the appearance of waging war if that's what it takes to prevent rank-and-file Democrats from revolting. But they have no interest in defeating anti-American Muslims (who, after all, have a point, right?) or in pursuing American interests for their own sake.

What to do? Well, the Right has given Obama his escape hatch. Conservatives keep talking about "victory" but they never define it. We keep saying, "Give General McChrystal the troops he needs to win," but because we're as vague as Obama when it comes to what "winning" means, no one will really care what the additional troops actually do in Afghanistan. Thus, as long as Obama agreed to send a contingent -- low-balled, but reasonably close to the 40,000 in McChrystal's last request -- he knew he'd be fine....Our unwavering resolve for this task will last 18 months -- during which we will continue solidifying the new narrative that the war is not ours but Afghanistan's, and that the hapless Karzai isn't producing results fast enough. That will get Democrats through the midterms.

By that point, it will be the middle of 2011 -- and that's when the "taking into account conditions on the ground" kicks in. If the Left has succeeded in souring the country on the whole enterprise such that Obama's reelection chances won't be impaired by a withdrawal, we'll pull-out. On the other hand, if the noble calling is still perceived as noble, Obama will satisfy the Right by bravely staying the course and giving General McChrystal the time he needs "to complete the mission successfully," and satisfy the Left by re-promising a phased withdrawal in about 18 months, so that those resources can be invested here at home in rebuilding our economy and putting Americans back to work (since unemployment should be hovering around 12 percent by then).

All true enough, but Marin Strmecki reminds us it could have been far worse, starting off by pointing out that anything that annoys the left can't be all bad:

When a president from the liberal wing of the Democratic party defies part of his political base in order to protect the national security and vital interests of the United States, it is not wise to begrudge him a measure of praise....

The president deserves praise for the way he has defined the problem. The United States faces a syndicate of violent extremist groups -- al-Qaeda among them -- that is based in western Pakistan....

In addition, the president deserves plaudits for rejecting a narrow counterterrorist strategy -- essentially drone attacks on steroids -- and for adopting a strategy for defeating the enemy by working with and strengthening our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A narrow counterterrorist strategy was tried in the 1990s, and it failed....

The president has also rightly endorsed the counterinsurgency approach articulated by General McChrystal. This approach is based on using the persistent presence of forces at the local level to protect the population from attacks and intimidation by the Taliban....

Moreover, when the president signaled to Pakistan that we will not "tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear," he demonstrated a new realism about the problematic conduct of elements of the Pakistani security establishment, which has permitted the development of sanctuaries in its territory.

Victor Davis Hanson asks if we are we to be led in war by a "tiger" or a kitten? Apparently neither a lion or fox was under consideration:

...the problem is that the commander-in-chief was clearly pained by the decision -- sometimes fobbing off his dilemma on the prior administration, at other times trying to contextualize the war as a complex socio-legal problem rather than a struggle to force our enemy to accept our own political aims (i.e., a consensual government in Kabul that is inhospitable, rather than welcoming, to global terrorists).

And when a war leader visibly regrets the situation he has found himself in -- rather than being determined to prevail in the struggle at hand -- that hesitancy inevitably ripples through the ranks. Think of the British or French war effort between September 1939 and May 1940, or America in Vietnam between 1964 and 1969. Chamberlain was no Churchill, and LBJ, like it or not, was not a Nixon, at least when it came to trying to win in Vietnam.

In contrast, with the ascension of the "Tiger," Georges Clemenceau, as prime minister in 1917, his will to win ("la guerre jusqu'au bout") filtered throughout the French ranks and soon made an enormous difference in the trenches. Take away a win-at-all-costs Lincoln in the dark days of spring and summer 1864, and the Army of the Potomac, Grant or no Grant, would have lost its soul. During the Cold War, American forces, down to the level of private, were more enthused with a "tear down this wall" president than an earlier "free of that inordinate fear of communism" commander-in-chief.

So, yes, in the short term, troops will be sent. Two brilliant generals will have leeway. And we will have a year and a half at the new troop levels. But no nation can -- or should try to -- win a war when the heart of the man at the top is not in the struggle.

The invaluable Charles Krauthammer saw the speech as quite strange:

It was a very strange speech. It was supposed to be a clarion call to battle ... But it was so hedged and cramped and ambivalent. There was a huge reluctance you could hear in his tone.

On one hand, he sends in the troops, and on the other hand, he says we are leaving in 18 months. ... You can say it's a sop to the left, but we heard his national security adviser today in testimony say the date is fixed one. The withdrawals will start. The only question is [that] conditions will determine the pace of withdrawal.

So James Jones was saying it is a real date. That's the reason why I think people are unsure about this. There are a lot of people on the right who think this was OK. They won the policy, and the left won the speech -- [meaning] all the caveats are in a speech, but the president is committed to the surge and his commanders have at least partial victory in what they want.

But the issue is this -- Is his heart in it? He spoke about unwavering resolve, and yet he talks about exit. He talks about how the security of the world hangs on this, and yet he had a whole riff in the speech about how we have to look after our economy and how expensive war is and how we have to balance the needs of our country.

Finally, Peter Kirsanow reminds us that we weren't the only ones listening to the speech:

The Taliban and al-Qaeda were not the only ones marking their calendars while listening to President Obama's speech last night. Certain parties in Tehran and Moscow were making self-interested calculations as well. In those cities, the lines from the speech that mattered most were those pertaining to the 18-month timetable. If the president of the United States pronounces this war to be so important, yet spends much of his time plotting an exit seemingly untethered to victory (indeed, doesn't even define what "victory" in Afghanistan would be), that sends a signal to our adversaries likely to produce headaches in the future: Be patient, and your aims shall be realized. If there was any doubt in Tehran that no serious effort would be made to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, that doubt was markedly diminished, if not extinguished, last night. And the gleam of adventurism in Mr. Putin's eyes shines brighter today as well. The dog whistle in last night's speech alerted a few wolves as well.

We may well pull a victory out, but by only sending 3/4 of what General McChrystal asked for he's made it unnecessarily risky. His timeline telegraphs to friends and enemies alike that we're not dedicated to victory. To our enemies it means that all they have to do is survive another 18 months. Our friends must make a hard calculation; "will the U.S. win in 18 months?" If they conclude no, they'll "make their accomodations" with the Taliban now, if they conclude yes, they had better be right, or we'll have what happened in south Vietnam and Cambodia all over again.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 2, 2009

President Obama Announces His Plan for Afghanistan

Tuesday evening Obama delivered an address at West Point in which he laid out his plan for Afghanistan.

One thing is certainly true now: President Obama owns the war in Afghanistan. By refusing to accept Gen McChrystal's plan as presented, he cannot blame anyone but himself if the war goes awry. By insisting on his own unique plan, he accepts sole responsibility for success or failure.

Quick Take

The good - All in all I'm fairly pleased with the plan. He is sending 30,000 more troops, a decent number,and that is good. He also recognizes that the presence of U.S. troops is not the problem in that we are not "occupiers," but our troops are part of the solution. He could have chosen a low-troop counterterror strategy, or just announced that we were pulling troops out, or some other screwball plan, and he didn't

The bad - This seems less a strategy for victory, a word that Obama doesn't utter even once, than one to get the issue off of his plate. Another 10,000 troops would have been better and less risk. Fewer troops always increases the possibility of failure. Announcing a date for withdrawal is dumb. He displayed his usual pettiness of blaming his predecessor time and again. Obama is very self-reverential and loves to pat himself on the back.

The Speech

I'll have much more to say about this speech and his new strategy in the days to come, but for now here are some excerpts along with my commentary:

... it is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of the passengers on board one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

Excellent. Pity that he doesn't say this ever week. George W Bush stopped making the case for Afghanistan and Iraq and it cost him politically. Here's the paradox: Bush could have had all the troops and money for either early on, but he didn't ask for them. When he finally decided he needed more troops for Iraq, it became very difficult to get them. Obama faces the same problem.

Col. Harry Summers made much the same point about Lyndon Johnson in his seminal work On Strategy; A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, in 1982. He pointed out that Johnson didn't think he needed a declaration of war in 1964, so he didn't seek one. By 1968, when he did need one, he couldn't get it.

As such, Obama needs to make the case for Afghanistan on a regular basis. Not just one big speech and then back to healthcare or global warming or whatever, but he needs to do this again and again. If he doesn't he's going to find it very difficult to get the money and support that he needs to see this through.

Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq War is well-known and need not be repeated here. It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq War drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention - and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.

Now we're back to typical Obama pettyness: "Hey everyone, none of this is my fault! Blame George W Bush!" The man is incapable of giving a speech in which he doesn't do this. This quite in contrast to another wartime leader who inherited a mess, one Winston Spencer Churchill, who instead of blaming his predecessors just got on with it. Follow the link and listen to Churchill's speech; note that he talks about "we," while with Obama it's always me me me.

He plays the blame game again and again, and of course it's all about him. I'll spare you the quotes as you can read the transcript for yourself.

As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service. That is why, after the Afghan voting was completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. Let me be clear: there has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war. Instead, the review has allowed me ask the hard questions, and to explore all of the different options along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and with our key partners. Given the stakes involved, I owed the American people - and our troops - no less.

This review is now complete.

Oh bullcrap. The reason he dithered is that he wanted to push healthcare as far in the congress as he could without making its more leftist members mad at him.

And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.

This is less than the 40 - 45,000 that Frederick and Kimberly Kagan recommended, and that McChrystal apparently requested, but we'll apparently get 5,000 from NATO as well. The question is any or how many of those NATO troops will be encumbered with rules of engagement so restrictive as to make them useless, like the German troops are now.

I'm not quite sure if he's promising to bring home all troops after 18 months, or just these "surge" forces. Most likely it's the latter, which would make this surge similar to the one in Iraq, where we went from 15 to 20 brigades for about 18 months, then brought the surge forces home, and have slowly drawn down further since then.

To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future.

We will meet these objectives in three ways. First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban's momentum and increase Afghanistan's capacity over the next 18 months.

The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 - the fastest pace possible - so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They will increase our ability to train competent Afghan Security Forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.

All good here. Securing the key population centers is the most fundamental aspect of counterinsurgency there is, as I've said about a kazillion times.

Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies.

Ha. They'll betray us, just as they have in the past. The same countries that landed tens of thousands of troops in Normany on one day alone seem to have trouble ponying up more than a handful now, and this with far larger populations.

Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.

We shall see. Obama will find this timeline easier to read on a teleprompter than to actually carry out. The oft said phrase, "the enemy gets a vote," is true. You don't have to read much history, or know much Clausewitz, to know that events seldom unfold as expected.

Second, we will work with our partners, the UN, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.

This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai's inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance.

On the good side Obama seems to recognize that our enemy is not Hamid Karzai, and that for better or worse he's the president of Afghanistan and that we've got to work with him. Constantly attacking him will only make him wary that we're going to abandon him, and this in turn will cause him to seek "an accommodation" with the Taliban.

We need to understand that just as with Iraq, the lack of performance was because the Afghans couldn't be sure we wouldn't cut and run on them. Why should they give it their all if we weren't committed? Look, if I was a local governor unsure about the United States, I wouldn't want to make the Taliban too mad as I might have to live under their rule in the near future. In fact, I'b be sorely tempted to "make my arrangements" with them, just in case. In Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki and his government performed much better once the surge got underway, and the realized that yes we were committed to win.

On the down side,, Obama can't just announce anything without blaming his predecessor - "the days of providing a blank check are over" - his pettiness doesn't know any bounds.

Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.

We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust.

"Mutual respect" with a nation where Sharia is the law of the land. This sounds like Bush 41 and 43 all over again. Where's that "change" again?

And of course there's that "in the past" blame again.

Ok ok, I know we have to work with the Pakistani government whether we like them or not. But I don't think we need to listen to the left anymore tell us that it's only the conservatives who are in bed with dictators and thugs and such.

...there are those who acknowledge that we cannot leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there.

He's certainly right here. This is a point I and many others have made time and again.

...there are those who oppose identifying a timeframe for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort - one that would commit us to a nation building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government.

I understand the second argument, in which a timeline gives us leverage and the Afghanis incentive. John McCain gives a good rebuttal:

A date for withdrawal sends exactly the wrong message to both our friends and our enemies - in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the entire region - all of whom currently doubt whether America is committed to winning this war. A withdrawal date only emboldens Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, while dispiriting our Afghan partners and making it less likely that they will risk their lives to take our side in this fight.

"Success is the real exit strategy. When we have achieved our goals in Afghanistan, our troops should begin to return home with honor, but that withdrawal should be based on conditions on the ground, not arbitrary deadlines.

Obama, however, isn't interested in winning. He's interested in getting the whole thing off the table so he can get on with socializing the United States

Back to the president:

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance, and failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy.... All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars.

Grrrr. The man is insufferable.

Obama goes on for some time more, but it's all boilerplate blather and not worth quoting.

Conclusions

My first thought after reading the speech was, "he took all these months to come up with this?" The strategy he came up with is nothing remarkable. Much of the speech is boilerplate and there's not a lot of details.

This increase in troops might be enough to do the trick, but by shorting McChrystal 10,000 he's making it more difficult to win. Also, while Obama may be able to claim credit if it works, he certainly will take the blame if it doesn't. He should have chosen "the full McChrystal," which stands a better chance of success, and he could still have claimed credit because it was he who appointed McChrystal as top dog in Afghanistan back in June of this year.

The hardest part of reading any Obama speech is getting past his incredible pettiness and lack of class. Churchill and Roosevelt spoke about challenges and tried to rally the nation, with Obama it's all about him, how smart he is; his speeches are full of "I" "I" I"I. All leaders think they inherited a mess when they took over; that's why they ran in the first place, to "clean things up." But they don't say so time and time again. He is the most narcissistic, vain, and arrogant president I've ever read about, exceeding that of even Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson.

One gets the unmistakable impression that Obama doesn't really care about winning. When George W Bush finally realized that the Rumsfeld-Abizaid-Casey strategy wasn't working in Iraq, he appointed a new team and gave them what we had to get the job done. There were no timelines (though surely he knew that there was a political one lurking in the background).

Indeed you can't help but think that he's ordering this troop increase because he wants to get it off the table as a political issue. My guess is that he figured he'd send just enough troops to keep the right happy, but not go with "the full McChrystal," so that he might have some credibility left with his base. In other words, the whole thing was just a big political decision.

As I said earlier, Obama dithered over this decision not because he wanted to conduct a " thorough review of our strategy," but because he wanted to push healthcare as far in the congress as he could without making its more leftist members mad at him. The whole thing is political.

More importantly, the man just can't come out and say "let's win this thing!" No, he approaches it as a policywonk would. There's nothing wrong in formulating policy that way, but the reality is that issues, most of all that of warfare, is about passion. Winning requires passion because political leaders require support as much as anything else.

Politically, he's in the odd position of having most of the right congratulate him and the left attack him. More on this in future posts, but from what I can tell his base is furious that he didn't surrender Afghanistan and withdraw willy-nilly.

Posted by Tom at 7:30 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 18, 2009

Obama's Fake "Saved or Created" Stimulus Jobs

If you're not reading Mike's America every day, you should be. I am indebted to him for most of the articles that follow.

From the beginning we know that the entire "saved or created jobs" business was a crock. No one can measure something like this so it was obvious that they were pulling the numbers out of the air, knowing that at least for a time the gullible would buy it. As unemployment has crept upwards to it's current level of 10.2 percent, it became harder and harder the media to go along.

Finally, ABC did some investigating, and guess what they found:

Exclusive: Jobs 'Saved or Created' in Congressional Districts That Don't Exist
Human Error Blamed for Crediting New Stimulus Jobs to Nonexistent Places By JONATHAN KARL
ABC News
Nov. 16, 2009

Here's a stimulus success story: In Arizona's 15th congressional district, 30 jobs have been saved or created with just $761,420 in federal stimulus spending. At least that's what the Web site set up by the Obama administration to track the $787 billion stimulus says.

Discrepancies on government web site call into question stimulus spending.
There's one problem, though: There is no 15th congressional district in Arizona; the state has only eight districts.

And ABC News has found many more entries for projects like this in places that are incorrectly identified.

Late Monday, officials with the Recovery Board created to track the stimulus spending, said the mistakes in crediting nonexistent congressional districts were caused by human error.

"We report what the recipients submit to us," said Ed Pound, Communications Director for the Board.

Pound told ABC News the board receives declarations from the recipients - state governments, federal agencies and universities - of stimulus money about what program is being funded.

"Some recipients clearly don't know what congressional district they live in, so they appear to be just throwing in any number. We expected all along that recipients would make mistakes on their congressional districts, on jobs numbers, on award amounts, and so on. Human beings make mistakes," Pound said.

Right, and if you believe that I've got a bridge to sell you. I'll tell you what I think happened: They put immense pressure on their Democrat buddies to come up with the "right" numbers, and sure enough they did. They just hoped that nobody would check. Oops.

But it gets better.

Stimulus dishonesty
Job numbers keep proving to be exaggerated
Union-Tribune Editorial
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First it was The Associated Press refuting the Obama administration's claims for jobs saved or created nationwide by February's $787 billion economic stimulus measure. Then it was The Sacramento Bee refuting the claims that state agencies had made for California. Then it was the Chicago Tribune refuting the claims that state agencies had made for Illinois.

The errors were not of a minor or technical nature. They were egregious.

AP reported that "some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two, three, four or even more times." The Bee reported that California State University said "the $268.5 million it received in stimulus funding through October allowed it to retain 26,156 employees" - more than half its statewide work force. The Tribune reported that Illinois education officials grossly inflated job-saved numbers, sometimes saying school districts had saved more jobs than their total number of employees.

This is a scandal and should be treated as such. It's not government as usual. Instead, it appears to reflect a decision to distort government data collection to support explicitly political agendas.

With U.S. unemployment now topping 10 percent, the Obama administration is struggling more than ever to fashion credible counterarguments to the assertion made by this editorial page and many pundits and economists that the massive stimulus measure was a poorly thought-out pork fest that wouldn't work. What's the easiest way to defend the stimulus? Make up claims about its glorious results.

Politics also appears to be driving state agencies in their willingness to prop up this bogus narrative. It helps them make the case that they should get even more borrowed money from the federal government that they never will have to repay.

Such dishonesty should be completely unacceptable - especially at the federal level. We trust the Office of Management and Budget to provide honest figures on the size of the deficit and the national debt. We trust the Labor Department to provide honest statistics on unemployment and job gains and losses by sector. We trust the Commerce Department to provide honest numbers on monthly imports and exports and the gross domestic product. We trust the Environmental Protection Agency to provide an honest accounting of air and water pollution levels.

All of these statistics end up helping shape the public debate on the most crucial issues of the day. If these numbers can't be trusted, we can't have an honest debate. When it comes to the economic stimulus package, it sure looks like the Obama White House doesn't want an honest debate. Instead, it is going to relentlessly push the very dubious claim that the stimulus was a huge success - no matter what.

We are struck yet again by the contrast between the hopeful and idealistic tone of Barack Obama's presidential campaign and the bare-knuckles Chicago-style politics of his White House. If this hardball approach goes beyond the usual arm-twisting to the routine twisting of government statistics for political purposes, that will be a grim day for America.

Meanwhile, let's revisit the Democrat projections for they insisted would happen if we passed their gargantuan stimulus bill:

Unemployment: Obama v Reality

Obama: The Coming Object of Ridicule

The invaluable Charles Krauthammer sums up the implications for the Obama Administration:

The effect, ultimately -- and the danger for any administration -- is to be an object of ridicule.

Look, this whole discussion has had an Alice-in-Wonderland quality from the very beginning. You can't measure saved jobs. Arguing over the precision or imprecision of the numbers, which are fictional at the beginning, is like arguing that there are twelve angels on the head of a pin and only ten ...

And when you hear these reports, as we're hearing now with the fictional congressional districts, the risk for the administration is that it becomes an object of ridicule. And once that happens, it's hard to actually stop.

And the issue will become competence. There have been ideological objections against this administration -- it's left-wing, it's radical, and all that. But now we're starting a new kind of meme, that it is an administration that really can't get things done...

Once the meme starts, it becomes the subject of late-night comedy. ... When they speak seriously about this - 640,329 jobs saved, comical precision -- and then it turns out a lot of these are fictional jobs in fictional districts, what happens is the administration, already satirized on "Saturday Night Live" as do-nothing, is now going to be seen as an administration that cannot even do nothing competently.


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November 16, 2009

The KSM/Terrorist Trial in NYC: Part of Obama's War on The Bush Administration?

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge (h/t American Power):

If we discover later that it's really just a facade to delve into a fishing expedition, I would find that just unacceptable, outrageous and a further distortion of the system...if it's subterfuge for the fishing expedition, that's just wrong and unconscionable.

I don't think the primary objective of President Obama and AG Holder is to put the Bush Administration on trial, but I do think that they're hoping it happens. I think that they will be pleased if or when revelation of alleged "torture," "mistreatment," call-it-what-you-like come out. I don't think they'd even mind too much if national security secrets were revealed such as Patriot Act-wiretaps.

Further, Ridge is wise to worry that the whole thing could turn into a fishing expedition. As I wrote about KSM and his cohorts on Saturday, "They're obviously guilty, and when you're obviously guilty you do one of or both of two things; tie up the court in legalisms, and/or put the government on trial. They will put the Bush Administration on trial for renditions, waterboarding, the whole thing."

The question is whether the Obama Administration balks when the defense demands all sorts of information, or whether they just hand it right over. Given their behavior thus far, I think the latter is the stronger possibility.

Anthony Dick, writing at NRO's The Corner, makes other points along this line:

The strange thing about the Obama administration's decision to hold these civilian al-Qaeda trials is that the project is flawed even based on the premises of its staunchest defenders: They talk about due process and the rule of law, but the trials can't possibly provide anything close to the level of objectivity that applies in an ordinary criminal-law setting. There is no way the defendants will get an impartial jury in New York, and there is no way the government will actually release the terrorists if they are acquitted. Thus the courtroom proceedings in Manhattan will be, in a very real sense, show trials. They are designed purely for PR purposes, so that the Obama administration can pay lip service to the ideal of due process while implicitly rebuking the Bush administration for failing to respect the rule of law.

Meanwhile, it is the Obama administration that is truly making a sham out of the rule of law, by politicizing the trial process and pretending that these enemy combatants will be getting normal, neutral, dispassionate trials, as if the larger strategic context of the War on Terror will not affect the judge, the jury, or the actions of the government, which is sure to retain custody of the defendants in the off chance they are acquitted.

This reflects the fundamental unseriousness of the Obama administration in the face of terrorism. We saw the same thing with the foolish announcement that Gitmo would be closed by January, which was the first iteration of the administration's fantasy-land effort to sidestep one of the core dilemmas of the post-9/11 world: We have a significant number of detainees whom we know with operational certainty to be dangerous terrorists, but, for various reasons, we can't prosecute or convict them according to normal procedures. This is another way of saying that there is no way we can prosecute the War on Terror while providing the full panoply of ordinary due-process protections to enemy combatants. And no amount of hope can change this reality.

"Show trials" indeed is what they'll become, and from all sides. From the Obama Administration, the show will be: To to show the world we respect the rule of law, are a wonderful country, George W. Bush and the neocons were evil, and now that Obama is in charge everybody should love us now.

From the vantage of KSM and his fellow jihadists: To show the world that they are brutally serious about destroying Western civilization and replacing it with a modern-day caliphate governed by Sharia law. They aim to bolster the standing of like-minded Muslims and demoralize moderates and reformers.

The third perspective is that of the left, who will rejoice in every revelation of classified information and anything we did to KSM and his fellows along the lines of enhanced interrogation.

The left, both international and here at home, will jump all over anything that they think makes the U.S. look bad. Any rough treatment, severe questioning, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, bright lights or loud music all will be trumpeted to the heavens in an attempt to show that the U.S. in general and the Bush Administration in particular, is evil.

In their stupendous naivete they'll think that the world will love us because we have the "courage" to face up to our own (alleged) misdeeds, and give these "criminals" a "fair trial."

Every day brings forth a new insult to our nation from the Obama Administration. Just when I think it can't get any worse, it does.

Posted by Tom at 6:45 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 12, 2009

The Cost of Obama's Dithering on Afghanistan

We sometimes hear from the left how wonderful it is that we have a president who takes issues of war so seriously that he takes his time to gather all the facts and consult with all the experts before coming to a decision. He doesn't rush, we are told, but thinks through everything carefully.

It's a crock, of course. The real reasons for the delay are simple. President Obama doesn't really care about Afghanistan, and all of his promises to fight and win there as Senator were just so much hot air.

What he really does care about is his healthcare bill. He knows that if he adopts Geneeral McChrystal's full set of recommendations it will make the anti-war left very mad at him, so much so that it could jeopardize his healthcare initiative. Given that it is priority number one, he's delaying a decision on Afghanistan as long as he can, hoping that Pelosi and Reid will get something, anything, passed.

The problem is that there are real costs to this delay. Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, the former the intellectual author of the surge in Iraq and the latter his scholar-wife, lay them out in The Weekly Standard. Following are excerpts:

General Stanley McChrystal's assessment and force-requirement studies were largely complete by the beginning of August. The White House has stated that the president will not be announcing a decision until the end of November at the earliest. White House officials claim that the delay does not affect the movement of U.S. forces or our prospects for military success next year. These claims are inaccurate. The delay in White House decision-making is protracting and complicating the campaign in Afghanistan and has reduced General McChrystal's ability to prepare for and conduct decisive operations next year.

When McChrystal took command of the Afghan war in June, the White House made it clear that he was expected to make dramatic progress within a year--by the summer of 2010. McChrystal worked quickly both to understand the situation and to develop an appropriate course of action that would meet the goals of the White House strategy. His concept of operations aimed to reverse the enemy's momentum and address important problems in Afghan governance. At the same time, he oversaw the establishment of a new three-star headquarters, the deployment of the last of the additional forces his predecessor had requested for election security, the securing of the elections themselves, and major operations in Helmand and elsewhere. He also made the painful decision to pull U.S. forces back from isolated outposts that required too much manpower and were in danger of being overrun. He sought to create conditions for decisive operations.

in time to meet the expectations of the White House. He was supported in that effort by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen and by CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus.

The White House has not done its part to allow General McChrystal to meet its own deadline. It was slow to receive and act on the assessment he sent, and it deliberately refused even to review his force recommendations for weeks after they were complete. In the intervening months the White House has held a series of seminars on Afghanistan and the region that should have been conducted before the new strategy was announced in March.

If the White House had immediately received and acted on General McChrystal's recommendations--which were specifically tailored to meet the objectives described in the president's March 27 speech--the following critical initiatives could already be underway:

* Expanding the Afghan National Security Forces as rapidly as possible toward the goal of 400,000 total, a figure agreed-upon by the Afghan Ministers of Defense and Interior and by the U.S. military's own reviews;

* Preparing infrastructure within Afghanistan and the region to accommodate a large and rapid surge of U.S. forces;

* Sending more forces immediately to support ongoing operations in Helmand;

* Issuing orders to deploy all of the forces McChrystal requested as rapidly as possible.

The White House could have begun all of those initiatives and still conducted a thoughtful review over the ensuing weeks.
...

White House preoccupation with troop levels has also hindered the development and implementation of a coherent political strategy to improve Afghan governance to match McChrystal's military strategy. The administration's response to the predictably flawed elections has been reactive and defensive. Even now that the election crisis has ended, the White House appears more intent on micromanaging the deployment of forces down to the last soldier than on developing a coherent approach to improving Afghan governance. The White House is now considering three, four, or five different force-level options, depending on the (official or anonymous) source. It has yet to show that it has developed any serious options for political strategy.
...

But the administration must also buy more time for its commander. The White House cannot sit on the general's proposals and requests for months and still expect him to meet a deadline set when he took command. It is still possible, if the White House sends General McChrystal the forces he needs, to see a significant improvement in Afghanistan in a year--but the year begins when the additional resources start flowing. That, in turn, means that Afghanistan may not seem to be doing that well next summer when both the Taliban fighting season and the congressional campaign season are at their heights. The president has a responsibility to keep Washington politics from derailing the effort in Afghanistan at a critical moment next year.

Unfortunately, it seems to be Washington politics that is keeping the Administration from taking a decision on Afghanistan.

Worse, if news reports turn out to be accurate, Obama will "split the difference," that is, given General McChrystal only some of what he requested. The result will be the worst of both worlds; not enough to win but enough to get more Americans killed.

I do sincerely hope that our president does the right thing and adopts General McChrystal's entire recommendation. I think we'll know soon.

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October 11, 2009

Obama's Evolving Promises on Afghanistan

Jim Geraghty traces the evolution of Obama's promises about what he'd do about Afghanistan, from his candidacy to this past week:

Then-candidate Barack Obama, July 15, 2008:
Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq. That's what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this month. And that's why, as President, I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.

And then in August, before the VFW:

This is the central front in the war on terrorism. This is where the Taliban is gaining strength and launching new attacks, including one that just took the life of ten French soldiers. This is where Osama bin Laden and the same terrorists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans on our own soil are hiding and plotting seven years after 9/11. This is a war that we have to win.
And then in his convention address:
I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And then on October 22:

Abroad, we need a new direction that ends the war in Iraq, focuses on the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban, and restores strong alliances and tough American diplomacy.

The New York Times, today:

President Obama's national security team is moving to reframe its war strategy by emphasizing the campaign against Al Qaeda in Pakistan while arguing that the Taliban in Afghanistan do not pose a direct threat to the United States, officials said Wednesday.

I think we know where this is headed.

In the post just previous to this one I showed how the Administration has been laying the groundwork for withdrawal by telling us that

1) "the Taliban is not...a homogenous group."
2) They could bring elements of the Taliban into the government
3) This different Taliban would not harbor al Qaeda
4) Therefore we could draw down troops as we have no fight with the Taliban.

I sincerely hope this does not come to pass. I hope he adopts Gen. McChrystal's recommendations but I fear he will not.

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The Coming Obama Excuse for Withdrawing from Afghanistan?

Ever since the invasion of Iraq turned unpopular in maybe 2005, liberals assured us that while that was the wrong war, Afghanistan was the right one where we had to fight. Yessiree, they were raring to go "get bin Laden."

During the campaign, then-Senator Obama seemed on board too. On October 22, 2008 he said

In 2002, I said we should focus on finishing the fight against Osama bin Laden. Throughout this campaign, I have argued that we need more troops and more resources to win the war in Afghanistan, and to confront the growing threat from al Qaeda along the Pakistani border. ...

Make no mistake: we are confronting an urgent crisis in Afghanistan, and we have to act. It's time to heed the call from General McKiernan and others for more troops. That's why I'd send at least two or three additional combat brigades to Afghanistan. ...Only a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes Afghanistan and the fight against al Qaeda will succeed.

And indeed, last March, Obama seemed to keep his promise when he announced that we were sending another 17,000 troops to Afghanistan.

At the time I congratulated the president, but harbored some doubts as to whether he'd really see it through.

Please Note - President Obama may well do the right thing and order the surge of troops that General McChrystal wants. If he does I will congratulate him.

Right now though I am seeing signs that this is not what they will do. They seem to be floating a justification for scaling back troops, and moving to a counterterror strategy of special forces and airpower.

The Excuse

What they will tell us is that the Taliban are not a threat to the United States, and al Qaeda does not operate in force in Afghanistan, so bringing elements of the Taliban (Quetta Shura Taliban (QST), actually, and they call themselves the "Islamic Emerate of Afghanistan") into the Afghan government. The Obama Administration will tell us that they've struck a deal with the QST by which the latter has agreed not to harbor al Qaeda. As such, we have no beef with QST, the country is safe from al Qaeda, and we can withdraw troops.

On Thursday White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs equivocated when asked if "the administration believe it's possible to defeat the Taliban?"

Transcript:

Q Thanks, Robert. Coming out of the Situation Room meeting yesterday on Afghanistan and Pakistan, obviously, what significance should we attach to the fact that the President's public words lately, a lot of people have been noting that he continues to talk about dismantling al Qaeda but seems to be talking less and less about Taliban. And people are reading that, that's sort of a significant shift and a signal of where the mission is headed. What do you say about that?

MR. GIBBS: I would tell folks to go back and read what the President said -- has said virtually every month leading up to -- and I would -- including the review and the speech coming out of the review from last March.

The President has always evaluated our policy, as I said here yesterday, based on those that pose a direct threat to attack our homeland or to attack our allies. Included in that group are any that would provide safe haven for those activities.

Though, as I said yesterday, we're not talking about the same type of -- they're not the same type of group. Al Qaeda is a global transnational jihadist movement that has conducted attacks on the United States homeland; conducted attacks on our allies; continues to plan, and has the intent and will to do so again. Again, some in the Taliban have similar agendas that have helped al Qaeda with safe havens. There's also a significant number of Taliban that are local warlords that have far different agendas. I think to look at them as separate entities, it's certainly not backed up by any of the intelligence.

What Gibbs does throughout the briefing is stress that "the Taliban is not...a homogenous group." What the Administration is going to do is bring elements of the Taliban into the government that claim that they have an agenda that does not threaten the United States.

This next exchange is the worst:

Q Thanks, Robert. You had the March review on Afghanistan/Pakistan policy. You have General McChrystal's report. You've had hours of discussions over the past couple weeks. Does the administration believe it's possible to defeat the Taliban?

MR. GIBBS: I think -- let me get a better sense of -- let me say this. I think as we get into Friday's discussion, there will be a larger discussion about Afghanistan, particularly, and the threats we face there.

No direct answer, so the answer is "no." Sounds like preparation for a withdrawal to me.

Richard Haas, president of the liberal Council on Foreign Relations, said much the same thing in today's Washington Post:

Al-Qaeda does not require Afghan real estate to constitute a regional or global threat. Terrorists gravitate to areas of least resistance; if they cannot use Afghanistan, they will use countries such as Yemen or Somalia, as in fact they already are. No doubt, the human rights situation would grow worse under Taliban rule, but helping Afghan girls get an education, no matter how laudable, is not a goal that justifies an enormous U.S. military commitment....

All of this argues that U.S. interests in Afghanistan are less than fundamental, rendering the conflict not a war of necessity but a war of choice.

Reading the entire piece, the summary of his argument is that al Qaeda will not be a force in Afghanistan, it does not depend on that country anyway, so it's not so important for us to be there in force. Indeed, he says, "if they cannot use Afghanistan, they will use countries such as Yemen or Somalia, as in fact they already are."

There are two problems with this. One, as Thomas Joscelyn points out, "why not allow al Qaeda and its allies to take over whatever geographic territory they desire?"

The second is that it's all contradicted by history. Have we forgotten that the Taliban harbored al Quaeda prior to our invasion? If given the chance, surely they will do so again.

Indeed, as By Thomas Joscelyn & Bill Roggio conclude

You have undoubtedly heard that Osama bin Laden was the Taliban's "guest" in Afghanistan prior to September 11. That is a vast understatement. The reality is that bin Laden integrated al Qaeda's operations with the Taliban's in a variety of important ways. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been fighting side-by-side for more than a decade. Long before September 11, al Qaeda successfully integrated itself into the Taliban's infrastructure...

The bottom line is that al Qaeda and the Taliban fight side-by-side today, just as they have for more than a decade.

It is remarkable that anyone would argue that a Taliban safe haven in Afghanistan would not necessarily lead to an al Qaeda safe haven there given that the two currently enjoy the same safe havens in Northern Pakistan. After the two jointly established the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan in 2006, for example, it should have become painfully obvious that they had not given up on their combined territorial ambitions.

If yo udon't believe them maybe you'll believe Al Jazeera:

Another Excuse

The other excuse the Obama Administration may try is that the war is too expensive. Bill Kristol said last Tuesday us that

At today's White House meeting, President Obama, I'm told, reminded the congressional leaders that every thousand troops sent to Afghanistan would cost about a billion dollars a year, and asked whether the lawmakers would really support $40 to $50 billion a year of additional spending for the war.

This from the administration that thought nothing of a trillion dollar "stimulus," no less. $40 - $50 billion is pocket change to Democrats.

Conclusion

All these past several years when I heard liberals say that Iraq was the wrong war but they wanted to fight in Afghanistan, I openly doubted them on this blog. I said that once they got into power they'd say the war was too expensive, because the money was needed at home for "badly needed school lunch program."

I sincerely hope Obama does the right thing, but if not I think I'll be halfway right as to his excuse if he doesn't.

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October 9, 2009

Obama's Ridiculous Nobel Peace Prize

So President Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. We're supposed to be happy for him and for our country. Sorry, but I'm not.

If you can stand to watch it, here are his remarks this morning upon learning of the award

From his remarks

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build -- a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.

He's actually right on some of these: The award is not about his accomplishments because he has none, he does not deserve to be in the company of most of the recipients, and

Where he's wrong is that he does deserve to be in the company of some of the more recent recipients, and the current Nobel prize does most certainly not reflect the promise of our founding documents.

Given that Obama has done absolutely nothing to advance peace, and in fact has made the war far more likely, you may be wondering why he got the prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee clears that up:

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

It's all bullcrap, of course, but the meaning is clear: we hate a strong United States that takes firm action against the dictators and troublemakers of the world and want one that give up it's sovereignty to international institutions and prefers endless meaningless talk to action.

More, they admit that Obama has done nothing of substance. They base their entire decision on the idea that he has "created a new climate" and "given its people hope."

If there was once any doubt, it should be clear by now that the Nobel Peace Prize is a complete and utter farce. It is nothing but a political statement by a bunch of leftists.

Once upon a time, the winners were at least deserving. Consider these examples:

1906 - Theodore Roosevelt

1919 - Woodrow Wilson

1944 - The International Committee of the Red Cross

195 - George Marshall

1962 - Linus Pauling

1978 - Anwar Al-Sadat and Menachem Begin

1979 - Mother Teresa

1983 - Lech Walesa

1986 - Elie Wiesel

All of these are men, and one woman and organization, of solid achievements. They and most of the others are deserving.

However, more recently the award has gone off the rails with these winners:

1990 - Mikhail Gorbachev

1992 - Rigoberta Menchú Tum

1994 - Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin

2001 - The United Nations ( U.N.) and Kofi Annan

2002 - Jimmy Carter

2004 - Wangari Maathai

2005 - International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Mohamed ElBaradei

2007 - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr.

Gorbachev is an unrepentant communist who would have kept the Soviet Union around if he had his way, Menchu invented most of her biography, Arafat was a terrorist, the UN is a harbor for human rights abusers, Annan refused to take action that would have prevented the Rwanda massacres and presided over the Oil-for-Food scam, Carter is an anti-Semite, Maathai thinks that AIDS was created in the West to kill black people, the IAEA useless and ElBaradei a moral idiot who thinks Israel the greatest threat to peace, the IPCC is a political outfit and Al Gore a nut who rants that "the earth has a fever."

No one in their right mind would want to be in the company of these losers.

If you look at the timeline on the Nobel Committee's website, you'll see that the deadline for submission of candidates is February, 1 (12 days after he took office), in that month and in March the committee shortens the list, in March and August advisers review it, and in October the winner is selected.

So if you think nine months in office is a rather short time to garner such an award, know that someone thought him worthy a week or two after his inauguration. This alone boggles the mind.

But in the intervening months the committee was no doubt impressed with Obama's world "apology tour." They must have salivated over how he bashed his own country, and George W Bush in particular (if only by implication).

They gave him the awared because they see him as standing above America, not as part of it. He is "post-American." Obama doesn't see himself so much as an American as a "citizen of the world," something he called himself last July in a speech he gave while in Germany.

The whole thing was meant as a repudiation of GWB, and to a lesser extent I think Reagan. After all, this is the org who gave the prize to Jimmy Carter but not RR.

It is an encouragement for him to continue his polices of appeasement : cutting our military, not using our military except in the most multilateral fashion and then only tepidly, signing all manner of international treaties and agreements, ignoring problems such as Islamic extremism

It was also meant as, or will certainly have the effect of, dissuading him from sending a significant number of troops to Afghanistan. Anti-war types in the Democrat party and media will no doubt use this to persuade him to scale back our effort there.

But what if he does send a significant number of troops, a "surge" along the lines recommended by General McChrystal? How will the Nobel committee view that?

Finally, as if to sum up the current administration's attitude, in a display of utter classlessness State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said today that

From our standpoint, you know, we think that this gives us a sense of momentum ... when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes

Ha ha.

Better get your laughs in now, because where we're going with Obama in charge there won't be much to laugh about.

Update

In case there was any doubt, the Democrats have officially gone nuts.

We are all now required to sing the praises of Obama, says DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse

The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists--the Taliban and Hamas this morning--in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize. Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize--an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride--unless of course you are the Republican Party.

That "dissent is the highest form or patriotism" went out the window fast.

Posted by Tom at 9:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 25, 2009

Obama v Netanyahu at the United Nations

United States President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu each gave major speeches at the United Nations this week. One was a profile in moral cowardice, the other in courage.

Profile in Cowardice

Obama's speech was, or should be, a national embarrassment. The man is stunningly naive, with a child-like view of the world that is breathtaking. He insults his own country again and again. He is more narcissistic than any politician I've known. And he is a moral coward because he hides behind politically correct pieties and refuses to address, let alone acknowledge the villains and evil nations in the world.

A few excerpts

I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.

I'm disgusted with him already. Lucky I didn't see him on TV or I'd have thrown my shoe through it.

Now, like all of you, my responsibility is to act in the interest of my nation and my people, and I will never apologize for defending those interests. But it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 -- more than at any point in human history -- the interests of nations and peoples are shared.

"more than at any point in human history" any point? More than at any time in thousands of years of recorded history? The ignorance is staggering.

On my first day in office, I prohibited -- without exception or equivocation -- the use of torture by the United States of America.

We never tortured, you pathetic excuse for a president. And thank you for giving our enemies a propaganda point that they will use against us again and again.

We've also re-engaged the United Nations. We have paid our bills. We have joined the Human Rights Council. (Applause.)

Of course they're applauding, you idiot. The UN Human Rights Council serves to protect dictators and human rights abusers. Sitting on it now are among other human-rights -abusing countries China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Bahrain, and the Russian Federation. They're on the council so they can prevent it from condemning and taking action against abusers such as themselves. The council spends most of it's time bashing Israel. Who in their right mind thinks that this council is capable of anything good?

The cooperative effort of the whole world. Those words ring even more true today, when it is not simply peace, but our very health and prosperity that we hold in common. Yet we also know that this body is made up of sovereign states. And sadly, but not surprisingly, this body has often become a forum for sowing discord instead of forging common ground; a venue for playing politics and exploiting grievances rather than solving problems. After all, it is easy to walk up to this podium and point figures -- point fingers and stoke divisions. Nothing is easier than blaming others for our troubles, and absolving ourselves of responsibility for our choices and our actions. Anybody can do that. Responsibility and leadership in the 21st century demand more.

What meaningless drivel.

In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world; nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War.

The time has come to realize that the old habits, the old arguments, are irrelevant to the challenges faced by our people. They lead nations to act in opposition to the very goals that they claim to pursue -- and to vote, often in this body, against the interests of their own people. They build up walls between us and the future that our people seek, and the time has come for those walls to come down. Together, we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides -- coalitions of different faiths and creeds; of north and south, east, west, black, white, and brown.

Unreal. As I said, a staggering level of naivete.

But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East -- then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear

Really? And what exactly will you do when they ignore your words and forge ahead with their nuclear programs? The most you're going to get Russia and China to agree to is to ban the export of number two lead pencils to Iran. The truth, Obama, is that you don't do a blasted thing. You'll give more fine speeches but "the world" isn't interested in stopping Iran or North Korea.

These principles cannot be afterthoughts -- democracy and human rights are essential to achieving each of the goals that I've discussed today

Oh but it most certainly is an afterthought, coming at nearly the end of the speech.

I've had enough. On to a man of courage.

Profile in Courage

It took the leader of one of the smallest nations in the world, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, to speak the truth. His was the speech Obama should have given Excerpts:


Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants. Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.

Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee. There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people. The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments.

Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews. Is this a lie?

A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Those plans are signed by Hitler's deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself. Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered. Is this too a lie?

This June, President Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Did President Obama pay tribute to a lie? And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are those tattoos a lie?

One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration. Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own. My wife's grandparents, her father's two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis. Is that also a lie?

No they are not lies, Mr. Prime Minister. But I'm sure that many in the room listening to you think that they are. Anti-Semitism has a home at the United Nation.

Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency? A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!

Truth. The emperor has no clothes.

Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You're wrong. History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.

This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism that burst onto the world scene three decades ago after lying dormant for centuries.

Indeed those who think that it's a small terrorist problem of al Qaeda that we can solve through police type actions and "international cooperation" are dead wrong. Radical Islam will consume us all unless we recognize it for what it is and take action to stop it.

That is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction, and the most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom?

A real challenge, unlike the PC nonsense Obama spouted.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging. Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims. That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted.

Yes, and the real problem with the UN is not that it won't address "climate change," as Obama said, but because it will not call evil for what it is and take firm concrete action. Instead of taking action against Iran and North Korea for their nuclear programs, they spend their time condemning Israel.

But it gets better


For eight long years, Hamas fired from Gaza thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities. Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately hurled at our civilians, not a single UN resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks.

We heard nothing - absolutely nothing - from the UN Human Rights Council, a misnamed institution if there ever was one. In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza. It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis. We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare.

You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent. Finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond. But how should we have responded? Well, there is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country's civilian population. It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II.

During that war, the allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. Israel chose to respond differently. Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians - Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket launchers.

That was no easy task because the terrorists were firing missiles from homes and schools, using mosques as weapons depots and ferreting explosives in ambulances. Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas. We dropped countless flyers over their homes, sent thousands of text messages and called thousands of cell phones asking people to leave.

Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy's civilian population from harm's way. Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn? Israel. A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot.

By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth! What a perversion of justice!

Delegates of the United Nations, will you accept this farce? Because if you do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgment against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism and when an automatic majority could declare that the earth is flat.

A devastating indictment of the UN.

I believe such a peace can be achieved. But only if we roll back the forces of terror, led by Iran, that seek to destroy peace, eliminate Israel and overthrow the world order. The question facing the international community is whether it is prepared to confront those forces or accommodate them.

For all Obama's strong words today about Iran's secret enrichment facility the way things are going now it's going to be accommodation.

In an normal world Netanyahu would have received the applause and Obama the silence. Of course it was just the opposite.

Netanyahu has moral courage for speaking the truth. Obama is a moral coward for refusing to do so.

Posted by Tom at 11:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2009

Barack Obama - "Worst Foreign Policy Ever"

President Barack Obama has proven to be Jimmy Carter on steroids. It took Carter four years to do what Obama has has done in nine months. His speech before the General Assembly at the United Nations was a disgrace, displaying stunning levels of naivete. The Washington Times calls it right:

EDITORIAL: Worst foreign policy ever

Tomorrow, President Obama will chair a special nuclear-disarmament meeting by the United Nations Security Council. The White House bills this as a historic first, but it is typical of Mr. Obama's emphasis on style over substance. He will appear before the body with the weakest foreign-policy record of any new U.S. president in recent memory. An around-the-world tour of international hot spots shows that for all the president's lofty rhetoric, he can point to precious few accomplishments.

In the Middle East, Mr. Obama's unprecedented obsequiousness in dealing with the Muslim world has generated no tangible returns. The leading Arab states repeatedly have declined to budge toward compromise to push the regional peace process forward, and they show no signs of normalizing relations with Israel. Palestinians refuse to talk to Israelis until they agree to a settlement freeze on the West Bank, and Israel has reportedly responded to Mr. Obama's call for a freeze by saying it will go ahead and build 2,500 new housing units.

Nor has Mr. Obama's outreach effort translated into a general sense of good will. A May 2009 University of Maryland survey of the Middle East showed that those with a very or somewhat favorable view of the United States increased only 3 percent between 2008 and 2009, from an anemic 15 percent to 18 percent.

In Afghanistan, the president has hit turbulence within his own party, and as the going gets tough, he seems ready to repudiate his "stronger and smarter" strategy after only six months. He is balking at supplying the troops necessary to stave off disaster, and the growing discussion in Washington is now how the administration can minimize the political damage of a defeat in Afghanistan.

North Korea has continued to be openly belligerent, testing a nuclear weapon and long-range missile, withdrawing from the 1953 armistice agreement with South Korea, and declaring it will weaponize its plutonium stocks. In response, the United States unilaterally conceded to long-standing North Korean demands for bilateral talks.

North Korea's success has encouraged Iran to move forward with its own nuclear program. The Islamic regime has agreed to talks Mr. Obama requested, but the mullahs refuse to negotiate the nuclear issue. The United States finds itself to the left of the United Nations and France on the question of acknowledging that Iran even has a nuclear-weapons program, which is quite an achievement.

Wary of Iran, other Middle Eastern states are gearing up for nuclear programs, unconvinced by U.S. promises of extending a defensive umbrella. The Eastern European umbrella was abruptly closed when the Obama administration abandoned the missile-defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic last week. This move drew plaudits from Moscow, which had registered strenuous objections and was not asked to make any reciprocal concessions to match the U.S. surrender. Russia continues militarily to occupy a significant part of Georgia, an American ally, and conducts business as usual with Iran and other troublemaking states.

Actions in Mr. Obama's world are consequence-free. The only country the Obama team has tried to strong-arm is Honduras, which is desperately trying to stave off a socialist takeover by an anti-American autocrat whom the State Department has concluded is worthy of full U.S. support. This has delighted Cuban dictators Raul and Fidel Castro and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, who are very willing to let the United States carry their water. Venezuela, meanwhile, has signed a major arms deal with Russia, continues to build the anti-Gringo "Bolivarian" bloc, bullies U.S. ally Colombia and plans to launch its own nuclear program.

Then there is the catalogue of Mr. Obama's embarrassing moments on the world stage, a list which includes: giving England's Queen Elizabeth II an iPod with his speeches on it; giving British Prime Minister Gordon Brown a collection of DVDs that were not formatted to the European standard (by contrast, Mr. Brown gave Mr. Obama an ornamental desk-pen holder made from the oak timbers of Victorian anti-slaver HMS Gannet, among other historically significant gifts); calling "Austrian" a language; bowing to the Saudi king; releasing a photo of a conference call with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which the president was showing the soles of his shoes to the camera (an Arab insult); saying "let me be absolutely clear. Israel is a strong friend of Israel's"; saying the United States was "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world"; suggesting Arabic translators be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan where Arabic is not a native language; sending a letter to French President Jacques Chirac when Nicolas Sarkozy was the president of France; holding a town-hall meeting in France and not calling on a single French citizen; and referring to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when he meant Cinco de Mayo. Also of note was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a "reset" button with the Russian word for "overcharge."

Progress toward an international agreement on global climate change has stalled, an administration failure which we applaud. We also approve of the highly effective expanded attacks by drone aircraft against terrorist targets in Pakistan, a policy implemented by President George W. Bush in August 2008. Mr. Obama was likewise successful in ordering the taking out of three teenage Somali pirates by Navy snipers in April after the outlaws took an American ship's captain hostage. In other words, President Obama's most successful policies thus far have been his selective killings. It's not exactly a program he can build on.

Posted by Tom at 9:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 22, 2009

Obama's Moment of Truth on Afghanistan

From 2003 on we were told by the left that Iraq was the wrong war but boy oh boy they wanted to fight the 'real war' in Afghanistan. Yessiree, they were itching to fight the terrorists in the country that had attacked us. Then-Senator Obama, as we'll all recall, joined in the chorus.

Now that they're in power suddenly their war ardor has cooled.

As we all know the war in Afghanistan has not been going particularly well. Just as I said with Iraq in late 2006, what's done is done and now is not the time to spend our time pointing fingers and assigning blame. Let's leave that to the voters in the next election and the historians of the future. For now can we please just win this thing?

I was right then and I am right now. In late 2006 and early 2007 I was a proponent of a new strategy that came to be known as "the surge." Despite much political opposition it was implemented and it worked. Iraq is not out of the woods yet but it at least stands a good chance of success and it's people have a future.

We are that point of decision for Afghanistan. Back in March I congratulated President Obama in a post titled Obama's New Plan for Afghanistan Gets It Right...I Think. He seemed to be on the right track, but seemed half-hearted about it, so I wasn't ready to commit.

It would now appear that my hesitation was well founded. General McCrystal needs additional resources to properly implement his new strategy and now is President Obama's Moment of Truth.

The Washington Post reports that General Stanley McChrystal, our top commander in Afghanistan,

...warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure," according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible." ...

McChrystal concludes the document's five-page Commander's Summary on a note of muted optimism: "While the situation is serious, success is still achievable."

But he repeatedly warns that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat is likely.

The Post story doesn't specify how many troops, but the New York Times says that it could be "from 10,000 to as many as 45,000."

So now President Obama has a decision to make. How important is this? I think Michael Goldfarb has it right when he says that "Health care reform won't make or break Obama's presidency. The way he conducts the war in Afghanistan will."

What Strategy?

When the surge for Iraq was first proposed opponents said that we had to have political progress before we could have military progress. They were wrong for reasons which I have gone over a zillion times on this blog, and they will be wrong for the same reasons if they propose it for Afghanistan. The short version is that the lesson of counterinsurgency is that you cannot have political progress unless you first secure the polulation.

General George Casey, the man who preceded Petraeus as commander in Iraq, thought that the way to victory was to build up the Iraqi army and draw down American troops, who he thought were fueling the insurgency. Some now say the same thing with Afghanistan. They were wrong then and they're wrong now.

When American troops are among the people in force they can protect the population. When the population feels safe they will trust the troops and will give them intelligence, and we can defeat or tamp down the insurgents. This gives us breathing space to build up the indigenous army to the point where they can hold on their own.

Drawing down troops and only sending them in for hit-and-run raids is foolish and won't work. We tried it in Iraq in 2005/6 by keeping our troops on five large bases and sending them out only on raids. It didn't work because the only way to win an insurgency is to get the people to trust the counterinsurgents, and the only way that will happen is if the counterinsurgents live among the people. "Commuting to work" doesn't work.

Illustrating the difference with an example, Aaron MacLean posits two futures for Afghanistan over at The Weekly Standard.

Scenario One - Raiding From Afar

It is 2014, and in places like Helmand province most people have not seen a Coalition serviceman in years. When they do come, they come at night, break down someone's door and take away someone's father or brother, who is usually never seen again. This is, however, a much less common occurrence than the sudden descent of incredible destruction from the sky. Again, this usually happens at night, and in the morning the news spreads of how many women and children were killed, how there were no militants in the area, et cetera. The national government fell in 2013, and what was left of the Afghan army retreated to the north, where it achieved some level of dominance and where the situation has come to resemble the pre-9/11 struggle between the Northern Alliance and the Pashto-dominated Taliban. In the south and the east, a loose confederation of militant groups under the aegis of the Taliban vie for control, and a pre-modern theocratic totalitarianism is the daily situation in most villages and cities: beheadings, stonings, and other manifestations of divine justice are conducted regularly and in public to maintain what order there can be. As foreigners from America and Europe withdrew, foreigners from places like the Caucuses, Arabia, and North Africa have come in increasing numbers, and locals hear rumors of training camps located in remote areas. The most significant consequence of the Coalition's draw-down in 2010 actually has little to do with Afghanistan at all: the Pakistani government is now about to fall, having been fully destabilized by attacks based across the Afghan border. In the highest militant circles, liaisons are being sought with the Pakistani intelligence service to discuss the future of that country's nuclear arsenal.

Scenario Two - Counterinsurgency

In one future, the United States and NATO are beginning to draw down troops from the levels they reached in 2010. That was a bloody year, as were the two that followed it, but the level of violence has been dropping steadily since then as the sense of order and stability improves. As happened in Iraq, Coalition forces have come to be respected as the best guarantor of stability and security in most of the country. In some regions this is because the legitimacy of the Afghan government is fully accepted, and in others it is due to bilateral arrangements made by Coalition troops with local tribes. Terrorist attacks are still a regular occurrence, and a low level of cross border violence from Pakistan-based militants--who are harassed but not significantly hampered by the government in Islamabad--seems to be irreducible. But in general the widespread violence which spiked in the later part of the last decade is fading into memory, and the "safe-havens" within Afghanistan where the Taliban and al Qaeda could trade poppy, train, and operate, are eliminated. There are still such places in Pakistan, but our robust presence along the Afghan border gives us options for dealing with them, and leverage over the Pakistani government.

The real experts are Frederick and Kimberly Kagan. This husband-wife of scholars are probably the smartest military analysts on the planet.

In January of 2007 Frederick Kagan and retired Army Vice-Chief of Staff Jack Keane released an AEI report called Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq. They got the ear of President Bush and the plan eventually morphed into the surge. Frederick Kagan can therefore be considered one of the intellectual architects of the surge.

Kimberly Kagan, a former professor at West Point, now has her own think-tank, the Institute for the Study of War. All of her reports are must-reading.

They are to be listened to. Yesterday they released their plan for Afghanistan, A Comprehensive Strategy for Afghanistan: Afghanistan Force Requirements. I haven't read it, but hope to do so here shortly and will report on it when I do. From their introduction:

To inform the national discussion, therefore, we have produced a report that argues for an addition of 40,000-45,000 US troops in 2010 to the 68,000 American forces that will be there by the end of this year. The report illustrates where US, NATO, and Afghan forces are now and where additional forces are needed to accomplish the mission. It links the US force requirements to the growth of the Afghan National Security Forces on an accelerated timeline. It explains the methodology for assessing the adequacy of a proposed force-level. This product, and our recommendations and assessments, are entirely our own--they do not necessarily reflect the views of General McChrystal or anyone else." - Fred and Kim Kagan

Presidential Leadership

President Bush failed to continue to make the cases for Afghanistan and Iraq once the initial invasions were over. President Obama is on track to make the same mistake with regard to Afghanistan. I understand that he has a domestic agenda that he considers important, but instead of going on Letterman he needs to get serious and address the American people about Afghanistan. If he does not, he will lose what support he has left.

Charles Krauthammer rips Obama for his lack of leadership Fox News All-Stars last night:

I think what's really important here are two dates. The first is August 30. That's when the McChrystal report was sent to Washington. That is three weeks ago. Obama has had a single meeting [on that report] since then.

He says he hasn't reached a conclusion -- I suppose because he is spending all his time preparing for Letterman and speeches to schoolchildren -- to focus on a war in which our soldiers are in the field getting shot at and, as the president himself is saying, without a strategy.

Now, the other date is the 27th of March, when Obama gave a speech in the White House flanked by his Secretaries of Defense and State, in which he said, and I will read you this, because it is as if it never happened, "Today I'm announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan."

So we for six months have been living under the new Obama strategy, of which he says today we have none. And his next sentence is, again in March, "This marks the conclusion of a careful policy review" -- not the beginning, the end of the policy review.

So it has been his policy, and now he tells us we don't have a cart and we don't have a horse.

What's happening here is he announced the strategy of counterinsurgency in March. He said at the time that we "cannot afford" an "Afghanistan that slides [back] into chaos."

He said "My message to the terrorists who oppose us -- We will defeat you," And now he's not sure he wants to defeat them.

Swell. Obama needs to get on the ball and fast or this will consume him. We must win in Afghanistan or we face multimple 9-11s and a resurgent jihadist threat around the world.

Posted by Tom at 10:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Unbelievable Video of Obama Telling ACORN They Will Help Shape His Presidential Agenda


I think that by now everyone in the universe except those in the msm are aware of the videos by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles and which are posted at Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com exposing ACORN as a criminal organization.

But hey, it's no big deal, we're told, ACORN doesn't mean anything and President Obama only had an indirect relationship with them years ago.

Uh, not exactly. On this video Obama is caught saying ACORN and friends will shape his presidential agenda.

...before I even get inaugurated during the transition we're going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda. We're going to be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so that you have input into the agenda for the next president of the United States of America."

Swell.

Of course, this should be investigated to high heaven, and the WaPo and NYT should be all over it. But they'll yawn and move on because it doesn't suit their agenda.

Posted by Tom at 8:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 20, 2009

More on the Missile Defense System Obama Canceled

On Thursday I explained how Obama betrayed our allies who had gone out on a limb for us, reduced our ability to defend against Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and weakened us in the eyes of the world. The system Obama canceled would have put a powerful radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. cancelled

Before we get going today, a reminder from Jim Geraghty about how all promises from Obama come with an expiration date. Here's Obama this past April 5:

So let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.) If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed. (Applause.)

As I explained in my previous post, Poland and the Czech Republic were under tremendous amounts of pressure not to accept the anti-missile system. n 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.

They therefore went out on a limb for the United States. Now that the system has been canceled, they're without as much protection from Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and they've still got Russia mad at them.

But that's no big deal, as I'm sure the liberals will say. "Circumstances have changed."

Except that they haven't.

Thomas Joscelyn has the scoop in a post over at The Weekly Standard

First, note that the Obama administration, in its fact sheet on missile defense, does not currently intend to deploy a missile defense system capable of intercepting Iran's long-range missiles until 2020. Phase Four of Obama's plan, which is "in the 2020 timeframe," reads (emphasis added): "After development and testing are complete, deploy the SM-3 Block IIB to help better cope with medium- and intermediate-range missiles and the potential future ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) threat to the United States." All three of the previous phases deal with short to intermediate-range interceptors.

That is, Obama's plan does not envision the deployment of a missile defense capable of countering Iran's long-range missiles until the tail end of the current estimate of when the mullahs will have that capability. The current estimate is that Iran will have an ICBM capability between 2015 and 2020. Obama is therefore assuming the best-case scenario (for us) with respect to long-range missiles within that range. So, the current plan does not envision deploying long-range interceptors in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019, which are all possibilities in the current estimate. The Obama plan says things may change, of course, but for now they've assumed the best-case scenario from the West's perspective.

Second, as I discussed earlier, it is still very likely that the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) does not really have a firm grasp on when Iran will deploy ICBM's. Just as with the 2007 NIE on Iran's nuclear program, the IC has once again modified its views within a relatively short period of time. The previous estimate said that the mullahs "could" have a long-range missile capability by 2015. This estimate was cited as recently as President Obama's inauguration day, January 20 of this year. 2015 is still apparently a possibility, but the IC has now pushed back the tail-end of its range of possibilities. This means that it could be in 2015, or in 2020, some time in between, or whenever.

Of course, Iran continues apace with its satellite program (e.g. Iran launched its first satellite into space in February 2009), which can be used to push along its development of ICBM's. So, it is not clear why the IC now thinks, on average, it will take longer than previously anticipated for Iran to develop a long-range missile capability.

Third, the timing of the news of this revised NIE is certainly inauspicious. An IAEA document reportedly showing that Iran has the capability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system capable of carrying it has been leaked to the Associated Press. The IAEA responded by issuing a statement saying it "has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran." This is transparently false as the AP's account makes it clear that the IAEA's document says Iran has mostly likely worked on both the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon as well as the capability to deliver it.

Thus, at the precise moment the Obama administration is telling us there is less to worry about with respect to Iran's long-range missiles, a leaked IAEA document is telling us that there is more to worry about with respect to Iran's nuclear program in general. The Obama administration's entire rationale for its missile defense plan rests on the assumption that Iran will not be able to deliver such a weapon with a long-range missile for ten more years.

The Concept of Layers

Our ships in World War II had a multi-layered defense against enemy aircraft. Farthest out were our own fighters. The ship itself had three types of guns; 5 inch with proximity fused shells to fire long distance, Quad-mount 40mm Bofors for medium range, and 20mm Oerlikon as a last ditch defense. Modern aircraft carriers have a similar arrangement but with missiles and the Phalanx gun system for terminal defense.

It's the same with ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) defense. In the ideal system you set up a variety of radars and detection systems, then you have different types of missiles to intercept the threat during boost-stage, mid-course, and terminal phase. We have AEGIS ships, ground-based interceptors, and finally the THAAD system as terminal defense.

The reason for all this is pretty simple; no one layer will get all of the threats.

By canceling the system that would have been set up in Poland and the Czech Republic Obama has removed one layer.

MAD Won't Work

We could deter the Soviets and Chicoms (nice Cold War term there) because they were atheists and as evil as they were and are at the end of the day wanted to live. Communism has no meaning if everyone is dead. Mutual Assured Destruction thus had a perverse logic to it that worked during the Cold War.

Not so with religious fanatics, especially of the Muslim variety. Through dozens if not hundreds of statements it should be pretty clear by now that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are not at all shy about sacrificing perhaps millions of their countrymen if it means destroying an enemy.

This said, they indeed hesitate before pushing the button when they get nuclear weapons and the means by which to deliver them. Even fanatics will have last minute doubts. But weakness on our part will encourage them to "risk it" and encourage their fanaticism. Osama bin Laden and others saw the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan as a sign from God that He was on their side and that they should continue their jihad. No doubt the mullahs and Ahmadinejad see the same thing from Obama's weakness. .

Same Old Song From the Democrats

I have been observing Democrats for almost 40 years, and they're all the same on National Defense. Their mantra is "develop forever, deploy never." They're always against current weapons systems, but in favor of some future system. President Carter canceled the B-1a in favor of a future stealth bomber (which eventually turned out to be the B-2). President Clinton forever delayed the deployment of anti-missile systems in favor of future ones. Democrats in Congress are just the same.

Folks, I know these Democrats. I know how they think. What's going on now is the latest stanza in the same old song. I guarantee you that when it comes time to deploy the system(s) in and around Turkey that Obama now claims he wants, they'll want to cancel them too. Do not be fooled.

What Have We Learned?

  1. All promises from Obama come with an expiration date
  2. Our allies went out on a limb for us and we sawed it off
  3. Obama will not deploy any system capable of countering ICBMs until 2020, "the tail end of the current estimate" as to when Iran will have ICBMs.
  4. We should not be confident of current estimates on Iranian capabilities.
  5. Anti-missile defenses should be set up in layers
  6. MAD won't work
  7. History tells us that Obama's future system will be opposed anyway by Democrats as their motto is "develop forever, deploy never."

The prudent thing is to have multiple layers of defense against all types of missile threats; short range, IRBM (Intermediate-Range Ballistic Misslies),and ICBMs. These defenses should be deployed well ahead of when we currently think our adversaries might deploy their missiles. To do anything less is to toy with the security of the United States.

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Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 9, 2009

President Obama's Big Health Care Speech

Ok, so President Obama flattered himself by giving a big speech to a joint session of Congress tonight on one of his signature pieces of legislation. Since no one is going to read a post about Iran or the cost of energy anyway I may as well do the obligatory post.

Text of speech here.

Text of Republican response here.

The short version is that Obama told one whopper after another. He told so many that I simply don't have the time to set up links swatting all of them down. Let's go through some of them.

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.

Please. If Obamacare passes every president and congress from now until eternity will fiddle with health care. But he's probably arrogant enough to think that if his bill passes it will take care of us from here on out.

We are the only advanced democracy on Earth the only wealthy nation that allows such hardships for millions of its people

Who cares what they do in other democracies? Every other democracy on the planet denies their citizens their natural law rights to own firearms mostly unencumbered by government regulation. I don't' want to emulate Europe or anyplace else for that matter.

There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canadas, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.

I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesnt, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.

No, you have tried to completely revamp our system. And as I pointed out a few weeks ago, you do indeed want a single-payer system. You just lie about it now.

Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:

First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

Lie. His plan creates incentives designed to move people off of their work plan onto his government option.

And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies - because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.

Preventative care might be a good idea, but the idea that it saves money has been disproven.

Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most.

Presto, free ice cream for everyone! Hope he doesn't hurt his elbow patting himself on the back.

The power of government to regulate is a fearful thing. Amazing how the same people who freaked out over the Patriot act see no problem with the president issuing such regulations. All for your own good, of course.

Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those - particularly the young and healthy - who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don't sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people's expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don't provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek - especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions - just can't be achieved.

That's why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance - just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers.

You either believe in freedom and liberty or you don't. Obama and the liberals don't. It is flat out wrong to force people to take part in such a program. I don't even think people should be forced to take part in Social Security. There should almost always be an opt out.

He has no business telling people that they must buy health insurance. This line about "otherwise we all pay for it" is a crock because it's not their real argument. The motivation is not cost accounting, it's the arrogant "we know what's best for you so listen to your betters you dumb little people!"

People must be free to make dumb decisions. Not wearing a seatbelt is dumb, but you must be free to take that decision. If you get in an accident and are hurt where in a situation where you'd otherwise be fine then it's your problem. Am I a meanie? No, I'm in favor or personal responsibility.

Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable.

Breathtaking.

Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.

Actually, the charge is true. Universal coverage always means care gets rationed. And what they'll do is start denying treatments to old people with stage four cancer, and stop allowing the most expensive treatments in situations when they figure you're going to die in a few months anyway.

There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false - the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

Lie. There are no provisions to verify citizenship. Democrats voted down amendments offered by Republicans that would have incorporated verifications. If there is nothing to verify whether you're a citizen or not, of course illegals are going to sign up. I would if I was an illegal, and so would you.

And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up - under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.

Sigh. Obama just repeats the same old falsehoods again and again. Even Factcheck concludes that the house bill "would allow both a "public plan" and newly subsidized private plans to cover all abortions."

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies dont like this idea. They argue that these private companies cant fairly compete with the government. And theyd be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they wont be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects

Lie. If you believe that the government won't subsidize the "public option" so as to drive private insurance companies out of business I've got a bridge to sell you.

But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers.

Profit is what is left over after overhead expenses are met, you idiot. But I guess this is what happens when you spend your entire life living off of the taxpayer dole and not being involved in making a real living.

First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits either now or in the future.

My g_d he really does think we're stupid if he expects anyone to believe this. YOU CANNOT INCREASE DEMAND AND HOLD PRICES DOWN... unless you plan on withholding care. I.E. rationing. It's that supply and demand thing we're supposed to have learned in high school.

Second, we've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system a system that is currently full of waste and abuse.

I don't believe any politician who says they'll save money through introducing efficiencies, because they never comes to pass. This applies to Republicans as well as Democrats.

In fact, I want to speak directly to Americas seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that's been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.

Demagugue? Stop talking about yourself so much.

he only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care.

There's a name for bashing the profits of companies that don't do the government's bidding.

Finally, many in this chamber particularly on the Republican side of the aisle have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine.

In other words, no tort reform.

I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that its better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent whats in the plan, we will call you out.

Gee that sounds like a call for bipartisanship. Guess what? We'll call you out too.

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing.

Another lie to insinuate that conservatives want to do nothing. Google around for "Republican health care plans" or some such if you're some lib who actually believes Obama. If you don't like Republican or conservatives plans fine, but don't lie and say that the other side isn't proposing anything.

Conclusion

A very partisan speech. it was full of threats and attacks on conservatives for allegedly misrepresenting Obamacare. If he thought he was going to bring in any Republicans he's going to be sorely disappointed. Sure, he'll get an Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins, but I hardly count them as Republicans anyway.

So the battle lines are drawn. His main problem is holding his own party together. With a 60 - 40 lead in the Senate and 256 - 178 advantage in the House, they should be able to pass whatever they want. That they can't shows how incompetent Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are.

We now come off of August recess, after all the rucus over the town halls, demonstrations and such. It's clear that at least Obama doesn't think they were representative of the majority of the American people. I think otherwise, and hope I right. Obama may get his proposals through Congress mostly unscathed, and it may well doom his party.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 23, 2009

Barack Obama Does Think We're Stupid

Today's Washington Times reports that President Obama used his Saturday weekly radio address to tackle health care reform rumors:

Some of the statements about the pending health care reform are "phony claims meant to divide us," President Obama said Saturday during his weekly radio address....

"It should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are," the president said.

"Lets start with the false claim that illegal immigrants will get health insurance under reform. Thats not true," he said, a few days after his former campaign apparatus now run by the Democratic National Committee started a Web site to combat rumors.

Mr. Obama said the legislation would not establish "death panels" and that nothing will alter the ban on using taxpayer money for abortions.

As National Review editor Rich Lowry said the other day, Obama is counting on the American people to be stupid, because not a single thing he said in his radio address is true.

Illegal Aliens

Obama claims that illegals won't get insurance coverage under this plan. However, Democrats have worked to make sure that no one who applies for the "public option" with have his or her immigration status checked. Republican Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV)offered amendments that "would have enforced income, eligibility, and immigration verification screening." However, all Democrats voted against the amendment.

Get it? Apply for the public option and you won't have your immigration status checked. Obviously, people in the country illegally are going to apply, knowing that their secret is safe. Democrats surely know this. The only plausible reason that they voted against the safeguards is that they secretly want benefits to go to illegals.

Death Panels

President Obama says that "the legislation would not establish "death panels"."

This one is a bit more complicated, and I'm indebted to Mike's America for this

(Obama) insisted that it was an "extraordinary lie" to suggest that there would be "death panels" to decide who gets care and who dies. Sarah Palin has already debunked that nonsense and the Senate acknowledged the problem by removing that provision in their version of the bill. And what's more, we have Obama's own words in an interview he gave to the New York Times on April 28 in which he discussed end of life care:
THE PRESIDENT: So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

Q: So how do you -- how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.

This one is complicated, but I also think that Andy McCarthy and Mark Steyn have it about right. It's important to understand that no, there won't be panels that decide "A lives and B dies," but that they will decide that "this level of care isn't necessary, and gee, it will also save money." Obama and his Democrats are determined to save money, and they're going to do it by cutting end of life care.

Abortion

The president says that "the legislation would not... alter the ban on using taxpayer money for abortions."

Again, not true. As the AP explains,

Health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue...

A compromise approved by a House committee last week attempted to balance questions of federal funding, personal choice and the conscience rights of clinicians. It would allow the public plan to cover abortion but without using federal funds, only dollars from beneficiary premiums. Likewise, private plans in the new insurance exchange could opt to cover abortion, but no federal subsidies would be used to pay for the procedure.

"It's a sham," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life. "It's a bookkeeping scheme. The plan pays for abortion, and the government subsidizes the plan."

More from the National Right to Life:

As amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 30 (the Capps-Waxman Amendment), the bill backed by the White House (H.R. 3200) explicitly authorizes the government plan to cover all elective abortions. Obama apparently seeks to hide behind a technical distinction between tax funds and government-collected premiums. But these are merely two types of public funds, collected and spent by government agencies. The Obama-backed legislation makes it explicitly clear that no citizen would be allowed to enroll in the government plan unless he or she is willing to give the federal agency an extra amount calculated to cover the cost of all elective abortions -- this would not be optional. The abortionists would bill the federal government and would be paid by the federal government. These are public funds, and this is government funding of abortion. In 2007 Obama explicitly pledged to Planned Parenthood that the public plan will cover abortions (see the video clip here). Some journalists have reported that Obama "backed off" of this commitment in an interview with Katie Couric of CBS News, broadcast July 21, but Obama actually carefully avoided stating his intentions -- instead, he simply made an artful observation that "we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care." It is true that there is such a tradition -- which Obama has always opposed, and which the Obama-backed bill would shatter. On August 13, NRLC released a detailed memo explaining the provisions of the pending bills that would affect abortion policy, with citations to primary sources. Many of the "factcheck" articles that have appeared in the news media in recent weeks reflect, at best, unsophisticated understandings of the provisions they purport to be explaining, and also give evidence of a weak understanding of Obama's history on the policy issues involved. The memo is downloadable in PDF format here.

See the trick? The bill doesn't explicity allow for abortions, and technically taxpayer funds don't pay for it. But in the end whether it's a "premium" or a tax it all comes out the same in the end. When asked about it directly,

An Obama administration official refused Sunday to rule out the possibility that federal tax money might be used to pay for abortions under proposed health care legislation.

Peter R. Orszag, the White House budget director, asked whether he was prepared to say that "no taxpayer money will go to pay for abortions," answered: "I am not prepared to say explicitly that right now. It's obviously a controversial issue, and it's one of the questions that is playing out in this debate."

Given the Obama is one of the most pro-abortion politicians in Washington, I think that we can conclude that any public option will cover and pay for abortions.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 20, 2009

Obama Plays the Religion Card on Healthcare

Seeing his cherished healthcare bill going down the drain, President Obama has gotten desperate:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday tried to retake the upper ground in this month's healthcare debate by casting reform as a "moral conviction" in a conference call with religious leaders. "The one thing that you all share is a moral conviction," Obama said. "This debate over healthcare goes to the heart of who we are as American people... This is part of an ethical and moral obligation that we look out for one another.

"In the wealthiest nation on Earth, we are neglecting to live out that call," the president said.

Obama asked religious leaders to help him "spread the truth" about reform, and also took the opportunity to push back against critics...

More than 30 religious groups have banded together to support the Democratic-led reform efforts, including the progressive group Catholics United, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., the National Council of Churches in Christ and the United Church of Christ. The group sponsored Wednesday's call and describes itself on its Web site as "an effort from the faith community to make clear to Congress that quality, affordable health care for every American family is a moral priority for millions of people of faith."

Can you imaging the outcry if George W. Bush had done this?

What's ironic is that it's the liberals who always accuse the conservatives of mixing politics with religion, or of using religion to advance their political agenda. But during the last campaign it wasn't the GOP injecting religion into politics. It was the Democrats.

Consider these two events:

1) In June of 2007 John Edwards, Barak Obama, and Hillary Clinton participated in discussion on an Presidential Forum on Faith, Values and Poverty. The event was hosted by the Sojourners, and was broadcast on CNN (transcript here).

2) Then, in April, then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton participated in a "Compassion Forum" at Messiah College in Grantham Pennsylania. Messiah College is a private Christian institution. CNN broadcast the event.

As I said at the time, I was glad to see the Democrats get religion. I think it only common sense that your religious convictions will influence your public policy.

But using religion as your philosophical basis for public policy is different than using organized religion to promote a cause, or from using it to beat up your political opponents, which is what Obama is doing

Victor Davis Hanson has it about right:

There is something creepy about the sudden invocation of Christian morality by the president to galvanize support for his state-run health care plan, as if his opponents are suddenly to be seen as somehow selfish or even un-Christian. This is an unfortunate, counter-productive tactic for at least four reasons:

1) The moral argument comes at the eleventh hour, rather than the first, of public debate, as if it is a desperate fall-back position intended to shame opponents who happen to think that massive state intervention will make health care worse rather than better;

2) Ironically, the religious trope would argue against the entrance of the state that would relieve citizens of their own moral responsibilities to help out family and friends in times of illness. It is no accident that secularism, agnosticism, and atheism are strongest in socialist Europe, where the government has relieved citizens of traditional moral responsibilities emphasized by religion;

3) This contrived use of religiosity (e.g., "There are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness.") has a Reverend Wright flavor of mixing politics and religion in cynical fashion to bolster Obama's fides as an authentic moral figure. And isn't the use of religion as a political tool precisely what Obama and others have objected to in the Christian Right?;

4) Rather than demonize opponents as callous and disingenuous, all the president has to do to refute their supposed scare tactics is to explicitly assure the public that abortion receives no state funds in his program, that illegal aliens are not included in his proposed new blanket coverage, and that autonomous government panels will not withhold federal health-care coverage, in the case of the elderly, on the basis of perceived cost-benefit considerations.

I think we are seeing a sort of presidential meltdown. As Obama's polls free-fall, and threaten wider political damage, it causes him a certain novel exasperation that for the first time in his life soaring hope-and-change rhetoric for some strange reason no longer substitutes for a detailed, logical, and honest agenda. The problem right now is not with un-Christian opponents, but dozens of congressional Democrats who simply do not wish to run on state-run medical care (as well as higher taxes, larger deficits, cap-and-trade, etc.), and no longer sense the president's popularity trumps the unpopularity of his agenda and gives them cover with the voters.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 8, 2009

Obama Declares Defeat In War on Terror

Ok, he didn't exactly declare defeat. But he may as well have.

From yesterday's Washington Times:

It's official. The U.S. is no longer engaged in a "war on terrorism." Neither is it fighting "jihadists" or in a "global war."

President Obama's top homeland security and counterterrorism official took all three terms off the table of acceptable words inside the White House during a speech Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

"The President does not describe this as a 'war on terrorism,'" said John Brennan, head of the White House homeland security office, who outlined a "new way of seeing" the fight against terrorism.

The only terminology that Mr. Brennan said the administration is using is that the U.S. is "at war with al Qaeda."

"We are at war with al Qaeda," he said. "We are at war with its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al Qaeda's murderous agenda."

This is insane. We are moving backwards. President Bush got a lot wrong, and even he understood the full nature of the jihadist threat facing the West. But at least he seemed to know that it went beyond al Qaeda. Obama and his minons don't even get that.

And this is why I titled the piece as I did; the jihadists are engaged in a war against us on many levels. If you don't fight back, or even recognize that they're fighting you, you've effectively surrendered.

With all else that's in the news, this story didn't get a whole lot of attention, at least that I saw. Maybe that's because months ago we heard rumors that he had dropped or was going to drop "war on terror," maybe because we just expect this type of thing from him, or maybe because people are burned out on the whole thing. It's some of all three, but mostly the latter, I think.

I've written so much about this before I'm not going to rehash it all here. See Creeping Sharia, Iran, Islam, Jihadism and the War of Ideas, and War on Islamic Fascism under "Categories" at right. For now suffice it to say that at war against us are men who call themselves "men of jihad." The Sunni side consists of Salafists who are divided into Wahhabists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Deobandiists. On the Shiite are the Khomeinists. al-Qaeda is a neo-Wahhabist organization that is at the head of it's own global insurgency. The Sunnis want to recreate the Caliphate, and the Shiites want to establish a regional Imamate.

What's going on is a combined assault against the West, of which bomb throwing is only one tactic. The objective for the Sunnis is the Caliphate. The method by the "realist jihadists" is a sort of creeping sharia by which they take advantage of our traditions of tolerance and diversity to force an intolerant system on us.

On the one hand, Obama's spokesman says that we are "at war with al Qaeda" yet then denies that it is a global war. As mentioned above, al Qaeda sits atop a global insurgency of jihadist organizations, something explained by Lt. Col (Dr) David Kilcullen in his groundbreaking 2004 work Countering Global Insurgency. So even if you wanted to limit the threat to terrorism, it's not just al Qaeda that's after us.

Much of it is what Walid Phares calls a "War of Ideas." Which idea will take hold among more people; that life in a liberal democracy of one sort or another is better, or life under Sharia governed by a Caliph? The victor isn't the one that wins 51% of the vote or poll, it's the one whose cadres are the most clever and determined.

Either way, we can't win if we're not fighting. And Obama doesn't even think we're in a war of ideas. To him and his type it's just a big criminal investigation.

Again, from the story in the Times :

Mr. Brennan said that to say the U.S. is fighting "jihadists" is wrongheaded because it is using "a legitimate term, 'jihad,' meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal" which "risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve."

Mr. Brennan has bought into the jihadist propaganda. The proper definition of jihad is more along the lines of

"Constant effort on behalf of Allah" to spread the faith. "Historically, jihad was a state tool for war mobilization under Arab and Ottoman caliphates and various Muslim dynasties." Although "spiritual jihad" is "theoretically and philisophically possible, jihad throughout history was a state public policy on war and peace, and it was sanctioned by religious edicts."

Mr Brennan has bought into the notion that there is a "good jihad" of spiritual warfare, and a "bad jihad" which is the violent type. It's all a lot of nonsense. Walid Phares explains the propaganda message in the first paragraph and who developed it and why in the second:

The good holy war is when the right religious and political authorities declare it against the correct enemy and at the right time. The bad jihad, called also Hiraba, is the wrong war, declared by bad (and irresponsible) people against the wrong enemy (for the moment), and without an appropriate authorization by the "real" Muslim leadership. According to this thesis, those Muslims who wage a Hiraba, a wrong war, are called Mufsidoon, from the Arabic word for "spoilers." The advocates of this ruse recommend that the United States and its allies stop calling the jihadists by that name and identifying the concept of Jihadism as the problem. In short, they argue that "jihad is good, but the Mufsidoon, the bad guys and the terrorists, spoiled the original legitimate sense."

When researched, it turns out that this theory was produced by clerics of the Wahabi regime in Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood as a plan to prevent jihad and Jihadism from being considered by the West and the international community as an illegal and therefore forbidden activity. It was then forwarded to American- and Western-based interest groups to be spread within the Untied States, particularly within the defense and security apparatus. Such a deception further confuses U.S. national security perception of the enemy and plunges democracies back into the "black hole" of the 1990's. This last attempt to blur the vision of democracies can be exposed with knowledge of the jihadi terror strategies and tactics, one of which is known as Taqiya, the doctrine on deception and deflection.

President Obama has done more to set us back in our war against the jihadists in six months than President Carter did against he Soviets in his first two years in office. That's quite a record.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 5, 2009

I Thought that "Dissent was the Highest Form of Patriotism"

How many times during the Bush Administration did you hear that "dissent is patriotic" or "dissent is the highest form of patriotism," or some such? Too many times to count.

In my post yesterday taking President Obama to task for talking out of both sides of his mouth on single-payer, I failed to notice this tidbit from the White House website titled "Facts are Stubborn Things"

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov

Should I report myself? Or will my liberal commenters do it for me? No doubt much of what I've published counts as "disinformation" to Obama and his supporters.

At least one United States Senator, John Cornyn (R-TX) has posted an open letter to the Administration, demanding that they stop this program and asking what exactly they intend to do with information they gather about private citizens.

As I think we're all aware, citizens have been swamping "town hall" meetings set up by congressmen. Many angry comments, questions, and yelling have been directed at Democrats who voted with Obama.

Here's one in which Congressman Steve Kagen's (D-WI) "Listening Session" turned into something of a shouting session. (h/t both videos Mike's America)

Here's another, in which turncoat Arlen Spectre and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius get an earful from Pennsylvanians

Now, I'm very much against shouting speakers down. And if that occurs I condemn it. There's nothing wrong though with speakers angrily making their views known, and there's nothing wrong with a few catcalls from the audience.

Here's a DNC ad attacking these people as "an angry mob"

And indeed in a statement issued by the DNC

The Republicans and their allied groups - desperate after losing two consecutive elections and every major policy fight on Capitol Hill - are inciting angry mobs of a small number of rabid right wing extremists funded by K Street Lobbyists to disrupt thoughtful discussions about the future of health care in America taking place in Congressional Districts across the country....

The right wing extremists' use of things like devil horns on pictures of our elected officials, hanging members of Congress in effigy, breathlessly questioning the President's citizenship and the use of Nazi SS symbols and the like just shows how outside of the mainstream the Republican Party and their allies are. This type of anger and discord did not serve Republicans well in 2008 - and it is bound to backfire again.

As Michael Goldfarb asks, "Am I missing something or isn't this exactly the kind of behavior that Democrats encouraged for the last, oh, five or so years of the Bush administration. ...And are Democrats really going to complain about people using Nazi imagery to criticize a sitting president?"

Only problem is that it wasn't so long ago that Obama organized just these sorts of angry mobs himself.

During the campaign Obama told his supporters that

"I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face," he said.

And were told incessantly that Obama's experience as a "community organizer" uniquely qualified him to be president. Guy Benson at NRO's Media Blog links to a March 2007 story in The New Republic titled "The Agitator." From the TNR story:

...After Obama arrived [in Chicago], he sat down for a cup of coffee in Hyde Park with a fellow organizer named Mike Kruglik. Obama's work focused on helping poor blacks on Chicago's South Side fight the city for things like job banks and asbestos removal. His teachers were schooled in a style of organizing devised by Saul Alinsky, the radical University of Chicago-trained social scientist. At the heart of the Alinsky method is the concept of "agitation"-- making someone angry enough about the rotten state of his life that he agrees to take action to change it; or, as Alinsky himself described the job, to "rub raw the sores of discontent."

...[Organizer] Kruglik remembers this episode as an example of why, in ten years of training organizers, Obama was the best student he ever had. He was a natural, the undisputed master of agitation...he could be aggressive and confrontational.

Also linked to by Benson is a September 2008 story by Stanley Kurtz in the New York Post titled "O's Dangerous Pals." Following are excerpts:

One key pioneer of ACORN's subprime-loan shakedown racket was Madeline Talbott - an activist with extensive ties to Barack Obama. She was also in on the ground floor of the disastrous turn in Fannie Mae's mortgage policies. Long the director of Chicago ACORN, Talbott is a specialist in "direct action" - organizers' term for their militant tactics of intimidation and disruption. Perhaps her most famous stunt was leading a group of ACORN protesters breaking into a meeting of the Chicago City Council to push for a "living wage" law, shouting in defiance as she was arrested for mob action and disorderly conduct. But her real legacy may be her drive to push banks into making risky mortgage loans.

...And no one has been more supportive of Madeline Talbott than Barack Obama. When Obama was just a budding community organizer in Chicago, Talbott was so impressed that she asked him to train her personal staff.

In those years, he also conducted leadership-training seminars for ACORN's up-and-coming organizers. That is, Obama was training the army of ACORN organizers who participated in Madeline Talbott's drive against Chicago's banks.

More than that, Obama was funding them. As he rose to a leadership role at Chicago's Woods Fund, he became the most powerful voice on the foundation's board for supporting ACORN and other community organizers. In 1995, the Woods Fund substantially expanded its funding of community organizers - and Obama chaired the committee that urged and managed the shift.

Barack Obama is getting a small taste of his own medicine, and it is bitter indeed.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 4, 2009

Obama Talks Out of Both Sides of His Mouth on Single-Payer

In this clip from 2003 we hear President Obama say pretty clearly that he wants a single-payer healthcare system:

"I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that's what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that's what I'd like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House."

Sounds pretty straighforward to me.

In case you've been living in a cave, "single-payer" means replacing private health insurance with a government program similar to Medicare. All doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers are paid from this government fund. Universal or near-universal coverage is usually a feature. Doctors do not directly get their salaries from the government, so it is said that this is not a socialist system, but since the government pays for all covered procedures, it seems a distinction without a difference.

But let's not get off track. In response to the above video, the Obama Administration has fired back with this

Opponents of health insurance reform may find the truth a little inconvenient, but as our second president famously said, "facts are stubborn things."

Scary chain emails and videos are starting to percolate on the internet, breathlessly claiming, for example, to "uncover" the truth about the President's health insurance reform positions.

In this video, Linda Douglass, the communications director for the White House's Health Reform Office, addresses one example that makes it look like the President intends to "eliminate" private coverage, when the reality couldn't be further from the truth.

Ok, so which is it? Obama directly contradicts himself the videos. In the one from 2003 he is quite clear that he wants single payer. In the one below he just as emphatically denies it.

In the White House video, Communications Director Linda Douglass tries to tell us that those dastardly right-wingers "taking sentences and phrases out of context and cobbling them together" to leave a false impression. They "take a phrase here and there and they cherry pick..."

This is patent nonsense. There was nothing taking out of context in the first video. Obama spoke at length and was very clear in what he meant.

The fact is that Barack Obama is a leftist more radical than he let on during the campaign, where he tried to paint himself as a moderate. This should have been no surprise to anyone who simply looked at his record. His pastor, Jeremiah Wright, wasn't shy about stating his views, and Obama sat and listened to him for 20 years. Obama also knew all about Bill Ayers but didn't find his background too objectionable to not associate with him.

Once again Obama has been caught in a video in which he revealed his true colors, and all the White House spin in the world won't change that fact.


Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2009

Obama's "Teachable Moment"

This evening we had our first "beer summit"

Beer Summit
Reuters photo
Left to right - VP Biden, Professor Gates, Sgt. Crowley, President Obama

Earlier today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that "...it's our hope that, as the president said, this can be part of a teachable moment..."

There may indeed be something to learn from here, but I hope he didn't mean from our president, because he is just about the last person I'm interested in hearing from about race. Someone who went to a racist church for 20 years, listened to a kook hatemonger preacher, and left only because it was politically expedient to do so, has nothing to tell me.

Yes I know, Obama's attendance at Trinity United is "old news" and we're supposed to just forget about it. Well, I'm going to forget about it. If the left wants to talk about race, fine, let's talk. But let's talk about both sides of the equation, not just one.

Otherwise, I second what Tom Sowell has to say about Obama and this incident.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 27, 2009

Cambridge Police Speak From the Heart as they Support Officer Crowley

This video has been going around the Internet lately. I saw it first over at Neo-Neocon, so my hat tip is to her. Watch it fast before it disappears from the CNN website. This is so damaging to Obama that someone there is likely to think the better of it and send it down the memory hole.

Maybe Allahpundit says it best

God only knows how much heat she and Sgt. Lashley will take from the "authenticity" police for this; Crowley's a spectacularly lucky guy to have friends like them. In fact, I'm thinking that beer date at the White House to discuss "tolerance" might not be such a bad idea if Crowley gets to bring Kelly King along. Skip Gates and The One might just learn something.

If you're looking for postracial America, you've found it.

Ditto that. Not much "post-racial" about our president or country that I can see.

Most interesting is the response of Officer King. She's she's bright and articulate and speaks from the heart. Obama has let her down tremendously and she's quite pained about it. There's not anyone more bitter than a spurned lover, and given his cult-like levels of support, if he lets them down they could turn on him and fast. If Obama doesn't get his act together his slide downward could accelerate.

I wasn't there when Officer Crowley arrested Henry Louis Gates, so I don't know what happened. My guess is that the officer didn't need to arrest Gates, but that Gates acted like a jerk and is claiming racism where there is none. What I do know is that it was entirely inappropriate for President Obama to weigh in, especially after admitting that he didn't know all of the facts.

Via TWS, here's the transcript of King's remarks:

Q: What did you think when you heard about these charges against Sgt. Crowley?

King: "I was appalled. I know Jimmy...I know him to be a good police officer, a good man with character, and I knew these charges were bogus. There has been a tremendous rush to judgment, and I think the thing to be learned first and foremost from this is to look at all of the evidence, to consider all, to weigh all.

I think Prof. Gates has done a very good job of throwing up a very effective smokescreen, calling race into this. It had nothing to do with it.

Q: And, the President?

King: "It's unfortunate, I supported him. I voted for him. I will not again...I think it's admirable that he would speak on behalf of his friend, but he should have recused himself. He should have stepped back, and he should ahev said, "I support my friend, but I don't ahve all the facts. I won't weigh in yet.'"

Q: What do you have to say to people who may have already made up their minds about Sgt. Crowley?

King: "Keep their minds open and realize that we would not support someone who we felt wronged someone else. We took this job to do the right thing. We all took this job to do the right thing.We would not support anyone in blue doing the wrong thing.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 13, 2009

Obama Releases Known Terrorists

Because I don't have time to do a proper post tonight I'm going to post the most important parts of Andy McCarthy's article today on National Review. This boggles the mind:

Obama Frees Iranian Terror Masters
The release of the Irbil Five is a continuation of a shameful policy.

By Andrew C. McCarthy

There are a few things you need to know about President Obama's shameful release on Thursday of the "Irbil Five" -- Quds Force commanders from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) who were coordinating terrorist attacks in Iraq that have killed hundreds -- yes, hundreds -- of American soldiers and Marines.

First, of the 4,322 Americans killed in combat in Iraq since 2003, 10 percent of them (i.e., more than 400) have been murdered by a single type of weapon alone, a weapon that is supplied by Iran for the singular purpose of murdering Americans. As Steve Schippert explains at NRO's military blog, the Tank, the weapon is "the EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator), designed by Iran's IRGC specifically to penetrate the armor of the M1 Abrams main battle tank and, consequently, everything else deployed in the field." Understand: This does not mean Iran has killed only 400 Americans in Iraq. The number killed and wounded at the mullahs' direction is far higher than that -- likely multiples of that -- when factoring in the IRGC's other tactics, such as the mustering of Hezbollah-style Shiite terror cells.

Second, President Bush and our armed forces steadfastly refused demands by Iran and Iraq's Maliki government for the release of the Irbil Five because Iran was continuing to coordinate terrorist operations against American forces in Iraq (and to aid Taliban operations against American forces in Afghanistan). Freeing the Quds operatives obviously would return the most effective, dedicated terrorist trainers to their grisly business.

Third, Obama's decision to release the five terror-masters comes while the Iranian regime (a) is still conducting operations against Americans in Iraq, even as we are in the process of withdrawing, and (b) is clearly working to replicate its Lebanon model in Iraq: establishing a Shiite terror network, loyal to Iran, as added pressure on the pliant Maliki to understand who is boss once the Americans leave. As the New York Times reports, Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, put it this way less than two weeks ago:

Iran is still supporting, funding, training surrogates who operate inside of Iraq -- flat out. . . . They have not stopped. And I don't think they will stop. I think they will continue to do that because they are also concerned, in my opinion, [about] where Iraq is headed. They want to try to gain influence here, and they will continue to do that. I think many of the attacks in Baghdad are from individuals that have been, in fact, funded or trained by the Iranians.

Fourth, President Obama's release of the Quds terrorists is a natural continuation of his administration's stunningly irresponsible policy of bartering terrorist prisoners for hostages. As I detailed here on June 24, Obama has already released a leader of the Iran-backed Asaib al-Haq terror network in Iraq, a jihadist who is among those responsible for the 2007 murders of five American troops in Karbala. While the release was ludicrously portrayed as an effort to further "Iraqi reconciliation" (as if that would be a valid reason to spring a terrorist who had killed Americans), it was in actuality a naïve attempt to secure the reciprocal release of five British hostages -- and a predictably disastrous one: The terror network released only the corpses of two of the hostages, threatening to kill the remaining three (and who knows whether they still are alive?) unless other terror leaders were released.

Michael Ledeen has reported that the release of the Irbil Five is part of the price Iran has demanded for its release in May of the freelance journalist Roxana Saberi. Again, that's only part of the price: Iran also has demanded the release of hundreds of its other terror facilitators in our custody. Expect to see Obama accommodate this demand, too, in the weeks ahead.

Finally, when it comes to Iran, it has become increasingly apparent that President Obama wants the mullahs to win. What you need to know is that Barack Obama is a wolf in "pragmatist" clothing: Beneath the easy smile and above-it-all manner -- the "neutral" doing his best to weigh competing claims -- is a radical leftist wedded to a Manichean vision that depicts American imperialism as the primary evil in the world.

What a disgrace. Read the whole thing

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July 7, 2009

The Coming "Reverse Reykjavik"

In October of 1986 Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss arms control measures. Gorbachev proposed a 50% reduction in strategic nuclear weapons, and completely eliminating intermediate range weapons, coupled with restricting missile defense testing to "laboratories." Reagan wanted to reduce, indeed eliminate nuclear weapons, but famously refused to restrict missile defense, and so the summit ended without an agreement. The consensus in the press was that it had been a failure because no deal had been struck.

In 2002 President Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so that we could deploy defenses without being encumbered by it's restrictions. While there were some protests the reaction of Russia and other nations seemed quite muted.

Now President Obama is in Russia to conduct talks on nuclear weapons, Afghanistan, and other matters. Knowing a sucker when they see one, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is trying to succeed where Gorbachev failed. From a Fox News story on Sunday:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday the United States must compromise on its plan to build a missile defense system in Europe in order to reach a deal on reducing nuclear warheads, Reuters reported.

The Russian leader said in an interview that a deal on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and the United States' plan for a missile defense system are linked. Moscow believes a missile defense system is a threat to its national security.

"We consider these issues are interconnected," Medvedev said. "It is sufficient to show restraint and show an ability to compromise. And then we can agree on the basis of a new deal on START and at the same time can agree on the question of how we move forward on anti-missile defense."

Obama has thrown his grandmother, his pastor, and Israel under the bus. Why not the one area that plays to our biggest strength, technology?

Barack Obama, I fear, is getting ready to give up our missile defense. Heaven help us.

The threat is real and growing. Iran does not today have a missile capable of reaching most of Europe, let alone the U.S. They also do not have nuclear weapons. Today. But at the rate they're going they will have them both sooner or later, and when they do it would be foolish of us to count on our being able to dissuade them from using them based on a Cold War MAD mentality.

As good atheists, the Soviet communists wanted to live. They were evil, but they weren't crazy. The kingdom they wanted to create was of this earth.

The rulers of Iran are driven by religious zeal, and as such do not behave according to our rules of reason and logic. Ahmadinejad and his associates are driven at least in part by the cult of the return of the Mahdi, or Twelfth Imam, as I've documented about a dozen or so times.

The U.S. State Department website fact sheet dated January 20, 2009 gives the background into what President Bush trying do to in Europe:

The U.S. has agreed with Poland and the Czech Republic to begin formal missile defense basing negotiations, which if favorably concluded, would allow the fielding of ten U.S. long-range ground-based defensive interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
  • The proposed U.S. missile defense assets in Europe would defend the U.S. and much of Europe against long-range ballistic missile threats launched from the Middle East. The U.S. would benefit from greatly enhanced protection from attacks originating in the Middle East, while Europe would gain defenses where none previously existed.
  • Some southern European countries do not face long-range threats from Iran given their proximity to the Middle East. NATO has focused its missile defense development efforts on countering shorter range threats. The United States and NATO efforts are complementary and could work together to form a more effective defense for Europe.

Obama is wiling to give that up, as we see from this story in today's Jerusalem Post:

"If the threat from Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated," US President Barack Obama said Tuesday...

"In the short period since the end of the Cold War, we have already seen India, Pakistan and North Korea conduct nuclear tests. Without a fundamental change, do any of us truly believe that the next two decades will not bring about the further spread of nuclear weapons?

"That is why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons ... And while I know this goal won't be met soon, pursuing it provides the legal and moral foundation to prevent the proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons," Obama said.

On the surface this might seem to make sense. No threat, no defense. The problem, of course, is that type of thinking assumes that we can predict with certainty 1) what types of weapons our enemies have and exactly what their capabilities are, 2) who our enemies will be a few years down the road, and 3) that if all else fails we an dissuade them from attacking by threatening the use of our own nuclear weapons.

I'm not certain of any of these. We are pretty good at tracking things like missiles, but not infallible. More, missile defense takes a lot longer to set up and test than do the offensive missiles themselves. Worse, Iran could acquire offensive missiles overnight from a rogue source and we might miss the shipment.

Complicating all this are two more factors: One, that the number of U.S. nuclear weapons is shrinking, and two, without testing their reliability is becoming questionable.

Second one first; I've googled around on the reliability issue, and the consensus seems to be that worst case most will explode, one scientist gives a 70% figure in a 2005 story in The New York Times. Even this doesn't sound so bad, but we need to remember that the perceptions of our enemies count for how they'll act.

A memo circulated by House Republicans has some numbers

...the United States has been shrinking (not growing) its nuclear stockpile for quite some time now. For example, under START accounting rules, the number of US warheads attributed to deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers in recent years has been:

1997: 7,957
2000: 7,519
2006: 5,966
2008: 5,951
2009: 5,576

These numbers aren't as impressive as you might think. Let's understand that warheads are not fungible, which is to say they're not all usable in any given situation. This is why we have a variety of types of warheads with different (sometimes variable) yields on many different platforms. Also, our responsibilities are worldwide, while our enemies are able to concentrate on a specific region. Finally, quick action may be required, and if we have too few it may take too long to get the right weapon to the other side of the world to have a decisive influence.

The U.S. - Russia joint statement wants to bring them down to 1500-1675. From the press conference of President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia on Monday:

It is very difficult for us to exert that leadership unless we are showing ourselves willing to deal with our own nuclear stockpiles in a more rational way. And that's why this post-START agreement is so important, and I'm hopeful that we can reduce our nuclear arsenals by as much as a third and hopefully can move even beyond that in subsequent agreements and treaties.

Here's an insight into Obama's thinking from The Washington Post

President Obama called for a new relationship between the United States and Russia on Tuesday, saying that the frequent rivals could both prosper by joining forces to combat common threats and pursue mutual interests.

The modern scourges of stateless terrorism and nuclear proliferation threaten both the United States and Russia, Obama said, demanding that the two nations shed past suspicions and confront those problems as partners.

"There is the 20th-century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another," Obama said. "And there is a 19th-century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another. These assumptions are wrong."

Didn't George W. Bush try this?

From a BBC story of June 16, 2001:

Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin have met for the first time and appear to have hit it off.

The two men still differ over enlarging Nato and US missile defence plans, but they exchanged warm words...

The summit is being judged a success by both sides even though it leaves Russia and the US little closer to resolving the issues that divide them.

The atmosphere here was one of friendly co-operation with the two leaders getting on far better than expected.

That didn't work out so well, did it? Why does Obama thinks he can do better? The answer is found in another Washington Post story:

Obama said he has been trying to alter the tone of U.S. foreign policy to make it easier for countries to focus on their common interests with the United States. But that task is much easier, he said, when the United States is viewed favorably.

"The world leaders are like politicians everywhere, and they're reading the polls," Obama said in an interview Wednesday with ABC News' Jake Tapper. "They find out that their population, 45 percent of or 30 percent approve of America and 70 percent disapprove, that is a strong disincentive to want to work with us."

I don't know if Obama is naive, arrogant, or just some combination of the two, but this business of "now that I have ascended to the throne the world will now bow at my feet in adoration" and so "previously bad nations will now come around" routine is getting old.

The Bottom Line

If Obama wants to flatter himself by negotiating a reduction on American and Russian nuclear weapons, fine. I haven't any great objection.

The problem comes if 1) he gives up missile defense, and/or 2) belives that reducing our arsenal somehow gives rogue nations incentive to do likewise. Anyone who thinks that Iran, North Korea, etc want nuclear weapons because we have them is naive or stupid. Anyone who thinks that if we reduce our arsenal the evil nations of this world will be morally shamed is an idiot. I hope our president is none of these. Who knows, he might surprise me, but I worry.

Wednesday Update

Professor Donald Douglas nails it over at American Power:

Conservatives knew Barack Obama lacked gravitas over two years ago. And now we're starting to see the rest of the country catch on. Folks are getting hip to the Democrats' epic electoral fail of 2008...

So, let's just consider President Obama's U.S.-Russia summit this week. It's one more indication of the woeful unseriousness of this man and his administration. The highlights are at Memeorandum. CNN has a story on Sasha and Malia Obama, "Obama Girls Take Russia by Storm." Plus, the New York Times follows up with, "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow." But the best of these, also from the Times, is "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow."...

The president himself remains inside a narcissisitic bubble and the rest of the world can only watch dumfounded as this administration sleepwalks through history.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 28, 2009

"The less we protest, the more people will die"

Yesterday I outlined many reasons why Why President Obama Should Stand for Freedom in Iran and other places around the world. I described why his policy of silence was foolish and how no, speaking up did not give the tyrants a reason they would not otherwise have had to crack heads. I quoted ex-Soviet dissident Anatoly (now Natan) Sharansky about how Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech gave their movement a much needed boost in the arm. I also quoted from The Washington Post some Arab democracy activists who were distraught at Obama's lack of forceful action with regards to Iran.

Today I bring you Jose Maria Anzar, prime minister of Spain from 1996-2004. He hits it out of the part in an editorial in the today's Wall Street Journal:

If there hadn't been dissidents in the Soviet Union, the Communist regime never would have crumbled. And if the West hadn't been concerned about their fate, Soviet leaders would have ruthlessly done away with them. They didn't because the Kremlin feared the response of the Free World.

Just like the Soviet dissidents who resisted communism, those who dare to march through the streets of Tehran and stand up against the Islamic regime founded by the Ayatollah Khomeini 30 years ago represent the greatest hope for change in a country built on the repression of its people. At stake is nothing less than the legitimacy of a system incompatible with respect for individual rights. Also at stake is the survival of a theocratic regime that seeks to be the dominant power in the region, the indisputable spiritual leader of the Muslim world, and the enemy of the West.

The Islamic Republic that the ayatollahs have created is not just any power. To defend a strict interpretation of the Quran, Khomeini created the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guard, which today is a true army. To expand its ideology and influence Iran has not hesitated to create, sustain and use proxy terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. And to impose its fundamentalist vision beyond its borders, Iran is working frantically to obtain nuclear weapons.

Those who protest against the blatant electoral fraud that handed victory to the fanatical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are in reality demanding a change of regime. Thus, the regime has resorted to beating and shooting its citizens in a desperate attempt to squash the pro-democracy movement.

This is no time for hesitation on the part of the West. If, as part of an attempt to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, the leaders of democratic nations turn their backs on the dissidents they will be making a terrible mistake.

President Obama has said he refuses to "meddle" in Iran's internal affairs, but this is a poor excuse for passivity. If the international community is not able to stop, or at least set limits on, the repressive violence of the Islamic regime, the protesters will end up as so many have in the past -- in exile, in prison, or in the cemetery. And with them, all hope for change will be gone.

To be clear: Nobody in the circles of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or Ahmadinejad is going to reward us for silence or inaction. On the contrary, failing to support the regime's critics will leave us with an emboldened Ahmadinejad, an atomic Iran, and dissidents that are disenchanted and critical of us. We cannot talk about freedom and democracy if we abandon our own principles.

Some do not want to recognize the spread of freedom in the Middle East. But it is clear that after decades of repression -- religious and secular -- the region is changing.

The recent elections in Lebanon are a clear example. The progressive normalization of Iraq is another. It would be a shame, particularly in the face of such regional progress, if our passivity gave carte blanche to a tyrannical regime to finish off the dissidents and persist with its revolutionary plans.

Delayed public displays of indignation may be good for internal political consumption. But the consequences of Western inaction have already materialized. Watching videos of innocent Iranians being brutalized, it's hard to defend silence.

Posted by Tom at 9:36 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Obama to Cut Military Spending to Pre - 9/11 Levels

Via The Tank military blog over at NRO, Gregory S. McNeal provides the scoop on Obama's plans for national defense spending:

While trillions of borrowed dollars fly out of Washington in the form of stimulus (and into Washington from America's wallets), the federal government is cutting back in one area where the Founders believed a federal government was necessary -- "to provide for the common defense."

Perhaps most alarming are the cuts to missile defense, right when our enemies are preparing advanced missile systems. As an illustration of the dramatic cuts, consider this alarming graphic provided by the Heritage Foundation:

Obama Defense Spending Cuts - June 2009

Liberals used to complain that defense spending crowed out other programs. While that argument might have had some merit in the 1950s, it certainly doesn't today. Obama and his Democrats are spending us into oblivion through their "stimulus," and their "cap n' trade" tax (Waxman-Markey, or American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009), and plans for national health care will send us into the abyss.

Meanwhile we've got enemies around the globe which they ignore. But wait, it gets worse:

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics

US military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940--2003

We're going to pay for this around the globe. Obama is making it more and more difficult for us to defend our interests, assets, and allies.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 27, 2009

Why President Obama Should Stand for Freedom in Iran

While I've been away these past two days President Obama has issued some more mild criticism of the election fraud in Iran, prompting President Ahmadinejad and other Iranians to lash back in rage. The latest from The Washington Times

President Obama on Friday called the postelection crackdown in Iran "outrageous" and flatly refused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's request for an apology. One leading Iranian cleric, meanwhile, called for protest leaders to be executed.

Continuing this week's harsh rhetoric, Mr. Obama, after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said "direct dialogue" with Iran will suffer as a result of the beatings and killings of protesters, though he didn't spell out exact consequences. He said he remains vigilant to see how events play out.

Mrs. Merkel went much further, demanding a recount of the votes and saying the international community must identify the victims and make Iran account for their treatment.

"Despite the government's efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it and we con-demn it," said Mr. Obama, though he continued to say Iran itself must decide the election results. "If the Iranian government desires the respect of the international community, then it must respect the rights - and heed the will - of its people."

Apparently having learned from one or another Clinton on how to parse words to keep all sides happy and yet leave him room to take any position in the future, he vaguely promises that ""direct dialogue" with Iran will suffer" yet doesn't say what that means.

Does it mean that he won't meet directly with the Iranians at all? Or not until certain preconditions are satisfied? If the latter, what are they? Again, no specifics.

Ahmadinejad, for his part, fired back

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with Iran still reeling after his disputed re-election as president, practically dared President Obama on Saturday to take a hard-line approach to the Islamic nation -- pledging a "crushing" response to further U.S. condemnation of the post-election crackdown on protests in Tehran.

As if to back up this threat a senior cleric threatened to execute some of the protesters:

In a Friday sermon at Tehran University, a senior cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, called for harsh retribution for dissent.

"Anybody who fights against the Islamic system or the leader of Islamic society, fight him until complete destruction," he said in the nationally broadcast speech.

The cleric claimed that some involved in the unrest had used firearms.

"Anyone who takes up arms to fight with the people, they are worthy of execution," he said. "We ask that the judiciary confront the leaders of the protests, leaders of the violations, and those who are supported by the United States and Israel strongly, and without mercy to provide a lesson for all."

Fears of a crackdown are why so many on the left say that condemnatory rhetoric from Obama would only be counterproductive. "It would serve no purpose and would only give the regime an excuse to brutalize it's own people even more," goes the logic.

It's a tempting argument, but one that doesn't withstand scrutiny. The perfect example is Ronald Reagan, who famously called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire" which at home gained him much grief from liberals. Abroad, however, it was a different story.

Reagan's words gave imprisoned dissidents heart, and hope for the future. Anatoly Sharansky (now Natan Sharansky) spent eight years in the gulag. When he was there, Reagan gave his famous "evil empire" speech. Western liberals were appalled, but Sharansky and other imprisoned dissidents had a different reaction:

Q: Were there any particular Reagan moments that you can recall being sources of strength or encouragement to you and your colleagues?

Sharansky: I have to laugh. People who take freedom for granted, Ronald Reagan for granted, always ask such questions. Of course! It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell's Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union.

George W. Bush was similarly correct to label Iran, North Korea, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein an "Axis of Evil." As with Reagan, he caught nothing but grief from liberals, but has been proven correct by events.

What a U.S. president says is closely monitored by dissidents in totalitarian countries. What he says can either give them hope, or demoralize them. Reagan's "harsh" words gave dissidents in the Soviet Union hope. It's hard to imagine a similar reaction among protesters in Iran.

This isn't just ancient history, however. Arab democracy activists in the Middle East (yes, they do exist) are worried that Obama's policy is counterproductive to the cause of freedom. FromThe Washington Post

The frustration comes against a backdrop of deep-rooted skepticism among pro-democracy activists that U.S. policies under President Obama will help transform the region, despite his vow to engage the Muslim world in a highly publicized speech here last month. Some view Obama's response to Iran's protests, muted until Tuesday, as a harbinger of U.S. attitudes toward their own efforts to reform their political systems. The Egyptian government, they note, is a key American ally, and U.S. pressure on Egypt for reforms began subsiding in the last years of the Bush administration.

"When Obama does not take a stance, the very next day these oppressive regimes will regard this as a signal. This is a test for his government," said Ayman Nour, a noted Egyptian opposition politician who was recently released from jail. "If they can turn a blind eye to their enemy, they can turn a blind eye to any action here in Egypt."

Finally, Christopher Hitchens explains why we shouldn't worry about rhetoric coming from the leaders in Tehran:


  1. There is nothing at all that any Western country can do to avoid the charge of intervening in Iran's internal affairs. The deep belief that everything--especially anything in English--is already and by definition an intervention is part of the very identity and ideology of the theocracy.

  2. It is a mistake to assume that the ayatollahs, cynical and corrupt as they may be, are acting rationally. They are frequently in the grip of archaic beliefs and fears that would make a stupefied medieval European peasant seem mentally sturdy and resourceful by comparison.

  3. The tendency of outside media to check the temperature of the clerics, rather than consult the writers and poets of the country, shows our own cultural backwardness in regrettably sharp relief. Anyone who had been reading Pezeshkzad and Nafisi, or talking to their students and readers in Tabriz and Esfahan and Mashad, would have been able to avoid the awful embarrassment by which everything that has occurred on the streets of Iran during recent days has come as one surprise after another to most of our uncultured "experts."

Hitch then goes on to explain the implication of these observations:

That last observation also applies to the Obama administration. Want to take a noninterventionist position? All right, then, take a noninterventionist position. This would mean not referring to Khamenei in fawning tones as the supreme leader and not calling Iran itself by the tyrannical title of "the Islamic republic." But be aware that nothing will stop the theocrats from slandering you for interfering anyway. Also try to bear in mind that one day you will have to face the young Iranian democrats who risked their all in the battle and explain to them just what you were doing when they were being beaten and gassed. (Hint: Don't make your sole reference to Iranian dictatorship an allusion to a British-organized coup in 1953; the mullahs think that it proves their main point, and this generation has more immediate enemies to confront.)

There is then the larger question of the Iranian theocracy and its continual, arrogant intervention in our affairs: its export of violence and cruelty and lies to Lebanon and Palestine and Iraq and its unashamed defiance of the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Atomic Energy Agency on the nontrivial matter of nuclear weapons. I am sure that I was as impressed as anybody by our president's decision to quote Martin Luther King--rather late in the week--on the arc of justice and the way in which it eventually bends. It was just that in a time of crisis and urgency he was citing the wrong King text (the right one is to be found in the "Letter From a Birmingham Jail"), and it was also as if he were speaking as the president of Iceland or Uruguay rather than as president of these United States. Coexistence with a nuclearized, fascistic theocracy in Iran is impossible even in the short run. The mullahs understand this with perfect clarity. Why can't we?

Oh I get it, Mr. Hitchens. It's our president who seems not to understand.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2009

One and a Half Cheers for Obama

Yipee, after a week and a half of equivocating, our president said something right today regarding Iran. Mostly right, anyway.

Hello, everybody. Good afternoon, everybody. Today, I want to start by addressing three issues, and then I'll take your questions. First, I'd like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.

I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.

The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in Iran -- some in the Iranian government, in particular, are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the election. These accusations are patently false. They're an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran's borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won't work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they -- and only they -- will choose.

The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That's precisely what's happened in the last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests [sic] of justice. Despite the Iranian government's efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers, and so we've watched what the Iranian people are doing.

This is what we've witnessed. We've seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands of Iranians marching in silence. We've seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and that their voices are heard. Above all, we've seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion. That's what Iran's own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.

Note that he used the words "appalled," "outraged," and "condemed." Good for him and I'm glad he said it, but I think Michael Goldfarb has it right:

This is Russia invades Georgia redux. Obama flails for a few days and finally gets the rhetoric where it should have been from day one. If speaking forthrightly is right today, why was it not right four days ago? If speaking forthrightly would endanger allegedly greater interests, why speak today? If speaking forthrightly would enable the mullahs to make the United States the issue, why speak today?

The intellectual and moral incoherence of Obama's pronouncements is staggering. Today he decides to join Merkel, Sarko, et al in expressing concern for the brave Iranians fighting for their freedom with his customary swagger. We should not just sit back and say better late than never. We should see the dangers of a soulless president whose limited foreign policy instincts are all wrong, who refuses to discuss the consequences of murder with a Bush-like swagger and who's so stubborn and rigid he won't even rescind an invitation to a barbecue. It's a shame he didn't stick to reading the great Urdu poets.

Yup. I think the only reason Obama has changed his tune is that he felt pressured to do so.

Just to show what a weenie our president is, and that I am probably being way too generous in giving him one and a half cheers for his statement today, here is how he responded to questions in a press conference following the statement (h/t Mike's America)

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Your administration has said that the offer to talk to Iran's leaders remains open. Can you say if that's still so even with all the violence that has been committed by the government against the peaceful protesters?

And if it is, is there any red line that your administration won't cross where that offer will be shut off?

OBAMA: Well, obviously what's happened in Iran is profound, and we're still waiting to see how it plays itself out.

My position coming into this office has been that the United States has core national security interests in making sure that Iran doesn't possess a nuclear weapon and it stops exporting terrorism outside of its borders.

We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms.

It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path. What we've been saying over the last several days, the last couple of weeks, obviously is not encouraging in terms of the path that this regime may choose to take.

And the fact that they are now in the midst of an extraordinary debate taking place in Iran, you know, may end up coloring how they respond to the international community as a whole.

We are going to monitor and see how this plays itself out before we make any judgments about how we proceed. But to reiterate, there is a path available to Iran in which their sovereignty is respected, their traditions, their culture, their faith is respected, but one in which they are part of a larger community that has responsibilities and operates according to norms and international rules that are universal.

We don't know how they're going to respond yet, and that's what we're waiting to see.

QUESTION: So should there be consequences for what's happened so far?

OBAMA: I think that the international community is, as I said before, bearing witness to what's taking place. And the Iranian government should understand that how they handle the dissent within their own country, generated indigenously, internally, from the Iranian people, will help shape the tone, not only for Iran's future, but also its relationship to other countries.

Back to the old equivocating and weasel words. The guy sounds like a regular Clinton in how he tries to parse his language. He's keeping his language so however things turn out he can say he was on their side.

Despite that the Iranian government has behaved abysmally, he still won't commit to any consequences, but blathers on about the "international community," as if there were such a thing. Stephen Hayes makes the point

The reason to talk about consequences is, at least in part, because it offers an opportunity to influence how this is going to play out. It may be the case that there are few potential consequences from the international community that could affect regime behavior. But if that's the case -- and given the regime's support for terror, its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, its theft of the election, and its violent suppression of the protests -- doesn't that make it more urgent for the international community to at least try to affect behavior and at least raise the possibility that there will come a time when the world refuses to recognize the current regime?

Obama talks like a professor, not as a world leader unafraid to take hard decisions and make hard judgments. He needs to change his tune, and fast.

Posted by Tom at 9:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 20, 2009

House and Senate Democrats Diss Both Obama and Liberal Bloggers

Both the House and Senate have passed resolutions regarding the situation in Iran. The House version is much stronger than anything said by President Obama thus far. The text of the Senate resolution is not available yet.

House Resolution 560

Expressing support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law, and for other purposes.

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) expresses its support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law;

(2) condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the Government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cellphones; and

(3) affirms the universality of individual rights and the importance of democratic and fair elections.

The resolution passed 401-1, the only opposing vote being cast by...Ron Paul. Sigh.

On Friday the Senate passed Senate Resolution 193, but as of this writing the text is not available. I'll post it as soon as it is.

What's interesting is that this places House and Senate Democrats squarely in opposition to President Obama...not to mention many liberal bloggers.

Although President Obama's spokesman Gibbs tried to say that the House resolution "echoes Obama's message," I don't see it. Nowhere has the President used the word "condemn" to describe what the Iranian government has done, nor has anything he has said been nearly as strong (see here and here). We do know that he worked to tone down the original resolution, so we know that he's still "sensitive" to offending the mullahs. Wouldn't want to upset his quest for negotiations. But judge for yourself.

Democratic congressman Howard Berman (CA-28) had this to say on the House floor during debate:

Mr. Speaker, every day since Iran's election, the streets of Tehran have been filled with demonstrators, and each day this past week, the number seems to be growing.

Even state-run media in Iran has put the number of demonstrators in Tehran at "hundreds of thousands." One British newspaper reports that there were a million demonstrators in Tehran yesterday.

What do these demonstrators want? Are they simply in favor of the candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi? Or are they making a more profound statement about the Iranian regime?

Nobody knows exactly. We do know one thing, though: The demonstrators feel their intelligence was insulted and their dignity assaulted by the high-handed manner in which the results of the June 12 election were handled. They want justice - this morning, the Supreme Leader offered none.

It is not for us to decide who should run Iran, much less determine the real winner of the June 12th election.

But we must reaffirm our strong belief that the Iranian people have a fundamental right to express their views about the future of their country freely, and without intimidation.

The Iranian regime is clearly embarrassed by the demonstrations and has not shrunk from using violence to stop them. At least eight demonstrators - and quite likely, a number more - have been killed and hundreds have been injured.

The Regime has also tried to ban media coverage of the demonstrations. Foreign journalists are consigned to their homes and offices; several have been expelled from the country.

Cell-phone coverage has been frequently blocked in order to limit communication among the protestors. And the regime has interfered with the Internet and taken down many opposition Web sites.

We cannot stand silent in the face of this assault on human freedom and dignity.

I repeat that we have no interest in interfering in Iran's internal affairs. That era has ended.

This resolution "affirms the universality of individual rights," as well as "the importance of democratic and fair elections." Beyond that, it simply expresses its solidarity with "Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law."

I don't know how many of the demonstrators fall into that category, but I do know that many of them do.

This resolution also condemns the bloody suppression of freedom.

It is not a judgment on who won the Iranian elections. It is an acknowledgement that we cannot remain silent when cherished, universal principles are under attack.

Mr. Speaker, I want to just offer my appreciation to our ranking member and to the gentleman from Indiana for working together on a resolution which puts the House of Representatives on the side of the people of Iran. And with that, I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this resolution.

If you think we shouldn't conduct clandestine operations against the mullahs like Reagan did against the communists in support of Solidarity in Poland, fine. But surely we can agree that we shouldn't be silent, or only say that we are "troubled by the violence," or are "monitoring the situation." Surely we can at least condemn what is going on.

Finally, these resolutions would seem to put many liberal bloggers at odds with Democrats in Congress at well. You don't have to go far on the Internet to see quite hysterical reactions to any suggestion that President Obama is not handling this exactly right. It'll be interesting to see how they spin this.

Posted by Tom at 2:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 18, 2009

"Obamaworld"

In lieu of writing anything myself tonight, I'll post Victor Davis Hanson's latest. As always, he's brilliant, and perfectly right. It's a hard choice, but I think his number five is my favorite.

Are you confused by all that has changed since Pres. Barack Obama took office in January? If so, you're not alone. Perhaps, though, this handy guide to Age of Obama "logic" might be of some assistance.

1. The Budget. Wanting to cut $17 billion from the budget, as President Obama has promised, is proof of financial responsibility. Borrowing $1.84 trillion this year for new programs is "stimulus." The old phrase "out-of-control spending" is inoperative.

2. Unemployment. The number of jobs theoretically saved, or created, by new government policies -- not the actual percentage of Americans out of work, or the total number of jobs lost -- is now the far better indicator of unemployment.

3. The Private Sector. Nationalizing much of the auto and financial industries, while regulating executive compensation, is an indication of our new government's repeatedly stated reluctance to interfere in the private sector.

4. Race and Gender. Not what is said, but who says it and about whom reveals racism and sexism. For example, a Hispanic female judge isn't being offensive if she states that Latinas are inherently better judges than white males.

5. Random violence. Some assassinations represent larger American pathologies, but others do not. When a crazed lone gunman murders someone outside the Holocaust Museum or shoots an abortion doctor, we should worry about growing right-wing and Christian extremism. But when an African-American Muslim convert brags about his murder of a military recruitment officer or an Islamic group plots to kill Jews and blow up a military jet, these are largely isolated incidents without larger relevance.

6. Terrorism. Acts of terror disappeared about six months ago. Thankfully, we live now in an age where there will be -- in the new vocabulary of the Obama administration -- only occasional "overseas contingency operations" in which we may be forced to hold a few "detainees." At the same time, ongoing military tribunals, renditions, wiretaps, phone intercepts, and Predator-drone assassinations are no longer threats to the Constitution. And just saying you're going to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay is proof that it is almost closed.

7. Iraq. The once-despised Iraq War thankfully ended around Jan. 20, 2009, and has now transformed into a noble experiment that is fanning winds of change throughout the Middle East. There will be no need for any more Hollywood cinema exposés of American wartime crimes in Iraq with titles like Rendition, Redacted, Lions for Lambs, and Stop-Loss.

8. The West. Western values and history aren't apparently that special or unique. As President Obama told the world during his recent speech in Cairo, the Renaissance and Enlightenment were, in fact, fueled by a brilliant Islamic culture, responsible for landmark discoveries in mathematics, science, and medicine. Slavery in America ended without violence. Mistreatment of women and religious intolerance in the Middle East have comparable parallels in America.

9. Media. The media are disinterested and professional observers of the present administration. When television anchormen and senior magazine editors bow to the president, proclaim him a god, or feel tingling in the legs when he speaks, it is quite normal.

10. George W. Bush. Former president Bush did all sorts of bad things to the United States that only now we are learning will take at least eight years to sort out. "Bush did it" for the next decade will continue to explain the growing unemployment rate, the most recent deficit, the new round of tensions with Iran and North Korea, and the growing global unrest from the Middle East to South America.

Once we remember and accept the logic of the above, then almost everything about this Age of Obama begins to make perfect sense.

Posted by Tom at 9:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 17, 2009

Reagan v Obama: How To Handle Tyranny

The crackdown continues

International human rights organizations said Wednesday that many prominent activists and politicians have been arrested in response to protests over the Iran's disputed election.

Hadi Ghaemi, director of the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights, said he had spoken with family members and colleagues of people who have been arrested or disappeared and was told that there were at least 200 across the country.

IranCrowd_3  06-16-09


IranCrowd_1  06-16-09

IranCrowd_2  06-16-09

Yet President Obama refuses to take a stand for freedom

Stephen Hayes says it best

President Obama said that he admired the protesters, not that he supported them. He refused to say anything at all that might have been understood as a direct criticism of the plainly fraudulent election. (On Tuesday, in his most aggressive statement, he said he joins the rest of the world in its "deep concern" about the election.) And by pretending that the coming "investigation" of perceived "irregularities" might actually be a serious undertaking, he strengthened the position of a criminal regime--or, as he prefers, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As I outlined yesterday and the day before, rather than taking a stand our president issues mealymouthed statements and talks in that strange bureaucratic language that sounds like it came from a computerized phrase generator.

Once Upon A Time

On December 13, 1981 the Polish government declared martial law, and General Wojciech Jaruzelski took over the government. The Solidarity trade union was banned, and its leaders, most notably Lech Wałęsa, were arrested and thrown into prison.

Ronald Reagan official photo as President

Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and he wasn't having any of it. Less than a week later he said this during a press conference:

All the information that we have confirms that the imposition of martial law in Poland has led to the arrest and confinement, in prisons and detention camps, of thousands of Polish trade union leaders and intellectuals. Factories are being seized by security forces and workers beaten.

These acts make plain there's been a sharp reversal of the movement toward a freer society that has been underway in Poland for the past year and a half. Coercion and violation of human rights on a massive scale have taken the place of negotiation and compromise. All of this is in gross violation of the Helsinki Pact, to which Poland is a signatory.

It would be naive to think this could happen without the full knowledge and the support of the Soviet Union. We're not naive. We view the current situation in Poland in the gravest of terms, particularly the increasing use of force against an unarmed population and violations of the basic civil rights of the Polish people.

Violence invites violence and threatens to plunge Poland into chaos. We call upon all free people to join in urging the Government of Poland to reestablish conditions that will make constructive negotiations and compromise possible.

Certainly, it will be impossible for us to continue trying to help Poland solve its economic problems while martial law is imposed on the people of Poland, thousands are imprisoned, and the legal rights of free trade unions -- previously granted by the government -- are now denied. We've always been ready to do our share to assist Poland in overcoming its economic difficulties, but only if the Polish people are permitted to resolve their own problems free of internal coercion and outside intervention.

Our nation was born in resistance to arbitrary power and has been repeatedly enriched by immigrants from Poland and other great nations of Europe. So we feel a special kinship with the Polish people in their struggle against Soviet opposition to their reforms.

The Polish nation, speaking through Solidarity, has provided one of the brightest, bravest moments of modern history. The people of Poland are giving us an imperishable example of courage and devotion to the values of freedom in the face of relentless opposition. Left to themselves, the Polish people would enjoy a new birth of freedom. But there are those who oppose the idea of freedom, who are intolerant of national independence, and hostile to the European values of democracy and the rule of law.

Two Decembers ago, freedom was lost in Afghanistan; this Christmas, it's at stake in Poland. But the torch of liberty is hot. It warms those who hold it high. It burns those who try to extinguish it.

On December 23 he gave an address to the nation in which he said:

I want emphatically to state tonight that if the outrages in Poland do not cease, we cannot and will not conduct ``business as usual'' with the perpetrators and those who aid and abet them. Make no mistake, their crime will cost them dearly in their future dealings with America and free peoples everywhere. I do not make this statement lightly or without serious reflection.

But "business as usual" is what Obama is all about. In his case it is keeping his campaign promise of negotiations with out preconditions.

Reagan had it right. Almost immediately after his inauguration he "...met with his senior foreign policy advisers to discuss how to undermine Communist power in Poland and discourage Soviet intervention." Negotiations with the communists were at times necessary, but were not viewed as strategies in and of themselves. Overthrowing the communists was.

Obama should take a cue from Reagan and adopt a similar policy with regard to Iran.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 16, 2009

Obama to Iranian Protesters: You're On Your Own

It is apparent that the protesters in Iran are not going to get any help from the Obama Administration.

It's a shame, too, because Iran could well be at the tipping point. There are specific times in history where a small push could have taken events in another direction. There were Five Days in May, 1940, where Britain teetered between accepting a Hitler dominated Europe and fighting.

We could be at a similar point in Iran. The demonstrations in Tehran against the government are huge, as has been widely reported. One to two million people have participated, and there have been several fatalities as a result of shooting by the police. The regime is obviously worried, and on Monday Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered the Guardian Council to investigate charges of vote fraud. Today the council agreed to a limited recount. All this is simply an attempt to appease the protesters and is therefore for show, but the fact they're doing it shows that they fear they may lose control.

Let's be clear; the lead challenger, Mir-Hussein Mousavi, is no boy scout. It's not that I think he will lead the country to freedom. What I want is regime change. The way to do it is support a counterrevolution that will sweep the current government from power, and institute a new constitution. It's about establishing true liberty and democracy (not quite the same thing), and ridding the country of theocracy.

Stuck In Reactionary Mode

To the Obama Administration none of this matters. The only thing they seem to care about is setting up negotiations. As an AP story has it:

The United States urged Iran on Monday to agree to a meeting with the six key nations trying to ensure that its nuclear program is peaceful in which the U.S. will be "a full participant."

U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told the U.N. Security Council that Iran has not responded to the request from the five permanent council members -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France -- and Germany for new talks, which would be the first international discussion on Iran's nuclear program since President Barack Obama took office in January.

Of course Iran hasn't responded. They're busy trying to quel a counterrevolution.

So what is the Obama Administration doing?

At a press conference earlier today President Obama said that "It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling." Uh huh. So it would be ok to "meddle" if we had a different history? Or we just shouldn't "meddle" at all?

Either way, perhaps on his next apology tour he could stop by South Africa and apologize for "meddling" during their apartheid era.

In a response to a question during Monday's press briefing Obama sounded like like one of those computer programs that strings together pre-written phrases. Here's an excerpt

Obviously all of us have been watching the news from Iran. And I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football -- or discussions with the United States.

Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process -- free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent -- all those are universal values and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they're, rightfully, troubled....

with respect to the United States and our interactions with Iran, I've always believed that as odious as I consider some of President Ahmadinejad's statements, as deep as the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on a range of core issues, that the use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy -- diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries -- is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests, specifically, making sure that we are not seeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East triggered by Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon...blah blah blah.

What meaningless drivel. It's a series pre-written bureaucratic statements applicable to any situation. If there's trouble in Cuba next month we'll here the same thing but with different proper nouns and the sentences in a different order.

Allahpundit points out that

Whereas The One was "shocked and outraged" by the murder of George Tiller, the most he can muster here for mass beatings and cold-blooded killings across Iran is that he's "troubled." Make of it what you will.

On Sunday Secretary of State Clinton said that

We are monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Iran but we, like the rest of the world, are waiting and watching to see what the Iranian people decide.

The United States has refrained from commenting on the election in Iran. We obviously hope that the outcome reflects the genuine will and desire of the Iranian people.

Hope may have made a fine campaign slogan but it isn't a foreign policy for adults. More, it doesn't do squat to help the Iranian people.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly "declined to condemn the Iranian security forces for their crackdown on street protesters."

Further, unless additional information comes to light I think it clear that what's happening in Iran is the result of internal forces and not the result of anything any American president has done.

It is quite possible that Western intelligence forces are working behind the scenes, much as they did in Poland in the 1980s, to effect regime change. But until we have direct evidence of this we must assume it is not occurring, or at least not occurring to the point where it would have any effect on the outcome.

So if the protesters do succeed and force an accurate and true count of the votes, or better still bring down the government, President Obama cannot claim credit.

Melanie Phillips nails it

What is weakening the regime is not Obama's appeasement. It is resistance. It is the fact that the people did not take their stolen election lying down but turned out in their hundreds of thousands to demand justice - and are prepared to die for it - that has rocked the regime. With a reported twenty people dead yesterday and hundreds more injured at the hands of the regime's thugs, the people have now been galvanised still further. Staring at what might well be a true counter-revolutionary moment, the regime is wobbling, and has now announced there will be a recount of the vote.

And still Obama is getting it wrong. Not surprising -- having made nice with the tyrants and thus undermined the democrats he has been badly caught out and clearly doesn't know what to do. With whom does he now side? His reaction -- as promulgated by his fawning acolyte Miliband -- is to be even-handed and support neither. How appalling. The President of America should have immediately condemned in the strongest possible terms this brutal onslaught against people trying to claim their democratic rights, and supported them against injustice and oppression.

But he was silent for a full two days before finally coming up with a mealy-mouthed statement last night that he was 'deeply troubled' by events in Iran and that Iran's leaders should respect the 'universal values' of the democratic process. Clearly he was worried that if he supported the demonstrators, he might scupper his 'grand bargain' with the regime in which they get their nukes and he gets some meaningless agreement they won't use them. Thus appeasement betrays freedom many times over.

As the Confederate Yankee put it, "Obama got his 3:00 AM call, and refused to pick up the phone."

The Imperative of Regime Change

The objectives are one, to keep Iran from getting the bomb, or if they do make sure that the government is controlled by responsible people. I do not fear nuclear weapons in the hands of democratic France, I do fear them in the hands of the mullahs who rule Iran. Second, our objective is for Iran to stop promoting terror and terrorist organizations. Third, it is in our moral interest for human rights to be respected in as many places as possible.

The only way to achieve these objectives is through a change of government. Changing out the leaders won't work if the current constitution is left in place. A new constitution is needed.

The reason Obama needs to stop this mealymouthed nonsense is that may we have an opportunity to change the regime in Iran, and if we do not act the moment may be lost. The situation in Iran could go either way. The government may be able to regain control, even though it will be permanently damaged. But it could also lose control, with the whole theocracy swept away. What the United States says or does could make the difference.

At the very least, as Jim Geraghty and others have said that one way to influence events would be to hint that we won't talk with the Iranians if their crackdown continues. In March Iranian spokesmen told Obama to kiss off, they weren't interested in negotiations. As I said yesterday, the President of the United States confers legitimacy on whomever he meets. He should not meet with any Iranian leaders after they commit such election fraud.


Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 7, 2009

The Speech Obama Should Have Given in Cairo

Last week I eviscerated President Obama for giving a pretty awful speech to Muslims while in Cairo. Doctor Zero, posted at Hot Air the speech Obama should have given:

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and grateful for your hospitality. I will honor you in return by addressing you directly. I came here to speak to you, not to European leaders or American media commentators. I hope you will forgive my frankness, but we have much to talk about, and some of what I came here to say will not be easy for you to hear.

I will not waste your time by carefully selecting quotes from the Koran, in a misguided attempt to tell you what your religion means. I am here to tell you what membership in the community of civilized nations means. Your faith is your own affair, but it ends where the rest of our lives begin. It is fashionable among the Western elites to say that we have much to learn about the Muslim world, but the truth is precisely the reverse. One of the bedrock principles of Western democracy is that we don't need to understand, or even like, a particular religion in order to respect its faithful and their rights. There are some things the West is long overdue in teaching its Muslim neighbors, however. Let us begin with dismissing the notion of a "Muslim world." There is no such thing. There is one world, made increasingly intimate by the easy movement of people, resources, and ideas. We are all in the process of learning how to live with our fellow men, and while the West is far from perfect, we are much further ahead in our studies than the nations of the Middle East. Our security, and yours, will be greatly enhanced if we can lend you some of the wisdom we have accumulated.

We did not come by this wisdom easily. We learned by taking incredible risks... and making terrible mistakes... magnified by the power of Western military tradition and technology. The people of the Middle East have never known anything to compare with the industrialized slaughter of the two World Wars, in which millions of lives were lost to decisively settle the question of what makes a government just and legitimate. You have never watched five thousand of your sons die on a single day, to secure a beachhead against the forces of genocidal fascism - a battle we commemorate on the sixth of June every year. Your fighting men have not faced anything like the battle for Okinawa, where American Marines faced an eighty percent chance of death - and did not waver. You have not sacrificed half a million soldiers to destroy the evil of slavery, as America did during its Civil War. You have not spent blood and treasure around the world to save other nations from the savage darkness of communism. You have no leaders to equal the Founding Fathers who pledged their lives, and sacred honor, to win America's independence from imperial domination.

You have not burned and bled for freedom, as we have. We would spare you that pain, if we could. We are willing to burn and bleed for you - and we have been doing so, for eight long years. Instead of indulging in foolish paranoid fantasies about crusaders and oppression from America, open your eyes and look to the mountains of Afghanistan, where over a thousand Coalition troops have died to overthrow the Taliban, after their despicable complicity in the murders of September 11, 2001. We did not have to send those troops into harm's way, to avenge the slaughter at the World Trade Center. We could have eliminated all life in that region, in a matter of hours. If we followed the standards of our enemies, we would have. We sent our best and bravest into battle because of who we wished to spare, not who we wanted to kill.

Open your eyes and look to Iraq, where we allowed thousands of Iraqi troops to lay down their arms and go home, instead of killing them where they stood. We paid an awful price for this act of mercy, as many of those men went on to join the brutal terrorists who dreamed of keeping the Iraqi people enslaved. Some in America and Europe find it politically expedient to draw moral equivalency between American soldiers and the terrorists they fight. I ask you to show me the al-Qaeda "equivalent" of Private First Class Ross McGinnis, who climbed down into an armored vehicle and smothered a grenade to protect his crew, when he could easily have leaped from his gunnery hatch to safety. Show me an "insurgent" who can match the valor of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, who flung himself into an impossible battle against odds of a hundred to one... to save the lives of a hundred wounded men. These two soldiers are among those who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor for their sacrifices in Operation Iraqi Freedom. No one on the other side is worthy of such an honor. I say this to you because keeping silent - whether from misguided modesty, self-loathing, or the desire to avoid offending your vanity - is an insult to your honor, and an injury to your future.

We have made a fetish of "tolerance" in America, and it has curdled into poison. I am here to tell you what the civilized world is no longer prepared to tolerate. We will not stand silently by while women are enslaved, brutalized, or murdered. We will no longer hypnotize ourselves with self-criticism over gay rights, while you bury gay men and women under piles of jagged stone. We will not swallow our tongues for fear of offending Islam, when Islam oppresses all other religious beliefs within its borders. We know you can do better. We also know that nothing will improve unless we demand you do better... and we do demand it. The world has turned, and the old days of totalitarianism and pillage are done. There is no more place in it for barbarians. Believe what you will, follow your customs, honor the holy writings of your Prophet, and strive to understand God's will through prayer, music, and scholarship. You will find nothing but honest respect and admiration from the West. But when you stand among civilized people, you will be civilized people. When you are shown respect, you will answer with respect. As the West reveres and protects the life of your innocents, so you will revere ours.

I speak to you as the democratically-elected leader of a great republic, which has earned the right to walk tall and proud through the halls of history. It is a right earned on battlefields... but also at humanitarian relief camps, pharmaceutical laboratories, civil-rights marches, and field hospitals. It is a right earned by rebuilding shattered enemies after terrible wars, by tearing down the statues of tyrants and building schools for the children of their liberated victims. Ours is a hard-won glory that can be seen in six men raising a flag on Mount Suribachi, or one man planting that flag in the dust of the moon... or millions of men and women stepping into voting booths. Look at the free people of Iraq, with their fingers proudly covered in purple ink after they vote, and know that America is eternally eager to share her glory. Indeed, we believe we can only render it proper honors by sharing it with all of our brothers and sisters around the world. But also remember this: the Middle East stands at a crossroads, and the heavy responsibility of reconciling faith, tradition, and the demands of the modern world rests with you. You must choose between old hatreds and new possibilities. You must choose between murder and prosperity. I have come here today to tell you clearly, and without reservation, that you cannot have both. May the next leader chosen by the American people stand in my place someday, to congratulate you on a wise choice.

Posted by Tom at 9:42 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 4, 2009

President Obama's Speech to the "Muslim World"

Early today President Barack Obama delivered a major address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt. The transcript is here. Following are excerpts and my observations. And yes I'll try and be fair.

All indented text is President Obama, except at the end under "other opinion"

The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Oh for pete's sake. We're only in the second paragraph and this train is going off the rails. I've read more than a little world history, and I don't recall "centuries of co-existence and cooperation" between the Islam and the West. I'm not even sure it adds up to a few decades.

More fundamentally, we're off into victimology. Obama seems to be saying that the problems in the Muslim world are the fault of the West.

He is right, though, in that modernity is seen as a threat by many Muslims.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson - kept in his personal library.

Heavens. This is either ignorant or a deliberate misrepresentation. Islam has been a minuscule part of American history.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words - within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

This is good and I'm glad he said it. Here he is on solid ground, and this is just what the rest of the world needs to hear. It gets even better with this:

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

Great stuff. Unfortunately it's not followed up with "and there is no religious freedom in the Muslim world and this needs to change." But of course Obama didn't say this. President Bush's Freedom Agenda is dead as far as this administration is concerned.

We also have this curious part

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

There is the grating bit about only he is allowed to use his middle name when it suits his purposes, but how dare anyone else.

There are nowhere near seven million Muslims in the United States. Daniel Pipes cites two studies saying that the true figure is probably closer to 3 million (here and here), and maybe less than that.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

For the most part this is boilerplate drivel, and I was tempted to pass it off as such until I reread it and a phrase in the middle jumped out at me

any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail

If Obama has his way then we have come to the end of American Exceptionalism.

Sorry, Mr. President, but there are differences between nations and peoples, and as currently constructed some are better than others. Some nations and cultures are better than others. Cultures that tolerate stoning are bad. Cultures that subjugate their women are bad. West Germany was better than East Germany. South Korea is better than North Korea. Taiwan is better than mainland China. And Israel is better than Gaza. Of course I write not of genetic, racial differences, but of culture, legal, and governmental practices.

As I have written time and again, the entire problem with the United Nations, and what makes it such a terrible institution, is that by it's nature it sees all natiions as equal. It makes no distinction between democracy and tyranny.

Barack Obama is either a moral idiot, steeped in relativism, or he can't say what he really means. If we take him at his word, he has no preference for America. We are just one of many nations, with nothing special about us.

Throughout the years the United States has been seen as a beacon of hope for many. Economic, religious, and political freedoms have never been perfect here, and often in need of great reform. But even our imperfections have never prevented people from coming here to seek a better life. More, our example has inspired millions around the world to better their own countries.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with....

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

All very good. Unfortunately in between all this we find this statement

The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace.
As Robert Spencer points out, this is utter nonsense. The idea that Islam is part of "promoting peace" flies against what one reads in the daily papers. Islam as currently practiced in much of the world is part of the problem. It is a religion for the most part stuck in the Middle Ages that desperately needs real reform. That President Bush also spun us with the "religion of peace" line is no excuse.
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Here we go again, back to his serial apologies. He just has to remind everyone that he that he opposed the war in Iraq, the clear implication being "we're sorry." Absolutely disgraceful.

How about other countries being asked to apologize to us for a change? For that matter, instead of us trying to understand the rest of the world, how about they try to understand us?

On to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

As the invaluable Melanie Phillips reminds us "The Palestinians have been offered a homeland repeatedly - in 1936, 1947, 2000 and last year. They have repeatedly turned it down. The Arabs could have created it between 1948 and 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt. They chose not to do so. They could have created it after 1967, when Israel offered the land to them in return for peace with Israel. They refused the offer. The Palestinians have suffered because they have tried for six decades to destroy the Jews' homeland."

But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

This is relativism at it's worst.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Yes the Palestinians must abandon violence, but comparing their situation to that of black people is absurd. It implies an equality of justice that simply is not there. The Palestinians are in their current situation not because they have been mistreated by the Israelis, but because 1) they have been mistreated by their fellow Arabs, and 2) they have taken a bad situation and made it infinitely worse by their own behavior.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

He's certainly right that the Palestinians need to switch their energies from building rockets to building industry. And yes Hamas needs to do the things he outlines, and maybe one day pigs will fly.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

I'm not a fan of the settlements either, but they're not the problem. I guess he figures he has to say this though to appear even handed.

Moving to Iran, we have this

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically- elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

With Obama, every criticism of the Muslim world has to be met with an equal criticism of the United States. So before he can talk about Iranian transgressions, he has to apologize for something the United States did - as if there is an equality. We had to put up with this moral equivalency all throughout the Cold War from the anti-anticommunists and it looks like that attitude is alive and well in the White House today.

Next the president moves to the issue of Iran and nuclear weapons. Much of what he says is standard dipomatic drivel, but we do have this which is of note

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

Several points.

First, this business about how "no single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons" is again just so much moral relevancy. A gun in the hands of a policeman is good, while a gun in the hands of a bank robber is bad. Nuclear weapons in the hands of France or the United States is good, nuclear weapons in the hands of the Soviet Union or Iran is bad.

Second, energy concerns do not justify Iran's nuclear program.

Third, the idea of a world without nuclear weapons is a childish fantasy. I know, I know, Reagan said it too. All politicians say it. And it's silly coming from any of them. For some reason though they all feel compelled to repeat it.

Next the president addresses democracy. Or at least how he doesn't think it particularly important.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

The best reading of this is that he wants everyone to live in liberty but the exact structure of that government is left to the people. One wonders if he knows or cares that after World War II we imposed systems of government on Japan and Germany.

Again fine words, but not backed up by the needed challenge to the Muslim world; "you need to reform because there is precious little liberty in your part of the world."

Next the president addresses religion

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

The idea that "islam has a proud tradition of tolerance" is so insanely at odds with reality I'm speechless.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

I hardly see religious tolerance in the West as a problem.

Next we come to women's rights.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Can he actually believe that the veil is anything less than a symbol of subjugation?

Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

As if there is an equivalence between the struggle by women for equal rights in the West and in the Muslim world. Two hundred years ago women had it better in the West than they have it in much of the Muslim world today. Obama had a chance to demand women's rights and he blew it.

In his final comments President Obama discussed economic and scientific cooperation, but it was all boilerplate and as such of little interest.

Conclusion

Islam needs to be challenged to reform, and Obama dropped the ball. Yes I realize that it all must be couched in diplo-speak, but even so.

The Muslim world does not need our "understanding." It needs liberty for its people.

One problem with not standing up to dictators is that this is used by those leaders to squash dissent in their countries. Former political prisoners Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky (gulag, Soviet Union) and Armando Valladares (Cuba) have spoken and written about this. What they say is that obsequiousness by a US president is shown to dissidents and political prisoners and they are told "see, the US president doesn't care about you!" On the other hand, when a US president calls out the totalitarians, word eventually makes it to even political prisoners, whose morale is boosted. Sharansky, for example, tells of being told of Reagan's "evil empire" speech while in the gulag and being greatly encouraged.

The bottom line: President Obama had an opportunity to challenge the Muslim world to reform and adopt principles of liberty and he failed.

Dissidents across the Middle East are weaping.

Other Opinion


The Washington Times
:

Respect is a two-way street. Recent polls suggest that about half of Americans hold negative views of Islam, and this is not merely blind bigotry. If they want respect, Muslim states must seek active ways to improve relations with the United States

Melanie Phillips

So in conclusion, yes, there was some positive stuff in this speech - but it was outweighed by the United States President's shocking historical misrepresentations, gross ignorance, disgusting moral equivalence between aggressors and their victims, and disturbing sanitising of Islamist supremacism.

In short, deeply troubling.

Angelo Codevilla

Just imagine: After a thousand years during which Islam and Western civilization have trod opposite paths in philosophy, science, and the most basic attitudes toward relations between the sexes and the role of work in life -- and after a half-century during which Muslims have murdered Western ambassadors and Olympians, to the cheers of millions of their own -- suddenly a young American seems to believe he can conjure up a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." How could anyone imagine he possesses such a "reset button"? The answer only starts with Yuppie hubris.

Dr Zuhdi Jasser

As long as this administration ignores ideology and focuses only on superficial public relations, the Islamists will continue to advance the ideas of political Islam while we sleep. It is time for a comprehensive, public domestic and foreign strategy against Islamism. It is time for Muslims to lead this effort with real American support and not just lip service.

Mansoor Ijaz

The architecture of President Obama's speech was brilliant -- it certainly addressed the most burning issues facing Muslims around the world today.

Atmospherically, he hit it just right. His recitations from the Koran, his greeting to the gathering in Arabic, and even the respect he showed by saying "Muhammad, peace be upon him" when referring to Islam's Holy Prophet, all demonstrated an abiding respect for Islamic traditions...

Where he failed in Cairo was to delineate the overarching fact that Islam's troubles lie within. It is not that America is not at war with Islam. It is that Islam is at war within itself -- to identify what this religion and system of beliefs is in the modern age. Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian sidekick Ayman Al Zawahiri want to take us all back to the Stone Age because they have nothing better to offer their followers than hate-filled preaching. Why didn't Obama say that?

Islam's worst enemies are within it. If wealthy Gulf Arabs want peace for Palestinians with Israel, why don't they take a fraction of their profligate spending (in nightclubs in Geneva, at bars in London, at boutiques in Milan) and redirect it to rebuilding Palestinian enclaves with schools, hospitals, food-production facilities, and manufacturing plants? We might then have durable peace possible in the Middle East. Why didn't Obama say that?

Charles Krauthammer: "Abstraction...self-absorption...vapidity...moral equivalence"

Wesley Pruden

He told the Cairo audience that "to move forward we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts," but he wasted the opportunity to forcefully instruct Muslims that respect and appreciation must be mutual. While conceding the mote in American eyes, he said almost nothing about the beam that blinds Muslim eyes. He enumerated the "sources of tension" between Islamic countries and the West and never mentioned terrorism. He chided the West for its harsh view of Islamic treatment of women - "I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal" - and suggested that denying education to women is the gravest Muslim sin against women. He could have denounced "honor killings," forced marriages and how women in Muslim countries are flogged on the pretext of minuscule violations of eighth-century Sharia law.


Posted by Tom at 10:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 24, 2009

Our Classless President

That President Obama seems to think he's still campaigning for the White House is bad enough. Most of his speeches, it seems, are peppered with blame for this country in general or George W Bush in particular. Just this week, when talking about the prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, he spoke about the "mess" he had inherited, and that in the days after 9-11 officials in the Bush Administration made "hasty" decisions "based upon fear rather than foresight."

Uh huh. He of course, is far too smart, and all of his decisions would have been perfect. The man is a legend in his own mind.

In his weekly radio address today he paid tribute to American troops throughout history who have paid the ultimate price, but just had to include a cheap shot at his predecessor (h/t Powerline):

And yet, all too often in recent years and decades, we, as a nation, have failed to live up to that responsibility. We have failed to give them the support they need or pay them the respect they deserve. That is a betrayal of the sacred trust that America has with all who wear - and all who have worn - the proud uniform of our country

But now that Obama is our president, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect.

John Hinderaker at Powerline summed it up:

As Chris Stirewalt notes:
It gets little notice, but even to this day Bush makes calls on wounded veterans at military hospitals, corresponds with families of fallen servicemembers and gives his own money to veterans charities. In office, Bush hugely increased funding for veterans programs and worked relentlessly to improve the lot of ordinary troops.

It would be interesting to know how much of his own money Barack Obama has given to veterans' charities over the years. I'd hazard a guess: zero.

Obama's incessant attacks on the Bush administration tell us nothing about former President Bush, but a great deal about Barack Obama: the man has no class.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 21, 2009

Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and the New York Terror Plot

Former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered an address before the American Enterprise Institute earlier today that is a must watch. At the very least read it in it's entirety, which you can here.

President Obama also gave a a speech today about national security.

The short version is that Cheney gave a responsible address in which he reviewed the issues at hand and reviewed the threat and discussed what the Bush Administration had done to counter it.

Obama acted like a jerk.

First up is our former Vice President

(video h/t American Power)

Read and watch the entire thing, but here's the money quote:

Nine-eleven made necessary a shift of policy, aimed at a clear strategic threat - what the Congress called "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." From that moment forward, instead of merely preparing to round up the suspects and count up the victims after the next attack, we were determined to prevent attacks in the first place.

We could count on almost universal support back then, because everyone understood the environment we were in. We'd just been hit by a foreign enemy - leaving 3,000 Americans dead, more than we lost at Pearl Harbor. In Manhattan, we were staring at 16 acres of ashes. The Pentagon took a direct hit, and the Capitol or the White House were spared only by the Americans on Flight 93, who died bravely and defiantly.

Everyone expected a follow-on attack, and our job was to stop it. We didn't know what was coming next, but everything we did know in that autumn of 2001 looked bad. This was the world in which al-Qaeda was seeking nuclear technology, and A. Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology on the black market. We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source. We had the training camps of Afghanistan, and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists.

These are just a few of the problems we had on our hands. And foremost on our minds was the prospect of the very worst coming to pass - a 9/11 with nuclear weapons.

Yup. It seemed common sense back then that we'd be hit again, and maybe quite soon. We had been caught with such total surprise, and the devastating nature of the attack was something out of a Tom Clancy novel. Indeed, in his 1995 Debt of Honor, a Japanese airline pilot crashes a 747 into the U.S. Capitol building during a state of the union address, killing the president, vice president, and most members of congress. It was an interesting book, but as I read it I thought "that would make a cool movie but it could never happen." 9-11 dispelled such thoughts.

More on what Cheney said, but before that or we go to President Obama, let's review one of the biggest stories of the week; four Muslims were arrested Wednesday for plotting to blow up two New York Synagogues and shoot down military aircraft with Stinger missiles. The story from Fox News:

(F)our domestic terror suspects -- James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, N.Y. -- were arrested late Wednesday after they allegedly planted a 37-pound device that they believed was a bomb in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple, a synagogue in the Bronx, and two other mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Riverdale Jewish Center, another synagogue a few blocks away. They also allegedly planned to shoot Stinger surface-to-air guided missiles at planes at the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, about 70 miles north of New York City.

FBI investigators had been monitoring the men and, through an informant, provided them with an inactive (Stinger) missile and inert C-4 explosives, according to the federal complaint filed against the suspects.

Don't think that because the FBI supplied a fake missile that they couldn't have gotten it elsewhere. From the same story

"I don't know if you could buy it on Craigslist, but there's certainly a lot of people who engage in this type of contraband," Steve Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, said of the anti-aircraft Stinger missile. "They're not that big, either, so they could've been smuggled into the United States."

Emerson said the 5-foot-long weapon, which has a range of 5 miles and weighs 35 pounds fully armed, could have been bought in a number of black arms markets in Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, Pakistan, Gaza and Saudi Arabia. The missile system could be purchased for "tens of thousands of dollars," Emerson said.

To be sure, these guys weren't the brightest bulbs. From the AP

The four men were ex-convicts who envisioned themselves as holy warriors, ambitious enough to concoct a plot to blow up synagogues and military planes, authorities said. But they were amateurs every step of the way. They had trouble finding guns and bought cameras at Wal-Mart to photograph their targets. One was a convicted purse snatcher, another smoked marijuana the day the plot was to be carried out.

Muslims fueled by hatred of America and Jews, they spent months scouting targets and securing what they thought was a surface-to-air missile system and powerful explosives -- all under the watch of an FBI informant.

But before we get to cocky, let's remember that after the 1993 world trade center attack we laughed when one of the terrorists went back to the rental place to claim his deposit on the truck that had been blown up in the attack. I think we all know who got the last laugh on that one.

They're still out there, folks, and they're trying to get us. Odds are that sooner or later they'll succeed again. Whether or not they're homegrown or imported from the wilds of Waziristan doesn't matter.

Independent Jihad

Muslim terrorists need not be connected to al Qaeda or any other terrorist network to be part of the global jihad. I say this because you can expect this plot to be dismissed in days to come if no connection is found.


In May 2006 a story in the Washington Post
describes the career of one Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, who in January of 2005 posted a treatise called "The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance" under the pen name Abu Musab al-Suri on the Internet (I can't find an exact link for the work, but see a description here). From the Post story

Nasar, 47, outlines a strategy for a truly global conflict on as many fronts as possible and in the form of resistance by small cells or individuals, rather than traditional guerrilla warfare. To avoid penetration and defeat by security services, he says, organizational links should be kept to an absolute minimum.

"The enemy is strong and powerful, we are weak and poor, the war duration is going to be long and the best way to fight it is in a revolutionary jihad way for the sake of Allah," he said in one paper. "The preparations better be deliberate, comprehensive and properly planned, taking into account past experiences and lessons."

Let's also not forget the 2007 JFK Bomb Plot and the Fort Dix "Jersey Jihadists." If we hadn't caught them would have caused untold havoc. Again, one day they're bound to get through our nets.

On to Obama

So what has our President been up to lately? As usual, he blames the Bush Administration for our troubles. In a speech today on national security he said that he inherited a "mess"

I knew when I ordered Guantanamo closed that it would be difficult and complex. There are 240 people there who have now spent years in legal limbo. In dealing with this situation, we do not have the luxury of starting from scratch. We are cleaning up something that is - quite simply - a mess a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my Administration is forced to deal with on a constant basis, and that consumes the time of government officials whose time should be spent on better protecting our country.

He also pontificates that

After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era - that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to our application of the law; that our government would need new tools to protect the American people, and that these tools would have to allow us to prevent attacks instead of simply prosecuting those who try to carry them out.

Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that - too often - our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us - Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens - fell silent.

What a jerk.

Throwing out the bone that the decisions "were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people" is a throwaway line that he clearly doesn't mean. Obama has no respect for anyone but himself. He is sooooooo smart that if he had been president at the time he wouldn't have fallen for the "fear" and of course would have calmly and cooly advised that we were all getting excited over nothing and that there would be no further attacks.

Because he is Obama, and the world will bend to his will. I swear the man believes his own propaganda.

Let's go back to someone who can think responsibly about national security, Dick Cheney. Here's what he said about the likes of Obama and his type in his speech at the AEI:

To make certain our nation country never again faced such a day of horror, we developed a comprehensive strategy, beginning with far greater homeland security to make the United States a harder target. But since wars cannot be won on the defensive, we moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks....

(Our strategy) has resulted in serious blows against enemy operations ... the take-down of the A.Q. Khan network ... and the dismantling of Libya's nuclear program. It's required the commitment of many thousands of troops in two theaters of war, with high points and some low points in both Iraq and Afghanistan - and at every turn, the people of our military carried the heaviest burden. Well over seven years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive - and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed....

Our government prevented attacks and saved lives through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which let us intercept calls and track contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and persons inside the United States. The program was top secret, and for good reason, until the editors of the New York Times got it and put it on the front page. After 9/11, the Times had spent months publishing the pictures and the stories of everyone killed by al-Qaeda on 9/11. Now here was that same newspaper publishing secrets in a way that could only help al-Qaeda. It impressed the Pulitzer committee, but it damn sure didn't serve the interests of our country, or the safety of our people.

In the years after 9/11, our government also understood that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. And in a few cases, that information could be gained only through tough interrogations....

Yet for all these exacting efforts to do a hard and necessary job and to do it right, we hear from some quarters nothing but feigned outrage based on a false narrative. In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.

I might add that people who consistently distort the truth in this way are in no position to lecture anyone about "values." Intelligence officers of the United States were not trying to rough up some terrorists simply to avenge the dead of 9/11. We know the difference in this country between justice and vengeance. Intelligence officers were not trying to get terrorists to confess to past killings; they were trying to prevent future killings. From the beginning of the program, there was only one focused and all-important purpose. We sought, and we in fact obtained, specific information on terrorist plans.

Game, Set and Match; Dick Cheney.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 11, 2009

Obama Set To Betray Israel

On Sunday were heard this nonsense from President Obama's National Security Adviser, retired General James Jones, as reported in the Jerusalem Post:

In an interview with ABC television, Jones said that the US government agrees with Jerusalem that Teheran's nuclear ambitions pose an "existential threat" to Israel.

"We understand Israel's preoccupation with Iran as an existential threat. We agree with that," the senior official was quoted as saying by AFP....

"By the same token, there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution," he reportedly said.

As if this was not bad enough, the story goes on to tell us that

In a closed meeting with AIPAC's major donors last week, Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, reportedly said that America's ability to face Iran depended on Israel's ability to make progress with the Palestinians.

He also reportedly told them that solving the conflict would enable progress in dealing with the main threat of Iran.

The cluelessness of these people knows no bounds.

Unfortunately, Pope Benedict XVI hasn't been much better. Fox News reports that

Pope Benedict XVI called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian homeland immediately after he arrived in Israel Monday, a stance that could put him at odds with his hosts on a trip aimed at improving ties between the Vatican and Jews...

"The hopes of countless men, women and children for a more secure and stable future depend on the outcome of negotiations for peace," he told a welcoming ceremony at Israel's international airport. "In union with people of goodwill everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own within secure and internationally recognized borders."

I suppose it's his job to say these things, and religious leaders like him do serve as a check on our thinking.

The idea that giving the Palestinians a state will have any affect at all on Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons or their desire to destroy Israel is lunacy. I have covered Iran and the motivations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and some of the leading Mullahs in some detail in my postings on Iran, but I am hardly the only one.

Further, I do not think that any more of a Palestinian homeland is a good idea. As I've said here a zillion times, I used to believe in the "two-state solution," but no more. President Clinton gave it a good try with the 1993 Oslo accords, but after the failed Camp David meeting of him, Israeli PM Ehud Barack, and Palestinian terrorist leader Yassir Arafat, it should have been clear to all that the Palestinians are simply not interested in recognizing Israel's right to exist.

Worse, the Palestinians have had what amounts to their own country now for about 3 years in Gaza, and they've made a total hash of it. They had a golden opportunity to show the world that they could govern themselves in a reasonable manner and instead they turned it into a jihadist nightmare. It's a well known fact that Iran has been supplying and helping Hamas; google it yourself.

But let's get back to our own president. via Melanie Phillips, Ha'aretz reports that the aforementioned General James Jones, National Security Adviser:

... quoted in the telegram as saying that the United States, European Union and moderate Arab states must redefine 'a satisfactory endgame solution.' The U.S. national security adviser did not mention Israel as party to these consultations.

As Phillips says, of course Jones is not going to consult with Israel. "If you are going to throw a country under the bus, you don't invite it to discuss the manner of its destruction with the assassins who are co-ordinating the crime."

She then goes on to the heart of the matter

Of course Obama doesn't care that Hamas would run any Palestinian state. Of course he doesn't care that Israel would be unable to defend itself against such a terrorist state. Because he regards Israel as at best totally expendable, and at worst as a running sore on the world's body politic that has to be purged altogether (see this bleak assessment by Sultan Knish). His administration is proceeding on the entirely false analysis that a state of Palestine is the solution to the Middle East impasse and the route to peace in the region. What that state will look like or do is something to which at best the administration's collective mind is shut and at worst makes it a potential cynical accomplice to the unconscionable. So Israel is to be forced out of the West Bank. Far from building a coalition against Iran, Obama is thus doing Iran's work for it.

Next let's turn to Carolyn Glick, possibly the most insightful correspondent in Israel. Surveying the information on Obama and his planes cited above, she points out that it's even worse than most people think. From her Jerusalem Post column on Thursday;

Moreover, this week we learned that the administration is trying to get the Arabs themselves to write the Quartet's new plan. The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi pan-Arab newspaper reported Tuesday that acting on behalf of Obama, Jordanian King Abdullah urged the Arab League to update the so-called Arab peace plan from 2002. That plan, which calls for Israel to withdraw from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights and accept millions of foreign Arabs as citizens as part of the so-called "right of return" in exchange for "natural" relations with the Arab world, has been rejected by successive Israeli governments as a diplomatic subterfuge whose goal is Israel's destruction.

By accepting millions of so-called "Palestinian refugees," Israel would effectively cease to be a Jewish state. By shrinking into the 1949 armistice lines, Israel would be unable to defend itself against foreign invasion. And since "natural relations" is a meaningless term both in international legal discourse and in diplomatic discourse, Israel would have committed national suicide for nothing.

If you're not familiar with this so-called "right of return," this google search will tell you all of the details. Essentially, though, the Palestinians want to flood Israel proper (i.e. pre-1967 borders) with millions of people, and then vote the country out of existence. This, and not the settlements, have always been the true obstacle to a negotiated settlement. Ok, that an incessant Palestinian terrorism.

Follow the link to Glick's column and read the whole thing, as it just gets worse and worse. It's clear that the Obama Administration has a fairy-tale vision of the Middle East and wants to force it on Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to come to the United States to meet President Obama and his staff on May 18. Netanyahu is no shrinking violet, and maybe he can talk some sense into our president. But I'm not holding my breath.


Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 2, 2009

Andy McCarthy Smacks Down Eric Holder

Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy has turned down an offer by Attorney General Eric Holder to participate in a roundtable discussion on detention policy. The AG has invited several current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases to seek their input, McCarthy being one of them.

McCarthy is known primarily as the man who led the team that sent the "Blind Sheikh", Omar Abdel Rahman, and eleven others to prison. Rahman was the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plot to bomb several other New York City landmarks, including the United Nations building, an FBI office, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. As such, Rahman was the most dangerous terrorist ever brought to justice in the United States. McCarthy wrote about the trial and his thoughs on our detention policy in his 2008 book Willfull Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. As such, he is a legitimate expert on terrorism and the legal issues surrounding the issue.

McCarthy's full letter to AG Holder is below the fold, but here is the part where he states his reasons for turning down Holder's offer:

In light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers--like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy--may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

Congratulations, Mr. President. This is the result of the atmosphere of intimidation that you created when you let loose the hounds of the left.

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr. Attorney General of the United States United States Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

This letter is respectfully submitted to inform you that I must decline the invitation to participate in the May 4 roundtable meeting the President's Task Force on Detention Policy is convening with current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases. An invitation was extended to me by trial lawyers from the Counterterrorism Section, who are members of the Task Force, which you are leading.

The invitation email (of April 14) indicates that the meeting is part of an ongoing effort to identify lawful policies on the detention and disposition of alien enemy combatants--or what the Department now calls "individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations." I admire the lawyers of the Counterterrorism Division, and I do not question their good faith. Nevertheless, it is quite clear--most recently, from your provocative remarks on Wednesday in Germany--that the Obama administration has already settled on a policy of releasing trained jihadists (including releasing some of them into the United States). Whatever the good intentions of the organizers, the meeting will obviously be used by the administration to claim that its policy was arrived at in consultation with current and former government officials experienced in terrorism cases and national security issues. I deeply disagree with this policy, which I believe is a violation of federal law and a betrayal of the president's first obligation to protect the American people. Under the circumstances, I think the better course is to register my dissent, rather than be used as a prop.

Moreover, in light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers--like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy--may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

Beyond that, as elucidated in my writing (including my proposal for a new national security court, which I understand the Task Force has perused), I believe alien enemy combatants should be detained at Guantanamo Bay (or a facility like it) until the conclusion of hostilities. This national defense measure is deeply rooted in the venerable laws of war and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the 2004 Hamdi case. Yet, as recently as Wednesday, you asserted that, in your considered judgment, such notions violate America's "commitment to the rule of law." Indeed, you elaborated, "Nothing symbolizes our [adminstration's] new course more than our decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.... President Obama believes, and I strongly agree, that Guantanamo has come to represent a time and an approach that we want to put behind us: a disregard for our centuries-long respect for the rule of law[.]" (Emphasis added.)

Given your policy of conducting ruinous criminal and ethics investigations of lawyers over the advice they offer the government, and your specific position that the wartime detention I would endorse is tantamount to a violation of law, it makes little sense for me to attend the Task Force meeting. After all, my choice would be to remain silent or risk jeopardizing myself.

For what it may be worth, I will say this much. For eight years, we have had a robust debate in the United States about how to handle alien terrorists captured during a defensive war authorized by Congress after nearly 3000 of our fellow Americans were annihilated. Essentially, there have been two camps. One calls for prosecution in the civilian criminal justice system, the strategy used throughout the 1990s. The other calls for a military justice approach of combatant detention and war-crimes prosecutions by military commission. Because each theory has its downsides, many commentators, myself included, have proposed a third way: a hybrid system, designed for the realities of modern international terrorism--a new system that would address the needs to protect our classified defense secrets and to assure Americans, as well as our allies, that we are detaining the right people.

There are differences in these various proposals. But their proponents, and adherents to both the military and civilian justice approaches, have all agreed on at least one thing: Foreign terrorists trained to execute mass-murder attacks cannot simply be released while the war ensues and Americans are still being targeted. We have already released too many jihadists who, as night follows day, have resumed plotting to kill Americans. Indeed, according to recent reports, a released Guantanamo detainee is now leading Taliban combat operations in Afghanistan, where President Obama has just sent additional American forces.

The Obama campaign smeared Guantanamo Bay as a human rights blight. Consistent with that hyperbolic rhetoric, the President began his administration by promising to close the detention camp within a year. The President did this even though he and you (a) agree Gitmo is a top-flight prison facility, (b) acknowledge that our nation is still at war, and (c) concede that many Gitmo detainees are extremely dangerous terrorists who cannot be tried under civilian court rules. Patently, the commitment to close Guantanamo Bay within a year was made without a plan for what to do with these detainees who cannot be tried. Consequently, the Detention Policy Task Force is not an effort to arrive at the best policy. It is an effort to justify a bad policy that has already been adopted: to wit, the Obama administration policy to release trained terrorists outright if that's what it takes to close Gitmo by January.

Obviously, I am powerless to stop the administration from releasing top al Qaeda operatives who planned mass-murder attacks against American cities--like Binyam Mohammed (the accomplice of "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla) whom the administration recently transferred to Britain, where he is now at liberty and living on public assistance. I am similarly powerless to stop the administration from admitting into the United States such alien jihadists as the 17 remaining Uighur detainees. According to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, the Uighurs will apparently live freely, on American taxpayer assistance, despite the facts that they are affiliated with a terrorist organization and have received terrorist paramilitary training. Under federal immigration law (the 2005 REAL ID Act), those facts render them excludable from the United States. The Uighurs' impending release is thus a remarkable development given the Obama administration's propensity to deride its predecessor's purported insensitivity to the rule of law.

I am, in addition, powerless to stop the President, as he takes these reckless steps, from touting his Detention Policy Task Force as a demonstration of his national security seriousness. But I can decline to participate in the charade.

Finally, let me repeat that I respect and admire the dedication of Justice Department lawyers, whom I have tirelessly defended since I retired in 2003 as a chief assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. It was a unique honor to serve for nearly twenty years as a federal prosecutor, under administrations of both parties. It was as proud a day as I have ever had when the trial team I led was awarded the Attorney General's Exceptional Service Award in 1996, after we secured the convictions of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and his underlings for waging a terrorist war against the United States. I particularly appreciated receiving the award from Attorney General Reno--as I recounted in Willful Blindness, my book about the case, without her steadfastness against opposition from short-sighted government officials who wanted to release him, the "blind sheikh" would never have been indicted, much less convicted and so deservedly sentenced to life-imprisonment. In any event, I've always believed defending our nation is a duty of citizenship, not ideology. Thus, my conservative political views aside, I've made myself available to liberal and conservative groups, to Democrats and Republicans, who've thought tapping my experience would be beneficial. It pains me to decline your invitation, but the attendant circumstances leave no other option.

Very truly yours,

/S/

Andrew C. McCarthy

cc: Sylvia T. Kaser and John DePue
National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section

Summarized, McCarthy's reasons for turning down the invitation are that one, the Obama Administration has already settled on a position, so this meeting is just for show, and two, given recent statements by Holder and President Obama, any lawyer who makes good faith recommendations may be prosecuted just for making those recommendations. As such there not only is no point in attending the roundtable, but it might be hazardous to one's legal future.

Say what you will about George W. Bush, but he never went after Clinton Administration officials for anything. Nor did he spend time blaming them for their national security lapses that helped lead to 9-11.

Update

McCarthy has a piece in National Review explaining his reasons behind the letter, as well as a few comments on the Administration's new policies. Money quote:

The second reason for declining the Justice Department's request is that the exercise known as the "President's Detention Policy Task Force" is a farce. The administration has already settled on a detainee policy: It is simply going to release trained jihadists. Holder said as much in his Germany speech. In the irrational world he inhabits, the existence of Guantanamo Bay, where dangerous terrorists cannot harm anyone, is more of a security threat than jihadists roaming free, plotting to menace and murder us. That's why the administration just released Binyam Mohammed, who conspired with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla to execute post-9/11 bombings in American cities. That's why Holder will soon announce (perhaps as early as today) that the Chinese Uighur detainees -- who've been affiliated with a designated terrorist organization and who've received paramilitary training at al-Qaeda camps -- will not only be set free in the United States but will, according to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, subsist on the support of the American taxpayer.

For all their talk about "the rule of law," President Obama and Attorney General Holder have to know this policy is illegal. In 2005, Congress provided in the REAL ID Act that aliens who've been affiliated with a terrorist organization or who've received paramilitary training (which has been a staple of virtually every jihadist plot against the United States) are excludable from the United States. Moreover, even if the administration were not riding roughshod over federal immigration law, it is endangering the American people. The sophistry required to believe that having people who want to kill us locked up is more perilous than loosing them on civilian populations is so absurd it nearly defies description.

What was that about Bush and Cheney running roughshod over the Constitution again?

Posted by Tom at 1:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 26, 2009

"Obama Administration's Assault on the American Warrior Commences"

This post by Steve Schippert at NRO's The Tank is so good and I agree with him so completely I'm just going to quote the whole thing. I don't think he'll mind.

The assault is relentless. It is enraging. And today, the Obama administration's assault on those who dare to defend America from terrorist thugs who rejoice in publicizing beheadings, mass murder, and pure evil are on notice: "You will be punished. We're coming after you."

The target audience now includes the American Warrior. The Obama administration has abdicated the Warrior's defense, refusing to appeal the 2nd Circuit's decision that more photos should be released from investigations of the detention of enemy fighters from the battlefield. The Obama administration has sided with the ACLU and abandoned our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. This cannot stand.

Brace yourselves for the Obama administration's full on assault on the American psyche, while we in the Warrior Class gear up, strap up, and engage in our defense and our nation's defense by taking the fight right back to its source.

Earlier this week, it was the Bush administration's legal advisers, who had the audacity to write opinions on the legal limits of "enhanced interrogation techniques." They dared to include as legal for use against terrorists procedures that are part of our own Special Forces' training. Then yesterday the Obama administration could not resist its instinctive temptation to renege on its original pledge that it would not go after CIA and military interrogators who, as the administration put it, were simply following orders and guidelines determined from above.

Today, the very legacy of the American Warrior is directly under assault as part of that same process.

The Obama administration agreed late Thursday to release dozens of photographs depicting alleged abuse by U.S. personnel during the Bush administration of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 44 pictures will be released by May 28, making public for the first time images of what the military investigated at facilities other than the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Defense Department officials would not say exactly what is contained in the photos but said they are concerned the release could incite a Mideast backlash.

A Mideast backlash? The Obama administration -- and those at the Pentagon not standing up in vociferous defense of its warriors -- had better buckle up for an American backlash. Pay attention here.

The photos, taken from Air Force and Army criminal investigations, apparently are not as shocking as the photographs from the Abu Ghraib investigation that became a lasting symbol of U.S. mistakes in Iraq. But some show military personnel intimidating or threatening detainees by pointing weapons at them. Military officers have been court-martialed for threatening detainees at gunpoint.

The photos are not egregious. Not even rising to the level of panties on heads. But no matter. The assault is on. And your president -- your Commander in Chief -- supports it.

The release of these images serves no practical purpose, except perhaps for "enhanced prosecution techniques" against our own. Understand clearly that the purpose of the release -- and the Obama administration's decision to do so willingly if not energetically -- is to denigrate the American Warrior and to further the assault on the American psyche.

Those we were detaining (rather than summarily executing in the field, mind you) were being locked away at a time when beheadings were commonplace, men were being killed by slowly lowering them into 55-gallon drums of acid, and teens refusing to join al-Qaeda in Iraq were being crucified -- literally crucified -- in the public square and given just enough water to keep them alive and their public suffering great enough to serve as AQ's example to the rest. The children of resistant families were baked in ovens, folks.

And our boys are the evil ones? Not on your bleeping life. Not on my watch. Not on our watch.

From the indispensable Jake Tapper of ABC News, consider this context.

The photographs are part of a 2003 Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU for all information relating to the treatment of detainees -- the same battle that led, last week, to President Obama's decision to release memos from the Bush Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel providing legal justifications for harsh interrogation methods that human rights groups call torture.

Courts had ruled against the Bush administration's attempts to keep the photographs from public view. ACLU attorney Amrit Singh tells ABC News that "the fact that the Obama administration opted not to seek further review is a sign that it is committed to more transparency."

No. It is a sign that the Obama administration holds no perceived loyalty to the American Warrior and is, in fact, putting them under assault in a display of loyalty instead to the ACLU. Is your mind calculating this?

Where is our Secretary of Defense?

The Department of Defense announced in a letter addressed to the federal court on Thursday that it would release the photos.

In a copy of the letter posted on the ACLU's Web site, acting U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin said that 21 photographs would be released and that the government "also is processing for release a substantial number of other images."

Mr. Gates, if you cannot muster the principle and courage to stand against this, then our support for you as the remaining adult on the newly formed children's playground may well have been misplaced. You have instantly become indistinguishable from the rest.

This has me so angry I'm practically spitting out my own teeth. I've had enough. Apologizing to Europe and the Muslim world for America, the warm reception of Chavez, blaming America for Mexican drug cartels' murderous rampages, and the threat of prosecuting Bush administration officials because of their legal opinions on what does and does not constitute torture.

And now, the American warrior class is openly and clearly in the crosshairs in a media campaign to denigrate them and cast dishonor upon them and, once again, America.

The aim of the release is to assault America in the court of public opinion, using the wholly owned media PR subsidiary as the armored assault vehicle. And the administration, through its acquiescence, is at minimum enabling this, choosing consciously to end the public defense of the American warrior class and its very legacy. Perhaps the administration is acting with willful disregard for them by taking direction from the ACLU/Soros/Moveon.org hard Left in a form of electoral quid pro quo. At worst, the administration is directly aligned with them and acting in concert rather than taking direction from them.

Either way, the principled defense of the warrior is over, by choice of the Obama administration in directing the Pentagon to end the defense short of SCOTUS. It is an outright abdication.

I say no. Not now, not ever. The Left got away with an all-out assault on the American veteran and military service during Vietnam. It will not happen again. And most certainly not from the military's own Commander in Chief. Not without a bold, determined, and passionate challenge the likes of which have never been seen.

For the exodus of good men and women from a military under assault from its own administration is likely to begin as service commitments come to an end. Retention just took a hit, as officers and NCO's alike begin to understand that they have been left in the wind. Recruiting just got more difficult.

The next logical step for this anti-military administration is to submit the American Warrior to the jurisdiction of a kangaroo International Criminal Court. Don't think the American Warrior isn't watching and thinking. International law, rather than American sovereignty, is all the rage these days in the White House after all.

The Warrior will begin to question precisely what it is that he risks all to defend. And when faced with the fact that he may remain undefended in doing so, his risk expands and the once-booming clarion call to service reduces to distant whispers.

And that will be . . . the end.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The release of the CIA memos

I'm not going to have time to do a proper post on this, but there's no need to when so many others are saying what I think almost exactly. As we all know President Obama has ordered the release of some memos detailing our interrogation of terrorists.

Former Director of the CIA Porter Goss (September 2004 to May 2006) in The Washington Post (h/t The Western Experience)

Since leaving my post as CIA director almost three years ago, I have remained largely silent on the public stage. I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. We can't have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets. Americans have to decide now.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

-- The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

-- We understood what the CIA was doing.

-- We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.

-- We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.

-- On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed "memorandums for the record" suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately -- to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president's national security adviser -- and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted.

Another former Director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden (2006 to 2009), along with former Attorney General Michael Mukasky (2007 to 2009), in the Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them....

Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny....

...public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual.

Moreover, disclosure of the details of the program pre-empts the study of the president's task force and assures that the suspension imposed by the president's executive order is effectively permanent. There would be little point in the president authorizing measures whose nature and precise limits have already been disclosed in detail to those whose resolve we hope to overcome....

Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies....

Which brings us to the next of the justifications for disclosing and thus abandoning these measures: that they don't work anyway, and that those who are subjected to them will simply make up information in order to end their ordeal. This ignorant view of how interrogations are conducted is belied by both experience and common sense....

The effect of this disclosure on the morale and effectiveness of many in the intelligence community is not hard to predict. Those charged with the responsibility of gathering potentially lifesaving information from unwilling captives are now told essentially that any legal opinion they get as to the lawfulness of their activity is only as durable as political fashion permits. Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk? There would be no wink, no nod, no handshake that would convince them that legal guidance is durable. Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself....

Indeed, as Steve Shippert explains, all this is part of Obama's assault on the American warrior.

Wesley Pruden, former Editor in Chief of The Washington Times

We're on unfamiliar ground now. No president before has sought to punish his predecessor for policy decisions, no matter how wrong or wrong-headed. Lyndon B. Johnson's management of the Vietnam War was often ham-handed, as anyone who was there could tell you, and his policy makers sometimes verged on criminal incompetence. But Richard Nixon was never tempted to send LBJ or any of those presidential acolytes to prison. Abraham Lincoln, by his lights, would have had ample opportunity to hang Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, but even the rabid Republicans who survived the assassination stopped short of putting Davis in the dock, finally releasing him from imprisonment at Fort Monroe when judgment overcame lust for revenge. Lee was never touched.

Over the past few days, it seems that Obama has realized that he's opened a can of worms that threatens to get out of control. As Andrew McCarthy explains at National Review, it is unlikely he'll be able to close this Pandora's box.

...as George W. Bush might have warned his successor, anti-American ideologues are emboldened, not mollified, by concessions. The Left doesn't want Bush officials exposed -- they want blood, and anything less than that will be cause for revolt. Simultaneously, Obama has raised the ire of the Right. In his solipsism, the president failed to foresee that the "torture" memos -- memos that, as Rich Lowry shows, in fact document an assiduous effort to avoid torture -- would not support his overblown rhetoric or substantiate the allegations of misconduct raised by politicized leaks from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Critics were not cowed. That, combined with Obama's disingenuous strategy of exposing our tactics while suppressing the trove of intelligence they produced, ensured that the Right would push back aggressively.

So now the president has chaos on his hands and no one but himself to blame for it. From the Left's perspective, he has validated their war-crimes allegations. You can't expect to do that and then just say, "never mind." Senator Leahy was already agitating for an accounting before Obama's high-wire act, as was the ACLU. Obama opened the door to prosecutions only 48 hours after his chief of staff assured a national television audience that there would be no prosecutions; having proved it can push around the weak-willed president, the Left is not going away.

Neither are Obama's political opponents on the right. Many of us spent years frustrated by the Bush administration's failure to defend its national-security policies effectively. President Bush's determination to do what he thought necessary to protect America, regardless of media carping and the consequent sag in his popularity, was his most endearing trait. But his unshakable conviction that the rightness of his actions would be borne out by history, and that he therefore didn't need to justify himself, was foolish. Yes, history will be detached, and perhaps more accurate, decades hence, but it starts being written right now. Bush ceded to the Left the narrative-writing for the War on Terror, which is why the public remains in the dark about the intelligence haul from the CIA's interrogation program for high-level detainees, as well as from the detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, whom antiwar activists have effectively portrayed as hapless shepherds mistakenly plucked from the fields of Afghanistan and shamefully consigned to a "legal black hole."

We'll end with Bill Kristol, who writes in The Weekly Standard that Obama and his fellow Democrats are "throwing those who guard us while we sleep to the wolves."

"We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history," President Obama said when he ordered the release of the Justice Department interrogation memos. Actually, no. Not at all. We were attacked on 9/11. We responded to that attack with remarkable restraint in the use of force, respect for civil liberties, and even solicitude for those who might inadvertently be offended, let alone harmed, by our policies. We've fought a war on jihadist terror in a civilized, even legalized, way. Those who have been on the front and rear lines of that war--in the military and the intelligence agencies, at the Justice Department and, yes, in the White House--have much to be proud of. The rest of us, who've been asked to do little, should be grateful.

The dark and painful chapter we have to fear is rather the one President Obama may be ushering in. This would be a chapter in which politicians preen moralistically as they throw patriotic officials, who helped keep this country safe, to the wolves, and in which national leaders posture politically while endangering the nation's security.

The preening is ridiculous, even by the standards of contemporary American politics and American liberalism. Obama fatuously asserts there are no real choices in the real world, just "false choices" that he can magically resolve. He foolishly suggests that even in war we would never have to do anything disagreeable for the sake of our security. He talks baby talk to intelligence officers: "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes. That's how we learn."

Yup. I do believe that Obama is taking us down a long dark path from which it will be difficult, or even impossible, to recover from. Never this century has an American president done so much damage so fast to his own country.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Changing his position, President Obama has now decided to open the door to prosecution of Bush Administration officials who approved harsh interrogation techniques. From the New York Times on Wednesday:

President Obama left the door open Tuesday to creating a bipartisan commission that would investigate the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, and did not rule out action by the Justice Department against those who fashioned the legal rationale for those techniques.

Obama is caving to pressure from his fellow Democrats. On March 4 Marc A. Thiessen reported this on National Review:

In an interview last week with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that she "absolutely" supports the criminal investigation and potential prosecution of Bush officials, stating: "We have to have the facts. . . . We are unhappy about certain things; we anecdotally know about certain things....

The investigative train leaves the station this morning, as Sen. Whitehouse and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy hold the first hearing on Leahy's proposal for a "Truth Commission" to investigate the Bush administration. Leahy presents his commission as a "middle ground" between those "who resist any effort to investigate the misdeeds of the recent past" and those "who say that, regardless of the cost in time, resources, and unity, we must prosecute Bush administration officials to lay down a marker."

I hear they've selected their chief prosecutor, er, "investigator:"

Andrey Januaryevich Vyshinskiy

Andrey Januaryevich Vyshinskiy (Russian: Андре́й Януа́рьевич Выши́нский, Andrej Januar'evič Vyšinskij) (December 10 [O.S. November 28] 1883, Odessa, Imperial Russia -November 22, 1954, New York), was a Russian and Soviet jurist and diplomat. He is mostly known as a state prosecutor of Stalin's show trials. He served as the Soviet Foreign Minister from 1949 to 1953. Vyshinsky was of Polish and Russian descent and spoke some English and excellent French...

In 1935 he became Prosecutor General of the USSR, the legal mastermind of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge. He is widely cited for the principle that "confession of the accused is the queen of evidence". His monograph that justifies this postulate, Theory of Judicial Proofs in Soviet Justice, was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1947. He was the prosecutor at the Moscow Trials of the Great Purge, lashing its defenseless victims with vituperative, sometimes cruelly witty rhetoric.

Democrats are full of moral righteousness these days, imagining themselves to be as pure as the wind driven snow.

They're not. They're in on this too. A Dec 9, 2007 story in the Washington Post is most revealing

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange....

Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Well well. They knew all along.

A story this past Thursday in The Washington Times reports much the same thing:

The CIA briefed top Democrats and Republicans on the congressional intelligence committees more than 30 times about enhanced interrogation techniques, according to intelligence sources who said the lawmakers tacitly approved the techniques that some Democrats in Congress now say should land Bush administration officials in jail.

Between 2002 and 2006, the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees "each got complete, benchmark briefings on the program," said one of the intelligence sources who is familiar with the briefings.

"If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the closed-door briefings.

Those who were briefed included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Rep. Jane Harman of California, all Democrats, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, all Republicans.

The Democratic and Republican staff directors for both committees also were briefed, according to the intelligence source and to a declassified memo released Wednesday that detailed some of the Senate committee briefings.

Speaker Pelosi is in full backtrack mode. In a press conference on Thusday she said

"It is not appropriate for me to talk about what happens at briefings. It is very interesting that people are talking so freely. But I can say this: they have been talking about it for a while. At that or any other briefing, and that was the only briefing that I was briefed on in that regard, we were not -- I repeat, we were not -- told that water boarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.

"What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel -- the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would. And they further -- further, the point was that if and when they would be used, they would brief Congress at that time, A.

This is hotly disputed by Republicans. As reported today in the Times


Rep. Peter Hoekstra, currently the ranking Republican on the House intelligence panel, described her comments as the "lamest of lame excuses," saying she could have gone to then-Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt to discuss her concerns.

and

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner on Thursday chided Democrats for seeking an investigation of the Bush administration's treatment of captured terror suspects, noting a long list of lawmakers from both parties were briefed about the use of harsh interrogation methods years ago.

"Not a word was raised at the time," said Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, adding that he has seen a partial list of Democrats and Republicans briefed on CIA interrogation techniques as far back as 2002.

"There is nothing here that should surprise them," he said.

Very simply, I think Pelosi is lying through her teeth.

It is all very fine for her to say these things to reporters at a press briefing. If she allows her party to push forward with this, our attorneys will supoena her, get a deposition, and under oath she'll have to tell the truth. She'll be confronted with the records, statements of the CIA officers who briefed them, and the Republicans who were also present.

These Democrats were in on this from the beginning. Now they are trying to pretend that they didn't know.

They are playing to the polls. Their policy is whatever the latest poll or focus group shows. After 9-11 the polls said to be tough, so they were tough. Like everyone else, they were scared of another attack, and pulled out all the stops to prevent it. But not that the memory of that awful day has faded, they look at the polls and they show a public that doesn't like George W Bush, ignoring that it's for reasons other than actions taken fighting the GWOT. So they get ontheir moral high horse and sanctimoniously cry "torture!"

It's all like the Iraq war; they were for it when it was popular, and turned against it when the war went south and support sank in the polls.

They allowed kook groups like Movon.org to exert undue inlfuence over their party, and we are seeing the result; the criminalization of foreign policy differences. This is what banana republics do; the winner puts his defeated opponents in jail.

And the vast right-wing conspiracy, which is waiting for all this to unfold, will be out in full force. We've got the finest legal minds in the country lined up around the block to defend anyone they dare put through their show trials.

Stay tuned. More to come.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 13, 2009

Somali Piracy - Now is Not The Time to Stop

It is with gratitude that I type these words in the wake of the successful resolution of the hostage standoff with the Somali pirates. It was a job well done by all involved.

I am thrilled that President Obama had the fortitude to give the necessary orders so that Navy SEALs could kill the pirates. Congratulations are due to him. From what I can tell he did the correct thing; set overall policy and let the military carry it out as they saw fit. He didn't interfere in the specifics, or during ongoing operations. This is how it should be. When he was elected I promised myself I would be fair; both criticize and praise when deserved. As such, I will not be petty and refuse to congratulate him, as are some. The same people who are acting this way would be the first to blame him if the situation had turned out badly.

Just as good, we have this

French commandos have stormed a yacht held by Somali pirates in an operation that left one French hostage and two gunmen dead, hours after an American skipper held in a separate ransom battle narrowly failed in a dramatic escape bid, officials said.

As a US force built up off Somalia, French forces staged their rescue six days on Friday after the yacht, the Tanit, was seized in the pirate infested Gulf of Aden, French officials said.

One male hostage and two pirates were killed in the assault on the yacht and three other adults and a three-year-old child were rescued, the officials said.

Congratulations are also due the French and President Sarkozy.

These episodes send a message to the pirates that we will not passively sit back and let them run the show.

But the pirates will not stop just because of these two actions. They come from a desperately poor nation, where the life expectancy is only 49 years. Most of them figure that they have little to lose by their pirate actions, and much to gain. They will only stop once we convince them that piracy is a quick way to die.

As such, this is no time to sit on our laurels. We must take bold action now.

Right now President Obama has the attention of the American people on this issue. He has, as they say, some political capital. He can either squander it or use it wisely. Obama is primarily a domestic policy president, so his inclination will be to put the issue in the history books, assign a staffer to work on it further, and move on to his next domestic policy agenda. This would be a mistake.

Although our crew is free, the pirates hold some 18 ships and 250 prisoners (the number varies slightly by news story).

Somali Pirach

Further, we may be entering an age in which the "primitive regions" can reach out and do us real damage, which would be a turn from the last two hundred or so. As Mark Steyn points out, "Half a century back, Somaliland was a couple of sleepy colonies, British and Italian, poor but functioning. Then it became a state, and then a failed state, and now the husk of a nation is a convenient squat from which to make mischief." In other words, a hundred or even few dozen years ago we didn't have to worry about such places. Now, as we have seen, great damage can be done to us by people in far-away places...such as Afghanistan.

The question is whether we follow up with bold action, or whether it is back to business as usual. Apparently we are considering striking their land bases. Last week we saw a report that our Special Ops guys were ready to go, which doesn't surprise me.

Word is that the Somalis are not just using speedboats, but have gotten to the point where they are using larger "mother ships" to extend the range of their operations. An AP story just out says that President Obama might be considering going after them.

There are dozens of options we could exercise. All of them are risky. Our Special Operations guys are good, but this isn't a Chuck Norris movie, and the history of commando raids is that quite a few go horribly wrong. The pirates are mixed in with civilians, and telling the two apart will be terribly difficult. As such, any action will inevitably cause civilian casualties which will be gleefully reported both by jihadist outlets like al Jazeera and other organizations which just don't like the United States. Our allies talk tough but will offer little concrete help. President Obama will discover that his charm is mostly good for crowd applause.

We must also not let the transnationalists confuse the issue. The U.S. Constitution and federal penal code are very clear on the matter; piracy is to be punished by life in prison.

My study of the situation concludes that actions will not "feed the piracy" or "create new pirates," which makes it quite different from fighting terrorism,where callous actions against terrorists does just that. This said, if during strikes on the pirates land bases we kill civilians, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups will use this as a recruiting tool because the Somalis are Muslims. Therefore, we must be careful not to give our genuine terrorist enemies a propaganda coup.

Recently a spokesman for the pirates (we've come a long way from the 18th century!) says that they will seek revenge for their three dead men. For three, they probably will. Adm Gortney said as much in his briefing. But this braggadocio will cool if we go after them in a determined manner.

We can and must take out their "pirate mother ships" and strike at pirate bases, but until Somalia becomes a viable nation governed by a single entity the problems will continue. I am not advocating Afghanistan or Iraqi level nation building, but we do need to push for something to be done. The Somali pirates will continue their actions as long as the probability that they will succeed, or at least not be killed, is relatively high. Right now it's a relatively risk-free occupation. If we increase the risks we should be able to end it somewhat. However, given where Somalia is on a map the enticement and opportunity will remain. Until there is a stable government in Somalia piracy will continue

So we are at a decision point. It is well and good that the current crisis turned out well, but we all know this was not a one-time affair. Every day there are pirate attacks. Ending this scourge will not be easy, and it will take a lot more than a handful of raids. But the public would be supportive of such actions if taken now, so the ball is in President Obama's hands. I hope he does the right thing, and quickly.

For Additional Reading

- Washington Post: "How SEALs Carried Out Their Mission"
- DOD Briefing by Vice Admiral from Bahrain, transmitted via satellite to the Pentagon. Video and transcript.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 4, 2009

U.S. Military Spending Is Not Starving Domestic Programs

Just when President Obama and the Congressional Democrats are spending untold levels on domestic programs, it looks like they're getting ready to cut one of the few things actually authorized in the Constitution, the military. From The Weekly Standard on Friday:

Just days after Chinese warships harrased an unarmed U.S. naval vessel, the USNS Impeccable, in international waters off the coast of China, Barack Obama's Secretary of Defense is set to announce massive cuts to the U.S. naval fleet.

Just days before the expected launch of a North Korean missile in violation of the spirit if not the letter of every agreement Pyongyang has ever signed with the international community, Barack Obama's Pentagon will release a budget that guts the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

This according to a report from InsideDefense.com (the article is behind a firewall) citing sources "close to the budget process." According to those sources, Gates will essentially terminate the Missile Defense Agency and with it Boeing's Airborne Laser System which was considered particularly well suited to the missile threat from North Korea.

Gates will further announce that the United States will have to make do with just nine aircraft carrier battle groups. The Navy currently has eleven, already considered a shortfall by the Senate Armed Services Committee which objected when the Bush administration decommissioned the USS John F. Kennedy in 2006 due to fiscal constraints. The shovel-ready, already under construction USS Gerald Ford, the first of the Navy's new class of supercarriers, will be delayed.

On the upside, Gates is expected to announce an increase in the end strength of the F-22 fleet from the current 183 to 250, keeping the production line open for at least another three years. The Army's deservedly maligned Future Combat Systems program will also be restructured and the massively over-budget program to replace the president's fleet of helicopters will be terminated.

Barack Obama is spending billions on this country's infrastructure, but he's shortchanging the United States military and undermining its ability to project power overseas and mitigate the missile threat from rogue regimes. Obama will also be eliminating tens of thousands of high-tech and union jobs in the process.

Swell.

I'm going to wait until the cuts are actually announced before commenting on specifics. My purpose here is to knock down the idea that we spend a huge amount of money on our military, because we don't.

As noted below, some charts and numbers are from Truth and Politics, and other charts from Heritage. Unfortunately most of the charts and numbers don't cover the past few years. If I can find more tomorrow I'll fill in the gaps.

My apologies that the charts are not totally clear. I could make them larger but then they'd be blurry. Follow the links to see them more clearly.

Military Spending as a Percent of GDP

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics

US military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940--2003

This chart from Heritage is pretty up to date

Another chart from Heritage showing National Defense Spending as a Percentage of GDP, 1962-2007

Photobucket

Defense Budget as a Percent of GDP

Then, the actual numbers from Truth and Politics

After the year is the amount we spent as a percentage of GDP

1940 1.7
1941 5.6
1942 17.8
1943 37.0
1944 37.8
1945 37.5
1946 19.2
1947 5.5
1948 3.5
1949 4.8
1950 5.0
1951 7.4
1952 13.2
1953 14.2
1954 13.1
1955 10.8
1956 10.0
1957 10.1
1958 10.2
1959 10.0
1960 9.3
1961 9.4
1962 9.2
1963 8.9
1964 8.5
1965 7.4
1966 7.7
1967 8.8
1968 9.4
1969 8.7
1970 8.1
1971 7.3
1972 6.7
1973 5.8
1974 5.5
1975 5.5
1976 5.2
1977 4.9
1978 4.7
1979 4.6
1980 4.9
1981 5.1
1982 5.7
1983 6.1
1984 5.9
1985 6.1
1986 6.2
1987 6.1
1988 5.8
1989 5.6
1990 5.2
1991 4.6
1992 4.8
1993 4.4
1994 4.0
1995 3.7
1996 3.5
1997 3.3
1998 3.1
1999 3.0
2000 3.0
2001 3.0
2002 3.4
2003 3.7


So excluding World War II, spending peaked during the 1950s but has mostly fallen since.

As a Percentage of Discretionary Outlays

US military spending as a percentage of discretionary outlays, 1962--2003

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics

Photobucket

Then from Heritage

Defense v Entitlements

Wikipedia has it as

U.S. Defense Spending as a Percent of Total Budget Outlays

U.S. Defense Spending as a Percent of Total Outlays

Then, the numbers from Truth and Politics; US military spending as a percentage of discretionary spending, 1962--2003

1962 72.9
1963 71.3
1964 69.5
1965 65.6
1966 65.4
1967 67.6
1968 69.6
1969 70.5
1970 68.1
1971 64.5
1972 61.7
1973 59.1
1974 58.4
1975 55.5
1976 51.2
1977 49.5
1978 47.8
1979 48.7
1980 48.7
1981 51.3
1982 57.0
1983 59.4
1984 60.1
1985 60.9
1986 62.4
1987 63.6
1988 62.6
1989 62.2
1990 60.0
1991 59.9
1992 56.7
1993 54.2
1994 52.1
1995 50.2
1996 49.9
1997 49.6
1998 48.9
1999 48.2
2000 48.0
2001 47.1
2002 47.5
2003 49.0

Again, we see the same pattern.

Operation Iraqi Freedom as compared to past wars. The chart is via National Review and as of January 23 2006. Of course we've spent more since then but even so it wouldn't really change the chart that much.

Photobucket


Conclusion

The lesson from the data is clear; no matter how you measure it, the amount we spend on the military has been going down for decades. Those who talk about how military spending starves domestic programs are simply wrong. If anything, the opposite is the case, especially with the advent of Obama-level budgets. Spending on Iraq and Afghanistan has of course produced a recent uptick, but not really enough to make a big difference.

None of this is to necessarily argue for a particular level defense outlays. I've made the case for more defense spending elsewhere (see "National Defense" under "Categories" at right) and will do so again after the budget is actually announced.

December 16, 2010 Update

Looks like I was wrong, folks. While defense spending has been going down as a percentage of GDP and the federal budget, you get a different result if you measure it in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars ("real dollars")

via The American Maxim


Photobucket


Measured in terms of inflation adjusted dollars, then, we see more ups and downs, all of which are explained by various historical factors. The recent uptick is, of course, due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't think this changes the premise of the post, though, which is that defense spending is not starving domestic programs of money. The reason defense spending has gone down in terms of percent of GDP and the federal budget is in the first case to a GDP that increased faster than defense spending, and in the second that domestic spending increased faster than defense spending.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 3, 2009

President Obama Disgraces Himself in Europe

I really don't like doing these sort of posts.

You don't really have to believe me on this, and I can't make you. The truth is that I much prefer geeky stuff about strategy in Afghanistan or Iraq, foreign policy, or discussion domenstic issues such as tax rates and the budget or abortion. I think a fair reading of this blog is that I don't do "outrage of the day" stories, but that's your call.

Either way, there come times when I have to take a break because something has just set me off in a big way. Today I heard clips of President Obama in Europe and I went over the edge.

Without further ado, here he is, from London's Telegraph

When I first heard this my thoughts were "You b*#$%^&d"

I'll have to ask the good Lord for forgiveness on this one.

Here are excerpts from the story in the Telegraph:

President Barack Obama has offered an apology for the Bush era, declaring that America had "shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" towards its allies.

President Obama said the US had "failed to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world".

His speech in Strasbourg went further than any United States president in history in criticising his own country's action while standing on foreign soil.

But he sought to use the mea culpa as leverage to alter European views of America and secure more troops for the war in Afghanistan.

He declared that there had to be a fundamental shift on both sides of the Atlantic. "America is changing but it cannot be America alone that changes," he said.

Addressing a crowd of some 2,000 mainly students from France and Germany, Mr Obama said: "In America, there is a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world.

"Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive."

He then balanced this striking admission with a tough message to Europeans that blaming America was foolish.

"But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual, but can also be insidious. Instead of recognising the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what is bad.

"On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common. They are not wise. They do not represent the truth. They threaten to widen the divide across the Atlantic and leave us both more isolated. They fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth that America cannot confront the challenges of this century alone, but that Europe cannot confront them without America."

Earlier, Mr Obama had thrown down the gauntlet to his European counterparts, saying: "We want strong allies. We are not looking to be patrons of Europe. We are looking to be partners of Europe."

Ok that's enough. I've quoted enough so no one can play the out of context game.

President Obama is beyond disgraceful. I don't care if he does think that President Bush was wrong, for him to go and call his own country, under whatever president, "arrogant" in front of a foreign audience is beyond the pale.

This is Andrew Young and Jimmy Carter all over again.

I think that Obama is genuinely embarrassed by the United States, and that this is not just a reaction to George W. Bush. He would have disapproved of President Clinton as well, who at times was very aggressive in foreign policy, invading Haiti and attacking Kosovo/Bosnia, both without UN approval.

The President of the United States should never publicly criticize past U.S. foreign policy, especially while abroad, period. This simply gives aid and comfort to our enemies, makes us look weak, and thus encourages our enemies to become more aggressive. No doubt the jihadists are enthused about our new president. As is, Hugo Chavez, the Castro brothers, whatever communist is running China....

The Europeans love Obama not because they are ready to do more to defend Western values but because they are looking for an excuse to do less. All of NATO can barely come up with 23,000 troops for Afghanistan, the war we're told everyone supports. They don't want to confront Islam or even radical Islam as they are being absorbed by it.

Anyone who thinks the Europeans are going to dispatch more than a token number of troops to Afghanistan is living in a dream world. I've covered this issue in detail for years and have written extensively about how 1) they send very few troops and 2) most of the countries who do send troops put them under such restrictive Rules of Engagement that they're essentially useless (hence the split command, OEF v ISAF).

As for the "balance" in his speech, please. The only thing that will be remembered or acted on is the apology. "Mere words" as Obama once said, none of the rest of it will be acted on.

The AP reported this part not in the Telegraph story

Welcomed with thunderous cheers, President Barack Obama pledged on Friday to work repair damaged relations with Europe, saying the world came together following the 2001 terrorist attacks but then "we got sidetracked by Iraq."

Once more: You b*#$%^&d."

If you want to think Iraq was a distraction fine. I disagree, but reasonable people can disagree. But you do not by god go to another country and say it to them in a public speech.

For liberals who think I'm an unregenerate wingnut; I've defended the foreign policies of President Clinton many times on this blog. Search for his name at right if you don't believe me. I never, and I mean never, remember him going this far. And just earlier this week I praised Obama for his new Afghan policy, as I try and be fair. I also criticized President Bush on numerous occasions. Search again if you don't believe me.

President Bush, whether you want to agree with his policies or not, was a man of class. He spent no time criticizing President Clinton. Indeed, in 2004 he invited him to the White House and "warmly paid tribute to Bill Clinton and even plugged his forthcoming memoirs at his formal White House portrait unveiling." I remember when it happened and hearing Bush's remarks on the radio, much to the amazement of whatever right-wing talk show host I was listening to at the time. The host remarked that such tribute would not be repaid by the next Democrat president, and as it is such a prediction was all too accurate. Obama seems to go out of his way to blame everything on his predecessor.

President Obama needs to stop this behavior now.

Saturday Update

This just in from the AP

European leaders enthusiastically praised President Barack Obama's new Afghan strategy at a NATO summit Saturday but held their ground on a central disagreement and offered only military trainers and extra security forces for upcoming elections.

Violent anti-war protests that marred the alliance's 60th anniversary celebrations were a stark reminder that much of Europe has no appetite for the other, costlier half of Obama's Afghan equation: more combat troops.

"I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy," Obama said. "We'll need more resources and a sustained effort to achieve our ultimate goals."

Just what I said would happen. Europe loves Obama because he praises them even when they refuse to do anything to help us.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 28, 2009

Obama's New Plan for Afghanistan Gets It Right...I Think

I am generally very pleased with what I see from President Obama's new plan for Afghanistan. From the Fox News report:

President Obama, declaring that coalition forces must "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" Al Qaeda, called on Friday for thousands of additional U.S. troops and billions of dollars in aid to fight terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The president, announcing what he called a "comprehensive new strategy" for the region following a two-month review, outlined an approach to the war that places far more emphasis than before on Pakistan.

Obama said he was ordering 4,000 additional U.S. troops to help train Afghan security forces and was calling on Congress to approve $1.5 billion a year in aid for Pakistan over the next five years.

This is absolutely the right move. Readers of this blog know how critical I have been of candidate and now President Obama, and in most areas I am sure that will continue to be the case. I do try to be honest, and when he does something right I'll say so. This is one of those times. Frankly, I was worried about what he might do, but so far I like what I see.

CNN has additional information:

The new troop deployment is expected to include 8,000 Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, as well as 4,000 additional Army troops from Fort Lewis, Washington....

Another 5,000 troops will be deployed at a later date to support combat troops, bringing the total to 17,000 the Defense Department said. A senior administration official confirmed the total.

The Obama administration has been conducting several reviews of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, including a review by Gen. David Petraeus, the commander in the region. The president and the Pentagon have been considering a request from the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, to send as many as 30,000 additional troops....

All 17,000 troops announced Tuesday will go to the southern region of the country where Afghanistan borders Pakistan, with the goal mainly being to stop the flow of foreign fighters, according to a U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the deployment and military plans for Afghanistan.

Another story on CNN provides details of their mission, none of which will be terribly surprising to regular readers of this blog:

1. The increased troop levels expected to last at minimum three to four years.

2. Obama authorized 17K, 12K will get orders soon, another 5K of support troops will get their orders at a later date.

3. The additional troops will ALL go to Afghanistan's southern border region with Pakistan. The aim is primarily (but not solely) to begin to stop the flow of foreign fighters across that border.

4. The US troops will be dual purpose: combat and also training afghan army units. But at least another 2,000 US troops needed specifically for the training mission.

5. The concept of operations by the US military: build a new string of forward operating bases (main base areas) and combat outposts (smaller posts in towns and villages like you saw in Iraq)...troops will move around...engaging in both counter terrorism (fighting foreign fighters essentially) and counter insurgency (fighting basic taliban and insurgents inside the country....including the so-called 'day hires' that join the Taliban just for money.

6. Goal: to have enough troops to 'seize and hold' territory...and maintain basic security in an ever broadening area -there simply haven't been enough troops to hold ground.

7. Taliban continue (as we have said since nov) to maintain at least half a dozen safe haven areas inside Afghanistan. these are prime target areas for US.

Excellent on all counts. The President has apparently signed on for the long term. As I wrote in Afghanistan and the Long War, we've got to realize that insurgencies are not World War II, which was relatively short but intensely violent. If we want to win in Afghanistan, and I think it in our vital national interests to do so, we must accept that it will take decades to win there. This does not mean the same level of effort the entire time, because again it's not World War II. It will require relatively significant forces for awhile, but as we make progress we can slowly draw down and hand things over to the Afghans.

Rejecting the "Minimalist" Approach

The President has rejected the "minimalist" approach advocated by some in his administration. Bill Gertz of The Washington Times has the scoop

According to two U.S. government sources close to the issue, senior policymakers were divided over how comprehensive to make the strategy, involving an initial boost of 17,000 U.S. troops.

On the one side were Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg, who argued in closed-door meetings for a minimal strategy of stabilizing Afghanistan that one source described as a "lowest common denominator" approach.

The goal of these advocates was to limit civilian and other nonmilitary efforts in Afghanistan and focus on a main military objective of denying safe haven to the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.

The other side of the debate was led by Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy for the region, who along with U.S. Central Command leader Gen. David H. Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fought for a major nation-building effort.

The Holbrooke-Petraeus-Clinton faction, according to the sources, prevailed. The result is expected to be a major, long-term military and civilian program to reinvent Afghanistan from one of the most backward, least developed nations to a relatively prosperous democratic state.

It is absolutely predictable that our dope of a vice president was on the wrong side of the issue. A few years ago his solution for Iraq was to split it into three countries, a plan that had the dubious distinction of being opposed by virtually everybody in Iraq.

But Is It Enough?

I don't know. On the one hand, Senator McCain doesn't think so, and we need to remember that he was mostly right on Iraq

Sen. John McCain Friday denounced President Obama's new plan for sending more troops to Afghanistan, saying it was "not enough" and suggesting the president should have been clearer that there will be more troop casualties....

Mr. McCain said he'd send three additional brigades, or around 40,000 additional troops, and suggested a 250,000-person Afghan army instead of the 134,000-strong army the administration aims for.

The Republican said while he appreciates allies who are helping with the effort, some allies have "almost laughable" restrictions on where they will operate. For example, German troops won't go south in the region, he said.

Good point on how our "allies" virtually betrayed us when Bush was on office, and show no signs of doing the right thing now. As I mentioned above, I am not in a position to know if the troop numbers Obama is sending will be sufficient.

We also have these good points from an emailer to The Weekly Standard

The speech was classic Obama -- all show no substance. He announces 17,000 combat troops in a press release but announces 4,000 traniers in a big ceremony. He accepts the Bush level for the ANA [Afghan National Army] when McCain called for at least doubling it last summer. [General David] McKiernan has called for 30,000 troops and candidate Obama said he would get them. President Obama shortchanges the commander he said he would support.

Obama spoke about defeating AQ but not about defeating the Taliban. Obama may have rejected the Biden-Steinberg minimalist path to defeat but he chose a Holbrookian keep options open NOT a Petreaus security first counterinsurgecy strategy. He spoke in platitudes about Afghan governance, counternarcotics, and Pakistan's need to do more on counterterror but offered not a single specific on how to get there. Instead he uses Afghanistan to push his opening to Iran -- as if Iran wants to see the us succeed in Afghanistan so a pro-American, democratic ally is on Tehran'ss eastern border. This is lowest common denominator consensus policy that will not lead to success in Afghanistan.

On the other side, Frederick Kagan and Bill Kristol (the latter the evil neocon publisher of The Weekly Standard are on board with Obama's plan and are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Myself, I'm just going to have to wait until I read more until I can say with certainty. We'll also how this plays out and if Obama really does commit significantly more resources to Afghanistan, or whether his speech was all for show. In the meantime I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Sunday Update

Two trustworthy and unbiased writers on military affairs, Thomas Joscelyn & Bill Roggio, provide some analysis over at The Long War Journal. Make sure you follow the link and read the whole thing, but here are a few tidbits

It is difficult to see how a boost in military and economic support will push Pakistan into taking on Islamist extremists head on. Here, the devil is in the details, and few details are forthcoming at this time...

Afghanistan certainly needs additional forces, and it can be argued that the 24,000 additional troops is too little to achieve positive results quickly. But the troop surge will have a positive impact...

The training partnership model has worked well where it can be implemented, and the additional trainers should serve as force multipliers in allowing the Afghan security forces to shoulder a greater responsibility for security...

The increase in the size of the Afghan Army and police will likely still be insufficient to secure Afghanistan, but the increase in Afghan forces is needed...The Army and police will need to be even larger than the 2011 goal; some estimates indicate there needs to be more than 400,000 members in the Afghan security forces for them to ultimately secure the country and fight the insurgency....

A reconciliation program has been open and underway in Afghanistan for years. The program has pulled thousands of low-level Taliban fighters and leaders away from the insurgency.

This continued effort may peel away additional low-level Taliban members. But the US and Coalition leaders should avoid looking for easy solutions to ending the insurgency such as looking for high-level insurgent leaders or large groups of fighters to pry away....

Their take is generally positive, I think.

Monday Update

The editors of National Review are generally happy, but wish Obama had gone farther:

The Afghan war has always been under-resourced, in terms of U.S. troops and everything else, and Obama has begun to change that....

What is disturbing about Obama's position is the hint of hedging. Commanding general David McKiernan had asked for more troops. Obama approved only part of his request, preferring to wait and make a call on the balance later. But with a tough summer of fighting ahead, it will get politically harder, not easier, to deploy more troops. Obama declined to explicitly endorse an expensive doubling of Afghan security forces today, as some in his administration have advocated, saying only further "increases in Afghan forces may very well be necessary." And he talked of benchmarks for progress in the war, a politically seductive notion that proved useless at best -- and often counter-productive -- in the Iraq war.

In short, today was a start. But much will depend on how Obama performs later, when the Left is more restive and the politics of the war more parlous.


This post is getting long, but journalist-blogger Michael Yon's opinion is always worth considering:

The President's words were disappointing. He talked about our goal to reach a force level of 134,000 Afghan soldiers and 82,000 police by 2011. This is not even in the neighborhood of being enough. Further, the increase of 21,000 U.S. troops is likely just a bucket of water on the growing bonfire. One can only expect that sometime in 2010, the President will again be forced to announce another increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

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March 19, 2009

A Pox On All Their Houses

This whole situation with AIG and the bonuses is an absolute disaster. Not because of the bonuses, which are small potatoes, but for where all this is headed. In fact the whole thing disgusts me to the point where this is going to be a pretty short post.

First off, conservatives should not defend AIG or the bonuses. The father of modern American conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr., criticized similar behavior by Viacom a few years ago. When your company is failing you do not pay anyone a bonus for anything. When you take money from the government you do not pay anyone a bonus for anything. I've heard all of the rationalizations and none of them hold water. Can't these guys go without the big bucks for a few quarters?

Most Democrats, of course, are demagoguing the issue for all it's worth, the worst being Barney Frank, a man who ought to be investigated himself. Of the many ironies we now know that Sen. Chris Dodd added the very provisions that made the bonuses possible to the so-called stimulus bill that made the bonuses possible, after first lying about it. Tax-cheat Geithner "admitted that his staff encouraged lawmakers to take out a key provision in last month's stimulus that would have taxed executive compensation in an attempt to discourage companies such as AIG from handing out excessive bonuses while receiving billions of taxpayer dollars."

The reason why no one figured out what was going on is that President Obama insisted that we pass his fantastically huge stimulus bill in record speed before anyone had time to read it. Obama didn't read it. No Democrat in Congress read it. We were told it was so important to pass it to "save the economy," a complete fiction since that was never its real purpose.

To cover themselves the House passed 328-90 a 90% tax on the bonuses. Many in the GOP are going along because, after all, the bonuses were outrageous, and there seems no other solution. Minority Leader Boehner said it right though when he said "Are you kidding me? This is joke. Vote no." He might have added that the whole thing pointed to the folly of bailouts in the first place, but oops it was President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson who pushed us into accepting the first bailout.

Then we have the news that Barack Obama signed a $500,000 deal for a children's propaganda book days before his inaguration. When Gingrich did something similar in 1994 media outcry was so fierce he returned the money. Yes I know, Newt's deal was for $4.5 million, quite a bit more. I don't see that makes a difference. Anyway, you can be assured that there will be no pressure on Obama to give the money back, or to give it to charity since we're in a terrible recession - oh wait that was his line last week. Rather than take charge and get his economic team in order, Obama's way of dealing with the crisis is to waste time on NCAA picks and jet out of town to do the Tonight Show. Good grief.

Where is all this headed? I'll tell you.

The purpose of the left is to place an upper limit on salaries. They simply don't like that some people make a lot of money. Obama said as much during the campaign, and anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear figured it out. Just as they're getting ready to go after charities, they're going after the wealthy. If you didn't follow my links above, the purpose of the stimulus was 1) to move us in the direction of becoming a European-style socialist state, and 2) create a permanent majority bloc of Democrat voters by making as many people dependent on government as possible. Right now it's AIG, tomorrow it'll be other companies.

Not that there's an easy solution to our current situation. It's mostly a banking crisis, and until Obama and his tax-cheat of a Treasury Secretary figure out how to deal with the "toxic assets," as they're called, we're not going to move forward anywhere fast. If they both didn't behave so badly, I'd have more sympathy, since like dealing with Pakistan there is no easy solution. The whole thing was caused by the malfeasance of both parties over the years. No one is except, though since the Democrats are in charge it is right that they get the blame.

Right now we're all entertained by the circus in Washington. Hold on to your seatbelts, because the next few years are going to be a wild ride.

On Another Note

This is somewhat separate from the subject of this post but I can't resist. Remember that 25 box set of 'classic' American movies that Obama gave to Prime Minister Gordon Brown?

Alas, when the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem.

The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words "wrong region" came up on his screen.

It was bad enough that the White House gave a stupid gift like this to the world leader or our most precious ally, especially coming on the heals of returning the bust of Churchill and getting as a gift a penholder carved from the timbers of an anti-slavery ship. Now we learn that in addition to being completely insensitive to protocol and history, they're incompetent at the White House as well.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 9, 2009

Obama's Unlimited Stem Cell Research - No Ethics Allowed

Today the Obama Administration reversed President Bush's ban on certain types of stem cell research. It was done by executive order, and you can download it here.

The key in my first sentence is "certain types." If you don't know why, don't worry, for many in the media don't appear to know either.

The issue is that there are two types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Too many people on the left talk about "stem cells" as if that's all there was to it.

I'll give you my bottom line up front; I think that embryonic stem cells, like embryos in the womb, are individual, separate, human beings and as such should be protected by law. As I oppose abortion, I oppose creating and killing embryonic stem cells. As you'll find out below, I'm sure about embryos in the womb, but not 100% on the embryonic stem cells.

My reasoning is simple; killing a life to save a life is immoral. I think that in fact this is a point we can all agree on. If you believe that embryonic stem cells, like embryos in the womb, are not individual, separate, human beings, fine. But lets avoid irrational statements and name calling while discussing the issue.

Here is a summary of the dispute, taken from Wikipedia. Yes I know, it's not always a good source, but this article is not flagged as "the neutrality of this article is disputed" so what we get is I think is probably pretty accurate:

There exists a widespread controversy over human embryonic stem cell research that emanates from the techniques used in the creation and usage of stem cells. Human embryonic stem cell research is controversial because, with the present state of technology, starting a stem cell line requires the destruction of a human embryo and/or therapeutic cloning. However, recently, it has been shown in principle that adult stem cell lines can be manipulated to generate embryonic-like stem cell lines using a single-cell biopsy similar to that used in preimplantation genetic diagnosis that may allow stem cell creation without embryonic destruction.[34] It is not the entire field of stem cell research, but the specific field of human embryonic stem cell research that is at the centre of an ethical debate.

Opponents of the research argue that embryonic stem cell technologies are a slippery slope to reproductive cloning and can fundamentally devalue human life. Those in the pro-life movement argue that a human embryo is a human life and is therefore entitled to protection.

Contrarily, supporters of embryonic stem cell research argue that such research should be pursued because the resultant treatments could have significant medical potential. It is also noted that excess embryos created for in vitro fertilization could be donated with consent and used for the research.

The ensuing debate has prompted authorities around the world to seek regulatory frameworks and highlighted the fact that stem cell research represents a social and ethical challenge.

Read on and you quickly find that the entire issue is horribly complicated. As such, I'll be the first to tell you that I don't understand it all and take much of my position on this issue from people I trust, like these folks, who have investigated the matter in detail.

I think that serious people on both sides of the debate will admit that it's not a simple matter. Further, most I think will agree that we don't want to leave all decisions to scientists. At the very least, if they want our money for their research, not to mention their salaries, they must listen to our opinions.

Yes we all want to save lives. Yes, we on the right are in favor of research that results in cures for the dread diseases that we hope we never get. But please, those of us who object to embryonic stem cell research are not just a bunch of religious kooks, as too many on the left want to paint us. Religion can and does form our world view, including that of protecting the unborn. It is a sad day when this in and of it self is said to be invalid. I would simply comment that the left has no problem with religion when it's used to promote government spending on the poor, or when it's part of the antiwar movement (note that I don't have any problem when it's used that way also. I just disagree with the theology and reasoning).

We're told, insistently screamed at, that we must have unlimited stem cell research. It will save lives, they say.

Undoubtedly some cures will be found through such research. But there's the nagging suspicion, confirmed by the most elementary google search, that the promise has been wildly exaggerated. Another basic google search returns many articles stating that recent scientific advances render embryonic stem-cell research unnecessary. But increasingly facts don't matter, because we must have research. It all reminds one of Al Gore and his global warming adherents.

No doubt that just as with global warming, many proponents of unlimited stem cell research are sincere good people. In these matters I try to give the benefit of the doubt.

But there are many, especially although not exclusively in the pro-abortion, er, "pro-choice" movement, whose motives are... less than honest.

You see, it's only partially a scientific debate. At its heart, the stem cell debate is really part of the controversy over abortion. Where you come down it all depends on where you think life starts. Or whether you just want to go out, have sex with whomever you like, and not worry about the consequences.

It's all part of what Ramesh Ponnuru was talking about in The Party of Death. These are the people who are not just happy with abortion and all manner of scientific research and how-dare-you-bring--up-ethics, they're pushing us to accept things such as cloning and assisted suicide.

If such things do not at least give you pause, you need to start wondering about yourself. If you think that George W. Bush, or any serious person on the right is callous with regard to Afgani or Iraqi civilian deaths, you're not intellectually honest. If you think we haven't at least considered whether support for the death penalty might not contradict our pro-life position, you're poorly informed.

The notion that science must be unfettered from all moral and ethical concerns is seen in the Washington Post story on the matter, the headline of which is "Obama Aims to Shield Science From Politics." Sigh.

The Post uses the term "politics" because they want to disparage those of us who want restrictions. Despite its fairly bland denotative meaning as simply "The art or science of government or governing," the term has taken more a more sinister connotative meaning in everyday speech. The Post doesn't want you to think that there might be legitimate ethical concerns.

It is not, after all, "politics" or "political ideology" to believe that that embryonic stem cells, like embryos in the womb, are individual, separate, human beings and as such should be protected by law.

Further, let's consider that there is legitimate debate over the use of animals for scientific research. There is growing awareness, I think, that there should at least be some sort of restrictions. Certainly there is a large movement, mostly on the left, that supports much restriction if not outright bans on animal testing. I think it safe to say that these are usually the same people who on abortion call themselves "pro-choice" and who today celebrate Obama's decision.

However one comes down on animal testing, it is only the callous few who insist that "anything goes" in the name of saving human lives. To be sure, I value human lives more than animal, and if at least some testing is beneficial, so be it. But the point is that those who support restrictions do so because they understand that no, scientists cannot be allowed to do whatever they want unfettered by moral and ethical concerns.

Which brings us to President Obama and his executive order.

What's noticeable about it is its complete lack of acknowledgment that their might be an ethical debate. Download the executive order linked to above and read it yourself if you don't believe me. Obama sees not restrictions on science at all as valid.

At least when President Bush announced his policy he went on national television and explained it to the nation. He admitted it was a "complex and difficult issue," and one he had arrived at only through much study and reflection.

Obama shows no such concern. During the signing ceremony he remarked that

This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let's be clear: promoting science isn't just about providing resources - it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it's inconvenient - especially when it's inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda - and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

To Obama, any restrictions at all are "manipulation or coercion" and "ideology." This is amorality at it's worst. Apparently, as part of the new regimen; we are to serve science, not the other way around. It's the attitude of science uber alles, and those of us without the proper degree need to just shut up and listen to our betters. And keep the cash flowing.

During the campaign I tagged Obama as "the pro-abortion candidate" because of his extremism on the matter. Since becoming president, his policy decisions confirm what I wrote. People like him, who voted against the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act and then lied about why he did it, are callous with regard to all life. We saw it in his executive order, and I fear we'll see more.

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March 7, 2009

The Left's War on Charities

Liberals constantly tell us what good people they are because they want to help the poor and downtrodden. Why, then, is President Obama out to destroy charitable institutions? From an opinion piece in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal:

Nonprofit leaders are reeling from the recent news that President Barack Obama's proposed budget would limit tax deductions on charitable contributions from wealthy Americans. But now the philanthropic world has something else to worry about. Today the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), a research and advocacy group, will release a report offering "benchmarks to assess foundation performance." Its real aim is to push philanthropic organizations into ignoring donor intent and instead giving grants based on political considerations.

The committee is part of a rising tide of politicians and activists who are working to change the face of American philanthropy -- and not for the better.

The report, titled "Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best," advises foundations to "provide at least 50 percent of grant dollars to benefit lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, broadly defined." The committee looked at 809 of the largest foundations in the country, whose combined three-year grants totaled almost $15 billion, and concluded that the majority of foundations are "eschewing the needs of the most vulnerable in our society" by neglecting "marginalized groups."

"But it's only advice," you protest. So far it's just advice, I respond. I think that limiting tax deductions was only Obama's first step. His next step will be to say "if you want your deductions back you have to meet my requirements."

Reducing the Charitable Deduction

First, here are the tax brackets for fy 2009:

_______0 to _$8,350 10%
__$8,350 to _$33,950 15%
_$33,960 to _$82,250 25%
_$82,250 to $171,550 28%
$171,550 to $372,950 33%
$372,950 and above _ 35%

The Chronicle of Philanthropy explains that the amount of charitable giving you can deduct depends on your tax bracket, so that if you're in the 33 or 35% bracket, that's what you can deduct (beyond the "standard deduction," and for up to 30 - 50% of your adjusted gross income). Under Obama's proposal, anyone making over $250,000 would be limited to 28% for all itemized deductions.

As an example, suppose

...a wealthy donor in the top tax bracket who makes a $100,000 gift. The donor currently would save $35,000 in taxes, or 35 percent of the gift. Under President Obama's proposal, that same donor would save only $28,000, or 28 percent -- a difference of $7,000.

For all of you liberals who profess to care so much about the poor, what this means is that wealthy people will give less money to charity. Happy now?

And as you might imagine, charities are up in arms over this.

Politically Correct Giving

Reducing the tax deduction is only part of the story. In addition, Obama and his fellow leftists are looking for ways to regulate how charities spend their money.

Let's look at that report mentioned earlier; Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact, issued by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. I read the Executive Summary, and a few of the other documents, and most of it didn't look so bad. This stuck out, though, in Chapter 1, "Values:"

A grantmaker practicing Philanthropy at Its Best serves the public good by contributing to a strong, participatory democracy that engages all communities....

b) Provides at least 25 percent of its grant dollars for advocacy, organizing and
civic engagement to promote equity, opportunity and justice in our society.....

Reading on, there is much talk about "income inequality" which we are told "remains a
significant barrier to improving one's quality of life and data suggest that income inequality has been exacerbated in recent years." I'm not so sure about the data, but I do know that it's not "income inequality" that's the problem. The problem is not that incomes are unequal, but that there are too many people whose income is too low. This is a distinction with a difference.

Also worrisome is that Harvard political philosopher John Rawls is cited approvingly:

In A Theory of Justice, Rawls articulated his now famous and often cited principles of distributive justice. The first principle calls for all people to have "equal rights to the most extensive system of basic civil liberties." The second principle, also called the "distributive justice principle," states that the socio-economic inequalities inherent in the free market system are morally justifiable if they "work to the benefit of the least advantaged" in our society. Rawls sought to ensure justice and fairness, with an emphasis on redistributive justice in the welfare state. Rawls asserted that all wealth in society is made by the cooperation of all the members of society in the context of the arrangements of basic institutions. He stated that there are two types of societies: a capitalist welfare society and a democratic property owning society. The first is concerned with order and will support welfare for the purpose of maintaining order and serving capital. The latter will arrange institutions and norms to support democracy and welfare to secure membership. Capital will be arranged to support democracy and people.

Socialist income redistribution, here we come.

Also sticking out in the NCRP report was this in Chapter 1 as well

Advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement have played essential roles in the development of our society and our democracy...

Digging further, one comes across the term "social justice" many times. Conveniently, they define it for us:

Social justice philanthropy is the practice of making contributions to nonprofit organizations that work for structural change and increase the opportunity of those who are less well off politically, economically and socially.

Their recommendation:

Leading the field, 108 foundations (13.35 percent of our sample) provided at least 50 percent of their grant dollars for the intended benefit of marginalized communities. Also noteworthy, 56 foundations (6.9 percent) provided at least 25 percent of their grant dollars for social justice. These are the benchmarks for Philanthropy at Its Best.

This is scary stuff for those of us who believe in traditional concepts of liberty. Hold on to your wallets, because these people want to use charitable causes to advocate for income redistribution and other leftist political goals.

Much of the rest of the proposals were innocuous, and some of the ideas were actually quite sound.

However, read the rest of the Wall Street Journal article cited above. Ms Riley discusses other leftist groups that advocate leftist goals for charitable institutions, such as The Greenlining Institute and the Council on Foundations. Given how leftist the Obama Administration is proving, it can't be long before they enact at least some of their recommendations into law.

Why They're Doing This

Obama makes his purpose clear in "Jumpstarting the Economy", one of the documents outlining his proposal. Under "Financing health Care Reform" it says

The reserve fund is financed by a combination of rebalancing the tax code so that the wealthiest pay more as well as specific health care savings in three areas: promoting efficiency and accountability, aligning incentives toward quality, and encouraging shared responsibility.

This is straight out class warfare. Obama and his fellow leftists hate large segments of America and are determined to punish them. The blather at the end about "shared responsibility" is a lot of hooey. Their idea is that you are not only responsible for your neighbor in a moral sense but as such must be forced to pay for them as well. It's not a matter of doing the right thing out of a sense of moral obligation; the liberals want to force you to do it their way.

When Obama said to "Joe the Plumber" during the campaign that "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody" he wasn't kidding.

Obama and the left have a simple objective; they want total control of how aid to the poor is distributed. They'd like government to do as much as possible, and failing that the want to control what private charities do.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 1, 2009

Obama's War on Investors and Business

President Obama has revealed himself to be every bit as left-wing as we had feared he would be. Those conservatives who assured us that he would govern from the center have been proven completely wrong, and he has barely been in office a month and a half.

Economist Larry Kudlow lays it out:

He is declaring war on investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, large corporations, and private-equity and venture-capital funds.

That is the meaning of his anti-growth tax-hike proposals, which make absolutely no sense at all -- either for this recession or from the standpoint of expanding our economy's long-run potential to grow.

Raising the marginal tax rate on successful earners, capital, dividends, and all the private funds is a function of Obama's left-wing social vision, and a repudiation of his economic-recovery statements. Ditto for his sweeping government-planning-and-spending program, which will wind up raising federal outlays as a share of GDP to at least 30 percent, if not more, over the next 10 years.

This is nearly double the government-spending low-point reached during the late 1990s by the Gingrich Congress and the Clinton administration. While not quite as high as spending levels in Western Europe, we regrettably will be gaining on this statist-planning approach.

Study after study over the past several decades has shown how countries that spend more produce less, while nations that tax less produce more. Obama is doing it wrong on both counts.

Actually, he's doing it right, but by his definition. Obama, you see, isn't really interested in fixing the economy, at least not in the traditional sense.

His real purpose is what he said it would be during the campaign:

I think that Obama's real purpose is what he said to "Joe the Plumber" during the campaign; "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

He also admitted to Charlie Gibson during a debate with the other Democrat candidates that "I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness."

And of course his 2001 interview with Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ in which he complained that "the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society."

Some will object that President Obama's economic plan must be good because he enjoys high poll numbers. And indeed he does. The Real Clear Politics average has him at a 64% approval rating, which is quite respectable.

The markets, however, see it differently.

Here's the NYSE composite for the past 2 months

NYSE Composite Jan01-Mar01 2009


And here is the Dow Jones for the past 2 months

Dow Jones  Jan01-Mar01 2009


Certainly the markets have been going down for the better part of a year before Obama took office. But if Obama's plan is so good, the markets should have stabilized or moved up by now. Remember, the stock market is a leading indicator, not a lagging one.

Obama's True Purpose

Mona Charen summed up where this is taking us

President Obama has made it abundantly clear that he intends to hustle this country into European nanny-state socialism if he can (and just as fast as he can).

That's one. Obama's other purpose is to enlarge the bloc of permanent Democrat voters by increasing the number of people whose jobs are dependent on government spending.

In an earlier post I listed program after program in the "stimulus" that had nothing to do with economic stimulus. It's all just a giant liberal wish-list enacted into law. One even overturns the 1996 welfare reform It was simply one liberal program after another designed to increase the size of government and create a permanent class of Democrat voters.

If you want to accuse President Bush of using 9/11 to "take away our civil liberties" with the Patriot Act, I disagree but if you want to make that argument, fine (nevermind that the Patriot Act can and probably will be overturned with the stroke of a pen while Obama's program will be next to impossible to roll back). Can't we then accuse President Obama of using the fiscal crisis to push the largest expansion of the government and transformation of our relationship to it since LBJ's Great Society?

Fifty years ago Eisenhower warned us about a military-industrial complex. He had a point, though with the looming threat of the Soviet Union and now of jihadism it's hard to see how we could have done things much differently. Nevertheless, I will certainly agree that our defense establishment should wax and wane with regard to the actual threat out there. Perhaps at times we contract it too much, but certainly we do not need to spend what we did during the height of the Cold War.

While we're at it, I will also say for the record that spending on defense matters to boost the economy or employ people is also wrong. Defense spending should not be justified for these reasons. We have a military to kill people and break things (or to provide a credible threat that they can do so, which is the same thing if you know your Clausewitz), not to provide employment opportunities.

But the non-defense "liberal-industrial complex" never wanes. Once started, it is almost impossible to eliminate programs and positions.

If you don't believe me take a look at your local county, town, or city budget. Most are on line and you can access it fairly easily. If not, hard copies are available by law.

Point is, because they're smaller, it's easier to dig though them. Do so, and you'll be amazed at some of the things that your locality spends money on. We have a "master gardener" program to provide residents of one of the wealthiest counties in the country with landscape management tips. We have guidance counselors in our elementary schools. Yet suggest that either should be eliminated during a time of recession and you'll face a firestorm of protest; from the master gardeners and elementary school guidance counselors.

Go to a public hearing on budgets at your local county, town, or city. Suggestions to cut anything are met with proclamations of dire consequences.

Anyone who has observed these processes knows that is very easy to increase the size of government, but almost impossible to shrink it. By creating more and more whose livelihoods are dependent on government, Obama has assured the Democrat party of more voters.

Obama aims to resurrect not so much FDR's New Deal, as LBJ's Great Society. His programs are not to fix the economy, but to move us towards a European model, perhaps especially the French dirigiste one. He wants to change the very nature of America, who we are and what we think about ourselves. He wants to change us from a nation of entrepreneurs into a nation of dependents. He's likely to succeed unless we on the right get our act together. Time is of the essence, and we must keep him from getting a second term.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

February 8, 2009

Obama's New Politics of Fear

Last March, the International Herald Tribune wrote this about candidate Obama

At the core of Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign is a promise that he can transcend the starkly red-and-blue politics of the last 15 years, end the partisan and ideological wars, and build a new governing majority.

To achieve the change the country wants, he says, "we need a leader who can finally move beyond the divisive politics of Washington and bring Democrats, independents and Republicans together to get things done."

IN Des Moines, a week before the January 3 caucuses in Iowa, he criticized his opponent Hillary Clinton, "urging the crowd to reject the Clintons' politics of cynicism and fear."

And finally, let's go back to his 2004 address to the Democrat National Convention he asked

Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?

Then, from today's Washington Times, here's the politics he has actually brought:

President Obama on Saturday morning warned of a "national catastrophe" if Congress does not move quickly to pass and implement his economic-stimulus plan, praising the Senate's tentative deal on an $827 billion version of the bill.

"If we don't move swiftly to put this plan in motion, our economic crisis could become a national catastrophe. Millions of Americans will lose their jobs, their homes and their health care. Millions more will have to put their dreams on hold," Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address.

In Williamsburg last week he delivered an bitterly partisan speech in an angry tone before fellow Democrats. Watch the whole thing and see how he talks out of both sides of his mouth the whole time:

Incredible, isn't it?

The Democrat's big criticism of President Bush is that he used "the politics of fear" to divide us. Obama was supposed to end all that.

But we're less than three weeks into his presidency and he's engaged in some of the worse fearmongering I've ever seen.

What's maddening is that Obama's attack on anyone who opposes his super spending stimulus package as trotting out "failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis." The only solution he can conceive of is an old-fashioned massive spending bill filled with pork-barrel spending. This is new?

In the video above he chastises opponents, telling them "don't come to the table with the same tired arguments and worn out ideas that helped create this crisis." Never mind that the idea that tax cuts got us into this crisis is ridiculous, but he seems to be saying the only acceptable ideas from the opposition are ones that involve massive spending.

What's most interesting is that he's doing all this because he seems panicked that the stimulus, his first policy initiative, if you can call it that, has become a hugely divisive bill that the GOP opposes en masse. Worse, a good portion of the public have mobilized against it and are flooding capital hill switchboards. That it will eventually pass is not the point, because the episode has shown that Obama is spectacularly politically inept.

I think that in addition, this episode has revealed that Obama is not used to opposition and doesn't know how to handle it other than lashing out in campaign mode.

Consider; before 2008 he never faced a serious political opponent in any of his races. When he finally did, he had a sycophantic media on his side, blatantly cheering him on. His background and record were not examined by the mainstream media, and we'd never know about Jeremiah Wright or William Ayers were it not for Sean Hannity and others. He allowed a cult-like following to develop in which many of his followers saw him almost as a demi-god.

Halfway through the video above he complains that he and his staff are tired. This is revealing, because it shows that he expected everyone to just bow down and accept whatever he proposed. He can't understand opposition. The idea that he has to engage in persuasion and compromise is unfathomable to him. The world used to be at his feet, and he can't understand the change.

Well, if he thinks this is rough going, wait until he tries to get his health-care proposals through. Or he meets with Ahmadinejad. Or Putin.

Forbes' Peter Robinson details the catastrophe that resulted (h/t Sister Toldljah):

President Bush's moment of nakedness took place more than four years and eight months into his administration. In office less than three weeks, President Obama has already provided a naked moment of his own.

The episode, of course, concerns the legislation now referred to only laughingly as an "economic stimulus." Drafted by the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, the bill represents a sham and an outrage. Of the more than $800 billion in spending that the legislation authorizes, less than $100 billion would go to highways, the electricity grid or destinations that might-might-produce genuine economic growth. The rest? Transfer payments to interest groups. More than half the "emergency" spending would not even take place until fiscal year 2010....

As Washington observers recognize, this entire debacle became predictable the moment the then president-elect decided to permit the House leadership to draft his stimulus legislation. While Obama was behaving like a professor, holding seminars with economists Lawrence Summers, Paul Volcker and Christina Romer, Democrats in the House were behaving like politicians, using Obama's call for a stimulus as cover for forking over tens of billions of dollars to Democratic interest groups.

You didn't even have to be a practicing politician to see what would happen. Even an intellectual like Obama himself ought to have been able to figure it out-any intellectual, that is, who had bothered to read the work of Nobel laureate James Buchanan. As Buchanan long ago noticed, economists who support Keynesian spending programs in theory tend to overlook the self-interested behavior of the politicians who must spend all the money in practice.

Permit House Democrats to draft his stimulus legislation? What could Obama have been thinking? Only one answer fits: Obama wasn't thinking....

The glee among Republicans right now is only to be expected. The long faces among Obama's startled supporters in Washington are a lot more telling.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 6, 2009

"The Impending Obama Meltdown"

I think Victor Davis Hanson may have nailed it exactly with this one:

Some of us have been warning that it was not healthy for the U.S. media to have deified rather than questioned Obama, especially given that they tore apart Bush, ridiculed Palin, and caricatured Hillary. And now we can see the results of their two years of advocacy rather than scrutiny.

We are quite literally after two weeks teetering on an Obama implosion--and with no Dick Morris to bail him out--brought on by messianic delusions of grandeur, hubris, and a strange naivete that soaring rhetoric and a multiracial profile can add requisite cover to good old-fashioned Chicago politicking.

First, there were the sermons on ethics, belied by the appointments of tax dodgers, crass lobbyists, and wheeler-dealers like Richardson--with the relish of the Blago tapes still to come. (And why does Richardson/Daschle go, but not Geithner?).

Second, was the "stimulus" (the euphemism for "borrow/print money") that was simply a way to go into debt for a generation to shower Democratic constituencies with cash.

Then third, there were the inflated lectures on historic foreign policy to be made by the clumsy political novice who trashed his own country and his predecessor in the most ungracious manner overseas to a censored Saudi-run press organ (e.g., Bush is dictatorial, the Saudi king is courageous; Obama can mend bridges that America broke to aggrieved Muslims--apparently Tehran hostages, Rushdie, serial attacks in the 1990s, 9/11, Madrid, London never apparently occurred; and neither did feeding Somalis, saving Kuwait, protesting Chechnya, Bosnia/Kosovo, billions to Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinians, help in two Afghan wars, and on and on).

Fourth, there was the campaign rhetoric of Bush shredding the Constitution--FISA, Guantánamo, the Patriot Act, Iraq, renditions, etc.--followed by "all that for now stays the same" inasmuch as we haven't ben hit in over seven years and can't risk another attack.

Fifth, Gibbs as press secretary is a Scott McClellan nightmare that won't go away, given his long McClellan-like relationship with Obama (McClellan should have been fired on day hour one on the job). Blaming Fox News for Obama's calamities is McClellan to the core and doesn't work. He already reminds me of Reverend Wright's undoing at the National Press Club--and he will get worse.

Six, Biden is being Biden. Already, he's ridiculed the chief justice, trashed the former VP, bragged on himself ad nauseam in Bidenesque weird ways, and it's only been two weeks.

And the result of all this?

At home, Obama is becoming laughable and laying the groundwork for the greatest conservative populist reaction since the Reagan Revolution.

Abroad, some really creepy people are lining up to test Obama's world view of "Bush did it/but I am the world": The North Koreans are readying their missiles; the Iranians are calling us passive, bragging on nukes and satellites; Russia is declaring missile defense is over and the Euros in real need of iffy Russian gas; Pakistanis say no more drone attacks (and then our friends the Indians say "shut up" about Kashmir and the Euros order no more "buy American").

This is quite serious. I can't recall a similarly disastrous start in a half-century (far worse than Bill Clinton's initial slips). Obama immediately must lower the hope-and-change rhetoric, ignore Reid/Pelosi, drop the therapy, and accept the tragic view that the world abroad is not misunderstood but quite dangerous. And he must listen on foreign policy to his National Security Advisor, Billary, and the Secretary of Defense. If he doesn't quit the messianic style and perpetual campaign mode, and begin humbly governing, then he will devolve into Carterism--angry that the once-fawning press betrayed him while we the people, due to our American malaise, are to blame.

This indeed serious and our president needs to come to the realization that the campaign is over and the world will not automatically bend to his wishes. There is a difference between a fawning audience and press corps and the reality of political life. Western European leaders may be happy he's in office but our enemies will still behave like our enemies. He may overcome the fiascos of his first few weeks in office but so far it is not so good.

Posted by Tom at 7:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 5, 2009

President Obama and His Porkulus Package

President Obama tries to defend the "stimulus" bill in an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post. Most of it is just a series of talking points, but here's the part that stuck out at me (emphasis added):

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

I'm not quite sure that anyone has said that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems, but if he wants to talk about "failed theories," bring it on.

Look at some of the things in the bill:

• $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts
• $380 million in the Senate bill for the Women, Infants and Children program
• $300 million for grants to combat violence against women
• $2 billion for federal child-care block grants
• $6 billion for university building projects
• $15 billion for boosting Pell Grant college scholarships
• $4 billion for job-training programs, including $1.2 billion for "youths" up to the age of 24
• $1 billion for community-development block grants
• $4.2 billion for "neighborhood stabilization activities"
• $650 million for digital-TV coupons; $90 million to educate "vulnerable populations"
• $15 billion for business-loss carry-backs
• $145 billion for "Making Work Pay" tax credits
• $83 billion for the earned income credit
• $150 million for the Smithsonian
• $34 million to renovate the Department of Commerce headquarters
• $500 million for improvement projects for National Institutes of Health facilities
• $44 million for repairs to Department of Agriculture headquarters
• $350 million for Agriculture Department computers
• $88 million to help move the Public Health Service into a new building
• $448 million for constructing a new Homeland Security Department headquarters
• $600 million to convert the federal auto fleet to hybrids
• $450 million for NASA (carve-out for "climate-research missions")
• $600 million for NOAA (carve-out for "climate modeling")
• $1 billion for the Census Bureau
• $89 billion for Medicaid
• $30 billion for COBRA insurance extension
• $36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits
• $20 billion for food stamps
• $4.5 billion for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
• $850 million for Amtrak
• $87 million for a polar icebreaking ship
• $1.7 billion for the National Park System
• $55 million for Historic Preservation Fund
• $7.6 billion for "rural community advancement programs"
• $150 million for agricultural-commodity purchases
• $150 million for "producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish"
• $2 billion for renewable-energy research ($400 million for global-warming research)
• $2 billion for a "clean coal" power plant in Illinois
• $6.2 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program
• $3.5 billion for energy-efficiency and conservation block grants
• $3.4 billion for the State Energy Program
• $200 million for state and local electric-transport projects
• $300 million for energy-efficient-appliance rebate programs
• $400 million for hybrid cars for state and local governments
• $1 billion for the manufacturing of advanced batteries
• $1.5 billion for green-technology loan guarantees
• $8 billion for innovative-technology loan-guarantee program
• $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects
• $4.5 billion for electricity grid
• $79 billion for State Fiscal Stabilization Fund

If that list isn't bad enough for you here's another

• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient.

• $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.
• $650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.
• $88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker (arctic ship).
• $448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters.
• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters.
• $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees.
• $400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD's.
• $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.
• $125 million for the Washington sewer system.
• $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities.
• $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.
• $75 million for "smoking cessation activities."
• $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges.
• $75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI.
• $25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction.
• $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River.
• $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.
• $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings.
• $500 million for state and local fire stations.
• $650 million for wildland fire management on forest service lands.
• $1.2 billion for "youth activities," including youth summer job programs.
• $88 million for renovating the headquarters of the Public Health Service.
• $412 million for CDC buildings and property.
• $500 million for building and repairing National Institutes of Health facilities in Bethesda, Maryland.
• $160 million for "paid volunteers" at the Corporation for National and Community Service.
• $5.5 million for "energy efficiency initiatives" at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.
• $850 million for Amtrak.
• $100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint.
• $75 million to construct a "security training" facility for State Department Security officers when they can be trained at existing facilities of other agencies.
• $110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems.
• $200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations.

No way no how is most or evevn a majority of this "stimulus" by any honest definition. Much of it is a payoff to liberal interest groups(ACORN, Planned Parenthood), or simply an attempt by Democrats to buy votes to keep themselves in power. It represents 8 or more years of greedy liberals waiting for federal largess, and now it's time for them to get theirs. Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid, and President Obama are ready to open the floodgates to a never-ending that makes the amount we've spent on Iraq look like a drop in the bucket by comparison.

But even the "stimulus" stuff in the bill won't do much, if any, good. We're told that spending on infrastructure will jump start the economy because at least some of the projects are "shovel ready." This is a term that means "ready to go," i.e. no or little time need be spent in planning, designing, getting permits, etc, because all that's been done. Construction can start within 90 days, which puts people to work.

But even this isn't true, and Popular Mechanics explains why:

The programs that would meet the bill's 90-day restriction are, for the most part, an unappealing mix of projects that were either shelved after being fully designed and engineered, and have since become outmoded or irrelevant, or projects with limited scope and ambition. No one's building a smart electric grid or revamping a water system on 90 days notice. The best example of a shovel-ready project, and what engineers believe could become the biggest recipient of the transportation-related portion of the bill's funding, is road resurfacing--important maintenance work, but not a meaningful way to rein in a national infrastructure crisis. "In developing countries, there are roads that are so bad, they create congestion, because drivers are constantly forced to slow down," says David Levinson, an associate professor in the University of Minnesota's civil engineering department. "That's not the case here. If the road's a little bit rougher, drivers will feel it, but that's not going to cause you to go any slower. So the economic benefit of those projects is pretty low."

That might be acceptable to people focused purely on fostering rapid job growth, but, ironically, such stimulus spending could fall short on that measure, as well. "In the 1930s, when you were literally building with shovels, that might have made sense. That was largely unskilled labor. Today, it's blue collar, but it's not unskilled," Levinson says. "The guy brushing the asphalt back and forth is unskilled, but the guy operating the steamroller isn't. And there's an assumption out there that construction workers are interchangeable between residential and highway projects. But a carpenter isn't a whole lot of help in building a road."

Just as bad, the article goes on to point out, "shovel ready" thinking has actually helped create the current crisis. Because by definition such projects must start immediately, they're poorly thought out and such things as bridges are structurally deficient.

Getting back to tax cuts, though, the Republican Study Committee does have an excellent proposal that would cut a variety of taxes, which would be true stimulus. It wouldn't solve all our problems, but it would go a long way towards getting us out of our economic morass.

President Obama is trying to push the Democrat bill through Congress as fast as possible, because he knows that time is working against him. The more the American people learn about it the more they dislike it. It's time he listened to them and stopped the mad rush towards passing this bill.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 4, 2009

If You take the King's Shilling, You do the King's Bidding

We knew this was coming:

Obama Caps Executive Pay Tied to Bailout Money

President Barack Obama on Wednesday imposed a $500,000 cap on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving taxpayer bailout money and promised new steps to end a system of "executives being rewarded for failure."

Obama announced the unusual government intervention into corporate America at the White House, with tax cheat Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at his side....

The pay limit comes amid a national outcry over huge bonuses to executives who head companies that seek taxpayer dollars to remain afloat. The demand for limits was reinforced by revelations that Wall Street firms paid more than $18 billion in bonuses in 2008 amid the economic downturn and the massive infusion of taxpayer dollars.

The limit would apply to top-paid executives at the most distressed financial institutions that are negotiating bailout agreements with the federal government. It also would apply to other banks that receive aid, but they could get around the limits by publicizing to shareholders plans to exceed the salary cap.

This is exactly why bailouts are so bad. Once you take aid from the government, you are beholden to them.

These business executives are playing right into Obama's hands. What idiots. The left pretends to be outraged, but I think many are secretly happy as it gives them the excuse they need to set a "maximum wage," something they've wanted for decades.

We've all seen the stories. Bonuses paid to executives of companies who are losing money and laying off employees. Expensive trips, private airplanes, manicures and spas seem to be the rule.

The situation on Wall Street has gotten so bad that even the pro-business Washington Times editorialized that these "business excesses are disgraceful."

I've run into conservatives who say Obama is violating property rights on this matter. But that's only true in cases where he tries to impose these things on businesses that are not taking government money. More to it, this is about greed, which I also remind conservatives and Christians is also a sin, there being many passages about it in the Bible. To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, I may not be able to define greed, but I know it when I see it. And the American public knows what it sees.

If you come to me complaining that you can't pay your mortgage, and I loan you a few thousand dollars, I had better not see you going out to the movies or taking a vacation until you've paid me back.

Right now executive pay is only being capped for companies that take bailout money. As with most things government, I think it'll slowly spread. Once the left gets there way here, they'll come up with other reasons to cap pay all across the board, regardless of whether the company takes bailout money or not. For example, next they'll say that any company that gets a government contract must cap executive pay. Then...who know where this will end.

And years from now, they'll look at the corporate executives who paid themselves bonuses and such while their companies were failing, and say "It is you who are to blame."

Saturday Feb 7 Update

That didn't take long. Financial Week reports that House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank wants to set pay caps for all corporations:

Congress will consider legislation to extend some of the curbs on executive pay that now apply only to those banks receiving federal assistance, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said.

"There's deeply rooted anger on the part of the average American," the Massachusetts Democrat said at a Washington news conference today.

He said the compensation restrictions would apply to all financial institutions and might be extended to include all U.S. companies.

Give these guys and inch and they'll take a mile.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 20, 2009

Congratulations to President Barack Obama

Congratulations to President Barack Obama.

I'm sure much will happen today that I could criticize, but I'll resist the urge and not do so. Let the Democrats have their day. Barack Obama won the election fair and square, and he and his followers deserve a day alone to celebrate. Tomorrow we'll get on with the business of blogging as usual.

I'm posting this now, before he's officially sworn in, for two reasons. One is simply that I have to run off to work and want to get this up now. Second, I'm sure he'll sign some executive order today that will annoy me greatly, so I want to post this before I change my mind.

Not really. I'd put it up anyway.

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And you know, he does look good there standing in front of the Capitol.

Further, it really is a good thing that we can elect a black person to the presidency of the United States. It wasn't that long ago when it seemed like such a thing would never be possible. Peoples and nations can change.

Obviously I wish that black person wasn't Barack Obama. But it is what it is, and we'll all just have to get on with it.

Posted by Tom at 7:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 26, 2008

Obamamania - Soft Porn from the Washington Post

Yesterday I spent a wonderful Christmas Day with family. Then, sometime after opening gifts my brother showed me this story in the Washington Post:

As Duties Weigh Obama Down, His Faith in Fitness Only Increases

By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 25, 2008; Page A01

Being elected president forces a man to take inventory of his life, so Barack Obama has trimmed his schedule to the bare essentials. He's not in the White House yet, but gone are the hours he once spent reading novels, watching television and obsessing over the daily transactions of Chicago's sports teams. He eats out only once every few weeks. He visits friends rarely, if at all.

But one habit endures: Obama has gone to the gym, for about 90 minutes a day, for at least 48 days in a row. He always has treated exercise less as recreation than requirement, but his devotion has intensified during the past few months. Between workouts during his Hawaii vacation this week, he was photographed looking like the paradigm of a new kind of presidential fitness, one geared less toward preventing heart attacks than winning swimsuit competitions. The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games.

There is a term for this, and it's "soft porn."

Note that this was a page 1 story, with the section quoted on the front page. Below the fold, but page 1.

It is good that we have a president who keeps himself in shape. It lessens the chance that he will die or become disabled in office. It's also a positive example for the rest of us. Further, I go to the gym three days a week when I can (although I've hurt my knee so am staying away for a few weeks).

Bu this "sun glinted off chiseled pectorals" business is messiah cult-of-personality worship. One doesn't comment this way on someone's body, at least not publically, and certainly not in a news story. It is weird and it is creepy.

Democrats cannot at once complain that the right is not respectful of our new president (ok, president-elect) and turn their heads at this type of story. Conservatives can often go too far with the Reagan this, Reagan that, and "what would Reagan do," . We've also seen it with John F Kennedy. But in the end there is just no comparison to what we're seeing today with Obama.

The rest of the story isn't any better. A few more excerpts:

"He does it every day like clockwork," said Marty Nesbitt, one of Obama's closest friends from Chicago. "He doesn't think of it as something he has to do -- it's his time for himself, a chance for him to reflect. It's his break. He feels better and more revved up after he gets in his workout." ...

Ubermenschen Obama!

"That's one of the first things you learn working for him: You better make sure he gets his workout," said Jim Cauley, who managed Obama's 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. "If there isn't any time, he's not going to feel his best that day. If he only gets 30 or 40 minutes, he's still not really happy.

His physical prowess exceeds that of the average human!

"It's something he takes seriously, and that's why he's in great shape," said Alexi Giannoulias, a friend of Obama's and a former professional basketball player. "When people picture him running or whatever, they might think he's just going through the motions. But he goes hard. He's fit. He could convince you he's half his age."

Age does not affect him as it does others!

Even Obama's closest friends said they marvel at how he has maintained his commitment.

He even amazes his friends, who no doubt are used to being amazed!

For the small group of reporters tasked with following Obama's every move, his fitness has become a running joke repeated in the stories they file. They sit at McDonald's while he exercises in Hawaii. They eat calorie-rich scones while he sweats at Regents Park. One reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, filing his report about one of the president-elect's gym trips last month, noted: "While Mr. Obama worked at maintaining his lithe look, your pear-shaped pooler spent quality time at a local coffee shop."

The reporters are amazed!

Obama still suffers from one vice -- smoking -- although he has worked hard to quit since he started the presidential campaign. He's down from three or four cigarettes each day to what he terms the occasional "slip."

He is working to eliminate his one small vice with a will of steel!

Oh my heavens. I thought I'd seen a lot but this story just about takes the cake. This Eli Saslow has a man-crush on Obama that is embarrassing.

One can say none of this is Obama's fault, as he neither wrote the story nor has issued any press releases about "chiseled pectorals." But neither has he dissuaded anyone from writing this type of story. Indeed, as Mark Levin pointed out a few months ago, it's just this cult worship that "his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated."

This is cult-of-personality stuff. It's the type of thing we used to see about the great dictators of the 20th century; not only did they espouse great ideas and were great leaders, their personal qualities exceeded those of their subjects. Any faults are minimized and they are working successfully to overcome them.

I am not saying that Obama is or wants to be a dictator. But it's getting hard to deny that the cult of personality that is building up around him does bear similarities to what we saw during the last century.

The symbols created of him are cultish: the Obama "O" sign, the special Obama flag and presidential seal, the weird picture that I've seen in all sizes, one at least 8 feet tall:

barack-is-hope.jpg

There are all of the songs sung to Obama, some by children, some by adults, one by kids in camouflage marching military style.

All of this has got to stop.

One more thing. If his duties are weighing him down, how it it that he's on vacation and going to the gym 90 minutes a day? Didn't George Bush get in trouble when he went or stayed on vacation during a time of national emergency? I thought we had a financial crisis going on. Oh that's right, he is Ubermenschen, who will unite and save us all. He can do all this and more while on vacation and going to the gym regularly. And don't you dare say otherwise.

Sunday Update

Michelle Malkin points out media hypocrisy in comparing how journalists treated George W Bush's workouts with how they treat Obama:

...For adoring journalists, you see, Obama's workout fanaticism demonstrates his discipline and balance in his life. Apparently, what's good for Obama's glistening pecs is good for the country. Zaslow quoted Obama Chicago crony Marty Nesbitt, who offered this diagnosis: "He doesn't think of it as something he has to do -- it's his time for himself, a chance for him to reflect. It's his break. He feels better and more revved up after he gets in his workout."...

Former Washington Post writer Jonathan Chait famously attacked Bush three years ago in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times headlined, "The (over)exercise of power." Recounting how President Bush ran 3 1/2 miles a day and preached more cross-training to a federal judge, Chait fumed: "Am I the only person who finds this disturbing?...What I mean is the fact that Bush has an obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy."

Chait argued that Bush's passionate devotion to exercise was a dereliction of duty. "Does the leader of the free world need to attain that level of physical achievement?" he jeered. "It's nice for Bush that he can take an hour or two out of every day to run, bike or pump iron. Unfortunately, most of us have more demanding jobs than he does."

Can you imagine any member of the Obamedia mocking the incoming gym rat-in-chief this way?

No.

Posted by Tom at 1:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack