I have a new piece up at Hudson New York today, called "The Negotiations Trap." It's here.
Daily Snippets are here.
Answers to the current question are here.
The new current question is here.
TO OUR READERS
53% - Creeping.
We began our third subscription drive two weeks ago. We've reached 53% of our goal. Compared to where we were at this point in our last drive, we're well behind. Our first two drives exceeded their goals. We've got to do better in this one.
Subscriptions are the lifeblood of Urgent Agenda. We must nearly triple the number of subscribers to become financially stable. Otherwise, Urgent Agenda will either disappear or be reduced.
And think of it - a subscription is less than the price of a candy bar each week.
What do you get by subscribing? First, you insure the survival of this site, which has one of the most informed readerships on the web. You're in very good, and sometimes well-known company.
Second, subscribers and donators now receive The Angel's Corner. We discuss trends of the week, but also get into movies, music and TV. Further, Angel's Corner gives the very coveted Pompous Fool Award, bestowed only on the most deserving candidates in politics and journalism. And Angels are given a special e-mail address they can use to contact Urgent Agenda.
If for any reason you wish to cancel your subscription, the unused portion will be returned, upon request. You can't lose.
This is a great time to join. So please subscribe, or donate, in the column on the right. Urgent Agenda is needed more than ever.
Our subscription drive ends soon. Please subscribe and join the Angel's Corner today.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2009
NO CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN - AT 8:47 P.M. ET: From the Financial Times:
A senior adviser to Iran’s president says dialogue with the US will succeed only if the Obama administration accepts Tehran’s right to have a nuclear programme.
Mojtaba Samareh-Hashemi, right-hand man to Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the fundamentalist president, said, in an interview with the Financial Times, Tehran was studying its options, just as the new US administration was reviewing its Iran policy.
COMMENT: Who do you think will give in here? I'm betting it won't be the Iranians.
THE REAL MELTDOWN - AND IT'S NOT GLOBAL WARMING
Posted at 8:05 p.m. ET:
Reader Beth Harrison alerts us to a great column by Victor Davis Hanson called, "The Impending Obama Meltdown." Of course, we always want the best for the country, and we want the president to succeed...if we can accept his definition of success. But Hanson's concerns are serious, and should be studied in the White House:
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.
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...
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...
Six, Biden is being Biden.
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"...
...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 is like a very bad report card. Is anyone listening?
And Obama hasn't even had his first foreign crisis. Stay tuned.
February 4, 2009. Permalink
THIS JUST IN - AT 7:08 P.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
WASHINGTON -- Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Wednesday said he thinks hog farmers are a greater threat to Americans than Osama bin Laden.
COMMENT: What is it with this generation of Kennedys? Every time they open their mouths...
UNSTIMULATING NUMBERS - AT 4:50 P.M. ET: Rasmussen reports that support for the president's stimulus package is sinking:
Support for the economic recovery plan working its way through Congress has fallen again this week. For the first time, a plurality of voters nationwide oppose the $800-billion-plus plan.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 37% favor the legislation, 43% are opposed, and 20% are not sure.
Two weeks ago, 45% supported the plan. Last week, 42% supported it.
Opposition has grown from 34% two weeks ago to 39% last week and 43% today.
COMMENT: This is what happens when a president lets Congress write the legislation he should have proposed. Mr. Obama runs the risk of looking like a minor figure, a symbol, if he doesn't get control of things. The "first black president" thing has faded away. Please notice that no one even mentions it any longer.
DOW DOWN - AT 4:20 P.M. ET: The Dow closed down 122, to 7957.
AGAIN? - AT 4:01 P.M. ET: Do you get the feeling that the Obama administration needs a vice president for personnel? From an exclusive report in The Washington Times:
The Obama administration asked retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq but abruptly withdrew the appointment without explanation, Gen. Zinni said Tuesday.
Gen. Zinni, a former commander of Central Command, told The Washington Times that he had been offered the job by the White House national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James Jones, two weeks ago and that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed the offer on Jan. 26.
"I started making arrangements," Gen. Zinni said, but became concerned because he heard nothing further from the State Department or White House. He called Gen. Jones Monday night and was told that Christopher Hill, the outgoing assistant secretary of State for East Asia, was getting the job.
COMMENT: More competence we can believe in. First off, the idea of Zinni as ambassador to Iraq is grotesque, and maybe the Obamans realized it. Zinni opposed the liberation of Iraq, which means he would have been posted to a country whose liberation he opposed. That would have been a direct insult to the Iraqis and to former President Bush...as well as to our military.
This administration has hit the ground, stumbling.
SICKENING - AT 3:57 P.M. ET: Reader Ken Braithwaite alerts us to a piece by the great Michael Ledeen. I'd like to see some multiculturalist try to defend what is described. Please read:
This showed up in an Aussie newspaper (h/t Free Republic). It recounts the grisly story of a 51-year old Iraqi woman, known by her monicker “The Mother of the Believers,” who not only recruited female suicide terrorists, but led them to their final destination.
So what’s new? Her method of recruitment, on behalf of Ansar al-Sunnah, an Iranian-supported terrorist group operating in Diyala province.
"A WOMAN suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has confessed to organising their rapes so she could later convince them that martyrdom was the only way to escape the shame."
She was arrested in late January, and her confession was videotaped.
COMMENT: Does Mr. Obama understand what we're up against?
THEY WEEP, THEY WAIL - AT 3:30 P.M. ET: From AFP:
Wall Street and the business community gave a lukewarm response Wednesday to the US administration's plan to cap executive pay, fearing it may lead to a talent exodus and delay recovery in the finance sector.
The reaction came after President Barack Obama announced that executives of finance firms taking government bailouts would have their annual salaries limited to 500,000 dollars, a move aimed at protecting taxpayer interests.
COMMENT: We also are apprehensive about govenment interference in the private sector, but if there was ever a time when people brought it on themselves, it's now. If these clowns have so much "talent," why didn't they prevent the collapse? And where, precisely, are they going to go? Too many executives, including failures, were looting their firms, and rigging boards of directors to support their demands. And many of them never took any risks at all, never built a company, never provided sound services.
There are many fine people who work on Wall Street. I've known some. They're visionaries, public-spirited, and ethical. But I've known some others as well, and you wouldn't believe what they're like. You just lock your doors at night.
MONITOR REPORT - AT 3:25 P.M. ET: I spend part of my day monitoring the 24-hour news networks. Impression: The Obama administration is already in trouble. Even CNN can't hide the blunders and confusion. Many in the MSM will still cover for The One, but the impression given by news coverage is that the grownups in Washington are getting tired of the amateurism, especially on the stimulus package. Next shoe to drop: Confusion and weakness in foreign policy.
MORE IRAN - AT 8:26 A.M. ET:
TEHRAN (Reuters) - A representative of Iran's supreme leader said Barack Obama taking office as U.S. president did not mean Tehran's ties with Washington would change, a news agency reported on Wednesday.
COMMENT: Someone please tell the White House.
STAGGERING - AT 8:14 A.M. ET: From a Washington Post report on the withdrawal of Tom Daschle to be Health and Human Services secretary:
Democrats close to the White House said that they are now at a loss for who will fill the void, given that Daschle was the only real contender contemplated by the president.
"There were no other names," said one administration ally who was not permitted to speak on the record about the Daschle saga.
COMMENT: Incredible. No other names? This administration, starting at the top, really believes that some people are anointed. The Obama crowd should learn the old French saying, "The graveyards of the world are filled with indispensable men." Maybe The One should start the growth process by publicly declaring, "I am not The One."
THE GENERAL IS DEMOTED - AT 7:54 A.M. ET: From the Financial Times:
Annualised US car sales slipped below 10m last month in spite of steep discounts offered by carmakers and government efforts to ease lending.
General Motors’ monthly sales of cars and light trucks fell by 49 per cent last month, Chrysler’s by 55 per cent and Ford Motor’s by 40 per cent, including vehicles made by Volvo, its Swedish premium brand.
GM said it estimated the overall annualised selling rate for cars at 9.8m in the US in January, compared with 10.3m in December, and less than China’s estimated selling rate of 10.7m last month.
”This is the first time in history that China has surpassed the US,” said Michael DiGiovanni, GM’s head of global sales and industry analysis.
COMMENT: And Congress wants to hobble our car companies with more government regulations to satisfy the enviro-religionists. Brilliant.
TROUBLE ON THE LEFT - AT 7:40 A.M. ET: From Fox News:
Rep. Jim Cooper, a conservative Democrat from Tennessee, told a liberal radio network on Sunday that the Obama White House encouraged him to defy House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the $819 billion economic stimulus bill.
"Well, I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I actually got some quiet encouragement from the Obama folks for what I’m doing," said Cooper, one of only 11 Democrats to vote against the economic stimulus plan that passed the House last week.
"They know its a messy bill and they wanted a clean bill," he said. "Now, I got in terrible trouble with our leadership because they don’t care what’s in the bill, they just want it to pass and they want it to be unanimous."
COMMENT: Oh goody. How they fight among themselves. The conservative, blue dog Democrats may save us yet.
Posted at 7:29 a.m. ET:
The New York Times reports on the new administration's Iran policy, and you come off thinking that it doesn't really have one. Consider this:
Mr. Obama’s aides say that no decision has been made yet about how to proceed on Iran policy. “We’re still reviewing Iran policy,” said Robert A. Wood, the acting State Department spokesman. Indeed, Mr. Ross has yet to be named to his new post. And while Mrs. Clinton also struck a conciliatory note toward Iran last week, Mr. Obama’s top aides have yet to sit down for a substantive meeting on Iran, administration officials said.
Do you get a sense of misplaced priorities? Yesterday, the president and first lady went to a local school to read to kids. Warm and fuzzy, but it won't stop an Iranian bomb.
Then there's the question of getting our "friends" to increase pressure on Iran:
Mr. Obama’s aides are hoping that he can talk those countries into doing for him what they were unwilling to do for Mr. Bush. “I think Obama’s trip in April will be very important,” one administration official said, referring to Mr. Obama’s expected trip to attend the NATO summit meeting in Strasbourg, France, where he will meet with a number of European leaders for the first time as president.
So The One believes that, because he's The One, he can work magic. Sort of like Kennedy's trip to see Khrushchev in Vienna in 1961. Kennedy came away beaten and bleeding.
And there's this:
Several European diplomats said that France, Britain and Germany might be willing to consider sanctions if the Obama administration makes an effort to improve the atmosphere with Iran first.
Wait a second. We have to prove to them that we have good will toward Iran? Already, Obama's groveling attitude is paying dividends...for the other side.
February 4, 2009. Permalink
CUT - AT 6:40 A.M. ET: From The Los Angeles Times:
Jim Puzzanghera Reporting From Washington -- The motion picture industry's record-setting month at the box office may have cost it $246 million in tax breaks, as the Senate on Tuesday stripped a provision from the economic stimulus bill that critics derided as an unnecessary Hollywood bailout.
In denying the tax breaks on new film projects, senators cited the $1.03-billion haul from movie ticket sales in January, a 19% year-over-year increase, according to industry tracking firm Media by Numbers.
"They had their best January ever," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who led the charge against the tax breaks.
COMMENT: I've got an idea: Why don't they restore the $246-billion in tax breaks, then eliminate $40-million every time Hollywood makes an anti-American film. Oh, can you just hear the "artistic-freedom" crowd.
THE TRUTH STARTS TO COME OUT - AT 6:32 A.M. ET: From AP:
A United Nation spokesman on Wednesday accused Hamas police in Gaza Strip of seizing thousands of blankets and food parcels meant for needy residents.
Spokesman Christopher Gunness said Hamas police raided a UN warehouse in Gaza City late Tuesday, snatching 3,500 blankets and over 400 food parcels.
COMMENT: Yesterday, the UN pulled back from an earlier charge, which created screaming headlines around the world, that Israel hit a school during its recent offensive in Gaza. Amazing how the "facts" start to change.
ACTUAL AP HEADLINE TODAY - AT 6:22 A.M. ET:
UN head urges fewer civilian deaths in Afghanistan
COMMENT: So nice of him. Instruction manual, please.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2009
THE NEWEST BLITZ - AT 7:52 P.M. ET: From Britain's Telegraph:
Schools faced mounting anger from parents and business leaders over their "defeatist" approach to the bad weather as one in three closed to pupils for a second consecutive day because of snow.
Almost 2.5 million children were forced to stay at home, keeping millions of parents off work and costing the economy billions of pounds in lost business.
Schools and local authorities were accused of teaching children to "give up" in the face of adversity by shutting down in areas with only a few inches of snow.
COMMENT: A defeatist approach to snow? I guess it isn't their finest hour.
AS THE CLOCK TICKS - AT 7:20 P.M. ET: From Fox News:
Iran's launch of its first satellite into space is a grave cause for concern to the U.S. as the Islamic Republic continues to work toward developing long-range missile capability, the Pentagon and White House said Tuesday.
Tuesday's launch of its first domestically made satellite "does not convince us that Iran is acting responsibly to advance stability or security in the region," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
COMMENT: The problem is that the clock is ticking on Iran's nuclear program as we formulate still one more "negotiating" position. Our "allies" are not being all that helpful. There does not appear to be a great sense of urgency. This can erupt in the most painful ways.
WHICH 11 PERCENT? - AT 4:32 P.M. ET: From Rasmussen:
Just 11% of U.S. voters think America should apologize to Iran for “crimes” against the Islamic country – one of the prerequisites demanded by the Iranian president before he will agree to meet with President Barack Obama.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 73% oppose such an apology.
COMMENT: Wouldn't you love to meet some of that 11 percent? Are you thinking "college faculties"?
THIS JUST IN - AT 4:23 P.M. ET:
(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Chris Dodd (D.-Conn.) confirmed last week that the First Amendment allows talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh to express his views, even those critical of the policies of President Barack Obama.
COMMENT: I am so relieved to learn this. We were just about to take Urgent Agenda underground and work from a bunker in Montana. Wait, let me cancel the movers.
EXCLUSIVITY - AT 3:50 P.M. ET: From AP:
The special US envoy for Middle East peace, George Mitchell, has asked to open his own office in the region to deal with day-to-day developments between Israel, the Palestinians and neighboring states, signaling a desire for greater American hands-on involvement in negotiations.
COMMENT: Look, I don't know if this is a good idea or not. But wasn't Obama the candidate who constantly whined about George Bush's "unilateralism"? I think so. This is about as unilateral as it gets. I mean, we're sending our own nanny.
TROUBLESOME CLAUSE - AT 3:31 P.M. ET: From Britain's Telegraph:
The European Union and Canada have warned that the "Buy America" clause in President Barack Obama's $900bn fiscal stimulus package is in danger of fostering unwanted and damaging US protectionism.
In letters to the Obama administration, the block of European nations and Canada said that the measure could damage the global economy's recovery and potentially prolong the current recession.
COMMENT: This can cause trouble. Protectionism prolonged the Great Depression. We want to boost our own industries, but there probably are better ways to do it than by waving a red flag in front of trading partners.
ANOTHER RED FACE - AT 3:25 P.M. ET: From CQ:
President Obama's new candidate to run the Commerce Department voted in favor of abolishing the agency as a member of the Budget Committee and on the Senate floor in 1995.
Sen. Judd Gregg , R-N.H., whose nomination was expected to be announced Tuesday, also worked in the Senate to trim the department's budget as head of the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee.
COMMENT: Another tribute to the Obama vetting process. Send compliments to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.
BULLETIN - AT 2:32 P.M. ET: Tom Daschle has withdrawn his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary. As you know, he has, as they say, tax issues. This is another failure of the Obama vetting system, which has messed up grandly on Bill Richardson, Tim Geithner, Nancy Killefer, and now Daschle. Yet, as reader Tom Wharton points out, the in-the-tank New York Times was lavishing praise on that system not long ago:
"But Mr. Obama has elevated the vetting even beyond what might have been expected, especially when it comes to applicants’ family members, in a reflection of his campaign rhetoric against lobbying and the
back-scratching, self-serving ways of Washington."
COMMENT: Old rule of journalism: Don't let the story get ahead of the facts.
YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE - AT 10:47 A.M. ET:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nancy Killefer, who failed for a year and a half to pay employment taxes on household help, has withdrawn her candidacy to be the first chief performance officer for the federal government, the White House said Tuesday.
Killefer was the second major Obama administration nominee to withdraw and the third to have tax problems complicate their nomination after President Barack Obama announced their selection.
COMMENT: This president's vetting process is the worst I've ever seen. The ethical problems hang over this administration like...like greenhouse gases.
Posted at 10:02 a.m. ET:
Judea Pearl, father of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was beheaded by the Taliban, writes of his dismay at what's happened to public discussion since his son's murder. Someone should put this on the president's desk, but won't:
This week marks the seventh anniversary of the murder of our son, former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. My wife Ruth and I wonder: Would Danny have believed that today's world emerged after his tragedy?
We doubt it.
Neither he, nor the millions who were shocked by his murder, could have possibly predicted that seven years later his abductor, Omar Saeed Sheikh, according to several South Asian reports, would be planning terror acts from the safety of a Pakistani jail. Or that his murderer, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, now in Guantanamo, would proudly boast of his murder in a military tribunal in March 2007 to the cheers of sympathetic jihadi supporters. Or that this ideology of barbarism would be celebrated in European and American universities, fueling rally after rally for Hamas, Hezbollah and other heroes of "the resistance."
...somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of "resistance," has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words "war on terror" cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.
Beautifully said. Judea Pearl could give some lessons to President Obama.
I believe it all started with well-meaning analysts, who in their zeal to find creative solutions to terror decided that terror is not a real enemy, but a tactic. Thus the basic engine that propels acts of terrorism -- the ideological license to elevate one's grievances above the norms of civilized society -- was wished away in favor of seemingly more manageable "tactical" considerations.
But the clearest endorsement of terror as a legitimate instrument of political bargaining came from former President Jimmy Carter. In his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," Mr. Carter appeals to the sponsors of suicide bombing. "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Road-map for Peace are accepted by Israel." Acts of terror, according to Mr. Carter, are no longer taboo, but effective tools for terrorists to address perceived injustices.
I'm glad to see Judea Pearl take on that disgusting little man, Jimmy Carter, a public embarrassment to this nation.
The media have played a major role in handing terrorism this victory of acceptability. Qatari-based Al Jazeera television, for example, is still providing Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi hours of free air time each week to spew his hateful interpretation of the Koran, authorize suicide bombing, and call for jihad against Jews and Americans.
Oh, but, don't you know, it's just a different "narrative," a different point of view. Who are we to disagree with another culture?
And then there's Mr. Moyers:
Some American pundits and TV anchors didn't seem much different from Al Jazeera in their analysis of the recent war in Gaza. Bill Moyers was quick to lend Hamas legitimacy as a "resistance" movement, together with honorary membership in PBS's imaginary "cycle of violence." In his Jan. 9 TV show, Mr. Moyers explained to his viewers that "each [side] greases the cycle of violence, as one man's terrorism becomes another's resistance to oppression." He then stated -- without blushing -- that for readers of the Hebrew Bible "God-soaked violence became genetically coded." The "cycle of violence" platitude allows analysts to empower terror with the guise of reciprocity, and, amazingly, indict terror's victims for violence as immutable as DNA.
And our "institutions of higher learning"?
When we ask ourselves what it is about the American psyche that enables genocidal organizations like Hamas -- the charter of which would offend every neuron in our brains -- to become tolerated in public discourse, we should take a hard look at our universities and the way they are currently being manipulated by terrorist sympathizers.
Judea Pearl is a college professor at UCLA. This is coming from inside. It isn't only terrorist sympathizers who manipulate our universities, but old-line reds who see their role, not as educators, but as indoctrinators.
Danny's picture is hanging just in front of me, his warm smile as reassuring as ever. But I find it hard to look him straight in the eyes and say: You did not die in vain.
This is a great piece. Please read.
February 3, 2009. Permalink
DEALING AGAIN - AT 8:53 A.M. ET: The way the race card has been played by some Democrats is something to behold. Yesterday, regarding the nomination of Eric Holder to be the nation's first African-American attorney general, ultra-liberal Senator Pat Leahy spoke out:
Holder's chief supporter, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the confirmation was a fulfillment of Martin Luther King's dream that everyone would be judged by the content of their character.
''Come on the right side of history,'' said Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
COMMENT: The sense of self-righteousness and moral superiority here is overwhelming. The problem with Holder is the content of his character. And another problem is his view of national security. Apparently, Senator Leahy wasn't much interested in either of these.
CLASH COMING? - AT 8:28 A.M. ET: John Hinderaker at Power Line alerts us to a piece at, of all places, the Huffington Post, that contains this troubling report:
WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (IPS) - CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.
But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn't convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.
Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.
COMMENT: I cannot verify that story, but there have been rumblings that the very popular Petraeus is not happy with the new president. What will happen, though, if Obama doesn't bend and Petraeus believes the 16-month schedule puts us in danger? Will there be an open clash? A clash of press leaks? Will Petraeus resign in protest? Or be fired, like MacArthur? Watch this carefully because it could turn into a major story. If you start seeing Petraeus smeared in the press, you'll know that a campaign against him is on. The fact is, presidents tend to win battles against generals, even popular generals. Lincoln won his against McClellan. Truman won his against MacArthur. Both McClellan and MacArthur wanted to be president, and failed.
Petraeus, though, is a shrewd operator. If a clash really develops between him and the White House, a resignation in protest - "I cannot support a policy that places us in danger" - might just launch a political career. I'm just dreaming, but the dreams are interesting.
BAD CHOICE - AT 7:57 A.M. ET: Increasingly, we worry about some of the personnel choices of this administration. We have to look at who's appointed to the middle-level positions, for these are the people who will carry out, or distort, policy every day. So we're alarmed by the appointment of Christopher Hill as our new ambassador to Iraq, replacing the brilliant Ryan Crocker, who has just retired. Hill, as you'll recall, was chief negotiator in the effort to get North Korea to roll back its nuclear program. While Crocker was an expert in the Arab world, and spoke Arabic, Hill knows nothing about the area and does not speak the language. He is, however, a slick operator and dealmaker, and a consummate self promoter - perfect for an administration that likes the appearance of progress, without actual progress. Hill negotiated a deal with the Koreans, but it seems to be unraveling. The Washington Post says of him:
Hill won plaudits for his efforts in the face of opposition from within the Bush administration and the often frustrating negotiating tactics of the North Koreans. But he also was criticized for appearing at times too eager to strike a deal, or too eager to court the news media.
Poor choice. We need someone in Baghdad who will advance the progress made and tell the president the truth about what it will take to keep that progress going. This looks like a P.R. move, the assignment of someone who can cover our tracks as we weasel out.
THE BROMIDES ARE BACK - AT 7:45 A.M. ET: With the coming of the new administration, we warmly welcome back some familiar bromides, especially the clichés about education. First lady Michelle Obama was at the Department of Education yesterday, saying this:
Recalling her experiences as a student in Chicago’s public school system, Mrs. Obama said: “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the public schools that nurtured me and helped me along. And I am committed, as well as my husband, to ensuring that more kids like us and kids around this country, regardless of their race, their income, their status, the property values in their neighborhood, get access to an outstanding education.”
COMMENT: When will they ever learn? Quality education has been available in poorer neighborhoods for decades in this country. The New York City school system educated generations of immigrants to high standards until the 1960s, when political correctness overran the schools. So many poor kids from deprived families were getting into Harvard as early as the 1920s, by sheer merit, that Harvard established ethnic quotes to limit their number.
Good schools are built by good families. They're built by cultural attitudes that value education and respect those who excel as students. That's the key. Tell me why, wherever Asian-American students move, the schools get better. Please tell me, and I'll show you how to cut the education budgets by a third and improve the schools at the same time.
SAY IT AIN'T SO, JOE, BUT IT IS - AT 7:30 A.M. ET: Remember how philospher-in-chief Joe Biden ridiculed Chief Justice Roberts for muffing the presidential oath of office? Well, Joe did the formal swearing in for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday, and guess what happened. It's here, in all its glory.