William Katz / Urgent Agenda
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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2009
COMMENT: It seems to me that what this shows is that Americans are following the stimulus debate closely. They are far better informed than many in "elite" circles believe. Also, I suspect that Mr. Obama's petulant performance before Democrats on Thursday evening hurt him. And, of course, the continued ethical problems of some of his appointees are hardly advertisements for "change we can believe in."
COMMENT: Remember, it's all for the kids, all for the kids. Oh, and for the moms.
COMMENT: Khatami is a "reformist" compared to Ahmadinejad like Goering was a conformist compared to Hitler. These adjectives lose their meaning in a theocracy like Iran's. Also, Khatami may not be allowed to run by the Guardian Council, which controls the elections. If he is permitted to run, and he wins, he could be more dangerous than the heavy-handed Ahmadinejad, for Khatami can put on his "moderate" mask and still forge ahead with the country's nuclear program.
Critics of former President Bush often assure us that they regard Afghanistan as the "good war," the one we should be fighting. President Obama said that, in effect, during his campaign, pledging to devote more resources to the Afghanistan instead of the "bad" war in Iraq.
Not so fast.
There are some signs that the administration, and certainly the left wing of the Democratic Party, might be having some revised thoughts.
First, an American traveler to the region, an Urgent Agenda reader, comments on the Russian pressure that caused the recent closing of an American air base in Kyrgyzstan, a base critical to supplying our forces in Afghanistan:
Also, The Times of London is reporting that President Obama is balking at increasing American strength in Afghanistan:
Concern? Or a way to wriggle out of the thing? That is the question.
But the chief of Central Command is General David Petraeus. It's inconceivable that he hasn't thought this through, and developed a strategy. That's his strength.
Well, there's the old rhetoric again. We heard that in the first days of the Iraq war as well.
This story is developing, but we're seeing signs that the Democratic left, always opposed to Iraq, may want out of Afghanistan, too. The ball is in the president's court.
February 8, 2009. Permalink
COMMENT: How nice of them. And the Iranians aren't rushing to the microphones either. So much for the new atmosphere. Are you listening, Mr. President?
She has difficulty with the man. Her piece ends this way:
COMMENT: Melanie has not been invited to write for the Daily Kos. The stuff in between those two quotes is just as juicy. If you want a little visceral entertainment, click on the link.
COMMENT: This is an excellent piece, and touches on a mystery. Marty Feldstein, the great conservative economist, made the same point last week: Defense spending is one of the greatest stimulants this economy can have. The spending is done quickly. The assembly lines already exist. The military knows what it wants, and most sane people agree that a great deal of worn-out equipment must be replaced. So why is there no defense spending in the stimulus package? That's the mystery, but probably not too deep a mystery. Just look at the makeup of the House Democratic caucus. It tilts heavily to the left, with some members openly hostile to American defense. In all probability, and this is informed speculation, there's no defense spending in the package because it offends the sensibilities of the fashionable left, which controls much of the Democratic Party.
COMMENT: One of the first rules of intelligence work is that the plots you hear about never come off. This story is important, but I hope we're not closing our eyes to threats from elsewhere, including Latin America, where ties between Hugo Chavez's Venezuela and the Iranian regime are growing. Giving the porousness of our southern border, the possibility of terrorist infiltration should never be discounted.
There has been a consistent trend since the start of this administration to center more power in the White House. James L. Jones is the national security adviser.
COMMENT: Thanks, Washington Post, for the editorial within a news story. But shouldn't the president, and not the national security adviser, decide what information he wishes to receive? And by what logic is the vice president's office a "back channel"? This is a very strange story with potentially large implications. It looks to me like a bureaucratic coup by Jones, with the potential for restricting, rather than expanding, the president's choices. The president appears to have a passive role here, an image that has disturbed us in the last two weeks.
COMMENT: This report pretty much sums up most the reports I've read. However, policies don't necessarily remain frozen. We have to watch Obama's foreign policy develop day by day to see if he's consistent, or if he caves under pressure. Apparently the Iranians object to our carrot-and-stick approach, feeling it's coarse. But they have created that issue for themselves through their behavior, and show no signs of changing that behavior.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2009
But another Times story features this appeal by the president:
COMMENT: Which plan, Mr. President? Which plan? Some leadership might be indicated here. You spent hours last night with some friends at a dance program. Fine. Wonderful. Great art form. Now spend hours urging your party to get rid of the pork in that "stimulus" bill. Turning everything over to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid hasn't exactly gone over big with the American people.
COMMENT: President Obama should have this quote mounted on his desk, and look at it the next time he goes into flights of fancy about "negotiations."
COMMENT: Like all recent presidents, Mr. Obama will try to "solve" the Arab-Israeli conflict. But without an appreciation of the larger conflict around it, he will have as much success as his predecessors.
COMMENT: Says a heck of a lot about Manchester, doesn't it? But what it says about Iraq is great. I wish someone would give former President Bush the credit he deserves. Won't happen for a while.
COMMENT: There apparently will be no more than three Republicans voting for this monstrosity. That pretty much tells the story. The Republicans are correct in opposing the bill. Something of this size deserved more than three days of debate. It takes three days just to read the thing. One observer said the printed bill weighs more than seven pounds.
The president has had a bad week, and is nursing a series of self-inflicted wounds - poor vetting of appointees, incompetent handling of the so-called "stimulus" bill, and an improperly partisan speech Thursday night, right in the middle of stimulus negotiations. He needs a set of instructions.
And so we looked apprehensively at the new administration's first major international outing - a speech by Vice President Biden at an international security conference in Munich this weekend. We promised at Urgent Agenda to be fair. Automatic opposition is not our thing here. Biden, when speaking off the cuff, can be a walking train wreck. His Munich speech was carefully prepared, and not bad at all. We've read a number of reports and, despite the attempts by some journalists to label it "a clean break" from the Bush years, it was not. There was far more continuity than break, and that is good. Obviously, we have to wait for the words to be put into practice to see if the American spine remains firm, or starts to bend. That will be the real test.
The New York Times gives a comprehensive report:
Fine thus far, although we must object to the "too expensive" notion. Defense against nuclear-tipped missiles is never too expensive. If money becomes the escape clause, then we go into opposition. But the overall thought here is fine.
Has to be spelled out, of course. The details are critical. But that was a good statement of basic American policy.
Okay. At least the United States came to the right conclusion and made its feelings known. The base-closing, a major act of hostility to our interests, wasn't papered over.
So, the conflict remains pretty much where it was. I have no idea what the Bush haters will say now. Maybe they think Bush is still under the Oval Office desk and that Dick Cheney is sending daily memos to Biden. (Not a bad idea.)
We'll watch this day by day for any signs of slippage or deception. But the vice president acquitted himself well on this first international outing, and, although our judgment must be tentative and cautious, we're pleased to say it.
February 7, 2009. Permalink
WATCH THIS CAREFULLY - AT 8:33 A.M. ET: The New York Times updates the very important story of Pakistan's release from house arrest of A.Q. Khan, the world's greatest nuclear proliferator. The release is widely seen as a snub to the United States:
COMMENT: The key now is how the United States reacts. We need Pakistan, but we also need it to be cooperative. The Bush administration withdrew an earlier demand for Khan to be interviewed by the CIA over his past proliferation activities. Obama could restore the demand, now that Khan is free. Holbrooke is an effective diplomat. Watch this one closely.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of a two-part edition of The Angel's Corner was sent Wednesday.
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