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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2009
OH, COME ON - AT 8:08 P.M. ET: If you want to know why journalism is in trouble, read this:
PHOENIX (AP) -- NBC newsman Brian Williams said Wednesday he's not sure if Walter Cronkite would have succeeded in the age of cable news, blogs and Twitter.
''I am convinced that had he come along today, I don't think he would have cracked through. I think there's too much noise, too much to cut through for a modest man from Missouri,'' Williams told an audience in Phoenix. ''But God and history combined to give him to us right when we needed him.''
Williams spoke at a luncheon, where he was given the Cronkite Award from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. The ceremony included videotaped congratulatory messages from Jon Stewart and fellow New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen.
Williams recounted how growing up, his parents didn't serve dinner until after Cronkite ended his newscast with his signature line: ''And that's the way it is.''
''Professionally, the day he died, I lost my North Star,'' Williams said.
COMMENT: Look, universities give these awards to personalities in order to get them to come. It's publicity. I don't know what Williams did to deserve the award.
As for Cronkite, enough already. He had good points as a newsman and anchorman, and his reporting on the day of President Kennedy's assassination was fine, memorable work. But the treatment of Cronkite as a godlike figure is overboard, distorted, and a disservice. His report from Vietnam in 1968, the most famous news report of the war, hardly stands the test of time. Cronkite was poorly informed, did not understand the military situation, or chose not to. His pessimistic observations are at marked variance with North Vietnam's official history of the war, which concedes that the Communists were in fact losing badly during the very same period that Cronkite was analyzing.
Cronkite never corrected the report, or expressed regret for its misleading conclusions. He accepted the accolades of the left as the man who changed American opinion on Vietnam.
Cronkite was a man of the left, who sometimes let his views affect his coverage. His career should be looked at more objectively and critically. Journalism is in enough trouble without the tendency to worship false gods.
November 18, 2009 Permalink
HOLDER CAN'T HOLD THE LINE - AT 7:02 P.M. ET: The backlash against Attorney General Holder's decision to try the mastermind of 9-11 in a civilian New York courtroom is building more and more. Look for this to become a significant campaign issue.
Holder testified before a Senate committee today. The reception was not entirely warm, as Fox reports:
A top Senate Republican on Wednesday accused Attorney General Eric Holder of "making bad history" in his decision to send professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators to New York for trial in civilian court.
Speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which Holder testified, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised concerns that the attorney general was imperiling national security by determining that war-time combatants, potentially even Usama bin Laden, might be sent into the criminal system.
"We're making bad history here," Graham said. "The big problem I have is that you're criminalizing the war. ... I think you've made a fundamental mistake here."
Testifying for the first time on the decision, Holder delivered a point-by-point rebuttal to his critics who say he's treating the suspects with a "pre-9/11 mentality."
But the rebuttal did not seem to sway any senators.
And now President Obama weighs in with a statement that is borderline weird:
Meanwhile, President Obama said in one of a series of TV interviews during his trip to Asia that those offended by the legal privileges given to Mohammed by virtue of getting a civilian trial rather than a military tribunal won't find it "offensive at all when he's convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him."
Obama quickly added that he did not mean to suggest he was prejudging the outcome of Mohammed's trial. "I'm not going to be in that courtroom," he said. "That's the job of the prosecutors, the judge and the jury."
COMMENT: So the president says he'll be convicted and executed, then says he wasn't prejudging the outcome of the trial.
Oh dear, oh dear.
Wait 'til the defense brings up the president's statement during jury selection.
I would not be shocked if the decision to try Mohammed in New York is reversed, especially if it starts to affect Democratic political fortunes.
November 18, 2009 Permalink
AND NOW THE NEXT PROBLEM - AT 6:19 P.M. ET: The president is in Asia, solving one problem after another (not) and breaking down the centuries-old barriers that have prevented human understanding (not) as well as assuring peace for generations (clearly not).
Alert reader Richard Hirschman sends us this, from the South Korean press:
North Korea built about 800 bunkers in the demilitarized zone to keep
military equipment between 2004 and 2007, Radio Free Asia said Monday
quoting a former North Korean colonel who has worked for a South Korean
military intelligence agency after defecting during the 2000s.
"Pyongyang had built at least 800 bunkers including an unknown number of
decoys by 2007 to prepare for a possible invasion of South Korea," the
ex-colonel claimed. "Each bunker contains military equipment that can fully
arm 1,500 to 2,000 soldiers."
Construction began in 2004, the second year of the Roh Moo-hyun
administration, which continued the so-called Sunshine Policy of its
"If a soldier carried all his military equipment, which weighs 32 kg, and
came to the DMZ in full gear, he would already be exhausted before reaching
the South," the defector said. "So they built bunkers at the DMZ and put all
their operations equipment there. In the bunkers, there are South Korean
military uniforms and name tags, so that they can disguise themselves as
South Korean troops. Also reserved are... 60-mm mortar shells, condensed
high explosives, and all sorts of ammunition."
He claimed "70 percent" of the roughly 800 bunkers are fakes or decoys to
confuse the South. But the semi-underground bunkers are not linked to a
series of underground passages built in the past to attack South Korea, he
"Despite Seoul's appeasement policy, or whatever the South does toward the
North, Pyongyang hasn't given up its aim of unifying the Korean Peninsula by
military force. They are sticking to this principle and teaching North
Koreans about it," he said.
The defector is scheduled to testify at a closed-door session of the U.S.
Congress on Wednesday.
COMMENT: Reader Hirschman asks if anyone will care about the defector's testimony. Not likely. Now, true, defector statements must be verified, but the evidence, in other areas, of constant North Korean cheating and defiance is clear.
Yet, all we hear from the administration is "engagement" and "talks." It's not as if talks with North Korea just began. They've been going on for years, in some cases for decades. Precisely what has been the result? Essentially, nothing.
But the free nations don't have any sense of urgency.
History doesn't repeat itself, but the psychology of history does repeat itself. Is it 1939? Very possibly. Are we frozen in 1939? Very possibly, again.
Do the people who give us the news care? You be the judge.
November 18, 2009 Permalink
NEXT TIME DON'T BOW SO LOW - AT 10:14 A.M. ET: We noted some grim polling results for the president in our first item this morning. Now Scott Rasmussen is out with his daily tracker showing a sudden drop for Mr. Obama. Especially interesting is the spread in Ras's presidential approval index, measuring the gap between those who strongly approve and those who strongly disapprove:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 26% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty percent (40%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President (see trends).
Over the past month, the number who Strongly Approve of the President’s performance has generally stayed between 27% and 30% (with one exception in each direction). Today’s drop to 26% matches the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded.
And overall approval? Some 47% approve of the Obama performance, while 52% disapprove.
This poll was taken after Mr. Obama's deep bow to the Japanese emperor, and after the announcement that the mastermind of 9-11 will be tried in an ordinary federal courtroom in New York. We cannot know the extent to which these events hurt the president's numbers, but they certainly couldn't have helped.
November 18, 2009 Permalink
COMBATIVE SARAH - AT 9:37 A.M. ET: I'm so glad that Sarah Palin is fighting back, rather than staying as a punching bag for her fashionable critics. Fox News is reporting the extraordinary response of the Associated Press to her book. Is this a great moment in journalism, or what?
When the former Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor wrote her autobiography, the AP found a copy before its release date and assigned 11 people to fact check all 432 pages.
The AP claims Palin misstated her record with regard to travel expenses and taxpayer-funded bailouts, using statements widely reported elsewhere. But it also speculated into Palin's motives for writing "Going Rogue: An American Life," stating as fact that the book "has all the characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto."
Palin quickly hit back on a Facebook post titled "Really? Still Making Things Up?"
"Imagine that," the post read. "11 AP reporters dedicating time and resources to tearing up the book, instead of using the time and resources to 'fact check' what's going on with Sheik Mohammed's trial, Pelosi's health care takeover costs, Hasan's associations, etc. Amazing."
But that would be so culturally insensitive.
Reviewing books and holding public figures accountable is at the core of good journalism, but the treatment Palin's book received appears to be something new for the AP. The organization did not review for accuracy recent books by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, then-Sen. Joe Biden, either book by Barack Obama released before he was president or autobiographies by Bill or Hillary Clinton.
And some books are ignored completely, like Douglas Feith's excellent "War and Decision," about the runup to the Iraq War.
Of course, the press also ignored the official North Vietnamese history of the Vietnam War, which tended to confirm the American government's version of events, rather than the accepted press narrative. That's why it was ignored.
November 18, 2009 Permalink
THE CASE AGAINST MAJ. HASAN - AT 8:54 A.M. ET: Christopher Hitchens, generally a man of the left, has actually been quite good about the war on terror. He has, of course, suffered on the left for his clear-headedness, but has been willing to bear the pain.
Now he gives us the best piece I've read on the case against Maj. Hasan. Contrast this, please, with other elements of the wine-and-Brie media, which insist on being oh so intellectual, and oh so fair to the major, a fairness they never granted to George W. Bush:
The admonition not to rush to judgment or jump to conclusions might sound fair and prudent enough, perhaps even statesmanlike when uttered by the president, as long it's borne in mind that such advice is itself a judgment that is more than halfway to a conclusion. What it plainly implies in the present case is that the actions of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan should not be assumed in any meaningful way to be related to his Muslim faith...
... In order to demonstrate the absence of a connection, however, the following facts would have to be regarded as relatively random or secondary:
1) Hasan had been in direct correspondence with a notorious preacher of violence, Anwar al-Awlaki...
2) He bought weapons for himself well in advance of a murderous assault on unarmed soldiers awaiting treatment at a clinic...
3) As he unleashed his volleys, he yelled the universal cry of jihad, "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!" (The eyewitnesses on this point, originally doubted, are especially convincing since some of them didn't understand the meaning of the words and only sought to reproduce them phonetically.) On his business card, he described himself as "SOA" or "slave," or possibly, "soldier of Allah." Neither would be especially reassuring in this context.
4) He had attracted considerable attention by repeatedly using his postgraduate classes at the Uniformed Service University in Bethesda, Md., for the purpose of Islamic proselytizing, for a version of Islam that, to say the least, did not overemphasize it as a "religion of peace."
5) He had, in spoken and written communications, demonstrated a fascination with the love of death and the concept of suicide martyrdom (better described as suicide murder) that is the central concept of Bin Ladenism.
6) Though he may have been upset by the harrowing stories of returned soldiers—as many, many of us have been, incidentally—his overwhelming and reiterated objection to the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and al-Qaida in Iraq, is that it is "a war on Islam."
7) He seems to have been especially obsessed with the Quranic injunction that forbids devout Muslims to make alliances with Christians and Jews.
But of course, we must not rush to judgment. And the White House has pulled out all stops to try to delay Congressional investigations into the Fort Hood shootings.
And a warning from Hitchens:
I wrote some years ago that the three most salient characteristics of the Muslim death-squad type were self-righteousness, self-pity, and self-hatred. Surrounded as he was by fellow shrinks who were often very distressed by his menacing manner, Maj. Hasan managed to personify all three traits—with the theocratic rhetoric openly thrown in for good measure—and yet be treated even now as if the real word for him was troubled. Prepare to keep on meeting those three symptoms again, along with official attempts to oppose them only with therapy, if that. At least the holy warriors know they are committing suicide.
We're not supposed to call what we're doing suicide. We're supposed to call it multicultural understanding, or, in the world of Obama, outreach. Notice, please, that those we "reach out to" never reach out to us.
Notice also that the clarity of Hitchens's report is almost entirely lacking in the mainstream media.
November 18, 2009 Permalink
THERE'S A REASON IT'S CALLED CODE PINK - AT 8:35 A.M. ET: Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website has been doing a series on Code Pink, the so-called "anti-war" organization that in fact is an anti-American group that works to undermine the national security of the United States. These are just old leftists, but the press refuses to say it. Consider:
Top Obama donor and fundraiser Jodie Evans met with the Taliban in Afghanistan on a recent trip there, according to a report by Jane Fonda of a discussion she had with Evans last month. The meeting with the Taliban took place just weeks before Evans was videotaped directly handing to President Barack Obama a package of information about her trip to Afghanistan at a high dollar fundraiser in San Francisco.
Ah, Obama deals with the finest types. Just another narrative, I'm sure he thinks.
The name Jane Fonda comes up. In my view, Fonda should have been tried for treason during the Vietnam War. Her actions in support of North Vietnam went, again in my view, well beyond the protections of the First Amendment.
There is precedent to suspect that Evans is acting as a conduit for the Taliban to Obama. In June, her fellow Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin hand carried a letter out of Gaza from the terrorist group Hamas addressed to Obama.
Over the seven years of its existence, Code Pink has acted as propaganda shills for the anti-American governments of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, Cuba’s Castro brothers and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, as well as Middle Eastern terrorist groups.
Fonda has her own history of working with America’s enemies. During the Vietnam war she visited North Vietnam in 1972 and was photographed manning an anti-aircraft battery used to shoot down American planes. Fonda also recorded propaganda radio broadcasts for the North Vietnamese communists.
Just a great bunch of politically active people. Wouldn't you just love to go to one of their exclusive parties?
Code Pink’s image as kooky but well-meaning women committed to peace is belied by their words and actions. At home they work to undermine morale in our soldiers, their families and the American public. Abroad they work with terrorist enemies of the United States.
And one of Code Pink’s co-founders, Jodie Evans, works with President Obama. Is anyone in our nation’s capital paying attention?
COMMENT: No, they're not paying attention. If they paid attention, they'd be called McCarthyites, and their careers would suffer.
Imagine if, during World War II, prominent Americans went back and forth, trying to improve the image of Imperial Japan?
Did you ever think you'd see the day?
November 18, 2009 Permalink
OBAMA'S POLL PAIN - AT 8:08 A.M. ET: One major poll now has the president's approval rating at below 50%, and shows other troubling signs as well. Political reporter Lynn Sweet, of the Chicago Sun-Times, reports:
President Barack Obama's job approval rating is 48 - 42 percent, the first time he has slipped below the 50 percent threshold nationally, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Support for the war in Afghanistan and approval of President Obama's handling of the war also is down in the last month, and Republican support for the war is more than twice as strong as Democratic support.
Some of the internals are dramatic, and show how divided this society has become:
The President has a yawning gender and racial gap, with women approving his job performance 52 - 37 percent, compared to men's 47 - 44 percent disapproval. He gets 89 percent job approval among blacks and 62 percent approval among Hispanics while white voters disapprove 49 - 41 percent. His support also wanes as you go up the age and income scale.
Well, there you see the GOP dilemma. While it's unlikely the Republicans make inroads among blacks, given their understandable loyalty to Mr. Obama, the numbers show the work the GOP must do to win women, Hispanics, and the young. If well done, that effort can produce some inroads.
The poll shows far greater support among Republicans than Democrats for enlarging our effort in Afghanistan.
"Increasingly, the President finds himself with two different coalitions, one that backs him on domestic matters and a completely different one that backs him on Afghanistan. That could create a challenge to his considerable political skills," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The erosion of support for national defense generally within the Democratic Party, an erosion that started in the sixties, has become disgraceful. The Democrats are truly becoming a leftist party. I recall President Kennedy pledging to "pay any price" in defense of freedom. If only he could see his party now.
November 18, 2009 Permalink
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2009
THE CD PLAYER IS ON "REPEAT" - AT 10:53 P.M. ET: We now have some results from the president's "historic" (not really) trip to China. They seem to be the same results we've seen from every other trip. Is the world telling us something?
BEIJING -- President Obama has emerged from his first trip to China with few breakthroughs on important issues, such as Iran's nuclear program or China's currency. Yet after two days of talks with the United States' biggest creditor, the administration asserted that relations between the two countries are at "at an all-time high."
Defined by this administration as "We give, they take, they smile at us. Harmony."
While one concrete advance emerged -- that the United States may offer a target for carbon-emission cuts to boost climate negotiations in Copenhagen next month if China offers its own proposal -- it was a relatively small step for a new president who had campaigned on a promise to enact far-reaching change in U.S. diplomatic interactions.
Yeah, afraid so. No great change. Nothing we can "believe in."
If there was any significant change during this trip, in fact, it was in the United States' newly conciliatory and sometimes laudatory tone.
COMMENT: Choke on that one for a minute. Medicines are available.
The lauding of dictatorships seems to bother this new, "idealistic" administration not at all.
Another trip, more wear on the plane, and not much to show for it.
November 17, 2009 Permalink
SARAH - PUBLISHED - AT 8:06 A.M. ET: You know that this is Sarah Palin's week by the sounds of knives being sharpened. As one commentator said, for someone who's dismissed as ditzy, dumb and irrelevant, her enemies certainly sound panicked.
MSNBC actually used fake pictures of her...and later apologized. Newsweek borrowed a photo of her from a running magazine, the better to make her look like an outdoorsy hick, not someone you'd want to take seriously in a conflict with Iran. Sneering reviews of her book, "Going Rogue," are appearing in the usual places. Women reporters in particular seem to compete with each other to put her down.
It hasn't dawned on some of these characters that she was an elected sitting governor, and a respected one.
Rich Lowry comes to Sarah's defense, and it's a spirited defense:
It’s September 2008 all over again. All the same players are lining up to put a good hate on Sarah Palin. She’s like an isotope designed to course throughout our politics and culture, lighting up press bias, self-congratulatory liberalism, Christianity-hating secularism, and intellectual condescension wherever they are found.
The contempt of her enemies only increases the ardor of her fans. Palin is the most divisive woman in America, supplanting a Hillary Clinton who is losing her electric political charge as Barack Obama’s mostly irrelevant secretary of state.
Palin has lived to tell the tale because going rogue is now her operating principle. Her base of support is so intense, she doesn’t need supply lines into the political or media establishment. She transformed her Facebook page into a must-read organ of conservative opinion by lobbing “I can’t believe she said that” rhetorical bombshells. No political consultant would ever approve of her M.O.; for Palin’s purposes, no political consultant could possibly improve on it.
She represents less a philosophical strain on the right than an affect and a demographic. What makes her otherwise orthodox conservatism different is the plain-spoken, combative way she expresses it and the constituency she attracts. Her supporters identify with her populist, unaffected vibe and tend to be disaffected with politics as usual — they’re Palin Perotistas. A drastic image makeover would only drive them away.
Republicans need these voters more than ever given the roiling grassroots revolt against Obama’s governance. Without them, they can’t get a majority; they’d be doomed if they were ever to slide into a splinter party. If Palin is their voice and channels their energy productively, she’s part of the Republican answer to Obama, no matter what presidential politics ultimately holds for her. There’s an upside to rogue.
COMMENT: As readers know, I've had mixed feelings about Sarah. On the one hand, she has terrific qualities, and she's an original, a political Annie Oakley. On the other hand, I've been critical of lack of preparation on major issues. That is something that must change. The American people will expect it of her.
In an interview with Barbara Walters, Sarah said she wanted to play a major role in American politics, if people will have her. Well, some never will. She went to the wrong schools. She married the wrong man. She gave her kids the wrong names. But saner types will have her...if she appears ready, and does her homework.
It's really her choice.
November 17, 2009 Permalink
CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF POOR LEADERSHIP - AT 7:41 P.M. ET: New poll numbers reflect America's growing skepticism about the value of winning in Afghanistan, as Andrew Malcolm of the L.A. Times's Top of the Ticket reports:
According to the new ABC News/Washington Post Poll, only 44% now say the war has been worth it, the smallest support percentage in nearly three years. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.5%.
Once, Obama's war policies were his strongest poll suit (63%). Now, only 45% approve of Obama's handling of Afghanistan; more (48%) don't. His war support among independents, a crucial ingredient in the Democrat's election victory 54 weeks ago, has slipped to 39%.
Support for additional commitments is particularly weak among young voters and women.
Obama, like President Bush before him in both Afghanistan and Iraq, has made a main argument that it's better to fight terrorism over there and deny terrorists safe training and staging havens than endure repeat 9/11 attacks on the homeland.
Ominously, for Obama, however, less than a quarter of Americans now buy that argument. Nearly two-thirds (64%) currently say the risk of terrorism at home is the same whether we continue to fight there or withdraw.
COMMENT: This is a clear case of poor, indecisive leadership...at the very top. When Americans see the commander in chief hesitant, when they see no clear commitment from the leader, they understandably become indifferent and hesitant.
Please recall the Biblical quotation, from Corinthians, "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?"
Today the trumpet gives a very uncertain sound. The American people are listening.
November 17, 2009 Permalink
HOLDER ON THE HOT SEAT - AT 7:18 P.M. ET: Attorney General Eric Holder is taking major heat for his decision to try the mastermind of 9-11 in an ordinary federal courtroom in Manhattan. Holder is defending himself, but his defense seems awfully anemic to us:
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday stood by his decision to send five alleged Sept. 11 conspirators to New York for trial, saying his team carefully considered the potential downsides of taking the case out of the military commission system but ultimately determined federal court was the best option.
Despite growing concerns that trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others in civilian court triggers a host of complications for the prosecution, Holder said he's confident the cases will be "successful."
"We looked at a variety of things -- about the questions of admissibility of evidence ... what problems we might have with regard to any witnesses," Holder said. "I mean the whole variety of things that we considered in making those judgments."
But some lawmakers and analysts were not so convinced Holder's case is airtight.
Unlike military courts, civilian courts require warrants for evidence -- warrants which are not typically obtained on the battlefield. Civilian courts also have much stricter rules for hearsay than military courts. Plus any defendants who were not read their Miranda rights could raise that as an issue.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said a conviction is "not automatic."
No it's not. And you have to worry about the selection of both judge and jury. New York, to put it politely, is ultra-multicultural, and not all members of all cultural groups will be willing to put a member of an "oppressed" people in prison.
"Odds are that he will be convicted of something but in the federal courts, it's the luck of draw as to what judge you get," King told Fox News. "And you could get a judge who would say because he was arrested without a warrant, because he was not read his Miranda rights, because he was held seven years without a trial, all of this is a terrible injustice and therefore I'm going to dismiss the charges. I doubt any judge would do that, but it's going to make it more difficult to get the conviction."
Another obvious pitfall for the Justice Department would be allegations of torture from the defendants' counsel. Mohammed's history of being waterboarded is well-documented. Though Bush administration officials have defended the practice as being useful in extracting critical information, waterboarding has since been banned and is considered torture by some lawmakers.
Charles Stimson, a former deputy assistant defense secretary for detainees, said these allegations could make the prosecution's case quite fragile.
"If any of these statements ... get thrown out because of this argument that they were tortured and that nothing that came out of their mouths can be believed, that the whole case is tainted, it's a house of cards," he said.
Why do I think that there are some people in Barack Obama's Justice Department who would actually like to see the case thrown out? Then they can blame Bush (!!)
Others argue that the trial just gives Mohammed the platform he wanted all along. Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission, told a local radio station Tuesday he's concerned the trial will serve as a "propaganda" tool for the defendant.
COMMENT: And even the governor of New York, David Paterson, has come out against holding the trial in New York. Now, true, Paterson has it in for Obama because the White House has been trying to push the unelectable Paterson out of the governor's chair, so this is a case of chickens coming home to roost. But Paterson, trying to salvage his public popularity, wouldn't come out against the trial unless he knew that position reflected popular will.
November 17, 2009 Permalink
THAT NOW-FAMOUS BOW BEFORE THE EMPEROR - AT 9:20 A.M. ET: President Obama's now-famous bow in Tokyo is still reverberating, and is likely to come up periodically in the political wars. It's the second great Obama bow, the first delivered to the king of Saudi Arabia some months back. Japan gave us Pearl Harbor and Saudi Arabia gave us Islamic fundamentalism, so the president must have chosen his bows carefully.
Wes Pruden, the acerbic columnist for the Washington Times, a man who writes as if he has nothing to lose, provides a great take on the latest bow:
A little traveling, like a little learning, can be a dangerous thing. Barack Obama on the loose in a foreign land is enough to frighten protocol officers and embarrass the rest of us.
Embarrass? Why, they're not embarrassed in Cambridge or Beverly Hills.
So far it's a memorable trip. He established a new precedent for how American presidents should pay obeisance to kings, emperors, monarchs, sovereigns and assorted other authentic man-made masters of the universe. He stopped just this side of the full grovel to the emperor of Japan, risking a painful genuflection if his forehead had hit the floor with a nasty bump, which it almost did...
...Now we know why Mr. Obama stunned everyone with an earlier similar bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, only the bow to the Japanese emperor was far more flamboyant, a sign of a really deep sense of inferiority. He was only practicing his bow in Riyadh. Sometimes rituals are learned with difficulty. It took Bill Clinton months to learn how to return a military salute worthy of a commander in chief; like any draft dodger, he kept poking a thumb in his eye until he finally got it.
Yes, I forgot the Clinton salute, and the learning curve.
Some of the president's critics are giving him a hard time, and it's true that this president seems never to have studied much American history. Not bowing to foreign potentates was what 1776 was all about. His predecessors learned with no difficulty that the essence of America is that all men stand equal and are entitled to look even a king, maybe particularly a king, straight in the eye. Can anyone imagine George Washington, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson making a similar gesture of servile submission? Or Harry Truman? Or FDR, who famously served the lowly hot dog, with ballpark mustard, to the king and queen of England? John F. Kennedy, on the eve of a trip to London, sharply warned Jackie not to curtsy to the queen.
I particularly liked FDR giving the king and queen some hot dogs. Great gesture, great demonstration that we see royalty as human, and not above us.
But Mr. Obama, unlike his predecessors, likely knows no better, and many of those around him, true children of the grungy '60s, are contemptuous of custom. Cutting America down to size is what attracts them to "hope" for "change."
Yes, sadly, I'm afraid that's right. They relish the idea that Obama is the first "post-American" president.
He no doubt wants to "do the right thing" by his lights, but the lights that illumine the Obama path are not necessarily the lights that illuminate the way for most of the rest of us. This is good news only for Jimmy Carter, who may yet have to give up his distinction as our most ineffective and embarrassing president.
COMMENT: I'm glad that Pruden used the word "embarrassing," for it applies. At first, even those of us who opposed Obama thought some good might come of the first African-American president traveling abroad and demonstrating our inclusive society. But Obama has muffed it, and has indeed become "embarrassing." Someone should tell him. I nominate John McCain.
November 17, 2009 Permalink
SOWELL ON "WORLD OPINION" - AT 8:47 A.M. ET: Tom Sowell, one of the best writers writing today, tears into President Obama's deep bowing to something called "world opinion":
In the string of amazing decisions made during the first year of the Obama administration, nothing seems more like sheer insanity than the decision to try foreign terrorists, who have committed acts of war against the United States, in federal court, as if they were American citizens accused of crimes.
Terrorists are not even entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention, much less the Constitution of the United States. Terrorists have never observed, nor even claimed to have observed, the Geneva Convention, nor are they among those covered by it.
But over and above the utter inconsistency of what is being done is the utter recklessness it represents. The last time an attack on the World Trade Center was treated as a matter of domestic criminal justice was after a bomb was exploded there in 1993. Under the rules of American criminal law, the prosecution had to turn over all sorts of information to the defense-- information that told the Al Qaeda international terrorist network what we knew about them and how we knew it.
As I said, one of the best writers writing today.
Tragically, this administration seems hell-bent to avoid seeing acts of terrorism against the United States as acts of war. The very phrase "war on terrorism" is avoided, as if that will stop the terrorists' war on us.
Wonderful way to put it.
The mindset of the left behind such thinking was spelled out in an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle, which said that "Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the professed mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, will be tried the right way-- the American way, in a federal courtroom where the world will see both his guilt and the nation's adherence to the rule of law."
This is not the rule of law but the application of laws to situations for which they were not designed.
The San Fran Chronicle speaks very well for the crowd that is now running the country. And running it into the ground.
Behind this decision and others is the notion that we have to demonstrate our good faith to other nations, sometimes called "world opinion." Just who are these saintly nations whose favor we must curry, at the risk of American lives and the national security of the United States?
Internationally, the law of the jungle ultimately prevails, despite pious talk about "the international community" and "world opinion," or the pompous and corrupt farce of the United Nations. Yet this is the gallery to which Barack Obama has been playing, both before and after becoming President of the United States.
But he sounds so good. And his, oh so compelling story. And his nice family. And his breaking down of racial barriers to counter our 1) racist 2) imperialist 3) sexist 4) militarist 5) colonialist past. What's a little knocking down of buildings compared to that?
As a private citizen, Barack Obama has a right to make as big a jackass of himself as he wants to. But, as President of the United States, his actions not only denigrate a nation that other nations rely on for survival, but raise questions about how reliable our judgment and resolve are-- which in turn raises questions about whether those nations will consider themselves better off to make the best deal they can with our enemies.
Enemies? Enemies? Why, isn't an enemy just a friend you haven't made yet? That is actually a line circulated on the left.
As usual, Tom Sowell has it correct. My fear is that the American people, or at least a chunk of it, will get used to these nutty policies.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote a brilliant essay on "defining deviancy down" - meaning that society starts to accept its decline as normal. With the media and the intellectual classes in the president's corner, that could happen to our nation. If it does, we are cooked.
November 17, 2009 Permalink
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 8:27 A.M. ET: From Bill Kristol, at the Weekly Standard, reflecting the feelings of many of us:
Just what is Barack Obama as president making of our American destiny? The answer, increasingly obvious, is . . . a hash. It's worse than most of us expected. His dithering on Afghanistan is deplorable, his appeasing of Iran disgraceful, his trying to heap new burdens on a struggling economy destructive.
Add to this his sending Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for a circus-like court trial. The next three years are going to be long and difficult ones for our economy, our military, and our country.
What is the loyal opposition to do?
Oppose Obama's destructive proposals (health care, cap and trade) and try to defeat them. Expose the foolishness of Obama's ineffective policies (the stimulus, cash for clunkers) and show the American people their failure. And try to influence Obama's policy choices by persuasion (Afghanistan), embarrassment (political correctness in the fight against jihadists), or legislation (Guantánamo), so as to minimize the damage done to the country on his watch.
In all of this, Republicans and conservatives can succeed, especially if they keep two rules in mind: Don't celebrate bad news. Don't root for the bad guys.
Republicans need to point out that Obama's economic policies aren't working. But they need to resist appearing to relish bad news for the country on Obama's watch. When rising unemployment numbers come out, there is occasionally an unseemly sense of celebration in the emails that come from various GOP offices...
...In areas where policies are still being debated--in foreign policy in particular--conservatives need to keep urging Obama to do the right thing...
...We want the bad guys to lose. We're happy to work with President Obama to defeat them--and we only wish he shared our clarity and urgency about accomplishing that task.
COMMENT: All good advice. But there must be one ingredient added: Conservatives must learn, the way Ronald Reagan learned, to speak over the heads of the American media, directly to the American people. Conservatives still do not understand the extent to which modern journalism has been compromised by its dalliance with the political left. They still do not understand that this dalliance will continue, that careerism within journalism demands it, just as careerism within universities demands it.
You can have the best message in the world, but if you don't know how to get it to the American people, you will lose. When Reagan told us it was "morning in America," he didn't tell it to a White House reporter, for transmittal. He told it directly to us, and all the gatekeepers of the media could do nothing about it.
November 17, 2009 Permalink
TREACHERY - AT 8:07 A.M. ET: How can any American feel secure, when the man who runs the International Atomic Energy Agency has been betraying his trust? The Times of London this morning exposes what Mohamed ElBaradei, another Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been doing to boost the fortunes of the rogue regime in Tehran:
United Nations and Iranian officials have been secretly negotiating a deal to persuade world powers to lift sanctions and allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear programme in return for co-operation with UN inspectors.
You can be sure that not much cooperation would be required.
According to a draft document seen by The Times, the 13-point agreement was drawn up in September by Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in an effort to break the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme before he stands down at the end of this month.
The IAEA denied the existence of the document, which was leaked to The Times by one of the parties alarmed at the contents. Its disclosure was made as the agency warned that Iran could be hiding multiple secret nuclear sites.
Despite the assessment, diplomats believed that Mr ElBaradei was hoping to agree the outline of a deal with Tehran that he could present to the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany as a solution to the impasse.|
It was thought that Mr ElBaradei was anxious to secure his legacy after infighting over his perceived weakness in dealing with Iran.
"Perceived" weakness? The man has practically revived the Chamberlain umbrella.
Negotiations with Iran are going nowhere. But the president of the United States can't even make a decision on Afghanistan. He has zero credibility on Iran. Many chickens are coming home to roost, as the "international community" makes a mockery of everything we learned in the 20th century about dealing with rogue regimes.
November 17, 2009 Permalink