WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2009
THE POLITICAL YOUNG - AT 11:18 P.M. ET: There's an old rule in politics: Never depend on the young.
Jack Kennedy remarked, as young girls jumped up at down as his car passed by during the '60 campaign, "I wish they were old enough to vote." Other candidates have been bitterly disappointed by the size of the youth vote on election day, compared with the "enthusiasm" they'd seen earlier.
Barack Obama did deliver the youth vote, but there seems to be some youthful remorse, as AP reports:
CHICAGO — Young Americans showed their collective power when they helped vote President Obama into office. Inspired by his message of "change," they knocked on doors, spread fliers, voted for him by a 2-1 margin, and partied like rock-the-vote stars when he won.
Since the election, though, that fervor has died down — noticeably. And while young people remain the president's most loyal supporters in opinion polls, many people are wondering why that age group isn't doing more to build upon their newfound reputation as political influencers.
"It's one thing to get excited about a presidential candidate. It's another thing to become a responsible citizen," says Jennifer Donahue, political director for the New Hampshire Institute Of Politics. She and other political analysts think they have yet to prove themselves.
COMMENT: It's the same old story. The young are not dependable in politics. And wait until they get the invoice for Obamacare, and have to buy insurance that they don't want or may not even need. Watch their reaction then. I can see it: YOUTH FOR SARAH.
September 23, 2009 Permalink
BULLETIN - AT 7:59 P.M. ET: The United States, a few minutes ago, walked out on the speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, citing hateful, anti-Semitic rhetoric. Other nations also walked out.
To be fair, it was Canada that led the way. The Canadian delegation wouldn't even attend the speech. Applause for Canada. Semi-applause for the U.S., which took too long. But at least the Obamans finally did walk.
September 23, 2009 Permalink
MADNESS, CONT'D - AT 7:45 P.M. ET: Nancy Pelosi lives in Pelosiville, a small town cut off from the adult world. It's a wonderful place - munchkins everywhere, tofu dinners, every second person a Berkeley graduate. The town anthem, "No to Bush and His Lackey, Cheney," is a toe-tapper that has gone to the top of the local charts.
Now Nancy, Pelosiville's leading citizen, makes her latest move. Despite growing public opposition to the Democratic health-care plan, Pelosi has taken action to make the plan even more liberal, going back on her word to more moderate Democrats. From CBS News:
When House leadership brings a final health care bill to the full House floor, it may be more liberal than moderate House Democrats expected, according to reports.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is planning to include in the bill a tax on wealthy Americans, as well as a more robust government-run health insurance plan (or "public option"), abandoning the compromises leaders in a key committee worked out with the moderate Blue Dog Democrats, according to Roll Call.
COMMENT: It gets worse. House Dems have rejected a proposal to make the final bill available for 72 hours before a vote. In other words, the American people, and Congress itself, will be denied a reasonable reading period. What are they trying to hide?
In the Senate, a proposal to wait for a Congressional Budget Office report on the actual cost of the plan before going further was also turned down by the Democratic majority. Even Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, the most liberal Republican in the Senate, objected to this outrage. What, she asked, can happen in the few weeks it will take to get the figures? Why shouldn't Congress know the full cost?
The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is pushing and pushing and pushing. What can stop this runaway train? Late reports say that it is moderate Democrats who are balking, and that Nancy may not, ultimately, have the 218 votes needed to pass her plan in the House, which would kill the whole thing.
September 23, 2009 Permalink
SARAH - AT 5:36 P.M. ET: Almost lost in all the excitement about the vast progress toward world peace and clean sidewalks being made at the UN this week is the fact that Sarah Palin, speaking outside the United States for the first time, made a significant speech in Hong Kong. It was closed to the press, but, inevitably, a recording got out, and reporters were able to interview guests.
Some of the press reports contained the usual sneering. I mean, how could this woman be taken seriously? And reporters were quick to point out that some guests walked out, which will get them invitations to the best parties. CNN went further, naturally, and proved through "man in the street" interviews that Palin wasn't known in Hong Kong at all. An eager scribe showed pictures of Sarah to passers-by, who didn't recognize her. I wonder if they would have recognized photos of Obama last year.
But Sarah got good marks from a number of guests for a speech in which she advocated "common sense conservatism." The Wall Street Journal, which has the recording, gives excerpts here. An example:
The more politically open and just China is, the more Chinese citizens of every ethnic group will be able to settle disputes in court rather than on the streets. The more open it is, the less we’ll be concerned about its military buildup and its intentions. The more transparent China is, the more likely it is that they will find a true and lasting friendship based on shared values as well as interests.
Not bad. The speech is intelligent, whether one agrees with individual points or not. If Palin makes more speeches like this, and and speaks over the heads of the press, directly to the American people, she could be back in the game.
September 23, 2009 Permalink
AT THE UN TODAY - AT 4:13 P.M. ET: We here in New York are keenly aware of the United Nations, primarily because it's responsible for so many traffic jams. Other than that, I can't think of anything else.
General Assembly week is the really bad week each year. Streets are blocked off, motorcades float around town with all these "world leaders" who come to make their speech and have dinner, not at McDonald's. Sirens scream. The NYPD does its usual great job in keeping order.
The biggest story this week was where some of the thugs would stay. Most hotels don't want them. Fear of bad publicity, bombs, and items like that.
President Obama spoke to the General Assemby today. I'm happy to report that his speech was bland, containing nothing new. There were no new apologies or surrenders, or ideas. Basically, using many words, he announced that he wasn't Bush. He got lots of applause. If Obama said, "The roof is falling in and we're all about to die," the UN would applaud. The president's best/worst moment of the day came when the speaker following him, Libya's Moammar Khadafy, said that he wished Obama could serve for life. Moammar has not read the U.S. Constitution.
I was switching channels to get a feel for the coverage. I remain amazed at the in-the-tank-for-Obama coverage on CNN, especially from one Rick Sanchez. CNN is practically a branch of the White House. Obama, in CNN's eyes, is wonderful. He has restored our standing in the world. He is popular. He is loved. But he still must clean up what BUSH (!!) left. And journalists wonder why their credibility is so low.
We now await Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will do his famous magic act, and will also receive applause. We'll report on his appearance.
September 23, 2009 Permalink
THE BRITS GET IT - AT 7:02 A.M. ET: We've said here many times that British writers often do the sharpest reporting on American politics. What a great example we have this morning in Nile Gardiner, in The Telegraph, who writes a piece gently titled...
The UN loves Barack Obama because he is weak
The subtlety, the British understatement. Oh, I love it all. Gardiner goes on in a similar soft spirit:
He is the first American president who has made an art form out of apologizing for the United States, which he has done on numerous occasions on foreign soil, from Strasbourg to Cairo. The Obama mantra appears to be – ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do to atone for your country.
Well, there goes the Obaman idea that he's the second coming of Jack.
The UN is not a club of democracies - who still remain a minority within its membership – it is a vast melting pot of free societies, socialist regimes and outright tyrannies. Obama’s clear lack of interest in human rights issues is a big seller at the UN, where at least half its members have poor human rights records.
And the worse the record, the greater the chance of being elected to the Human Rights Council.
His appeasement of Iran, his bullying of Israel, his surrender to Moscow, his call for a nuclear free world, his siding with Marxists in Honduras, his talk of a climate change deal, have all won him plaudits in the large number of UN member states where US foreign policy has traditionally been viewed with contempt.
What a record. Build the man a monument, just not in the USA.
The Obama administration is now overseeing and implementing the biggest decline in American global power since Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately it may well take another generation for the United States to recover.
COMMENT: The problem is, Obama's most influential supporters don't want us to recover. And we may not, unless we reverse the effects of this creeping collapse in next year's midterm election.
September 23, 2009 Permalink
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE CAPITOL - AT 6:52 A.M. ET: We are consumed by foreign policy this week - back to that in a few minutes - but let's not forget that Congress is consumed by health care. Now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose personality cries out for medical resuscitation, is threatening the so-called "nuclear option" to get his favored bill through the Senate. Fox News reports:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened on Tuesday to use a procedural maneuver to steamroll opponents of health care reform, even as a Senate panel began delicate negotiations over a package that could have the best chance at passing.
The Nevada Democrat, who has issued similar threats before, spoke as the Senate Finance Committee began debate over Chairman Max Baucus's reform plan. Reid threatened to use a budgetary tool called reconciliation -- also known as the "nuclear option" -- that would allow Democrats to pass key parts of the legislation with a simple majority, as opposed to the 60 votes needed to avoid a Republican filibuster.
COMMENT: This would blow up the Senate. The procedure was developed for budgetary matters, not for bills that involve one sixth of the economy and penetrate every family.
The American people, in poll after poll, have shown their skepticism about the health plans now before Congress. In some cases it's outright hostility. To shove an unpopular bill through the Senate using parliamentary gimmickry could produce a backlash that would make the town meetings look like Tupperware parties.
What Congress lacks today, among 4,000 other things, is legislative leaders like Lyndon Johnson or Sam Rayburn, who knew how to maneuver, to build coalitions, without wrecking the place.
Well, the Senate does have Al Franken and Roland Burris. Be thankful for small blessings - very, very small. Get out the microscope.
September 23, 2009 Permalink
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 6:41 A.M. ET: From distinguished author and scholar Mark Helprin, in the Wall Street Journal. He reflects on the fact that Obama cancelled the missile shield that President Bush had promised Eastern Europe, and agreed to vague negotiations with Iran, even though Iran has taken its nuclear program off the table. Obama took these two actions in the same week:
Stalin tested Truman with the Berlin Blockade, and Truman held fast. Khrushchev tested Kennedy, and in the Cuban Missile Crisis Kennedy refused to blink. In 1983, Andropov took the measure of Reagan, and, defying millions in the street (who are now the Obama base), Reagan did not blink. Last week, the Iranian president and the Russian prime minister put Mr. Obama to the test, and he blinked not once but twice. The price of such infirmity has always proven immensely high, even if, as is the custom these days, the bill has yet to come.
But who is to warn the American people, especially young Americans? We have a profession of journalism that has now lost most of its World War II generation of reporters, for whom the word "appeasement" had meaning. We have an academic arena controlled by the political left, pounding into young heads the idea that it is America, and not totalitarianism, that is responsible for the problems of the world.
And we have a president whose life has been influenced by extremists, who share a dark view of the United States and its history.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, whose name is forever linked with the appeasement policies that led directly to World War II, also believed his mission in office was to correct the flaws in his country's past, especially what he perceived as Britain's harsh treatment of Germany after World War I. We see in American and allied military cemeteries around the world exactly where that led.
Today the president addresses the UN General Assembly for the first time. Will he speak as president of a nation that has done more to bring democracy and progress to the planet than any other, or will he grovel before the scores of corrupt dictatorships and professional "victims" who make up much of the "community of nations"? The speech will be a test of whether he's learned anything in his eight months in office, or whether he still believes himself to be The One, a blessing to Earth, a man whose wisdom is above that of all men. We'll know in hours.
September 23, 2009 Permalink
EXCLUSIVE REPORT ON AFGHANISTAN - AT 6:30 A.M. ET: As readers know, Urgent Agenda has an anonymous source who travels to Afghanistan and has extensive knowledge of the conflict there. Here is our expert's take on the decisions President Obama, who called Afghanistan "the good war," must make:
Obviously, McChrystal's boys feel things are urgent and can't wait while Obama dithers.
The president is in a tough spot of his own making. To balance his rejection of Bush's "blunder" in Iraq and to establish his defense policy bona fides he embraced the "good" war in Afghanistan: clear connection to 9/11, a broad coalition, and relatively low troop levels. But once he actually had to govern he found that things there were much more complex than he and his advisors understood, and in some ways far more difficult than the situation in Iraq.
The president tried to save himself some time by sacking General McKiernan and perhaps hoped that the new team might find some elegant, low-risk way to improve the situation in Afghanistan. Spokesmen pretend that he is sending new troops, but the troops that are arriving now were requested by McKiernan under the Bush administration.
McChrystal now sees what was hobbling McKiernan: far too few boots on the ground, a dysfunctional command structure, and (some) unreliable allies. The "neo-Taliban" is on the rise and Obama must now decide: Will he "write the check" required to make a serious effort to continue the counterinsurgency efforts? He has verbally committed to this on several occasions, but now that the day of decision is upon him, he seems to be seeking an easy way out.
Will he abandon the current mission? This mission is not murky and vague as he asserts, but very clear: establish a stable central government in Afghanistan that will be capable of governing itself and preventing the use of its territory as a terrorist base.
It IS a very difficult mission. There may be good reasons to think the mission is too difficult and to seek alternate means of preventing the return of Al-Qaeda, but talk of using air power, special forces and additional Afghan forces to manage the country from afar is pure fantasy.
There are no easy options, and an abrupt withdrawal has some real dangers:
1. Afghans who decided to cooperate with NATO, counting on promises of a long-term commitment, will be left exposed and extremely vulnerable.
2. Pakistan is left in a particularly awkward situation. Obama administration officials have rightly identified that the insurgency problem as a regional one, pointing to the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border as a source of sanctuary and resupply for rebels. Recently, prodded by the US, the Pakistani Army has been putting pressure on the Pakistan Taliban, and is having some limited success. But without a strong US presence in Afghanistan, Pakistanis will face an enemy now free to evaporate to the Afghan side of the border, sort of the reverse of the problem that has caused us so much trouble. A now emboldened Pakistan Taliban may destabilize this nuclear nation.
3. NATO will suffer a severe blow to its confidence, prestige, and will to execute future missions. Some of the nations participating enthusiastically in this mission--I am thinking particularly of Poland--have been doing so not so much because of their interests in a stable Afghanistan, but more with an eye toward a confident, successful NATO, which a resurgent Russia must respect and account for. An ignominious withdrawal and the perception of failure will cause a crisis of confidence in Europe.
4. The Taliban will return, though not in as widespread a manner as in the past: warlords in the north and west of the country will not allow this. But it is likely to return with a vengeance to the Kabul area, the east and the south, especially around Kandahar, Ghazni and Khowst. It is not certain that Al-Qaeda will be welcomed back with open arms (real rifts developed between the Afghans and the Arab Al-Qaeda hands), but it is possible.
5. Ironically, Iran will be source of stability in the region that we will have to rely upon (though not openly), undercutting our leverage in attempting to contain its nuclear ambitions. Iran does not want chaos on its borders, and has strong religious and cultural influence deep into Afghanistan.
Even if McChrystal gets the troops he is requesting and is somehow able to develop "unity of effort," despite the less than ideal command structure, I am skeptical about our ability to produce long-term stability in Afghanistan. We may have to be satisfied with Afghanistan devolving into a collection of fiefdoms, governed by strongmen whom we quietly support in their efforts to fend off the Taliban. But getting from here to there will be ugly and embarrassing for the West, and will severely reduce our will to act decisively in support of our interests.
The good war was a mirage: the coalition that lent legitimacy has hampered operations, and the low level of troops has prevented any serious attempts at counterinsurgency.
As for the ties to 9/11...well, who thinks about that anymore? That was just a crime spree, to the new administration's way of thinking.
Well stated, by a real authority.
September 23, 2009 Permalink
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2009
ANOTHER CANDIDATE FOR THE REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT PATRIOTISM AWARD - AT 10:46 P.M. ET: What is it about this administration? Maybe it would be better if they used an ordinary employment agency to recruit their people. Or Craigslist. Consider this gem, from the Washington Times:
President Obama's diversity czar at the Federal Communications Commission has spoken publicly of getting white media executives to "step down" in favor of minorities, prescribed policies to make liberal talk radio more successful, and described Hugo Chavez's rise to power in Venezuela "an incredible revolution."
Mark Lloyd's provocative comments - most made during a tenure at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank - are giving fodder to critics who say Mr. Obama has appointed too many "czars" to government positions that don't require congressional approval.
In one of his more eye-opening comments, Mr. Lloyd praised Mr. Chavez during a June 2008 conference on media reform, saying the authoritarian Venezuelan president had led "really an incredible revolution - a democratic revolution."
Then there's this:
"There's nothing more difficult than this because we have really truly, good, white people in important positions, and the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of those positions," he said.
"And unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions, we will not change the problem. But we're in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power."
If that doesn't chill you, try this one from Czar Mark:
"At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communications policies," Mr. Lloyd wrote. "The purpose of free speech is warped to protect global corporations and block rules that would promote democratic governance."
COMMENT: There will, of course, be the usual excuses: "We didn't know he said it," "He's been misinterpreted," "This is all caused by Glenn Beck," "It's an attempt to embarrass the president."
But there's a reality here: Mark Lloyd's views are consistent with those of a number of other worthies who've been hired by the Obama Revolution, either as paid warriors or as advisers. We must finally come to the conclusion that the man at the top has no problem with these extreme positions. Either that, or he's under the control of a section of his party that would prefer not to call the United States home.
September 22, 2009 Permalink
THE WELL-DRESSED WHACK JOB IS AT IT AGAIN - AT 7:49 P.M. ET: Most of you have seen Katrina vanden Heuvel on TV. She's the chic, expensively dressed editor of The Nation, which is often incorrectly described as a "liberal" magazine. It is not. It's a far-left magazine, which is a euphemism for something else. Vanden Heuvel, who hails from a veddy, veddy upper-class background, is herself way out there. Now, as reported in the Washington Examiner, she's trying to poison the minds of youth:
Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor and publisher of The Nation, has just sent out a fundraising letter making fantastical claims about the 9/12 protest in Washington. Promoting the magazine's "Student Outreach Program," in which she and her colleagues offer teaching guides to help educators counter the influence of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, vanden Heuvel described the march this way:
Just days ago, Glenn Beck led the astro-turf 9-12-09 "Taxpayer March on DC." Compared to the millions who have marched for civil rights, equal rights, and gay rights, and against the war, Beck's 70,000 would be small stuff -- except for the tens of thousands waving Confederate flags, anti-gay hate signs, and shouting "White Power!"
Vanden Heuvel goes on to say that students need "well-equipped minds" to stand up to the "increasingly dangerous, racist and radical right wing." That's where the Nation's Student Outreach Program comes in -- with its teaching guides, the Nation Student Essay Contest and Student Journalism Conferences. "Won't you give a gift today to keep this essential program going strong?" vanden Heuvel asks.
COMMENT: The idea that this stuff can get into our schools is chilling. Parents have a right to examine what their kids are being taught, and the materials used. Exercise that right.
What strikes me is The Nation's contempt for democracy and freedom of assembly. There are a few bad eggs in every demonstration, but vanden Heuvel's grotesque description of the taxpayer march is extreme even by The Nation's lax standards. Shame.
September 22, 2009 Permalink
WASHINGTON POST COMES THROUGH AGAIN - 7:34 P.M. ET: The Washington Post is a liberal paper, but, as we've said repeatedly, its editorial page is independent, often excellent, and a refreshing contrast to the stale, party-line New York Times. Today the Post slams President Obama on Afghanistan, and deservedly so:
IT WAS ONLY last March 27 that President Obama outlined in a major speech what he called "a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan" that, he added, "marks the conclusion of a careful policy review."
...We strongly supported the president's conclusion that those goals were essential to preventing another attack on the United States by al-Qaeda and its extremist allies.
So it was a little startling to hear Mr. Obama suggest in several televised interviews on Sunday that he had second thoughts.
It sure was. And it would be nice to have some consistency.
The president's doubts come at a crucial moment. He has just received a report from the commander he appointed, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, saying the United States and its allies are in danger of losing the war if they do not work more effectively to shore up the Afghan government and army and protect the population from insurgents.
You don't think the president's "doubts" are based on the opposition of his party's left wing to sending more troops, do you? Nah. He'd never consider that.
The generals believed they had Mr. Obama's commitment to their approach after the policy review last spring. Now the president appears to be distancing himself from his commanders -- including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who testified before Congress last week that more forces would be needed.
Yeah. Nothing like undercutting the troops in the field and their commanders. But when your sole interest in the military has been participating in "anti-war" demonstrations, this is what happens.
It's hard to see, however, how Mr. Obama can refute the analysis he offered last March. "If the Afghan government falls to the Taliban or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged," he said then, "that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can."
The Dems called Afghanistan "the good war" merely as a means of condemning George Bush on Iraq. Now the chickens are coming home, in fuel-efficient trucks, to roost.
"To succeed, we and our friends and allies must reverse the Taliban's gains, and promote a more capable and accountable Afghan government," Mr. Obama concluded. As Gen. McChrystal's report makes very clear, keeping faith with that goal will require more troops, more resources and years of patience. Yet to break with it would both dishonor and endanger this country. As the president put it, "the world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos."
The ball is in Mr. Obama's court, and he can't play it by making another speech. It's time to decide, Mr. President. That is what governing is all about. You remember governing, don't you?
Great work by the Post.
September 22, 2009 Permalink
THE TERROR PROBE - AT 7:14 P.M. ET: More on the ongoing terror probe in the United States, which is receiving far too little attention, and the plotters' weapon of choice. From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A quart-sized container of homemade explosives is cheap, deadly and difficult to detect -- and that is exactly why the type of chemical bomb feared to be at the heart of an ongoing terror investigation worries law enforcement so much.
As FBI and New York police counterterrorism agents investigate a Denver man who authorities say received al-Qaida explosives training and recently traveled to New York, law enforcement officials around the nation have been advised to be on the lookout for any signs of bombs built with hydrogen peroxide.
That type of weapon killed 52 people in the London transit system four years ago. During the morning rush hour of July 7, 2005, three men carried backpacks that exploded within 50 seconds of each other on three London Underground trains. A fourth bomb exploded on a bus nearly an hour later.
The same chemical components were allegedly at the heart of a failed plot to blow up commercial passenger jets leaving England for America. That plot was based, according to court evidence, on amounts of chemicals small enough to fit into soda or water bottles.
COMMENT: Remember that we have to be lucky every day. The terrorists have to be lucky only once.
We will continue to follow this.
September 22, 2009 Permalink
AL QAEDA PREDICTS - AT 7:10 P.M. ET: There is now a manhunt underway in the United States for a group of Al Qaeda-trained operatives. Law enforcement is urging caution on mass trainsit systems, stadiums, hotels, and entertainment centers.
At the same time, Al Qaeda is taking propaganda aim at President Obama, whose rhetoric apparently has not moved the terror group to surrender and turn its attention to climate problems. From AP:
CAIRO – Al-Qaida on Tuesday released a new 106-minute long video predicting President Barack Obama's downfall at the hands of the Muslim world.
The Arabic-language video, entitled "The West and the Dark Tunnel," is part of series of messages by the organization marking the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Bin Laden released a short message of his own on Sept. 14.
Like similar long messages on previous anniversaries, it featured testimony from several leading al-Qaida figures intercut with news footage from the past year.
As in the past, al-Qaida attempted to conflate Obama with his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was widely disliked by Muslims for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
COMMENT: Another demonstration, as if any were needed, that groups like Al Qaeda don't care who's in the White House, are not influenced by American "policies," but are at war with us permanently.
Does the administration understand that, or does it think that still more international "conferences" will zip up all our problems. So far, the only zip I see is the score for Obama's foreign policy. I'd take Al Qaeda statements seriously.
September 22, 2009
THE LEAK AS AN ART FORM - AT 7:35 A.M. ET: We said yesterday that the leak of General Stanley McChrystal's Afghan troop-request report was a major story, that the leak might signal a revolt by...someone. Today the Politico takes us on the hunt, in Washington's latest who-and-why-dunnit:
...inside the White House and out, the leak touched off another familiar Washington ritual: speculation about the leaker’s identity and motives.
This is a capital parlor game that, for the Obama administration, has some dire implications. Unless the West Wing somehow orchestrated an elaborate head fake — authorizing what looks at first blush like an intolerable breach of Obama’s internal deliberations — the Woodward story suggests deeper problems for a new president than a bad news cycle.
The key question:
So who did it?
The simplest theory — and one most administration officials Monday were endorsing — is that a military or civilian Pentagon official who supports McChrystal’s policy put it out in an attempt to pressure Obama to follow McChrystal’s suggestion and increase troop levels in Afghanistan.
There are believers in the reverse leak, in which the leak itself is meant to damage McChrystal’s position by inducing White House anger at the general. There’s the fake leak, in which the White House may have been trying to back itself into a corner. A former government official with ties to the Pentagon said the talk in the building was that a senior military official had given it to the reporter for his book on the Obama White House — not realizing it could end up in print sooner.
“That places the ball clearly in the president’s court,” former Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen said, noting that Obama had already publicly placed his trust in McChrystal’s judgment.
COMMENT: Who leaked? Only Woodward knows for sure. But you can be certain he'll milk the mystery for all it's worth to boost his upcoming book on the Obama administration.
Deep throat, though, it ain't.
September 22, 2009 Permalink
THE CRUNCH COMETH - AT 7:22 A.M. ET: In a way, this is foreign-policy week. The president is at the UN, talks with Iran - if you want to call them talks - are imminent, our Afghanistan effort is reaching critical mass, and Mr. Obama will try to bring Israelis and Arabs together for at least a photo op.
A crunch is upon us. What we see is the administration's domestic track, already twisted and broken, intersecting with the foreign track, where Mr. Obama cannot count a single success in his eight months in office. The president's poll numbers have declined largely on the basis of domestic confusion and failure. If he starts flopping heavily in the coming weeks of foreign initiatives and decisions, his troubles will only multiply, and his presidency will be in substantial jeopardy.
It is true that a president's first year can be rocky - witness Kennedy and Clinton - but Obama faces special hazards, for his presidency is based largely on rhetoric, not accomplishment or skill at governing. He has little to fall back on, no "second career" so to speak. And he faces a determined opposition in the 2010 midterms, where his side will likely lose votes in Congress. He desperately needs a clean victory, but there doesn't seem to be any playing field where that can be assured.
Bret Stephens, of the Wall Street Journal, looks at Obama's foreign policy, and finds it appalling. Will this be the conventional wisdom two months from now?
Beggar thy neighbor, bankrupt thy country, appease thy foe. As slogans (or counter-slogans) go, it isn't quite in a class with Amnesty, Acid and Abortion. But it pretty much sums up President Obama's global agenda—and that's just for the month of September.
In 1943, Walter Lippmann observed that the disarmament movement had been "tragically successful in disarming the nations that believed in disarmament." That ought to have been the final word on the subject.
Mr. Stephens will not soon be invited to lunch at the White House.
He notes that President Obama will be discussing disarmament at the UN this week, and that the administration wants to play the right "mood music," to get Iran and North Korea in the right frame of mind. Stephens notes:
Mr. Obama would be better served having a chat with Moammar Gadhafi, who will be seated just a few chairs away at the Security Council: The mood music for his disarmament was set by the 4th Infantry Division when it yanked Saddam Hussein from his spider hole in December 2003. Col. Gadhafi gave up his WMD a week later.
I wonder how many "journalists" will remind us of that. Don't start counting.
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is earning kudos from the Russian government for his decision to pull missile defense from central Europe, even as Poland marked the 70th anniversary of its invasion by the Soviet Union. Moscow is still offering no concessions on sanctioning Iran in the event negotiations fail, but might graciously agree to an arms-control deal that cements its four-to-one advantages in tactical nuclear weapons...
...And all of this in a single month. Just imagine what October will bring.
A year ago Barack Obama was a minor Chicago politician with a silver voice. Today he's...well, there's nothing wrong with a silver voice.
It's time to grow in office. And, of course, we wish Mr. Obama well as he confronts the "international community" at the UN this week.
September 22, 2009 Permalink
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO SANCTIONS FOR IRAN - AT 7:09 A.M. ET: Barack Obama, who comes off as a minor league player in the major leagues, has been hawking his Iran policy, saying that if Iran doesn't come through by...well, who cares about dates...there will be consequences! Big consequences! Like...well...like, sanctions. Yeah, that's it. Sanctions.
And Hillary, the secretary of state who has a desk and a car, and little else, talks even tougher. Tough sanctions! Real tough! There's talk of cutting off Iran's gasoline supply. But now the French foreign minister, who was supposed to be on our side on this, is making it clear that he has doubts. If he has doubts, imagine the stand the Russians and Chinese will take. From The New York Times:
UNITED NATIONS — Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of France said Monday that he had deep misgivings about blocking shipments of refined fuel to Iran, one of the sanctions being weighed by the Obama administration if the Iranian government does not negotiate on its nuclear program.
“I think this is a bit dangerous,” Mr. Kouchner said in an interview here, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly. A blockade would harm the Iranian people, he said, “and mainly poor people.”
“This is a choice; we have to study it also,” he said. “But it is not my personal favorite at all.”
The fact that an allied foreign minister could make such a statement shows how little influence Obama really has. No one takes him seriously. Oh yeah, he's a "rock star," as they say. But rock stars are entertainers, not statesmen.
Diplomats hated Bush. He didn't tell them what they wanted to hear. I suspect, privately, they laugh at Obama.
French officials cautioned later that the government had not decided its position on such a measure. It was not clear whether President Nicolas Sarkozy of France shared Mr. Kouchner’s reservations. But if France is to come out against fuel sanctions, analysts said, they will most likely be off the table as an option for increasing the pressure on Iran.
Whatever is left of our Iran policy may depend on France. National decline we're supposed to believe in.
September 22, 2009 Permalink
WELCOME - AT 6:58 A.M. ET: We're happy to welcome an important new website, Planet Iran, guided by our friend, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi. It's here. The site will be the authoritative place to go for news about Iran, and especially its democracy movement.
One of Planet Iran's first offerings is a brilliant essay by Claudia Rosett, one of the best UN reporters around. Unlike the drab observers of the so-polite mainstream media, Rosett pulls no punches. Consider her description of the UN itself, from the essay run by Planet Iran:
In practice, the United Nations is a messy, murky despot-infested collective - opaque, girdled in diplomatic immunities, and thus largely unaccountable for its actions. The biggest voting bloc in the General Assembly is the 130-member G-77, which this year picked for its chair - I'm not kidding - the genocidal government of Sudan (whose President Omar al-Bashir is under indictment by the International Criminal Court).
Rosett writes of the fact that President Obama, in an act that demeans the presidency, comes direct from from an appearance on David Letterman this week to chair the UN Security Council on Thursday. Rosett:
The five permanent members are democratic France, Britain, and the United States, plus despotic Russia and China. The current roster of 10 rotating members includes not only Japan and Austria, but Vietnam and Libya. This month it is America's turn to preside; Obama will sit in the same chair occupied in March by an envoy of Moammar Gadhafi's Libya. With heads of state summoned for Thursday's historic occasion, it's likely history will record the spectacle of terror-drenched tyrant-for-life Gadhafi sharing the table.
In this setup, the most law-abiding of the 192 member states tend to get stuck with the results of whatever the Security Council agrees to. The most unscrupulous, which account to no electorates back home, feel free to lie as they please and do whatever they can get away with, which is plenty, because the United Nations leaves individual member states to police their own compliance with U.N. deals. From the oil-for-food scandal to the current sanctions-busting traffic with the likes of Iran and North Korea, it is common practice for some Security Council members to violate, with impunity, the same deals they vote for.
COMMENT: Applause for Planet Iran for bringing us that column. Applause for Claudia for writing it.
No applause for President Obama for honoring the UN, and giving respectability to thugs.
September 22, 2009 Permalink
RENEE! - AT 6:35 A.M. ET: Most of your will remember the wonderful Renee Nielsen, who sent us those vivid, exclusive reports from Mumbai during the terrorist attacks there last year.
Renee is now in Riga, Latvia, and we've urged her to continue sending her observations from abroad. Here is her first. I know you'll like it:
Just Words – The Experiences of a Frustrated Republican Abroad
For the past seven years I've lived outside the US. Thanks to my husband's company, we've been able to achieve our goal to see the world. Since 2002, we have called Denmark, Panama, India and now Latvia, home. All these countries have fascinating histories, and the experiences we’ve had exploring them has been a privilege.
This has been made even more so by the addition of our two young sons and the joy of watching them so easily adapt to their new homes. However, trying to set up your life in an unfamiliar culture does come with some down side. One difficulty I didn’t expect is to suffer, with such frequency, negative opinions from both locals and other expatriates regarding the United States. It is not (always) hostile, a lot just innocent interest on what I think about a particular topic. Many times I’ve found that I’ve been the only American they’ve ever met and--up until this past election--a (gasp) Bush supporting Republican. !Dios mio! How can it be?
I have become somewhat obsessed with reading and studying US history and current events, to make sure I was ready to respond intelligently on the more common misconceptions.
Over the years silly things were easy to dismiss or clarify - "Bush stole the election" - and even not so silly - "the Iraq war was for oil." But the frequency of “typical” critiques on American foreign policy, on which so many foreigners seem to be "experts," has changed and moved into a new direction since Barack Obama has been on the national scene. I’m talking about race.
When Barack Obama won the Democrat nomination for President, we had been living in Mumbai, India, for only a few months. I was the new Republicans Abroad chair, and was struggling to find like-minded people. The Indian news media was also desperately trying to find someone to represent the GOP to interview against the Democrats Abroad representative.
I noticed quickly that the anchors doing the interviews were using the same talking points used by the New York Times and the Washington Post. I was asked if voters would have problems with the cost of Sarah Palin’s wardrobe; I was also asked if she was doing damage to John McCain, especially after her interview with Katie Couric. These things were easy to deflect, if I was only given more than 10 seconds to respond. In September, the racial overtones started, with the polls narrowing between the candidates, and,unfortunately, the Indian media played along, regurgitating the worst in the American media.
One evening just before the election, I watched a segment on NewsX
(broadcast nationally from Delhi) with a panel discussing how, stated as a fact, Barack Obama could never win in the South because of
all the racists who lived there. The anchor just nodded, accepting that
outrageous statement, and the conversation moved on. I, on the other hand, was furiously texting the producer, demanding to get on the air the next day to respond.
He agreed, and that same anchor asked me, “Are Americans racist for not voting for Obama? “ I replied, "How could Republicans voting for the Republican candidate be considered racist?" I also said that the foreign media misrepresents many Americans as racist for not voting for Obama, when in fact they're just voting their personal principles.
It was too much. This coming from a country that at that time, was having problems with Hindus burning churches and raping nuns, the continuous problems of discrimination against the “untouchables” (a.k.a. Dalits), and Muslim complaints about being denied housing due to their religion.
My point was not to criticize India, as I was a guest in that country and it would have been inappropriate to comment publicly on something so volatile as these issues, but I was stunned at the hypocrisy of the twisted, morally superior attitudes toward OUR country, which has done more than many to right our past mistakes.
I "hoped" the foolishness of being called racist would "change" with the Obama victory. How naïve.
Now in Latvia, and unable to watch or read local news, as none is available in English, I’m forced to tune into CNN International and BBC World. You’ll be happy to know that both have picked up on the accusations of supposed racism by the tea-party and 9/12 protesters, and elevated by our favorite ex-president, Jimmy Carter. These lies will be broadcast worldwide into the homes of expats and locals looking for news in English, helping to feed the generally negative opinions of Republicans and conservatives, and, honestly, Americans, worldwide.
"Audacity" is Barack Obama and Democrats complaining about America’s “tarnished” image abroad, when they themselves do so much to destroy it. We do not live in a bubble. Reckless political rhetoric within the US gets picked up (and cherry picked) by the foreign media, which has its own agenda, and then repeated.
Time will tell if these refreshed racial accusations will move into casual conversations with foreign friends and curious strangers. I’ll continue to defend our country and explain how wrong so many of their perceptions are. Thanks to Democrats and their inability to understand the damage they do with their words, it’ll probably be a never-ending process. On a positive note, some of my friends are now questioning what they read, so I’ll consider that “Mission Accomplished," at least for a few.
A clear-eyed view, not filtered through the politically correct media. We look forward to Renee's next report.
September 22, 2009 Permalink