29 September 2009

Bret Stephens: Return Of The Neocons

Bret Stephens is always good. He's just good-er than usual this week:
... neocons are back because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il and Vladimir Putin never went away. A star may have shone in the east the day Barack Obama became president. But these three kings, at least, have yet to proffer the usual gifts of gold and incense and myrrh.

Instead, the presents have been of a different kind. North Korea claims to be in the final stages of building a uranium enrichment facility—its second route to an atomic bomb. Iran, again caught cheating on its Nonproliferation Treaty obligations, has responded by wagging a finger at the U.S. and firing a round of missiles. Syria continues to aid and abet jihadists operating in Iraq. NATO countries have generally refused to send more troops to Afghanistan, and are all the more reluctant to do so now that the administration is itself wavering on the war.

As for Russia, its ambassador to the U.N. last week bellyached that the U.S. "continues to be a rather difficult negotiating partner"—and that was after Mr. Obama cancelled the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Thus does the politics of concession meet with the logic of contempt.

All this must, at some level, come as a surprise to an administration so deeply in love with itself. "I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world," Mr. Obama told the U.N.'s General Assembly last week with his usual modesty. He added that those expectations were "rooted in hope—the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change."

Yet what sounds like "hope" in, say, Toronto or Barcelona tends to come across as fecklessness in Warsaw and Jerusalem. In Moscow and Tehran, it reads like credulity—and an opportunity to exploit the U.S. at a moment of economic weakness and political self-infatuation.

For those much-scorned neocons, none of this comes as a surprise. Neoconservatives generally take the view that the internal character of a regime usually predicts the nature of its foreign policy. Governments that are answerable to their own people and accountable to a rule of law tend to respect the rights of their neighbors, honor their treaty commitments, and abide by the international rules of the road. By contrast, regimes that prey on their own citizens are likely to prey on their neighbors as well. Their word is the opposite of their bond.

That's why neocons have no faith in any deals or "grand bargains" the U.S. might sign with North Korea or Iran over their nuclear programs: Cheating is in the DNA of both regimes, and the record is there to prove it. Nor do neocons put much stock in the notion that there's a "reset" button with the Kremlin. Russia is the quintessential spoiler state, seeking its advantage in America's troubles at home and abroad. Ditto for Syria, which has perfected the art of taking credit for solving problems of its own creation.

Where neocons do put their faith is in American power, not just military or economic power but also as an instrument of moral and political suasion. Disarmament? The last dictator to relinquish his nuclear program voluntarily was Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, who did so immediately following Saddam Hussein's capture. Democratization? Contrary to current conventional wisdom, democracy is often imposed, or at least facilitated, by U.S. pressure—in the Philippines, in the Balkans and, yes, in Iraq. Human rights? Anwar Ibrahim, the beleaguered Malaysian opposition leader, told me last week that "the only country that can stand up" to abusive regimes is the United States. "If they know the administration is taking a soft stance [on human rights], they will go on a rampage."

None of this is to say that neoconservatism represents some kind of infallible doctrine—or that it's even a doctrine. Neocons have erred in overestimating the U.S. public's willingness to engage in long struggles on behalf of other people. They have erred also in overestimating the willingness of other people to fight for themselves, or for their freedom.

But as the pendulum has swung to a U.S. foreign policy based on little more than the personal attractions of the president, it's little wonder that the world is casting about for an alternative. And a view of the world that understands that American power still furnishes the margin between freedom and tyranny, and between prosperity and chaos, is starting to look better all the time. Even in France.
One thing is clear: No amount of 'Hope' & 'Change' & 'Blame George W. Bush' can make Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, &c., go away.

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From Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's Remarks To The UN

Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!

Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You're wrong. History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.

This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism that burst onto the world scene three decades ago after lying dormant for centuries. In the past 30 years, this fanaticism has swept the globe with a murderous violence and cold-blooded impartiality in its choice of victims. It has callously slaughtered Moslems and Christians, Jews and Hindus, and many others.

Though it is comprised of different offshoots, the adherents of this unforgiving creed seek to return humanity to medieval times. Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated.

The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization. It pits civilization against barbarism. . . .

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28 September 2009

Checking In With Mitt Romney

Byron York met with Mitt Romney at the recent Value Voters summit in DC and reported on his (Mitt's) latest.
Mitt Romney has the look of a man who's running for president. And if you're running for president, three years before your party's nominating convention, it's absolutely essential to say that it's way too early to think about running for president. So the former Massachusetts governor demurs when asked his intentions.
Yes, I still like Mitt Romney.

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27 September 2009

William Safire, RIP (UPDATED)

As an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, I did a report/analysis of NYT coverage (especially its op-ed columnists) of Yitzhak Rabin. I read dozens of columns written by William Safire, among others, and was very impressed.

Today he passed away and the United States--the world, really--lost another staunch defender of conservatism.

I've read a lot of obituaries recently, and Safire's, written by the NYT's, Robert McFadden is fantastic.

UPDATE 28 September 3:58pm MST: The WSJ has a very good tribute to Bill Safire on today's op-ed page. It concludes:
The turning of the years can be cruel, and it is sad to lose men like Bill Safire, Robert Bartley, William F. Buckley Jr., Robert Novak, Irving Kristol, Milton Friedman, Jack Kemp and others who did so much to rescue America from the failures of the 1960s and malaise of the 1970s. Yet one reason we note their deaths is the great success they had in life. As Safire would have urged, our obligation is to stop grieving and return cheerfully to the barricades.
May these Happy Warriors RIP.

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24 September 2009

Sarah Palin's Speech In Hong Kong

The Round-up:

Mary Kissel in yesterday's WSJ Political Diary on the event:
Former GOP Veep candidate Sarah Palin made her first speech abroad at one of Asia's largest annual investment conferences in Hong Kong today. The event was carefully hyped and stage-managed by the hosts, French-owned brokerage house CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, with no press allowed into the venue. Even conference participants had to be "on the list" and show ID to get into the speech. (Local media were so keen to get the story that they staked out the Grand Hyatt hotel, frantically calling anyone in town with Republican Party connections.)

Nonetheless, in good Hong Kong-style, someone managed to sneak a recording device into the room and the transcript leaked.

The 80-minute talk was a broad affair, touching on everything from Alaska and trade protectionism to U.S. relations with China. The former governor took a realist's view of the authoritarian regime, calling for cautious engagement. "We can, must, should work with a 'rising China' to address issues of mutual concern," she said. "But we also need to work with our allies in addressing the uncertainties created by China's rise."

Unlike the Obama Administration, which has pandered to China's unelected leaders, downplayed human rights and snubbed the Dalai Lama, she spoke out strongly in support of China's democrats. Mrs. Palin also took a swipe at the Obama White House's trade policies, noting: "We want an Asia open to our goods and services." She labeled the White House-approved tariffs against Chinese-made tires "a mistake" and called on Congress to get the South Korea free trade agreement passed.

CLSA was thrilled by the speech, which brought the brokerage more press in a day than it's received in a year. In the French spirit of egalite, the closing night's entertainment will be left-wing icon Sheryl Crow.
Yes, I still like Sarah Palin.

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22 September 2009

Bret Stephens: 'Beggar Thy Neighbor, Bankrupt Thy Country, Appease Thy Foe...Pretty Much Sums Up President Obama's Global Agenda'

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.

So what should Mr. Obama, who this week becomes the first American president to chair a session of the U.N. Security Council, choose to make the centerpiece of the Council's agenda? What else but nonproliferation and disarmament. And lest anyone suspect that this has something to do with North Korea and Iran, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice insists otherwise: The meeting, she says, "will focus on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly, and not on any particular countries."

But the problem with this euphemistic approach to disarmament, as Lippmann noticed, is that it shifts the onus from the countries that can't be trusted with nuclear weapons to those that can. Is Nicolas Sarkozy, with his force de frappe, about to start World War III? Probably not, though he has the means to do so. Should Mr. Obama join hands with Iran and the Arab world in pushing for Israel's nuclear disarmament, on the view that if only the Jewish state would set the right example its enemies would no longer want to wipe it off the map? If that's what the president believes, he should say so publicly, especially since he's offering the same general prescription for America's nuclear deterrent.

Of course what the administration wants is to set the right mood music for its upcoming talks with Iran. 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.

Then again, it's not as if the administration doesn't know how to play hardball when it has a real villain in its sights. Like Chinese tire makers, for instance, who last week were slapped with a 35% tariff because Mr. Obama owed political favors to his friends in Big Labor. Quite something for a president who last year sounded off on the dangers of "trade policy [being] dictated by special interests."

In an op-ed in this newspaper, Brookings Institution economist Chad Bown noted that "the count of newly imposed protectionist policies like antidumping duties and other 'safeguard' measures increased by 31% in the first half of 2009 relative to the same period one year ago."

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.

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'Hopeychangers'' Pusillanimous Retreat In Eastern Europe

In a sense, the health-care debate and the foreign-policy debacle are two sides of the same coin: For Britain and other great powers, the decision to build a hugely expensive welfare state at home entailed inevitably a long retreat from responsibilities abroad, with a thousand small betrayals of peripheral allies along the way. A few years ago, the great scholar Bernard Lewis warned, during the debate on withdrawal from Iraq, that America risked being seen as “harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.” In Moscow and Tehran, on one hand, and Warsaw and Prague, on the other, they’re drawing their own conclusions.
There's been a lot of talk lately that Barack Obama is the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

If only.

President Obama's posture towards North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, Honduras, Afghanistan, etc., makes President Carter look positively potent.

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21 September 2009

Irving Kristol, RIP

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling," wrote Oscar Wilde, and I would like to suggest that the same can be said for bad politics. . . .

It seems to me that the politics of liberal reform, in recent years, shows many of the same characteristics as amateur poetry. It has been more concerned with the kind of symbolic action that gratifies the passions of the reformer rather than with the efficacy of the reforms themselves. Indeed, the outstanding characteristic of what we call "the New Politics" is precisely its insistence on the overwhelming importance of revealing, in the public realm, one's intense feelings—we must "care," we must "be concerned," we must be "committed." Unsurprisingly, this goes along with an immense indifference to consequences, to positive results or the lack thereof.
The Conservative Prospect, June 13, 1975
He wrote that in 1975.

Might as well have written it this year.

For more on Kristol, see here and here.

h/t Scott L.

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18 September 2009

Can't Get Enough Obama?

Try printing off this picture and putting it on your wall. Or a t-shirt. Or in the rear window of your Prius--talk about ironic.

I think this is some sort of commentary about over-Obamasaturation, but I'm not sure.

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17 September 2009

Glenn Beck In Time Magazine

Looks like President Obama is giving the cover a rest.

It won't last.

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More Change You Can Believe In: Obama Capitulates To The Russians

Former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton to Rich Lowry:
"This is just pre-emptive capitulation, although like everything else, the rhetoric is that we're doing the opposite." It doesn't make sense that we should only be concerned with the short-and-medium-range threat and not also with "the long-range threat 2 or 3 years from now." And our intelligence on Iran is manifestly "inadequate." I wouldn't "bet a lot of money on it being right," and in any case, "there's this concept called 'break-out,'" where they achieve a quantum leap in their capability. It's a "bet against the future" that leaves "us and the Europeans in a more risky situation." All the talk of the intelligence changing and an enhanced short-and-medium-range capability is "blue smoke and mirrors" because they never believed in missile defense. "It's a convenient smoke-screen to do what they wanted to do anyway, which is to give up on missile defense in the hope the Russians will be nice to us." Secretary Gates’s comments were the "most disingenuous." Yes, we want a defense against the short-and-medium-range threat, but the whole idea of missile defense is based on a "layered defense." "Gates was a problem in the Bush administration on missile defense. He was always weak on this."
My man Mitt Romney is very sharp on this issue as well:
* The administration believes that by giving such a gesture of goodwill to the Russians, they will be more willing to give in to our request that they join in sanctions against Iran. Here, the president’s lack of negotiation experience may have come in to play. Yes, sometimes in a negotiation you give up something that is important to you, but you do that only when the other party has agreed to give you something you want even more. You don’t give before you get. But here it’s even worse than that: The president has taught Putin that when he blusters and threatens, America caves.

* The administration is also teaching our friends some very unfortunate lessons; the Eastern Europeans who have stood so valiantly with America and who took political heat for backing the missile-defense system have simply been brushed aside. They have to wonder why America is treating its foes better than it is treating its friends. It’s a question that also is surely being asked in Israel and Honduras.

* The administration’s discounting of Iran’s nuclear progress tells Israel that if it is to stop what its own intelligence may believe is an imminent threat, it may have to act alone — and precipitously.
Then, from Drudge, Analysis: Demise of U.S. shield may embolden Russia hawks and Barack Obama surrenders to Russia on Missile Defence.

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Obama & Acorn: A Winning Partnership

My liberal friends always used to defend President Obama's vast executive experience as a community organizer by saying that, well, "Jesus was a community organizer." Ok.

Whatever you think of that characterization, it's true, you know, that Jesus preached to the sinners--harlots and, presumably, pimps, among them.

If I recall correctly, however, he did not offer to help them with tax evasion, fraud, & underage sex trafficking.

Change you can believe in: A new brand of community organizin'.

via Ace, per usual.

[Yes, I understand that President Obama is not ACORN. They're just "giving input" and helping "shape" his agenda.]

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15 September 2009

Acorn: Waaaaaaaay Better Than President Bush's "Faith Based Initiatives"

You know, if you like drugs, prostitution, sex trafficking & whatnot.

Oh, and fraud. I almost forgot about fraud. If you like fraud, you're gonna love Acorn.

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A Cautionary Tale For All You Aspiring Social Planners

there is our inefficient and inequitable system of tax-advantaged, employer-based health insurance. While the federal tax code promotes overspending by making the majority unaware of the true cost of their insurance and care, the code is grossly unfair to the self-employed, small businesses, workers who stick with a bad job because they need the coverage, and workers who lose their jobs after getting sick.

This employer-based system arose not by thoughtful design but as an unforeseen result of price controls during World War II and subsequent tax policy. How this developed and persisted despite its unfairness and maladaptive consequences is a powerful illustration of the law of unintended consequences and the fact that government can take six decades or more to fix its obvious mistakes.
Please, geniuses/social betters/leftists of the Obama administration & Democratic Congress: Rather than doing the relatively easy, obvious thing--introducing reform to correct past government distortion of health markets--design for us a program (yet another) that will bring medical utopia.

I'm sure you'll get it right this time.

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14 September 2009

9/12: Protests Only Legit When Centrally Organized & Astroturfed, David Axelrod-Style

Apart from Fox News and the conservative blogging community, Tea Parties have received little-to-no coverage from the mainstream media. The people participating in these protests have been completely dismissed and described using a word not appropriate for this family-friendly blog. Mobsters was the "nice" descriptor.

Separately, these people who have taken to the streets and public square to protest have been accused of being, of course, racist. Because to oppose Obama is stupid and irrational and above all else, racist. This is the post-partisan change we've been waiting for: Exactly what we all expected from Obama and his fellow leftists. This was not, my friends, the end of American political history. 52-48--especially given the mitigating factors--is not a sea change.

Anyway, the silent majority took to the streets last Saturday and staged another protest largely ignored and since, diminished and disparaged by the MSM. And they wonder why their ever-diminishing audiences & readers includes almost no conservative Americans. And they also wonder why, in poll after poll, no one believes them anymore.

Whaddya know? Conservatives protesting liberals can come up with witty & clever signage too.

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06 September 2009

BYU Cougars Come Home After Beating The Sooners In Dallas

(h/t Matt L.)

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How 'bout Them (BYU) Cougars?

(photo credit: Deseret News)

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02 September 2009

Harry Reid's Nuts 6

A report on the contraction, not the possessive.

This is turning from a sometime feature to a daily feature.

For Senator Reid, everything is about maximizing political gain. The best example of this was the delight Senator Reid took in American pre-Surge problems and the seats it would gain Democrats in the 2006 elections (for entertainment purposes, see this. Love Dennis Miller). This man is shameless. Absolutely shameless.

The latest example, via Glenn Thrush at Politico, is tamer, but of a piece with the Iraq example.
Q: How will U.S. Sen. (Edward) Kennedy's death affect things?

A: I think it's going to help us. He hasn't been around for some time. We're going to have a new chairman of that committee, it'll be, I don't know for sure, but I think Sen. (Chris) Dodd, (D-Conn.). He has a right to take it. Either him or (U.S. Sen. Tom) Harkin, (D-Iowa), whichever one wants it can have it. I think he (Kennedy) will be a help. He's an inspiration for us. That was the issue of his life and he didn't get it done.
This is also right in line with Rahm Emanuel's personal political philosophy that one ought never let a crisis go to waste. True leftist Democrats survey the political landscape and opportunistically take advantage of any crisis or mourning, sympathetic public.

I guess I should just be glad that Senator Reid is just as willing to capitalize on the death of one of his own--consistency!--as he was on the deaths of American soldiers.

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01 September 2009

Harry Reid's Nuts 5

A report on the contraction, not the possessive.

"What'd he do this time," you may be asking yourself. Oh, pick a fight with his hometown newspaper when he's already trailing 2 no-name Republicans in the most recent polling of his Senate race next year.

Majority Leader Harry Reid meant to make some news at last week's Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon, but not the kind that subsequently filled the local media.

Mr. Reid came to the forum to reveal his plans on the Senate health care debate. He told the business leaders he would give bipartisanship a two-week trial period after the Senate returns on September 8. If Republicans refuse to pass a bill, Mr. Reid pledged to use "reconciliation," a set of budget rules that would allow him to muscle government-run health care through with a bare majority rather than the 60 votes required to beat a filibuster.

His speech didn't sit well with many members, who questioned if the reordering of one-seventh of the nation's economy should be done by turning Senate rules into a pretzel. But the real explosion came when his home state's largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, accused Mr. Reid of using "bully threats" against the paper in his speech and in private remarks to one of the paper's executives.

Sherman Frederick, publisher of the Review-Journal, says that before Mr. Reid's speech last Wednesday, Mr. Reid in a receiving line met the paper's director of advertising, Bob Brown, and bluntly told him: "I hope you go out of business." Mr. Brown says he was flummoxed because while his paper's editorials have been critical of Mr. Reid's voting record, the paper's advertising director has nothing to do with its opinion pages.

But Mr. Reid wasn't finished. In his public speech, Mr. Reid told the audience that the only reason he wanted the Review-Journal to continue selling any ads was that the more liberal Las Vegas Sun was delivered as a supplement inside it.

Mr. Frederick, the paper's publisher, responded in a column on Sunday. He said he always thought that Mr. Reid "was elected to office to protect Nevadans, not sound like he's shaking them down. . . . I can only imagine how he pressures businesses and individuals who don't have the wherewithal of the Review-Journal." The column then laid down what amounted to a declaration of war from the paper: "We won't allow you to bully us. And if you try it with anyone else, count on going through us first. It's a promise to our readers, not to you, Sen. Reid."

No doubt Mr. Reid didn't intend to stir up such a ruckus, and it's entirely possible Mr. Frederick is exaggerating what the notoriously ill-tempered and peevish Mr. Reid really was trying to convey. But on the other hand, Mr. Reid isn't either apologizing or explaining away his remarks.

Mr. Reid already trails two largely unknown Republicans in published polls in his re-election battle next year. The last thing he needs is a newspaper that's convinced itself that either he goes or its economic independence is in jeopardy.
That Senator Reid has risen to become Democratic Senate Majority leader is, I think, a sad commentary on the state of the Democrat party.

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