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Wednesday, 7 October 2009
He Won't Say the "V" Word
Topic: Decline of the West

Speaking of the middle of the road, that appears to be the Obama Administration's preferred route where Afghanistan is concerned. On the one hand, he won't just pull out, but on the other hand he won't give the commanding general the resources necessary to win.

Now it's certainly true, as Clausewitz observed, that war at its highest point of view is politics—but I doubt that he meant the craven, poll-driven politics that dominates the Obama Administration's thinking. The President is quite evidently afraid (a) to appear weak by abandoning Afghanistan and (b) to alienate his progressive base. So he's not trying to win, but he doesn't want to lose. I think I know how that's going to turn out.

Clausewitz notes that war is characterized by a principle of polarity: what's good for one side is necessarily bad for the other side. If the Taliban is winning in Afghanistan, the US and its allies are losing. That's the fundamental nature of war, and there's no way around it. Unfortunately, we now have a commander-in-chief who can't bring himself to utter the word "victory"—and if he can't even say it, he'll never achieve it. So for what, precisely, are the troops risking their lives? A healthier presidential approval rating?

Posted by tmg110 at 8:01 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 8 October 2009 7:47 AM EDT
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The Center Cannot Hold
Topic: Decline of the West

Writing in the online edition of the Jerusalem Post, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee puts the best possible spin on a somewhat disquieting poll. That poll, conducted by the AJC itself, found that contrary to the claims of Left and Right, the views of American Jews are straight down the middle. "They yearn for peace in the Middle East and support some territorial concessions in its pursuit," Mr. Harris notes, "but, at the same time, they have serious doubts about Arab intentions towards Israel."

This is why what you generally find in the middle of the road is unappetizing road kill. American Jews appear to recognize the grim realities of the Middle East, but they cannot bring themselves to connect the dots. For if, as they suspect, Arab intentions toward Israel are in fact malign, then territorial concessions would be utterly futile. American Jews seem unwilling to draw this obvious conclusion. For the same reason, probably, they support the Obama administration's handling of US-Israeli relations by a 54-32% margin. In its desire to appease the Arabs, the Obama Administration has caused a crisis in US-Israeli relations, but American Jews don't want to see this.

It's the liberalism of American Jews drives these contradictory results. Jews in this country have always leaned left, and they supported Obama in 2008 by a wide margin. If today, they seem unwilling to recognize that he sold them a bill of goods on Israel and the Middle East, well, their reaction as reported in the AJC poll is natural enough. Breaking up is hard to do.

Posted by tmg110 at 7:32 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 7 October 2009 7:53 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Radicals on Our Payroll
Topic: Liberal Fascism

President Obama has established a disturbing pattern of appointing people with radical backgrounds to important posts in his administrations. Usually, they are posts not requiring Senate conformation, a coincidence that becomes readily understandable when you examine the resume of Van Jones, the former "green jobs czar," who lost his job once his radical background was publicized.

Now there’s Kevin Jennings. A gay activist, he was named to head the Education Department's Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools. Writing for the Washington Examiner, Byron York recounts the sorry tale that has surfaced to call Jennings’ qualifications into question:


As a young teacher, nearly two decades ago, Jennings was approached by a 15-year old boy (some defenders now say the boy was 16) who said he had had an encounter with an older man. Instead of pursuing the matter with the authorities, Jennings, by his own account, offered some simple advice: "I hope you used a condom."


Now I find this disturbing. Perhaps our progressive elites do not. After all, many of them—not all, mercifully—have leapt to the defense of Roman Polanski. He once drugged and raped a 13-year-old-girl—but he is, they remind us, a renowned cinema artiste who ought not to be judged by the philistine standards of middle-class morality. I suppose that Debra Winger and Woody Allen, to name two of these people, would see nothing wrong in Jennings’ behavior. (For the record, Jennings himself now says that he made a mistake.)


 Then there’s Barack Obama. What could he possibly be thinking when he appoints a man of obviously questionable judgment to a key position in the Department of Education? Did he really think that Kevin Jennings was the best possible choice for a job concerned with safe schools?

Posted by tmg110 at 9:14 AM EDT
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Our Celebrity President
Topic: Liberal Fascism


Surely I’m not the first to not that self-regard lies at the heart of the progressive world view. So it’s not surprising that our first progressive president of the postmodern era should also be our first celebrity president.


Some might quarrel with that formulation. JFK is certainly remembered as a rock star, Ronald Reagan hailed from Hollywood, and Bill Clinton received the extensive coverage on the front page of the National Enquirer. But (with perhaps the partial exception of Clinton), they didn’t think of themselves in celebrity terms. Even Clinton, who was so clearly in love with himself, probably spent most of his time in the White House talking about outer things.


Not so Barack Obama. If we know one thing about him after nearly nine months, it’s that his presidency is all about him. Obama’s use of the first-person personal pronoun has been promiscuous enough to attract the attention of the media. His speeches refer constantly to—himself. He will provide health care for the masses, he will fix the economy, he will defeat the Taliban. The American soldier crouching in a fighting position somewhere on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border might reasonably wonder why he’s needed at all, with Barack Obama in the fight.


George Will, who did the math, reports that in his speech to the Olympic Committee, President Obama used the pronouns I and me 26 times in a speech of 48 sentences. I was not surprised to learn this. Will also notes that Obama's address was, by any reasonable standard of political rhetoric, “dreadful.” Having read the speech myself, I can only agree:


We stand at a moment in history when the fate of each nation is inextricably linked to the fate of all nations—a time of common challenges that require common effort. And I ran for President because I believed deeply that at this defining moment, the United States of America has a responsibility to help in that effort, to forge new partnerships with the nations and the peoples of the world.


Nice of him to remind the Olympic Committee why he ran for president, wasn’t it? And I like that bit about the inextricable link between all nations—which, as Will notes mordantly, raises the question of how the fate of Chad, say, is linked to that of Chile.


This is precisely why, despite the triviality of the stakes, the failure of Obama’s Olympic bid was significant. It called attention to the man’s overweening vanity—a character flaw that has already crippled his presidency and that might, if not forcefully checked, destroy it. But who might check it? Certainly not the President's better half. In her pitch to the Olympic Committee, Michelle Obama used the first-person personal pronouns 44 times in 41 sentences.

Posted by tmg110 at 7:45 AM EDT
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Monday, 5 October 2009
Obama Hearts the World's Bullies
Topic: Liberal Fascism

One of the really comical things about Barack Obama is the gap—no, chasm—between his rhetoric about  peace, justice, the "world community," etc. and the ugly realities of his foreign policy. If there still remains a despot, dictator, tyrant, anti-Semitic head case or genocidal thug that the Obama Administration hasn't sucked up to, it can only be because the White House has lost his phone number.

I say comical, and there is something funny about it: Just seeing Obama and Hugo Chavez together was a howl. It's not very funny for the victims of Obama's new best friends, however. Observers here in the US of A may laugh at the spectacle of the Obama Administration's ongoing effort to restore to power in Honduras a raving anti-Semite who believes that Israeli mercenaries are shooting death rays into his head, but probably the people of Honduras don't get the joke. Still, in the Age of the Messiah, I suppose we have to take our laughs where we find them—in this case, south of the border, down Tegucigalpa way.

Posted by tmg110 at 9:48 AM EDT
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For What It's Worth. . .
Topic: Decline of the West

…which could be a fair amount, check out this article by Fred Barnes for the Weekly Standard. In it, he assesses Republican prospects for 2010.

Barnes concludes that there's a real chance for a GOP surge sufficiently strong to flip the House of Representatives back to Republican control. The poor economy, the uncertain international outlook and the Obama Administration's bumbling are conspiring to erode the Democratic Party's position. In the worst case for the Dems, Republicans could pick up more than 40 House seats—enough to take control of the chamber—and three or four Senate seats.

There's a year to go before the 2010 election, and a lot can happen in a year. But unless the Democrats do something rather quickly to arrest their slide, the progressive moment may pass pretty quickly—with a squeal of brakes as it fishtails toward the edge of an electoral cliff.

Posted by tmg110 at 9:00 AM EDT
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Sunday, 4 October 2009
The Terrible Ifs Accumulate. . .
Topic: Decline of the West

This is painful to watch.

Back in March, President Obama did what I and many other observers believed to be the right thing: he appointed a new commander for Afghanistan and expressed a renewed commitment to victory in that protracted and difficult conflict. The war in Afghanistan, he told us, was one that America could not afford to lose.

Having assessed the situation on the ground, the new commander, General Stanley McChrystal, concluded that without a major commitment of additional forces and a switch to an energetic counterinsurgency strategy, the US could indeed lose the war. His recommendations call for the dispatch of an additional 45,000 troops to Afghanistan.

To say that McChrystal's assessment was unwelcome to the White House would be to understate the case by an order of magnitude. It was received there with consternation verging on panic. Polls show that the American people are dubious about the war in Afghanistan, while Obama's progressive base is up in arms at the possibility of "escalation." Having claimed for years that Iraq (a war of choice) was a distraction from Afghanistan (a war of necessity), progressives are now showing their true colors in the form of a white flag. And it appears that the President is fearful of antagonizing them.

As a result, we now have before us the pathetic spectacle of a nervous White House seeking to cut the ground from beneath the feet of its own hand-picked commander. Were it not for the fact that so many lives are at stake, the spectacle of that noted strategist, Vice President Joe Biden, emerging as General McChrystal's most vocal critic inside the Administration would be laughable. Joe Biden! The man who's been wrong on just about every foreign policy issue for the past quarter-century! It beggars parody.

On Face the Nation today, Obama's national security advisor, retired General Jim Jones, sought to downplay the seriousness of the situation in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, his soothing assurances coincided with the terrible news that ten US troops had just been killed in a Taliban attack—news that lent Jones' comments a disturbing air of unreality.

This isn't the stimulus package or card check or the Olympics. This is a life-and-death issue. It involves the safety and security of our country. It also involves hundreds of thousands of Americans in uniform, of whom my own daughter is one. If the President of the United States is too fearful of the political consequences to do what it takes to achieve victory, then I can't support him on the war.

It would be a terrible thing to abandon Afghanistan at this stage—a disastrous setback for the US and a catastrophe for the people of that unfortunate country. It would be worse, however, to sacrifice the lives of our troops for the sake of the Biden Doctrine. Either fight to win, Mr. President, or bring them home.

Posted by tmg110 at 4:16 PM EDT
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Saturday, 3 October 2009
Chicago Dodged a Bullet
Topic: Decline of the West

So  far as the possibility of the Olympics coming to Chicago was concerned, my interest was academic. I would have been long gone from the Windy City before the Olympic fanfare sounded across the lakefront. Academically, then, I thought it was terrible idea to bring the Olympics to one of the most corrupt municipalities in the nation. To imagine what Mayor Richard Daley's city administration and the denizens of Cook County government would have made of the opportunity quite takes one's breath away. It would have been like electing a crack addict to serve as President of Colombia…

Posted by tmg110 at 9:14 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 3 October 2009 9:20 AM EDT
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Can't Blame This One on Bush
Topic: Decline of the West

Barack Obama's Olympic humiliation in Copenhagen was remarkable in two respects: that an American president would put his prestige on the line over such a trivial issue, and that he and his advisers so thoroughly miscalled the play. So far as one can tell from the outside, the White House actually believed that the selection of Chicago was in the bag. Precisely how they managed to persuade themselves of this non-fact is an open question, but their poor judgment resulted in a major embarrassment.

Moreover, this was a self-inflicted wound. Obama could very easily have held himself aloof from Chicago's Olympic bid. He is, after all, the president of the United States. There are many other issues, far more important, on his agenda—issues with a priority claim on his limited time. To expend time and energy on his home town's Olympic hopes was a startling example of poor judgment from a president whose intelligence and political skills have been so highly touted. Fred Barnes puts it well in this blog post for the Weekly Standard:

[W]here was the charisma, the skill in persuading people to see things Obama’s way? The media has built Obama up as a communicator who’s the equal of Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt. True, he’s delivered several fine speeches, but all of them before he became president. Now he’s either lost his touch or never was the orator the press said he was.

Obama's claque will argue that the fiasco in Copenhagen, was, after all, a minor setback. That Chicago has failed to land the Olympics is hardly a world-historical catastrophe. That much is true. But still, it tells us something about the man and his administration that isn't very reassuring—particularly to fathers like me whose sons and daughters are serving in the armed forces. So Obama got Copenhagen wrong, but we can trust him to get Afghanistan right? That's a profession of faith that I simply cannot bring myself to make.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:54 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 4 October 2009 11:55 AM EDT
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Friday, 2 October 2009
He Just Can't Decide
Topic: Decline of the West

As his various domestic policies demonstrate. Barack Obama is a profligate spender. And along with all our hard-earned tax dollars, the President has been spending something else, a form of currency that is absolutely essential to the success of any  presidency: the trust and confidence of the American people. It's all there in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, and it surely makes gruesome reading for Obama and his supporters.

Obama's standing with independents—the key to his election—has collapsed. Only 46% now approve of the job he's doing as president, while 41% disapprove. In June, those numbers were 66% and 21% respectively. His overall approval rating stands at 50% approve, 42% disapprove, compared with 62% and 31% respectively back in June.

If this slippage had been the result of tough decisions on key issues like health care, the economy and Iran, it would be less worrisome for Obama. Tough decisions often have that effect on a leader's popularity. In Indiana the Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, saw his approval ratings plummet when he undertook to lease the money-losing Indiana Toll Road to a private company. But he persevered, his policy paid off for the state, and he was reelected in 2008 by a handsome margin.

In dismal contrast, Obama has nothing to show for the loss of his popularity. Instead of tackling the tough issues before him, the President dithered and passed the buck. As a result the vaunted stimulus plan is a bust, health care reform is stalled, climate-change legislation is moribund and the Administration's foreign policy is in disarray. Just six months ago, Barack Obama had the wind at his back and the sun in his face. Now he and his administration are foundering. Whatever this is, it certainly isn't presidential leadership. 

Posted by tmg110 at 7:41 AM EDT
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