Friday, July 11, 2008

Alternate-Reality Iran

One of Barack Obama's greatest talents is his ability to re-frame questions extemporaneously so that he can provide a solution to a problem he wishes existed, rather than the problem that actually does exist. His answer to Hezbollah's mini-civil war in Lebanon two months ago was to call on Iran and Syria to reign in Hezbollah, as if those countries were bystanders whose help could be enlisted rather than the actual perpetrators of the crisis. Today, in noting Obama's answer to a bilingual education question, Jonah Goldberg comments that "Obama has a great gift at sounding insightful when he insipidly changes the subject to something completely different and more helpful to his cause."

And so it is again today with Obama's response to the missile display staged by Iran this morning, which as Gordon pointed out below was intended as a demonstration of Iran's retaliatory capabilities in response to an Israeli or American attack. The McCain campaign responded to the news by reiterating support for missile defense, which is the sensible thing to say when a terrorist theocracy makes a show of its ability to launch missiles at you and your allies. Obama, though, had a different message - the same message on Iran that he delivers no matter the particulars of the situation:
Now is the time to work with our friends and allies, and to pursue direct and aggressive diplomacy with the Iranian regime backed by tougher unilateral and multilateral sanctions. It's time to offer the Iranians a clear choice between increased costs for continuing their troubling behavior, and concrete incentives that would come if they change course.

And thus is the Iran confrontation re-defined as something in harmony with the aesthetic of Obama's foreign policy. The premise of this alternate reality is that there has been scarcely any "work with our friends and allies" on Iran, virtually zero "aggressive diplomacy," only tepid attempts at unilateral and multilateral sanctions, and no offering of incentives for changed behavior. Of course, all of these things have been the staples of U.S. and western policy going on six years - and every one of them has proven incapable of dissuading Iran from its nuclear objectives. That which has been tried but failed is simply re-cast as untried.

And then there is Obama's only novel idea: that one-on-one presidential diplomacy is the secret missing ingredient to success with Iran. Yet it is impossible to find even the slightest shred of evidence that Iran continues to pursue its nuclear and missile programs only because the President of the United States refuses to engage personally, or send an emissary on his behalf, with the regime. This is not something the Iranians have ever requested, and it is doubtful that they would even agree to such engagement if it was proposed. Obama has never bothered to elaborate on why he believes that this linchpin of his Iran policy would work, and for good reason: there is no personalized message the President could deliver which would drive the regime off a course to which it has remained obstinately dedicated despite several rounds of Security Council sanctions, despite the likelihood of military attack, and despite many layers of financial sanctions and penalties imposed by the U.S. and other governments around the world.

There is something profoundly dangerous about a candidate for president who refuses to engage with foreign powers as they are. Opposite Iran, Obama offers a combination of the discredited and the improbable.


Is Obama's Fundraising Goose Cooked?

Last week, former McCain campaign staffer Soren Dayton asked if Obama was "killing the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs":
Barack Obama has built a mythical fundraising operation based on small-dollar donors. These were primarily upper-middle class affluents who were energized by a change message. These were also the netroots. Recall that the 3 issues at the core of the netroots are FISA, Iraq, and net neutrality. Obama's recent actions seem to be going to be undermining his appeal with both of these groups, with potentially disastrous consequences for his small-dollar online fundraising.

After the FISA vote today, I was over at liberal blog Firedoglake and the comments on this post were mighty interesting:

* Fortunately I haven't given his campaign much money; I'll let them keep it, and donate elsewhere, where it will be put to better use.

* Can Obama opt back in for Public Financing? He's gonna need it.! I think the net roots funding has shriveled up and died.!

* Yessiree, I'm pissed. voting for yes. $, mmm, prob. not.

* Is there any consumer fraud involved with him saying he would fight to eliminate telco immunity, then reverses? Can you get our money back?

* Just blogged on that I'd not be giving any more money to his campaign, will be going to Accountability PAC instead.

* I seriously think we need to consider organizing a write-in campaign. I think we could do it.

Etc., etc. You get the picture.


Conservatives for Obama?

By Thomas Sowell

A number of friends of mine have commented on an odd phenomenon that they have observed - conservative Republicans they know who are saying that they are going to vote for Barack Obama. It seemed at first to be an isolated fluke, perhaps signifying only that my friends know some strange conservatives. But apparently columnist Robert Novak has encountered the same phenomenon and has coined the term "Obamacons" to describe the conservatives for Senator Obama.

Now the San Francisco Chronicle has run a feature article, titled "Some Influential Conservatives Spurn GOP and Endorse Obama." In it they quote various conservatives on why they are ready to take a chance on Barack Obama, rather than on John McCain.

What is going on? Partly what is going on is that, in recent years, the Congressional Republicans in general - and Senator John McCain in particular - have so alienated so many conservatives that some of these conservatives are like a drowning man grasping at a straw. The straw in this case is Obama's recent "refining" of his position on a number of issues, as he edges toward the center, in order to try to pick up more votes in November's general election.

Understandable as the reactions of some conservatives may be, a straw is a very unreliable flotation device. If all that was involved was Democrats versus Republicans, the Republicans would deserve the condemnation they are getting, after their years of wild spending and their multiple betrayals of the principles and the people who got them elected. Amnesty for illegal aliens was perhaps the worst betrayal.

But, while the media may treat the elections as being about Democrats and Republicans - the "horse race" approach - elections were not set up by the Constitution of the United States in order to enable party politicians to get jobs. Nor were elections set up in order to enable voters to vent their emotions or indulge their fantasies.

Voting is a right but it is also a duty - a duty not just to show up on election day, but a duty to give serious thought to the alternatives on the table and what those alternatives mean for the future of the nation.

What is becoming ever more painfully apparent is that too many people this year - whether conservative, liberals or whatever - are all too willing to judge Barack Obama on the basis of his election-year rhetoric, rather than on the record of what he has advocated and done during the past two decades.

Many are for him for no more serious reasons than his mouth and his complexion. The man has become a Rorschach test for the feelings and hopes, not only of those on the left, but also for some on the right as well.

Here is a man who has consistently aided and abetted people who have openly expressed their contempt for this country, both in words and in such deeds as planting bombs to advance their left-wing agenda.

Despite the spin that judging Obama by what was said or done by such people would be "guilt by association," he has not just associated with such people. He has in some cases donated some serious money of his own and even more of the taxpayers' money, as both a state senator in Illinois and a member of the Senate of the United States.

Barack Obama is on record as favoring the kinds of justices who make policy, not just carry out laws. No matter how he may "refine" his position on this issue, he voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, who was easily confirmed by more than three-quarters of the Senators.

Like people on the far left for literally centuries, Barack Obama plays down the dangers to the nation, and calls talk about such dangers "the politics of fear." Back in the 18th century, Helvetius said, "When I speak I put on a mask. When I act, I am forced to take it off." Too many voters still have not learned that lesson. They need to look at the track record of Obama's actions. Back in the days of "The Lone Ranger" program, someone would ask, "Who is that masked man?" People need to start asking that question about Barack Obama.


Obama's Next Pivot?

"Faced with mounting pressure from voters to respond to record gasoline prices, some senior Democratic lawmakers Tuesday opened the door to a compromise with Republicans that would open more land on and offshore to oil and gas exploration and production," The Wall Street Journal reports:
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), said "I'm open to drilling and responsible production," adding that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D., Nev.), could support a modest expansion of offshore production. Sen. Durbin said any compromise on drilling, however, would be contingent at a minimum on a requirement that oil and gas companies sitting on existing acreage either produce oil on those areas within a specified period or return the leases to the government.

What's behind this? Durbin is the senior senator from Illinois. The junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, has clinched the Democratic nomination for president. On Sunday Obama's Republican counterpart, John McCain, issued an ad (see video, read transcript) faulting Obama for, among other things, his opposition to offshore drilling:
Record gas prices. A climate in crisis. John McCain says solve it now with a balanced plan: Alternative energy, conservation, suspending the gas tax, and more production here at home. He's pushing his own party to face climate change. But Barack Obama? For conservation, but he just says no to lower gas taxes, no to nuclear, no to more production. No new solutions. Barack Obama: Just the party line.

Blogger TigerHawk notes the results of a new Pew Center survey, which shows a dramatic increase in the percentage of Americans who say expanding exploration and production is more important than conservation: from 35% in February (when gas was around $3 a gallon) to 47% in June. Support has risen especially among Obama constituencies: college graduates (up 17 points), Democrats (16 points), independents (19 points), liberals (23 points) and 18- to 29-year-olds (25 points).

Normally you'd expect high gas prices to help the party out of power. But Obama's opposition to increased energy production is a weakness McCain could easily exploit. Durbin's comment may be a signal that Obama will pivot soon.


10 questions for Obama on terrorism

If terrorists are entitled to U.S. Constitutional rights, are U.S. soldiers going to be turned into police officers, subject to reading terrorists their Miranda rights and providing them with attorneys overseas if requested? We cannot treat fighting terrorism as a "law enforcement" matter. Barack Obama's motto should be, "Extremism we can believe in."

Some time has now passed for the public to digest the Supreme Court's Guantanamo Bay ruling, as well as the candidate's statements on the ruling. Obama praised it and pointed to the prosecutions of the original World Trade Center bombers in regular federal district court as a model for the government to follow now. McCain criticized it. McCain must now press Obama for specifics on these special new rights that he wants to confer on terrorists by pressing him to answer the following ten questions on specific rights that are granted to criminals in the U.S. and may now be bestowed on terrorists courtesy of the Supreme Court.

* Since you praised the Supreme Court's ruling that the right to the writ of habeas corpus applies to suspected foreign terrorists captured on enemy soil who never even set foot on American soil, do you believe that all of the rights the U.S. Constitution affords to criminal defendants apply to Osama bin Laden and all other terrorists, as you implied in your interview with Jake Tapper, and your surrogates have also implied? (Certainly the clear implication of his praise of the first World Trade Center bombing trials is that he does believe all these rights apply.)

* Does the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent apply to enemy combatants, including bin Laden, and must U.S.soldiers quickly Mirandize enemy combatants once they are seized? If they don't, will the courts throw out statements made by terrorists, and will this put our troops in the position of risking their safety to Mirandize terrorists, lest confessions be thrown out and terrorists freed?

* Does the Sixth Amendment right to counsel apply to enemy combatants, and must U.S.soldiers or other representatives of the U.S.government cease questioning if an enemy combatant requests a lawyer?

* If the Sixth Amendment does apply and counsel must be provided to enemy combatants at taxpayer expense, who will we get to go overseas and represent these terrorists, knowing the perils involved?

* Does the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures apply to enemy combatants?

* If the Fourth Amendment does apply to enemy combatants, will our soldiers be forced to secure a search warrant from a neutral and detached magistrate before raiding known residences or dwelling places of enemy combatants?

* Most importantly, will evidence that is seized or statements that are taken in violation of the rights that are afforded criminal defendants in the suppressed, as they generally are in the U.S.? Similarly, if Osama bin Laden were captured, but all evidence against him had been seized illegally, should all that evidence be thrown out and bin Laden released?

* If Obama is elected president, will members of the U.S.military who are sent to combat zones be given some type of police academy-like training to guide them so that terrorists are not freed because evidence that was not gathered in accordance with complicated procedures that apply to police activity in the thrown out?

* The U.S. Constitution has been interpreted as allowing the use of deadly force only when confronted with deadly force. If American forces have the opportunity to kill Osama bin Laden, should they be permitted to, or should they be forced to wait until he presents an immediate threat of danger, even if it means losing the chance to kill him? If our soldiers do kill Osama absent a threat of deadly force, will they be put on trial in the U.S.?

* What will be the implications in terms of loss of lives of U.S. soldiers if, in addition to the perils of the war zone, they are now confronted with the task of gathering and preserving evidence in a war zone in accordance with the U.S. Constitution lest cases that now must be proven in federal court be compromised?

This demonstrates exactly why we cannot treat fighting terrorism as a "law enforcement matter." For one thing, it quickly dissolves into farce, except that there is nothing funny about the logical implications of affording terrorists rights that our founders never intended to and requiring our government to proceed against them according to the same rules that govern normal criminal cases in the U.S. This is one thing where George Bush hit the nail right on the head-in dealing with terrorism, it is simply not sufficient to serve our enemies with legal papers. Unfortunately, it may take another terrorist attack for Obama and his liberal comrades to understand this. McCain needs to point out the obvious at every turn, even though American memories of the horror of 9/11 have faded significantly-Obama is running on a platform of giving special new rights to terrorists


Obama Addresses Issue of homosexuals in the Military

When Bill Clinton was running for president he promised the gay community that he would change the service rules so that openly gay people could serve in the military. When he was elected he ran into a great deal of opposition and he struck a deal that is now termed "Don't ask, don't tell", a policy that says the military may not ask if a person is gay and a person is not to tell. If caught engaging in homosexual behavior people would be discharged. This did not make the gay community happy because they felt betrayed by Clinton. I have no doubt many gay people have served honorably under this rule and this post is not to debate the pros or cons of gays openly serving.

Barack Obama was interviewed by the Military Times and he stated that he would allow openly gay people to serve in the military. He stated it was a matter of fairness. The military is not fair and there are many exclusions from service like failing a physical fitness test, poor vision, poor hearing, or being overweight. In any event, Obama is making a promise that he, like Bill Clinton, might not be able to keep. It is not a matter of just saying it and making it so, as Clinton found out. Perhaps the gay community should consider this before casting their votes. Obama is saying he will do it but history shows us that he probably will not be able to, at least not easily and with so many pressing issues he might not want to expend the effort. Here is what Obama said about the issue:
Obama also spoke of rocking the boat. In what seems certain to be one of his more controversial proposals for the military, Obama said he wants to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Equity and fairness are part of the reason for lifting the ban on acknowledged homosexuals serving in the military, Obama said, but there are practical reasons, too - like getting "all hands on deck" when the nation needs people in uniform. "If we can't field enough Arab linguists, we shouldn't be preventing an Arab linguist from serving his or her country because of what they do in private," he said, referring to the 2006 discharge of about 60 linguists for violating the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on service by homosexuals.

"I want to make sure that we are doing it in a thoughtful and principled way. But I do believe that at a time when we are short-handed, that everybody who is willing to lay down their lives on behalf of the United States and can do so effectively, can perform critical functions, should have the opportunity to do so." Military Times

A majority of people in the military oppose gays serving but it appears as if the number has been decreasing over the years. Still, if he wants to gain the trust of the troops he should not be using the military for social engineering. I am not sure the "all hands on deck" comment was the right one to use.

I wonder if all those interpreters who were discharged were male. The lesbian interpreters are better at hiding their homosexuality and ensuring they do not get caught. The lesbian interpreters are cunning linguists.



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