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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Jed Babbin

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Jed Babbin





Last Build Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2007 08:14:01 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007
 



Fear and Loathing on Hillary's Trail

Thu, 18 Jan 2007 08:14:01 -0600

Clinton's trip last week to Iraq was an exercise in triangulation to offset Obama's and Edwards's calls for withdrawal from the war in open defiance of Clinton's pretensions to moderation. The trip was supposed to end with a bang, a splashy press conference planned for Wednesday. Clinton could have looked presidential, criticizing the president's plan to surge troops into Iraq having just visited and - presumably - talked to troops and commanders there. Once again, the obstacle was Obama and his timing. Coincidentally (?) Wednesday was the day Obama chose to announce the formation of his presidential exploratory committee. Clinton was forced to cancel her big presser and her trip is now old news. Obama's announcement of a presidential exploratory committee - presaging a formal announcement scheduled for early February - must have elicited a Howard Dean-like reaction from Sen. Clinton because one of his key points was aimed at her. In the video posted on his website, Obama said we were, "...mired in a tragic and costly war that should never have been waged." Clinton voted for the war in Iraq and has yet to follow Edwards and others in apologizing for the vote. This places her on the opposite side of most Democrats, as a CBS News poll showed earlier this month. CBS reported Tuesday that, "A CBS News poll taken earlier this month found that 77% of Democrats surveyed wanted a decrease or full withdrawal of troops from Iraq. And another CBS poll asked viewers of Bush's Wednesday night speech if they supported the plan to send more troops to Baghdad. 82% of Democrats opposed it." Obama and Edwards opposed the troop surge before Clinton, and she could only fall in line behind them. Hillary Clinton isn't one to play catch-up for long. Obama's announcement included the fact that he's planning a formal announcement of his presidential bid on February 10, giving Clinton only a few weeks to regain the momentum she thought she had and probably accelerating her plans to announce her candidacy. She's caught in her own quagmire, stuck with the foundational strategy that won her husband the presidency twice. She has to maintain the moderate pose while pushing a liberal agenda. She faces the growing pressure from Obama, Edwards and the Cindy Sheehan wing of her party that are shoving her uncomfortably leftward. Clinton knows that if she gives in, she loses the Clinton Cloak and will have to seek the presidency as just another one of a crowd of antiwar liberals. And she can't win that way, because - as the 2006 post-election polls showed - either party's nominee will depend on the truly moderate voters of both parties to grant the margin of victory. So what will Clinton do? Hillary Clinton will do what she and her husband have always done. When they speak of the politics of personal destruction, they aren't really complaining of how they're being treated. Psychologists call this "projection." When they speak of it, the Clintons are talking about another fundamental element of their politics. Barack Obama may not be immune to these attacks but Clinton -- concerned about his ascendance --may have already used her best ammunition. In a mini-memoir written a decade ago, Obama spoke of his use of illegal drugs. This long-forgotten story was reborn in a January 3 Washington Post piece that may have been another Clinton maneuver to cut into his momentum. What else is there? Team Clinton will make sure we find out. For Clinton, whatever there is won't be enough to make up for her sliding scale position on the war. The Democrats are so far gone on that issue that Clinton will have to toe the Jack Murtha-Nancy Pelosi line sooner or later. The longer she waits, the harder the antiwar faction will be on her. The only other weapon she can use is her pals in the 527 Media. Rumsfeld got off easy compared to how Sen. Obama may fare. The cynics among us might believe that Hillary used the Associated Press like a rented mule in her "Rumsfeld refused to testify" play last summer. And they would also believe that the AP's g[...]



President Bush Can Still Sink the Democrats

Fri, 05 Jan 2007 08:45:53 -0600

The president is readying his new Iraq strategy for probable presentation in an Oval Office speech next week. It is almost certain that he will reject the Baker-Hamilton ISG recommendation to negotiate with Iran and Syria. The timing is ironic, because the linkage between the ISG report and past Republican domestic surrenders is in the people who engineered those past and are recommending those to come. Americans understand better than most of our gray eminences that negotiating with Iran and Syria can have only one result: the surrender of Iraq to our enemies, and a strategic defeat in the larger war. Baker is pushing the same preemptive surrender strategy that failed to defeat Reagan and did sink Bush 41. Baker has been on the wrong side of history with an horrendous consistency. As White House Chief of Staff he (and another Reagan assistant, Richard Darman) leaked a series of stories to the media intended to rally Congressional support for tax hikes, but all for naught: Ronald Reagan didn't budge. Then George H.W. Bush was elected on the promise of no new taxes. Baker and Darman - then Secretary of State and OMB Director -- still thought that victory was ensured by surrender. They achieved a White House consensus to raise taxes. Bush 41 did, and it cost him the presidency. Baker's surrender strategy was - and is -- also the core of his foreign policy theory. He, like many of his background and age, are stability addicts. To gain stability - on domestic or foreign fronts - he's willing to trade more than it is worth. Trying to prop up Gorbachev, Baker opposed American support for Balkan freedom, nearly getting into a fistfight with fellow cabinet member Jack Kemp over it. Now, when the Iranian mullahs are beset by falling oil production and growing internal unrest, Baker wants to make it harder for Iranians to overthrow the mullahs just like he wanted to make it harder for Latvia and Lithuania to shake off the shackles of the Soviets. President Bush and congressional Republicans should remember that pre-emptive surrender - at home or abroad - produces defeat, not victories. And it doesn't "position" you for anything other than more of the same. For the White House Iraq overshadows everything, and will continue to until the end of the Bush 43 presidency. But it will not be that all-encompassing to Congress because the only major role Congress can play in the conduct of a war is to cut funding and try to thwart its prosecution. Though many of them want to, the Dems don't dare try. Their hands are tied. If Congressional Republicans were to base their strategy on that fact, they and the president could corner the Democrats and set them up for defeat in 2008. Republican congressional leaders - Sens. Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott, Reps. John Boehner and Roy Blunt - should hold a series of meetings with the president with two goals. First, they must exorcise the political ghosts that now haunt the president. Congressional leaders need to tell the president that what he's hearing about retreat and compromise is just more half-Bakered baloney. President Bush is, by nature, a fighter. But he's in Round 8 of a 10-rounder and may be a little tired. GOP leaders need to help fire him up. Second, Bush and the GOP leaders must know that the Dems will declare anything proposed in the State of the Union address to be dead on arrival. The smarter Republican leaders such as McConnell will realize that six months from now, the Dems will have accomplished little, and will be ready with their own agenda. Let's be clear: we know that having government run health care, retirement and education doesn't work, and if anything is to be done about that the president has to be in our faces about it. Congressional Republicans should push him to return to his rhetoric of relieving the burden on future generations. They should ask him to return to demanding reform of the government entitlement triangle. Of course there will be a huge uproar. But this golden egg will hatch in 2008 when younger v[...]



Death, Taxes and McCain?

Thu, 28 Dec 2006 00:31:49 -0600

In 2008 John McCain could well capture the Republican nomination for the same reason that Bob Dole did in 1996. Regardless of his chances against Bill Clinton, Republicans gave the nod to Dole because he'd earned it by long service to his party. It was his "turn." McCain, by staunch campaigning in 2000 for the election of the man who defeated him in the primaries worked to earn what Dole had in the same way. By working hard for George Bush again in 2004 and for his party's congressional candidates in 2006, McCain has amassed a huge stack of political chips among party leaders and back benchers. He wants people to believe that 2008 is his "turn", no matter how he stacks up against his Republican competition or against his likely Democratic opponent. That could be enough to get major donors to commit to him early and hogtie enough Republican state organizations to pre-empt a competitive primary race. But McCain is mercurial. And when the heat is on, he often lashes out. McCain has been a media darling ever since he grandstanded his "anti-torture" amendment in faux opposition to the Bush administration's policy (which didn't allow torture, a practice that was illegal years before McCain's amendment). As McCain gains momentum toward '08, his former media friends will be tossing him in the same frying pan as all the other potential nominees. All it will take is one big explosion of the McCain temper and those same former friends will be writing editorials and op-eds comparing him to Captain Queeg. McCain has a very long way to go before he's locked up anything. And so does Sen. Clinton. Hillary Clinton's sand castle stardom was nearly toppled by the first Obama wave. He makes one trip to New Hampshire (how many times has she been there since 1992?) and he polls within one point of her. Her "inevitability" is as fragile as the White House crockery she tossed at her husband on more than one occasion. Even if voters discounted her enormous negatives - and her wins in New York prove that some will - her vote-getting ability in a hotly-contested national race is in doubt. Her two elections in New York were hardly competitive. (If Republicans weren't abandoning Blue States, they could have forced Clinton into a serious and possibly close race. But they were, and they didn't). She's counting on the same kind of luck that carried her husband into the White House twice. In 1992, Lawrence Walsh and Ross Perot won the election for Bill Clinton. Four days before the election, Special Prosecutor Walsh - clearly seeking to torpedo Bush's chances -- leaked a note about Bush's supposed involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. As then-CBS News anchor Dan Rather reported that night, "There is new written evidence tonight concerning what President Bush knew -- and when he knew -- about the secret deal that sent some of America's best missiles to Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. The Grand Jury evidence raises new questions about whether Mr. Bush is telling the truth." The media took Walsh's hand-off and ran with it, pounding Bush relentlessly in the few last days of the campaign. George H.W. Bush campaigned like a man in a daze against an opponent who dazzled. But despite that, in the days before the election, Mr. Bush was rising fast, had caught Clinton (Clinton's aides admit thinking, before the Walsh memo, that all was lost). Bush 41 should have won and would have won but for the Walsh leak and Ross Perot's siphoning votes. In 1996, Bob Dole (beset by a campaign staff that didn't believe in him) ran what may have been the worst campaign ever. Bush 41 looked like a comet compared to Dole. Sen. Clinton's invincibility is a myth built on those campaigns and her even more easily won senate races. Before she gets into a real race, she has to overcome a problem she and the first-term Illinois senator share: neither of them has anything they can point to as a qualification to be president. Mrs. Clinton has never governed, commanded or even managed anything larger tha[...]



Hillary's Pelosi Problem

Thu, 21 Dec 2006 09:40:39 -0600

Polls such as CNN's (reported by CQ Politics) analyzing election results in six of the most hotly contested states - Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia - show that self-described moderates voted for Democrats by margins from 52-65%. (CQ also reported that in nineteen of the twenty-eight House seats captured by the Dems, voters had favored Bush over Kerry in 2004). The new House Dems aren't a radical bunch. Among the Blue Dogs, "fighting Dems" and the rest, there are enough moderates that could form a core of rebels big enough to stall Pelosi's agenda. Pelosi has been dealing with this, so far, by threatening all sorts of horribles to be inflicted on those who don't toe her line, from rotten committee assignments to awful office space. The effect of that approach can only last a while longer. Pelosi's performance to date hasn't exactly endeared her to the moderates. First, by backing Jack Murtha over Steny Hoyer for Majority Leader she made clear that she wasn't among those who are working to avoid the "cut and run" label on Iraq. Next, by waiting too long to cut Alcee Hastings away from his expected Intelligence Committee Chairmanship and then appointing Silvestre Reyes of Texas in his place, Pelosi again showed a lack of care that must embarrass the moderates. Reyes's only accomplishment to date is proving his lack of knowledge about Islamic terrorist groups, confusing Sunni (al-Queda) and Shia (Hizballah) in a way that maximized embarrassment. Now Reyes, and the committee chairman Pelosi can't be blamed for - those old liberal lions - are about to seize the media's attention with splashy "investigative" hearings that will show again and again that they are liberals, not moderates. Reyes has announced plans for a January hearing to investigate the "state of intelligence" provided in support of the troops in Iraq. How he can do this in an open hearing is not obvious. Will his committee leak what it can't publish? Since 9-11, sources on Capitol Hill and in the intelligence community have been insisting that major leaks - such as the NSA terrorist surveillance program - came from Congressional sources. Will Reyes's ascendancy make this worse, or better? Don't bet on "better." Reyes isn't the only new (old?) committee chairman planning splashy hearings in January. There's a decade of pent-up populist outrage that the returning chairmen will treat us to. John Dingell's "investigative" juices have been pent up for too long. His subpoenas to Defense Department officials typically aim to score sound bites on the evening news on some real or imagined scandals. Henry Waxman will be chasing the pharmaceutical companies (to retard medical research and forestall production of miracle cures for dread diseases) and Jack "Redeploy to Okinawa" Murtha will be, on January 9th, trying to manufacture a scandal out of the desires of the Army, Navy and Air Force for more money than they are getting. Murtha, who spent the past year remaking himself into the Dems loudest anti-war voice, wants to show how the Iraq war has to be abandoned or we will soon find our Army and Marine Corps so worn and reduced that it can't fight anywhere. The Dems - especially those who want to be president - need to think about Murtha, Dingell, Waxman and the rest because these old timers can destroy their chances in 2008. Murtha will succeed scoring points on the evening news and in all the 527 Media because the media mentionables are even more liberal than he. But when Murtha's hearing devolves - as it must - into another argument between false choices ("stay the course" vs. "cut and run") voters will get a look under the Clinton Cloak. They will see Democrats - some of them the same people who caused us to cut and run from Vietnam - trying to do the same now, without a care about the message of terrible weakness they are sending our enemies. Last week, in a lunch session with one of our most senior military officers, he express[...]



Intrusive Facts

Thu, 14 Dec 2006 07:30:04 -0600

In one of the Tuesday briefings, I asked one of the senior military leaders presenting it whether there had been a measurable change in the numbers of EFPs coming into Iraq in 2006. He said there had been a "significant increase" in the number. Iran is clearly raising the pressure on us to leave Iraq by doing its best to increase American casualties. How are these EFPs coming into Iraq? Again, to quote the briefer: "Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps has established smuggling routes to transport men and supplies into Iraq." Who is using them to kill and wound Americans and other coalition troops? "Iran's Revolutionary Guard has a network in Iraq headed by Abu Mustapha al-Sheibani to commit violence against Coalition forces." That doesn't sound like a nation that has any interest in democracy and stability in Iraq. Syria is just as bad. For about three years, the Pentagon leaders - and their subordinates - have been using the term "actively unhelpful" as a euphemism for Syrian intervention in Iraq. This time, the military briefers were much more blunt. They said that Syria's opposition to resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict was both clear and strong. Syria's interference in Lebanon, its refusal to do anything to stop the flow of insurgents, money and weapons into Iraq through its territory and Syria's intentions to dominate its neighbors were all major problems. These facts were all known to the Baker-Hamilton ISG. How they could determine that Syria and Iran had an interest in a stable, peaceful and self-governing Iraq is mind-boggling. Another part of the briefings focused on al-Queda, and its own coalition of allied groups that is spread throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa. The briefing talked in terms of "leadership nodes," "operational cells" and "support nodes", dotting them all over a densely-packed map that ran from Waziristan to Mogadishu to Algiers. It bears translation from Pentagonese. Al-Queda has evolved greatly from its early days of personalization in Usama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and a few others. Our military leaders now characterize it as a "franchise" that shares communications, some funding and sometimes coordinates actions. Some terrorism experts now say that al-Queda is less than that, a loosely-knit network of terrorist groups that coordinate only in giving credit to bin Laden for propaganda purposes. It's impossible to define it with precision, but the map showed al-Queda leaders headquartered in nine places including Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Waziristan (eastern Pakistan), two places in Iraq (Baghdad and northeastern Iraq), northern Uzbekistan and (and here the map is a bit imprecise) two places in Somalia. Al-Queda's objective, we must remember, is the same as that of Iran, but in a much different form. Al-Queda wants to create a new Islamic caliphate dominated by Sunni Muslims. Iran wants a new caliphate, but under a Shia caliph. Though both want to remove our influence from the Middle East and the world and both want to destroy Israel, they cannot both succeed: there can be only one caliph. There is an opportunity to split this enemy, but that opportunity hasn't ripened. Opportunities present themselves for, as Churchill would have said, "action this day." The Baker-Hamilton ISG recommended a regional diplomatic offensive to restore stability in Iraq and in our relations with Iraq's neighbors. We do need a regional diplomatic offensive - indeed a global one - but with the opposite goal. One goal should be to destabilize Iran, to enable its oppressed populace to overthrow the mullacracy. (Students' demonstrations against the Ahmadinejad government show how this government is fragile). And to diplomacy, we should be using every covert means we can think of to support the rebellious elements of Iran's society. The global offensive should include support for Lebanon's attempt - mostly unconnected from the Siniora government - to restore democ[...]



Don't Give in to Defeat in Iraq

Mon, 11 Dec 2006 07:30:03 -0600

A predictable few, such as the New York Times's Frank Rich, think we're already locked in the room. They take joy in their conclusion, that George Bush's war was wrong from the start and that it is lost. We'll never win, the enemy is too strong, our allies are too weak, our cause is unjust, we've wasted our troops' lives, it's a shambles, the only answer is to get out and to hell with the consequences. Our only possible objective now, as the NYT and the Baker-Hamilton ISG would have it, is to get us out of Iraq in whatever semblance of order our enemies may permit. The Baker gang is saying what Kissinger said in 1973: we can have peace with honor, and resolve the war by bargaining from weakness. If we go down this path, Saddam Hussein may again be president of Iraq by the time George W. Bush leaves office. I remember going on active duty in 1973 when the common wisdom was that the Vietnam War couldn't be won. Everyone knew it except the men fighting it. They always said things like, "when you're up to your butt in alligators, it's hard to remember that the job is to drain the swamp." We didn't go into Iraq to create democracy there, but to begin draining the terrorist swamp that extends from Cairo to Tehran, from Riyadh to Damascus. President Bush - riding high on the initial victory in Iraq - did the same thing that his father did in 1991: he lost sight of the real objective. In 1991, we left Saddam in power. In 2006, we are about to leave Ahmadinejad, Assad and the rest in power to continue their global war of terror against us and our allies. We are Rome, they are Carthage. We have fought this war twice now, under two presidents Bush, and neither has taken the war to a conclusion. The Baker-Hamilton report aims at resolving the war only in Iraq. As Lee Hamilton said on "Fox News Sunday" and "Meet the Press", they believe that the "...road to peace in Iraq begins and ends in Baghdad, nowhere else." Their detachment from reality cannot be better stated. They propose a huge diplomatic "offensive" in the Middle East that would beggar us before Syria and Iran. That recommendation was too much even for the Washington Post. Its lead editorial Sunday said the Baker-Hamilton, "...group's diplomatic strategy is sweeping -- and untethered to reality...To embrace the group's proposed "New Diplomatic Offensive" would be to suppose a Middle East very different from what's on the ground." It doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to lock ourselves in the room with the black dog. But we can only avoid it if this president stands up as he hasn't since 2001, and rejects the path the Baker-Hamilton group has mapped. Anticipating the president's response to Baker-Hamilton, our adversaries are trying to herd us in their direction. Saudi King Abdullah told the Gulf Cooperation Council that the Middle East, "[Is] like a barrel full of gunpowder that could explode any moment with a single spark...Our Arab region is surrounded by dangers." He said, "Our basic issue of Palestine is still in the hands of a vicious occupying enemy that does not fear anything and in the hands of an international community that looks at the gruesome tragedy as a bystander." What rubbish. Abdullah is playing to the right audience: Baker, Hamilton and their ilk worship at the altar of the Stability God: "He who believeth in Me and does not disturb my support of terrorism and war on Israel shall never lack for oil." Of the few things George W. Bush has right, it's that "stability" in the Middle East is what brought us 9-11. If the Arab world explodes, the nations that comprise it may be blown out of feudalism and Islamofascism. The Baker-Hamilton gang did get a few things right. Iraq is deteriorating, and the situation cannot get better without a drastic change in US policy. That change needs to be derived from one core concept: defeating the terrorist regimes and draining the Middle Eastern sw[...]



Exit Rumsfeld, Smiling

Thu, 07 Dec 2006 07:58:37 -0600

The criticisms of Rumsfeld, both fair and foul, are overshadowed by a string of lasting accomplishments ranging from bringing ballistic missile defense from theory to reality to transformation of the military from a Cold War garrison force to the flexible forces needed to fight the war we're in. Add to that the rapid overthrow of the Taliban and Saddam regimes, positioning America to deal with the rise of China, subtract Bush's unwillingness to take the battle to the enemy's centers of gravity, and Rumsfeld's record will be seen as imperfect, but one that may prove him to have been our best Secretary of Defense. History will be kinder to Rumsfeld than the daily press, just as it has been to our Civil War leaders, because it will see facts from a greater distance than those who write and broadcast every day can achieve. Some of the facts historians will place in context are these. After 9-11, the president wanted to hit the Taliban hard, fast and decisively. But Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki insisted that almost the entire army had to be deployed to do it, and that would take several months. Rumsfeld and the other military leaders crafted a plan to take us to war - and to victory -- in weeks. America attacked the Taliban in early October 2001 and the Shinseki army - except for Army Special Forces and helo forces -- stayed home. By December the regime was toppled. Then began the media's contrivance of stories - possibly in collusion with congressional Democrats - about Rumsfeld's supposed failures that have led to everything from Usama bin Laden's escape to the mess in Mesopotamia. The media suffered a panic attack at the beginning of the Afghan and Iraq wars. When our forces paused in the advance toward Baghdad, the media panicked. Reports said we're pausing, so we must be in trouble, we're running out of ammo, food and even water. There aren't enough troops. The war plan was wrong, and we have to stop, we're in Vietnam, another quagmire. The media were proven so wrong so quickly and so decisively that even they were embarrassed and they've never forgiven Rumsfeld for it. Their revenge is in the contrivance of fables about him. The first myth was that Rumsfeld refused to put enough troops into the Tora Bora region to capture bin Laden, that we'd "subcontracted" bin Laden's capture to unreliable Afghan tribal leaders, resulting in his escape. Gen. Tommy Franks, CENTCOM commander, debunked that in an op-ed in October 2004, but the media persisted. In a November 2004 interview Marine Lt. Gen. Mike "Rifle" Delong, Gen. Franks's second in command, told me, "Somebody could have made that statement, but it sure as hell wasn't the people who fought the war." But DeLong's and Franks's facts weren't consistent with the media narrative, so the myth is perpetuated. Just like the 527 Media's metaphysical certainty that Rumsfeld didn't get along with the military and disregarded the senior generals' counsel. "Rifle" DeLong had a few choice words about that as well. "...We had these discussions with [the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and we also had them with the Secretary [Rumsfeld] and the Secretary agreed with us." What he described for the Afghanistan operations was the usual process with plans developed in debates - some heated, some not - between professionals. What DeLong told me then I have confirmed over and over in discussions with other senior military leaders. Rumsfeld is a tough guy to work for, but he absorbs - and mostly follows -- the advice of senior military leaders. If anything he's too tolerant of rebellious generals. Eric Shinseki should have been fired (and might have been but for the fact of his family connections to Hawaii Sen. Dan Inouye). The greatest fable about Rumsfeld's tenure was the so-called "generals' revolt" contrived by the 527 Media in apparent collusion with the Democrats. The political maneuver -- culminating in the p[...]



Saudi Diplomatic Smackdown

Thu, 30 Nov 2006 09:11:39 -0600

As former British Secretary of State for Defense, Lord Gilmour, told the BBC a few weeks ago, "You either got the business and bribed or you didn't bribe and didn't get the business." If this is beginning to sound familiar, it should. Remember how Saddam did business in the UN's Oil-for-Food scam? About two years ago, British investigators began looking into allegations of bribes that made the al-Yamamah deals possible and by which they've been kept alive. The ongoing investigation, according to a November 19 London Sunday Times article, is looking into information about a "slush fund" - amounting to nearly $120 million -- set up by BAE for Saudi royal family members. According to that Times report, "The payments, in the form of lavish holidays, a fleet of luxury cars including a gold Rolls-Royce, rented apartments and other perks, are alleged to have been paid to ensure the Saudis continued to buy from BAE under the so-called Al-Yamamah deal, rather than going to another country." Several people, including senior BAE executives, have already been arrested in the case. And that is where the Saudis want it to stop. In a meeting with Tony Blair last year, the Saudis apparently got the impression that the investigation would go no farther. But to their surprise, this summer British investigators persuaded Swiss magistrates to order disclosure of some confidential bank records. The Times reports that the Saudis "hit the roof" on hearing of this and in September caused a senior diplomat to deliver an unprecedented threat to the Blair government. The Saudis threatened to suspend diplomatic relations with Britain and end intelligence cooperation on al-Queda. Their threat included - and not just in passing -- cancellation of the latest round of weapons-buying, a contract for 72 Typhoon aircraft, worth about $20 billion and 10,000 British jobs. The nature of this threat compels two conclusions about the Saudis. First, if the exposure of financial corruption - even on the grand scale of Yamamah - can cause them to threaten to cut Britain off diplomatically and to end intelligence cooperation on al-Queda, the Saudis must believe that their hold on power is terribly fragile. To go to such lengths, they must be more ready to deal with al-Queda than with the effect of their own people learning just how corrupt the Saudi royal family is. Second, they must think that their oil is a weapon that trumps all others, the ultimate tool of blackmail. The Saudis' brinkmanship may be their undoing. By threatening to break off diplomatic relations, they have converted an embarrassment into an international confrontation. How the British answer the Saudis' ultimatum may have a significant effect on the future of the Middle East. If they stop the investigation, the brakes will be off on Saudi intransigence. Cooperation in tracing terrorists and their funding, only grudgingly given, will probably stop altogether. If they don't stop the investigation, the Saudis may cancel the Typhoon contract and buy Rafale jets from the ever-eager-to-please French. So far, the British haven't caved in. In the nearly three months since their ultimatum was delivered, and because the Brits haven't done as the Saudis demanded, the Saudis have begun to carry out their threat. According to the November 27 Financial Times, the Saudis broke off negotiations on the latest Typhoon purchase contract which could grow to four times the initial value of about $20 billion. Nervous BAE Chief Executive Mike Turner said his company has done nothing wrong but - there's always a "but" - Turner also said, "...we do want to see a resolution of the [Serious Fraud Office] investigation. It's damaging to our business." Business and principle are often incompatible in the Middle East. In this case, because the Saudis have raised the stakes to a new height, and because the Saudi[...]



The 527 Media's Predicament

Fri, 17 Nov 2006 16:30:37 -0600

In 2006, important issues abounded but Democrats were able to avoid committing to any positions, campaign on the theme, "vote for us because we're not them." Issues were usually debated in terms of Republican-created problems and the 527 Media never demanded that Democrats say what they'd do to solve them. Republicans let this happen. But the result poses a big problem for the Dems: if you win on that basis you have no mandate from the voters to do anything specific. And if you want to maintain the power you've won, you have to reward the people and special interests who got you there. For the Democratic Class of 2006 that means the media. How much the media are owed - really, how much they can control the Dems - is being measured this week on Jack Murtha and his stance on Iraq. If the 2006 vote on Iraq was like the 1974 vote against American involvement in Vietnam, wouldn't Ned Lamont have won? But Lamont - losing by two-to-one among Connecticut Democrats - couldn't even carry his home town of Greenwich against war supporter Joe Lieberman. And Lieberman, as liberal as can be, won about seventy percent of the Republican vote. In "blue" Connecticut, even Republican Chris Shays (who said he was prepared to lose for his support for Iraq) won by three points. Exit polls said the Iraq war was a very important issue to a large majority of voters. Though the Democrats nationalized this issue it's clear that the voters didn't give the Dems a mandate on any Iraq policy. A solid majority, according to Pew Research, don't like what's going on but do not support sudden withdrawal. Except for the Lamontocrats, Democrats insisted they weren't the "cut and run" party. Their suggestions ranged widely from Sen. Biden's plan for a regional peace conference with Iraq's neighbors (Syria and Iran) to Cong. Murtha's plan to redeploy from Iraq to Okinawa. Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi's strong support of Murtha's candidacy for House Majority Leader has the media in damage control mode. The Washington Post, having achieved the defeats of George Allen and Michael Steele, endorsed on Tuesday long-time Maryland Cong. Steny Hoyer for the majority leader's post. In its endorsement, it voiced opinions about Hoyer's opponent, Jack Murtha, that were startling for their vehemence: "Mr. Murtha's candidacy is troubling for several reasons, beginning with his position on the war in Iraq...his descriptions of the stakes there have been completely unrealistic, and his solutions irresponsible." The Post's editorial comes soon after Sen. Carl Levin, incoming Armed Services Committee Chairman, said that Democrats wanted to pressure the White House into beginning to withdraw American troops in four to six months. The Post condemnation of Murtha is a sign of media panic. They know that if the Democrats unite around the Murtha policy of cutting and running, they may damage themselves significantly for the 2008 presidential race. If Hoyer wins, the media win. The campaign to elect "moderate" Hillary Clinton to the presidency will have survived its first challenge. If Murtha wins, the media will make him disappear in favor of more moderate Senate Democrats. Democrats, lacking a mandate and promises to fulfill, will begin - as they always do - by determining which policies to pursue by satisfying the special interests that helped them achieve victory. First among these special interests is the 527 Media who toiled diligently but never faced a Republican response (until - too late for the election - Lynn Cheney body-slammed Wolf Blitzer, asking repeatedly why CNN was broadcasting terrorist propaganda films.) Now the Democrats have to reward their media enablers, which means openly taking on the Bush policies that the media has found most objectionable. The war in Iraq and the legal but politically-hot programs such as the PATRIOT Act [...]



Happy Birthday, Teufel Hunden

Fri, 10 Nov 2006 09:30:55 -0600

Those of us who grew up in the 1950s knew them as a group apart. All my friends' fathers had served in World War 2, and they all had the same odd reaction to my father. He never shouted or growled (well, not that often) but when the veteran of Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Iwo Jima spoke, his peers maintained a respectful silence. He was a Marine, and nothing trumped that credential. At Iwo Jima, it was said of them that uncommon valor was a common virtue. Americans understand that is still true today, but too few have a good idea why. What is a Marine? Let me suggest a definition. A big part of it is still about valor and skill in combat, as Marine First Sergeant Brad Kasal proved two Novembers ago in Fallujah. Leading a handful of Marines to rescue three other wounded Marines, Kasal charged into a small house and shot it out with insurgents - sometimes so close he could ram the muzzle of his M-16 into their chests as he fired -- for forty minutes. Kasal insists he wasn't a hero, even though he dove atop another Marine and absorbed the blast of a grenade. He told me the Marines who dragged him out of the house after that forty-minute firefight were the heroes. But it's not only heroism and skill in combat that defines a Marine. Maybe the tale of my late friend, James G. Hart, does. Young Jim Hart, growing up poor in Montana, was punching cows at the age of fifteen, and getting into some typical teenager troubles. Somehow his family scraped up enough money to move to Minnesota and to send Jim to the Shattuck St. Mary's School there. A little discipline went a long way in Jim's life and - just for the heck of it - he applied for a nomination to Annapolis. Marine Lieutenant Jim Hart graduated in 1965 and soon found himself in Vietnam. On his second (third?) tour there, Jim took a rifle round in the chest. At the field hospital, he waved off the priest coming to give him the last rites. Recovering from wounds no one thought he could survive, he was told his infantry career was over. So he blarneyed his way into flight school and a couple of years later flew night missions over Vietnam in an F-4. What would be beyond the call of duty for normal people was routine for Jim. After Vietnam, he went into the Marine Force Recon, their special operations unit. When I met Jim he had just served a tour as the chief test pilot of the marines and was stuck in Headquarters, fighting the political battles of budget and taking on the Hill's grandstanders. The Marines fly the noisiest aircraft in creation: the AV8-B Harrier, a vertical-takeoff beast that, like the bumblebee, appears to break laws of physics whenever it flies. Jim was program manager for the Harrier and he had to face a hostile Congressional hearing. I talked to him for a couple of hours, giving him political advice he probably didn't need. In the hearing, he performed as only he could. This was 1991: the Democrats held the house, and investigating committees were mighty hostile. This one, run by Michigan's John Conyers, thought it was going to tear this example of Pentagon arrogance apart. Everything went well enough until one Connecticut Republican who shall remain nameless asked Jim about some problem with the Harrier and ran well beyond his headlights by asking if it worked at a temperature of minus 40 degrees. Jim said yes. Then the gent asked if that was true at both minus 40 Fahrenheit and at minus 40 Centigrade. When Jim said, "it doesn't matter," the room exploded with members shouting for everything from a contempt citation to, well, something short of a beheading. When the harrumphing slowed, Jim explained why it didn't matter (at minus 40 degrees, Fahrenheit and Centigrade are mathematically equal) and the hearing came to a crashing halt. That was James G. Hart: cool, competent, and ready[...]



Countdown to Tuesday (and Wednesday)

Thu, 02 Nov 2006 10:40:59 -0600

The only predictable result of Kerry's outburst will be at least one more October surprise before next Tuesday. Yes, it's November, but ever since Cap Weinberger's indictment was announced right before the 1984 election we've had tardy October surprises and before Tuesday we're almost sure to get one or more from the 527 Media (or the UN: remember the 2004 phony missing explosives story?) It's the necessary product of the principal element of liberal thinking in this campaign. Stick with me for a moment, because it all comes back to George Bush and John Kerry. You meet the nicest people in smoke-filled rooms. A couple of weeks ago, in the rear courtyard of the Dominican Embassy, suitably shrouded in the finest cigar smoke, I met a neuroradiologist. This medical genius (and Air Force vet) took the time to explain that his profession is the one that seeks the mysteries of the human brain in CAT scans, MRIs and electro-encephalograms, often discovering things they don't expect. The next day, he sent me a clipping from the October 2006 issue of a magazine called "Diagnostic Imaging." The article said that new experimental results - based on a very small sample of 10 registered Democrats and 10 registered Republicans -- showed that there was a measurable difference in their brain functions. The article began with something only a medical specialist could understand: "Researchers found that the dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulated cortices, the brain regions involved in cognitive and emotional control, worked in tandem to promote positive feelings toward the subjects' favored candidates and negative feelings toward opposing candidates." Fortunately the next sentence explained, "While Democrats demonstrated negativity toward Bush and Republicans showcased similar feelings for Kerry, fMRI revealed that the Republicans could stomach Kerry more easily than Democrats could Bush." My new-found doctor pal wouldn't say the data were conclusive but it's apparent that there's something more than political beliefs propelling people such as John Kerry to make outbursts, Howard Dean to scream and the DailyKos to conduct their online jihad against Joe Lieberman. Diagnosis: anger. But anger is not a political ideology and it's not enough to win American elections. The polls later this week will begin to mean something. By Monday, the Democratic "wave" - if there is one -- will be measurable in height, and Republicans will pretty well know how badly, if at all, they're going to be beaten. I won't write again before the election, so here are some thoughts on how Tuesday's results may set the stage for 2008. Many of the disputed Senate races are still up in the air. In Virginia, New Jersey, Montana, Missouri, and Tennessee the current leader is at this writing up by five percent or less. As John McIntyre pointed out a few days ago, George Allen's race alone swung 7% in only a week. Weekend polls will show the five closest will likely have solidified around one candidate or another, but still can't predict voter turnout. Before the campaign, it appeared that George Allen's race would result in a bankable Republican hold and the start of Allen's 2008 presidential bid. But from the time when Allen's campaign fell into disarray with the "macaca moment" his opponent, Jim Webb, seemed to be wearing a Teflon coat. I thought Virginia could be a bellweather for Republicans. It seemed a state in which we might measure whether Republicans could overcome big errors and campaign weaknesses by running on their strengths. Instead, the Virginia race may come down to voters' decisions between sexually-bizarre passages from Webb's old novels and Allen's politically-bizarre focused pursuit of votes from Virginia's feminists community. We're not likely lea[...]



Will the Media Drown in an 06 Election 'Wave'?

Thu, 26 Oct 2006 00:47:51 -0600

The Republican ads are just a bit off target. George Allen's attack ad about Jim Webb's long-ago statement that the Naval Academy was a great place for "horny women" and placing Webb at the 1991 Tailhook Association convention (where a number of women were allegedly molested) is apparently intended to deliver the feminist vote for Allen. Huh? The media are trying to manufacture a "macaca moment" for Tennessee Republican senate candidate Bob Corker from an RNC-funded ad that pokes fun at Harold Ford, Jr. for a lot of liberal ideas he peddles but goes off on a dumb sexual tangent. While the Republicans are wasting money on this junk, the Dems - and their amen chorus in the 527 Media - are nationalizing the election. The New York Times lead editorial Wednesday went against several prior endorsements and endorsed the opponent of Connecticut Republican Chris Shays. The penultimate sentence said, "Mr. Shays has been a good congressman, but not good enough to overcome the fact that his reelection would help empower a party that is long overdue for a shakeup." The shakeup the Times and the rest of the 527 Media want is for the Democrats to achieve control of Congress. And they won't if the Republicans fight that battle. Sen. Charles Schumer, head of the Dem Senate Campaign Committee, was in Rhode Island campaigning for Sheldon Whitehouse in his race against incumbent Republican Lincoln Chafee. Schumer said over and over that the issue wasn't Chafee or Schumer it was Democratic control of the Senate which Schumer said can't be won without defeating Chafee. Schumer, whose performances in the Alito Supreme Court confirmation hearings were scurrilous even by today's low standards, should be the star of Republican ads designed to prevent Dem control of the Senate. It's an unanswerable mystery that the Republicans won't make a tv ad that sews together Schumer's campaigning for Democrat Senate control with that unforgettable front-page photo of Mrs. Alito in tears at Schumer's and Kennedy's over-the-top performance in her husband's hearings. It's as if the Republicans are content to let the Dems campaign nationally by avoiding the best issue Republicans have. The Washington Post, as Steve Spruiell wrote in NRO Tuesday, has published about 100 articles and editorials about allegations that Virginia Sen. George Allen is a racist. Also on Tuesday, WaPo's Jeffrey Birnbaum wrote that, "The [Democrat's election] wave is coming...Polls are now showing that the tide of public opinion is flowing [against Republicans] and that voters could vote Republicans out of office in droves this year, returning Democrats to power in the House and possibly in the Senate as well." But what if the wave turns out to be a ripple? Some Democratic candidates seem to think it will, and are hedging their candidacies against it. First term Georgia Democrat John Barrow is running to the right. According to this New York Times story, Barrow is running as a pseudo-conservative, embracing abolishment of the estate tax. And his Georgia colleague, Jim Marshall is complaining that, thanks to Republican tv ads, "I'm spending a lot more time with Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton on TV in middle Georgia than I will ever in my life spend in reality." The point Georgia Democrats realize is still lost on national Republicans. But not on the 527 Media. It's not just the New York Times and the Washington Post that are pulling out all the anti-Republican stops. In just the last week, CNN has continued its anti-Rumsfeld tear with a Sunday "Man of War" diatribe and an hour-long "Broken Government" show. This comes after CNN broadcast a terrorist video supposedly showing an insurgent sniper shooting an American soldier. If the Democrat wave fails to mat[...]



Go For It, Mr. President

Thu, 19 Oct 2006 10:15:24 -0600

Republicans need to better understand and act on the signals voters are sending. Vice President Cheney - who to the 527 Media personifies everything wrong with the Bush White House - is being received like a rock star on campaign stops (according to one New York Times report.) In Virginia, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is being supported by about 53% of Virginia voters and, as the Washington Post reports mournfully, no state has yet rejected such a ban. And if viewer ratings have the value political polls do, where CBS News now stands people may soon be able to view the Couric Crater. Those small facts, and others like them, add up to an opportunity in the next week or ten days for Republicans to regain the upper hand. This is the moment of truth for President Bush and the Republican National Committee. Will they do what it takes to change the news dynamic, to focus the nation on their structural strengths and the Democrats' corresponding weaknesses? The news dynamic - the momentum of the media herd - has focused on the bad news from Iraq, but not what the Democrats would do (regarding Iraq or anything else) if they take control of Congress. Why don't the media ask the tough questions, calling irresponsible those who seek power but refuse to say what they'll do when they get it? Because many among the 527 Media think the Dems have already won and won't rock their boat. But they remember 2004, and will publish a few more October surprises timed to deter a Republican comeback. The news dynamic will serve them up as part of the continuing, "Iraq is a disaster, Bush is incompetent" narrative. To turn the media herd, Republicans have to disrupt the narrative. There are three keys to disrupting the narrative and turning the herd: Iraq, the Democrats and the media themselves. The 527 Media have turned Iraq into a choice between "staying the course" and an undefined Democrat alternative. The Dems insist they aren't going to cut and run, but what they say they will do can only be described as "trim and trot." No Democrat has, since 9-11, described a plan to win the war against terrorist nations. All they have said - through John Murtha, Carl Levin and Charlie Rangel - is that they'd move American troops out of Iraq and then cut funding for military aid to the Iraqis. Do Americans want to trim and trot, and who do they trust to face off with Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Democrats want everyone to believe that 2006 is another 1994 when Republican reformers swept in on a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment. Though this year isn't 1994: it could be 1974. Inflamed by Watergate, weary of the Vietnam War, voters installed a Democratic congress that cut off funding to the South Vietnamese. That left our allies - who had been fighting well -- vulnerable to the North Vietnamese attack that the funding cut invited. Republicans need to tell the truth about the Dems: they have to say that the Dems will do to Baghdad what they did to Saigon. They should fight the "who lost the Vietnam War" issue all over again. The Republicans in 1994 came in with Gingrich's "Contract with America" to fix what was broken in Washington. The 2006 Democrats aren't reformers. They propose nothing more than rolling back everything President Bush has done. They are liberals, and everything they do will be in pursuit of a hard-core liberal agenda that will please only the Ned Lamont fringe who control their party. Republicans need to hammer home the fact that the Dems are liberals. And the media are the liberals are the Dems. Monday night's CBS Evening News presented a "news" story that for an instant I thought was one of the anti-media campaign commercials I've said the Republicans should[...]



No Partial Credit

Thu, 12 Oct 2006 07:30:12 -0600

By going to the UN Mr. Bush shelves his ability to use the diplomatic and military tools that are independent of it. The most effective combination of such tools is the Proliferation Security Initiative. The PSI now has nineteen member nations agreed to interdict shipments of missiles and weapons of mass destruction between and among rogues and terrorists. By Italy's cooperation, the PSI was directly responsible for Libya's surrender of its nuclear weapons program to us. Mr. Bush could call upon the Proliferation Security Initiative nations to act directly, and have the solution to the problem well begun before November 7th. Were he to do so, North Korean ships and aircraft would be searched anywhere they are found and Kim Jong-il's principal goal - to produce and sell missiles and nuclear weapons - could be thwarted. The second tool Mr. Bush should use quickly is his most senior representative, Vice President Cheney. Mr. Cheney should be dispatched to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul (in that order). Sending Cheney instead of Condoleeza Rice sends a much-needed message of firmness. Japan is one of the PSI members and should be embraced for taking the initiative against North Korea. The new Shinzo Abe government has announced it will ban entry of all North Korean citizens and goods into Japan as well as bar North Korean ships from its ports as sanctions for the nuclear test. (Failing to invoke the PSI and relying on the UN to specify sanctions undercuts Japan's action dramatically). Mr. Cheney should openly praise the Abe government's policies and call upon others to follow them. In Beijing, Mr. Cheney could warn China that world opinion will hold it responsible for failing to control North Korea. As one of our top China hands told me in an interview last year, China is highly sensitive to such criticism, and American representatives can have very frank - even blunt - talks with them without offending. Speaking firmly behind closed doors, Mr. Cheney can move the Chinese. And, in Seoul, Mr. Cheney should warn the South Korean government to follow Japan's example or risk losing the protection of American troops based there. This would set us on a path to disarming North Korea's nuclear weapons and - by acting decisively outside the UN - the president would let Mahmoud Ahmadinejad know he's not bluffing when he says Iran will not be allowed to have nuclear weapons. Any actions less firm will prove the opposite: that any nation, no matter how radical, jihadist or rogue, will be permitted to have (and possibly sell) nuclear weapons. The politics of North Korea's nuclear weapons has so far escaped the Republicans. The architects of the Carter-Clinton failed 1994 "Agreed Framework" deal with North Korea are out blaming President Bush for its failure. In Wednesday's New York Times, former president Carter wrote that the failure of his 1994 deal was caused by President Bush labeling North Korea part of the "axis of evil" in 2002. Carter's statement doesn't withstand even the slightest analysis. On April 24, 2003, in Beijing talks with Chinese and American representatives, North Korean representatives declared that their nation possessed nuclear weapons. In 2004, Defense Intelligence Agency experts reportedly said that North Korea had between four and eight plutonium bombs. By Carter's analysis, that would mean the North Koreans stopped their nuclear weapons development for eight years, recommenced it in 2002 and in less than two years had managed to produce several weapons. His claim is risible. In the last weeks of the 2006 campaign, invoking PSI and launching Mr. Cheney on a trip to deal with the North Korea matter would combine good policy with good politics. [...]



Dem Timing Plays & GOP Silver Bullets

Thu, 05 Oct 2006 07:53:49 -0600

This year, polls show Democrats aren't doing as well as they'd thought on key issues such as winning in Iraq, homeland vulnerability to terrorist attack and the need to keep the economic boom going. To counter their structural weaknesses, as I predicted in this space since August, the 527 Media - the NYT, WaPo, CBS, NBC, ABC -- are producing "October surprises" at a tremendous pace. So far we've seen them make a major story of the Senate Democrats' attempt to revive the discredited "revolt of the generals" followed quickly by the leaked National Intelligence Estimate and then the new Bob Woodward book, "State of Denial." Before this year, the media would take the trouble to deny that they timed their stories to do damage to a Republican candidate. Even that pretense has been abandoned this year. The timing of the Revolting Generals, Part III was obvious: it was a foundation for Woodward's book release. But Woodward's book itself? The proof that the book's purpose, and the timing of the release, is to influence the 2006 election comes from Woodward's own words. As reported in the October 2 Editor and Publisher, NBC's Matt Lauer asked Woodward why he held such an important story - i.e., his alleged proofs that the Bush administration was lying to the American people about the Iraq war - instead of taking the WaPo front page with it? E & P reports: "Woodward replied that he had not waited "to make a splash, but to assemble the whole story," and then go to the White House and Pentagon and CIA and ask, "What did you do?" He added: "Simon & Schuster and my bosses at the Washington Post said the only real obligation here is to tell it before the election." (emphasis added). At least Woodward is honest about his motivation. If only his editors, and those of the other 527 Media were as forthright. Now we have the carefully-timed "breaking news" of Cong. Mark Foley's salacious e-mails and "instant messages" with a house page. The St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald received the e-mails between Foley and the page, in the case of the Times as early as last November. Neither published the story until ABC did. How long did ABC have them, as well as the actually incriminating "instant messages"? The media are not conspiring to hold the stories. Never forget: it's a media culture, not a conspiracy. The Republicans should realize two things. First, as ABC's political director Mark Halperin wrote a few days ago, Republican strengths are real. If Republicans start filtering the media-generated noise out of the election conversation, they will beat Democrats on issues. Second, the Democrats are spinning the issues not answering them. The Foley matter is serious, but should only have been a small story. It's made big only by media inflation and continued revelations about Speaker Dennis Hastert's actions and inactions. According to several reports they have warned Hastert to resolve the problem this week or resign. Now everyone is wondering what comes next? What else does the 527 Media have up its sleeve to hammer Republicans before the election? The Republicans are in a state of near panic, worried that they're being out-maneuvered by the Clintons' war room machinery. They sound like the Civil War staff officer who famously got Ulysses S. Grant to blow his top. After a fight near the Rapidan River during the Wilderness campaign, a staff general approached Grant proclaiming a crisis, bewailing the Union's inability to guess what Robert E. Lee would do next. Grant scolded him: "Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and [...]