Entries Tagged as 'Congress'

Will’s Exit from Afghanistan

David Frum September 1st, 2009 at 11:42 am 72 Comments

Anybody who does not share George Will’s frustrations with the Afghan mission has not been paying attention.

That does not mean George Will is right in his call for American evacuation and a

comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, pills using intelligence, unhealthy drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units…

I think that policy answer is wrong. But if we are to reach a better answer, we need to deal with what is right in Will’s analysis of today’s grim and deteriorating Afghan situation.

Will is right about the weakness of the Afghan state. He is right about the endemic corruption of the Afghan government. He is right about the country’s deep backwardness. He is right above all about the Zen unreality of the current mission: to prevent the re-establishment of al Qaeda bases.

The Bush administration’s undeclared strategy in Afghanistan was to invest the minimum necessary to achieve stability – and then refocus on what it regarded as a more important and more winnable theater in Iraq.

Unfortunately, sustaining Afghan stability has proven much more difficult and expensive than imagined back in 2001 and 2002. Then candidate Obama compounded that Bush-era miscalculation with a poorly considered pledge to increase the US commitment in Afghanistan – a pledge that originated much more in the candidate’s political needs than in any strategic calculation. Obama has hugely reinforced the US Army in Afghanistan, with a big “TK” where his counter-insurgency strategy ought to be.

That’s a formula for frustration. What is being said by George Will in public is already being muttered in private by congressional Democrats.

Barack Obama has given Afghanistan men and money. But one vital resource is being withheld: presidential time and commitment. Turning around an unsuccessful war demands intense presidential focus. Everyone around the president must be made to understand that the war is priority 1, and that everything else on the agenda must be subordinated to this supreme imperative. George W. Bush accepted that responsibility in 2006-2008. Barack Obama has not. The results are as we see, in Afghanistan and now in the darkening assessment of as strong-spined an observer as George Will.

Can Obama Save His Presidency?

August 31st, 2009 at 1:48 pm 25 Comments

As cold fear rises in the mainstream media that President Obama may be in over his head, my thoughts go back to a dinner I attended in New York last December. Obama had just been elected and the Right was deeply fearful that he might indeed live up to his hype and be a new FDR. One of the attendees at this dinner happened to be one of the very, very few right-of-center people who can legitimately claim to know Barack Obama well on both the personal and professional levels. (I cannot give his name because his comments were off the record, but I have provided it to the editor of New Majority.) Naturally, we were all curious about his assessment of the new president-elect. He was reluctant to speak to the subject initially, but gave in after some good-natured urging.

“Two observations,” he said. “First, I have never known him to change his mind on any issue of any significance, even when provided with new facts and new information.”

As we digested that rather disturbing bit of information, he added the second.

“And I don’t think he has the foggiest notion of how an economy works.”

When you think about it, though, neither observation ought to be terribly surprising. Unlike Bill Clinton, who had to survive in a culturally conservative state like Arkansas for two decades before becoming president, Barack Obama has lived his entire life in a left-liberal bubble. When he wasn’t living in Indonesia, he was living in Hawaii, the most culturally atypical (and one of the most politically liberal) states in the Union. From everything I’ve read about them, the grandparents who raised him would not have felt out of place at a Communist Party USA meeting. Then there was Columbia and Harvard. He cut his political teeth in Chicago, and there can be little doubt he views the private sector the way any liberal, urban politician views the private sector: as a cow to be milked. He doesn’t want the cow to die, of course. But it’s not the politician’s job to feed the cow, care for the cow, or see to it that the cow is healthy. That is somebody else’s job. All the urban liberal politician wants to hear when he gets up in the morning is that the cow is giving milk, and will give more tomorrow. The mechanics of how that actually gets done is simply not his concern. He was elected to redistribute wealth, not create it. That is what Obama was getting at in his unscripted moment with Joe the Plumber last fall.

So, for those out there who think the president is inclined – or even able – to “pull a Clinton” and tack to the political center, someone who has known him for over a decade doesn’t think it’s in his DNA. And there isn’t much evidence to the contrary. We have a president whose beliefs are rigid and who is ignorant of basic economics. Maybe all this will still work out, but any such belief has to be based more on faith than on evidence.

The Headlines Review

August 30th, 2009 at 8:10 pm Comments Off

Napoleon Linardatos presents a humorous take on today’s headlines.

“As Internet Booms, the Postal Service Fights Back”

-New York Times, 08.28.09

The U.S. Postal Service plans to start its own email service. The users of the service will be able to send and receive emails every day except Sunday.

* * *

“Bernanke Victimized by Identity Fraud Ring”

-Newsweek, 08.25.09

The Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, became suspicious when his attempted online purchase of Suze Orman’s The Laws of Money was declined.

* * *

“Colorado wildlife experts get aggressive going after smart bears”

-Denver Post, 8.24.09

Bears found in Mensa meetings will be shot at once.

* * *

“GOP Offers Seniors Health Bill of Rights”

-Associated Press, 8.24.09

Article I. Congress shall make no law reducing the massive intergenerational wealth transfers instituted by our political opponents in the years past.

* * *

“Yahoo renews vow to fight Microsoft”

-Financial Times, 8.25.09

Yahoo’s CEO said “We shall fight them on the closed circuits, we shall fight them on the e-commerce platforms, we shall fight them on the copper and fiber lines, we shall never merge.”

* * *

“Anne Fine deplores ‘gritty realism’ of modern children’s books”

-The Times, 8.24.09

J. K. Rowling’s newest book Notes from the Hogwarts Underground will be out this fall.

* * *

“Iran puts leading reformers on trial over unrest”

-Reuters, 8.25.09

The dissidents are charged with disorderly contact and astroturfing.

* * *

“U.S. limits visas in Honduras, stepping up pressure”

-Reuters, 8.25.09

In an effort to improve its relationship with the Obama administration, Honduras plans to turn decidedly anti-American.

* * *

“Italy to Ask Libya for Help in Controlling Migration”

-Wall Street Journal, 8.28.09

If Libya refuses the offer, Italy plans to cut off the head of Gaddafi’s favorite camel and place it in the dictator’s bed.

* * *

“Robbers pretended to sell President Obama health insurance policies to invade Long Island home”

-New York Daily News, 8.29.09

The victims got wary when they were told that the first insurance premium payment would consist of the plasma TV, the kid’s iPod and the “really cute shepherdess lamp.”

Obamacare Isn’t Happening

August 25th, 2009 at 11:05 pm 6 Comments

Five months ago, the conventional wisdom in Washington was that Obama would achieve a transformational healthcare victory by the August recess.  Obama, as “sort of God,” was certainly capable of marshaling support for comprehensive health care reform.

When that deadline became unrealistic, the conventional wisdom turned in favor of a healthcare victory lap sometime when Congress returned in September.

Then the floor fell out, and the conventional wisdom shifted again.  The CBO scores wrecked any O-mentum and the town halls erupted.  Now, Obama might have to scale back his ambitious agenda for healthcare reform.  But rest assured, Congress would give him a bill, he would sign ‘something called health care reform,’ and any mojo lost in the fight over healthcare would be quickly restored as the President took his victory lap for this historic legislative achievement.

When the conventional wisdom on Obamacare shifted this last time, I turned to Mrs. Clay and said I wish Vegas was taking bets on this, because I would go all-in on the conventional wisdom shifting yet again.

And so it might.  Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) had the following to say last week at a town hall meeting in Wisconsin.

Nobody is going to bring a bill before Christmas, and maybe not even then, if this ever happens.

If there is any hard and fast rule to be learned in Washington, it is that the conventional wisdom is rarely worth the paper the pundits write it on.

Right now, my money is on Senator Feingold’s currently unconventional prediction, proving conventional come Thanksgiving.

And the pundits will have seen it coming all along.