Tag Archives: Steve Clemons

Damn, We At Around The Sphere Had $200 On Joe Klein Again

Mark Halperin at Time:

McCain wordsmith revealed as “anonymous” author of “O” the novel.

Confirmed by sources, but there were lots of in-plain-sight clues that led to Salter’s Maine door.

(Flashback: Page Six touted Salter.)

–Simon and Schuster topper Jonathan Karp was Salter’s editor on books he did with Senator McCain.

–Salter has been holed up in Maine since leaving his job in the Senate.

–The descriptions that Karp has given of the author matched Salter.

–Salter’s non-denial denial was the closest to a confession of any suspect who was publicly asked.

–There is a story early in the book based on a real-life tale that would have been known only to a McCain campaign insider such as Salter.

Garance Franke-Ruta at The Atlantic:
It was obvious from skimming ‘O: A Presidential Novel,’ written by “Anonymous” and published Tuesday after an intense publicity campaign, that its author was male, on the political center-right, and not a professional writer. The writing lacked the finesse of a pro, described women in vivid physical terms, and imagined for the president a disdain for liberal Democrats that echoed the way conservatives talk about liberals, rather than the way reporters or mainstream Democrats do

Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner:

A little D.C. parlor game at the moment is guessing who the author of the Anonymous novel O: A Presidential Novel, is. The New York Post’s Page Six pointed to former longtime John McCain adviser Mark Salter. Mark Halperin today says he has it “Confirmed by sources” that Salter is Mr. Anonymous. This morning, for what it’s worth, this is what Salter had to say to me: “I can’t confirm I’m the author. Been asked by the publisher, as have many others, not to comment on it.”

All I really know is if Salter wrote it, it’s a good read.

UPDATE: I should make clear: I haven’t read O yet. Assessment is a gamble, being familiar with Salter’s past writing.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

Well that didn’t take too long: Mark Salter has been “officially” fingered as the author of O, the fictionalized, non-sadomasochistic work of fiction about the president, written by someone described by the publisher as someone who “has been in the room with Barack Obama.” You remember Mark Salter as the man who writes everything for John McCain. Oh I see. Political ops. The book has been in print for two days. “Trite, implausible and decidedly unfunny,” says the New York Times!

Truth in advertising first. I haven’t read the novel, though I really like the graphics of the “O” and the “ears” as well as the brilliant blue of the cover.

Recently, I ventured into a cluster of leading conservatives with whom I had a great social encounter and saw the book in my friend’s living room.

Not having read it, I asked the host and others if they enjoyed it — and the response was “I just couldn’t get past the first few dozen pages. I tried twice.”

This person also said that Joe Klein’s brilliance in Primary Colors is that Klein really had an sympathy and understanding for the tough and miserable life politicians had to lead, an empathy for them. My friend said that he didn’t feel that O‘s author had that same respect for the profession.

I then mentioned that I had been hearing rumors that former McCain chief of staff and co-author of nearly all of McCain’s books, Mark Salter, might be the author.

My friend said, “But Mark Salter can write!!”

Just shows that you never know — until you know.

David Weigel:

Was Jonathan Karp on the level when he promoted this? Sort of. The author, we were told, was someone who’d been “in the room” with Barack Obama. That was a loose enough classification to apply to Sarah Palin or to Markos Moulitsas. But the book was also promoted as an insider account of how Obama thinks, which wouldn’t have been possible if it was marketed honestly as “what a confidant of the man Obama defeated in 2008 thinks about Obama.”

The Salter authorship (unconfirmed! barely!) does allow us to revisit a few interesting items in the novel. Is the contempt that “O” feels for Sarah Palin supposed to be in the president’s voice or Salter’s? The president’s, although Palin’s dizzy quotes and decision not to run don’t come from nowhere. Also, the six page section in which the war hero senator’s speechwriter screams “Whhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyy?” makes more sense now.*

*I am kidding about this but it’s worth a disclaimer when you’re discussing a stunt.

1 Comment

Filed under Books

“You’ve Got To Stop This War In Afghanistan.” Richard Holbrooke: 1941-2010

Rajiv Chandrasekaran at WaPo:

Longtime U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, whose relentless prodding and deft maneuvering yielded the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia – a success he hoped to repeat as President Obama’s chief envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan – died Monday in Washington of complications from surgery to repair a torn aorta. He was 69.

A foreign policy adviser to four Democratic presidents, Mr. Holbrooke was a towering, one-of-a-kind presence who helped define American national security strategy over 40 years and three wars by connecting Washington politicians with New York elites and influential figures in capitals worldwide. He seemed to live on airplanes and move with equal confidence through Upper East Side cocktail parties, the halls of the White House and the slums of Pakistan.

Obama praised him as “a true giant of American foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer, and more respected. He was a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country, and pursuit of peace.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement that the United States “has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants.”

Michael Crowley at Swampland at Time:

Holbrooke’s Last Words

“You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”

Spoken to a Pakistani surgeon who was sedating him before surgery.

Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy:

Holbrooke’s untimely death comes as a particular shock to those of us at FP, who saw him only two weeks ago when he was honored at our Global Thinkers Gala and was at his pugnacious best. (Here’s a video of his speech at the event, in which he called his years at FP “among the most important in my life and my career.”

Holbrooke was a giant of American policy over the last half century, trouble-shooting in conflicts from Vietnam, to the Balkans, (about which he wrote his classic first-person account, To End a War) to Afghanistan. (He’s probably one of the few State Department figures to play a starring role in both the Pentagon Papers and the WikiLeaks documents.)

But while often seen as the consummate Foggy Bottom insider, Holbrooke was never sentimental about the business of American foreign policy. His first piece from the very first issue of Foreign Policy in 1970 takes on the bloated U.S. foreign-policy bureaucracy, or has he called it, “the machine that fails.” In Holbrooke’s view, the proliferation of massively-staffed agencies accountable for different aspects of U.S. foreign policy had made the entirely apparatus dangerously unwieldy.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

Diplomacy is a paradoxically insular world. And most of the nation’s foreign affairs get little treatment in the headlines. So I imagine that more than a few readers are wondering why we’re giving such major treatment to the death of Obama administration who many of you probably have never heard of or perhaps only in passing.

As the obituaries note, Holbrooke was key figure in US diplomacy for almost half a century. One fun fact: he authored a substantial portion of the Pentagon Papers. What may or may not come through as clearly was the size of the personality and the doggedness — a fact that likely kept him from the top job of Secretary of State in this and last Democratic administration.

Vice President Biden’s statement contains these two sentence: “Richard Holbrooke was a larger than life figure, who through his brilliance, determination and sheer force of will helped bend the curve of history in the direction of progress … He was a tireless negotiator, a relentless advocate for American interests, and the most talented diplomat we’ve had in a generation.”

His reputation rests on his role in ending the war in Yugoslavia, where he demonstrated a cold-eyed, unabashedly pragmatic mix of cajoling, bullying, threatening and negotiating mixed with bombing to achieve an eminently just and moral end, which makes him on several levels a hero to many of us.

Spencer Ackerman (entire post):

Out for a long-overdue drinks and dinner with foreign-policy-oriented friends tonight, all of a sudden our phones buzz. Richard Holbrooke, the most distinguished diplomat of his generation, has died. None of us know quite what to say. Our respect for Holbrooke has long been tempered with a certain exasperation with how his personality has overshadowed his talents and gotten in the way of his ambition.

And all of a sudden it dawned on me how trivial and thin that critique is. What other American diplomat can credibly say s/he ended a savage war? I read To End A War the year I came to Washington and decided I wanted to cover foreign policy — immediately, if I recall correctly, after I finished A Problem From Hell, partly because I didn’t want to stop exploring what that book mined — and still remember how superhuman a task Dayton seemed, even after factoring out Holbrooke’s interest in making it seem so arduous.

For 40 years, no other diplomat has played as impactful a role in as many of the nation’s crucibles. It’s him and Kissinger (and Kissinger’s been out of the arena for a long time). And whatever Holbrooke’s flaws were, his influence during these tests was ultimately wise and beneficial, quite unlike Kissinger’s. Think for a moment about how thin the line is in foreign affairs between principle and hubris; between the lessons of experience and the blinders they impose; between subtlety and miscalculation. Someone who manages to manage, as Holbrooke always did, is a precious resource.

We read our messages, and clinked our glasses in honor of a great man, thought briefly of his family, and drank. RIP.

Steve Clemons:

Richard Holbrooke is gone. This is not the time for cliches.

But I can’t imagine results-achieving American diplomacy without him. I will personally miss him so much — and am deeply saddened by his passing.

Condolences to Kati Marton, his amazing wife; and to all of his current team — and his many former staff who will carry on his ideas and work for years.

Steve Coll at New Yorker:

It was not easy to construct a quiet hour or two with Richard Holbrooke. I saw him regularly, as did other journalists and researchers who worked on Afghanistan and Pakistan, but a long sit-down took some effort. Holbrooke was an accessible, open, and attentive person, but he was also in perpetual motion. He moved from meeting to meeting, conversation to conversation, and if you managed to sequester him somewhere for fifteen minutes or more, his cell phone was sure to ring—Islamabad, Kabul, the Secretary of State, somebody.

Earlier this year, however, we managed to arrange a private lunch in Washington on a Saturday. He invited me to meet him at the Four Seasons Hotel, near his home in Georgetown. The dining room at the hotel is not quite the watering hole for the wealthy and famous that it is in Manhattan, but it is a Washington-limited facsimile. When the Ambassador arrived the maître d’ attended him lavishly, scolding the waiter who had initially greeted him for failing to assign him an appropriately expansive and exclusive table.

He was carrying that morning’s Financial Times. He marvelled over an article he was reading about I. M. Pei and he wanted to talk about architecture for a while. As I had gotten to know him a little, I had discovered that he would speak about subjects such as acting or trends in academic history with genuine passion. He sometimes preferred those topics to the repetitive nuances of South Asia’s dysfunctional politics. He had a reputation for creating drama around himself; he was genuinely a theatrical man, in the sense of being physical and full of emotion and gesture. I came to think that he lived the way he did in part to avoid boredom.

While we ate lunch, Jerry Seinfeld and some of his entourage entered the dining room; Seinfeld was a guest at the hotel. “Jerry!” Holbrooke shouted, warmly. They were neighbors, it turned out, in New York and Telluride. We stood for introductions and chit-chat. Holbrooke asked what Seinfeld was working on and the comedian talked about his new reality-television show. In mid-explanation, however, Holbrooke’s cell phone rang. It was Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and so the Ambassador had to interrupt Seinfeld to take the call. Eventually we returned to our table and resumed our discussion about the Waziristans and the rest.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

I’m finding it mind-boggling (as is Jim Fallows) that Richard Holbrooke has died, because he was not the sort of person who dies, or at least dies before he’s finished with what he needed to finish. There was too much will inside him to achieve, and he had not yet achieved what he needed to achieve. The last time I spoke to him, a couple of months ago, I asked him if he would replace George Mitchell as the Middle East envoy when Mitchell inevitably stepped down. It always struck me that Holbrooke, with his titanic ego, his magnetism and his brute intelligence — and also his conniving, man-of-the-bazaar qualities so unusual in an American — would be the only American who could birth a Palestinian state and bring peace to the Middle East (Could you just imagine Bill Clinton as good cop and Holbrooke as bad? I could).  Holbrooke laughed off the question, but not really. There were challenges he needed to master before he mastered that one. He was not having great luck in Afghanistan, and he might very well have ultimately failed, but you have to ask yourself — who else? Who else could do what he did? Who else is there? Richard Holbrooke will be missed, even — especially — by the people he drove mad.

James Fallows:

I am thinking of a dozen stories now, starting in the early 1970s when he was editor of Foreign Policy magazine and I was a fledgling freelance writer for him. (Or when, a few years later, I had the odd experience of welcoming him to Plains, Georgia as part of the Carter campaign team.) I will store them up for another time. He was a tremendous force, overall for the betterment of American interests and the world’s. My sympathies to his wife Kati and the rest of his family.  It’s routine to say this, but in this case it’s really so: his absence will be felt.

Leave a comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Political Figures

Barack, Bibi, And The Bomber Boys

Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic:

It is possible that at some point in the next 12 months, the imposition of devastating economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will persuade its leaders to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is also possible that Iran’s reform-minded Green Movement will somehow replace the mullah-led regime, or at least discover the means to temper the regime’s ideological extremism. It is possible, as well, that “foiling operations” conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way. It is also possible that President Obama, who has said on more than a few occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” will order a military strike against the country’s main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.

But none of these things—least of all the notion that Barack Obama, for whom initiating new wars in the Middle East is not a foreign-policy goal, will soon order the American military into action against Iran—seems, at this moment, terribly likely. What is more likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.)

In these conversations, which will be fraught, the Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission.

When the Israelis begin to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the formerly secret enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and possibly even the Bushehr reactor, along with the other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, a short while after they depart en masse from their bases across Israel—regardless of whether they succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, or whether they fail miserably to even make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program—they stand a good chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper among nations.

If a strike does succeed in crippling the Iranian nuclear program, however, Israel, in addition to possibly generating some combination of the various catastrophes outlined above, will have removed from its list of existential worries the immediate specter of nuclear-weaponized, theologically driven, eliminationist anti-Semitism; it may derive for itself the secret thanks (though the public condemnation) of the Middle East’s moderate Arab regimes, all of which fear an Iranian bomb with an intensity that in some instances matches Israel’s; and it will have succeeded in countering, in militant fashion, the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which is, not irrelevantly, a prime goal of the enthusiastic counter-proliferator who currently occupies the White House.

Steve Clemons at the Washington Note:

In an important article titled “The Point of No Return” to be published in The Atlantic tomorrow, national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg recounts something many people didn’t realize at the time and still have a hard time believing. President George W. Bush knocked back Dick Cheney’s wing of the foreign policy establishment – both inside and out of his administration – that wanted to launch a bombing campaign against Iran. In a snippet I had not seen before, Bush mockingly referred to bombing advocates Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer as “the bomber boys.”

George W. Bush was showing his inner realist not allowing his own trigger-happy Curtis LeMays pile on to the national security messes the US already owned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But that was several years ago. Today, there is a new US President, more Iranian centrifuges, and a different Israeli Prime Minister – and Bibi Netanyahu seems closer to a Curtis LeMay, John Bolton or Frank Gaffney than he does to the more containment-oriented Eisenhowers and George Kennans who in their day forged a global equilibrium out of superpower rivalry and hatred.

Goldberg, after conducting dozens of interviews with senior members of Israel’s national security establishment as well as many top personalities in the Obama White House, concludes in his must-read piece that the likelihood of Israel unilaterally bombing Iran to curtail a potential nuclear weapon breakout capacity is north of 50-50.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

I’m not sure I miss Bush’s penchant for nicknames (mine was “Joe Boy”): it was far too frat boy by a lot. But occasionally the President struck gold, as Jeff Goldberg reports in a new piece previewed by Steve Clemons today: he called Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer “the bomber boys,” after their obsession with going to war with Iran–an obsession Bush eschewed in his more reasonable second term, when he retrieved his foreign policy from the Cheney Cult.

In the end, Bush was completely overmatched by the presidency. His time in office–the tax cuts, the Iraq war, the torture, the slipshod governance, the spending on programs like Medicare prescription drugs without paying for them, the deficits, the failure to foresee the housing bubble–was ruinous for the country. But I’ve got to say that “Bomber Boys” is a keeper. Kristol and Krauthammer are hereby branded for life.

Jonathan Tobin at Commentary:

It is more likely that the president and his advisers are more worried about validating the Bush doctrine that a preemptive strike is justified when the threat of a rogue regime getting hold of a weapon of mass destruction is on the table. Everything this administration has done seems to indicate that it sees a potential strike on Iran as more of a threat to the world than the Iranian bomb itself. Since Obama is almost certainly more afraid of another Iraq than he is of a genocidal threat to Israel’s existence, it is difficult to believe that he will take Hitchens’s advice.


I think some people in Washington — and elsewhere — have been letting the Israelis twist in the wind in the hopes that Israel will solve our Iran problems for us, and take the blame. I don’t think these “leaders” will like the outcome, and if I were the Israelis I wouldn’t be trying too hard to make it pleasant. Irresponsibility can be expensive.

Rick Moran:

Goldberg notes that with success, the Israelis will buy time (probably putting the Iranian program back 3-5 years), earn the secret thanks of most of the moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East, and will have stopped potential proliferation to terrorist groups in its tracks.

Is that worth initiating a strike that could lead to World War III?

What will the Russians do if the Israeli’s hit Bushehr? It is likely they will kill Russian technicians in such a strike since they are building the facility under contract with Tehran. Will Vladmir Putin take the death of Russian scientists and technicians lying down? What if he retaliates against Israel? What would be the American response to that?

August, 1914?

Unleashing Hezb’allah against the western world, stirring up trouble in Iraq by ordering the Shia militias into the streets, not to mention a missile campaign against Israel that could kill thousands (at which point Israel may decide that to save its people, it must expand its own bombing campaign, escalating the conflict to the next level) – this alone could ratchet up tensions causing the world to start choosing up sides.

And no America with the will or the self-confidence to step in and assist the world in standing down.

Obama’s foreign policy is not anti-American, unpatriotic, or designed to favor Muslims. It’s just weak. The president has made the conscious decision that the US is too powerful and needs to defer to supra-national organizations like the UN, or regional line ups like NATO or the Arab League when conflict is threatened. “First among equals” is not rhetoric to Obama. He means it. He has been thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea that most of the world’s troubles have been caused by a too-powerful United States and hence, only deliberately eschewing the promotion of American interests can redress this sin.

This will be the first world crisis since the end of World War II where American power and prestige will not be used to intervene in order to prevent catastrophe. Obama is betting the farm that his worldview will be more conducive to defusing a crisis than the more realpolitik and pragmatic point of view that has dominated American foreign policy for 65 years.

We are shortly going to find out whether good intentions really matter in international affairs

Allah Pundit:

Somehow it manages to be both harrowing and mundane: No matter what Obama and Netanyahu end up doing or not doing, the Middle East is sure to be a more dangerous place in a year or two than it is even now — and yet we’ve been headed towards that Catch-22 for years, dating well back into the Bush administration. As dire as they are, the strategic calculations have become sufficiently familiar — a bombing run might not disable the program, might only postpone it for a year or two, might touch off a regional war with America in the middle — that I bet most readers will either glance at the piece or pass on it entirely as old news. The Iranian program is like having a bomb in your lap knowing that any wire you cut will detonate it, so you sit there and fidget with it in hopes that it’ll just sort of fizzle out on its own. Sit there long enough and even a situation as dangerous as that will start to seem boring. Until the bomb goes off.

Doug Mataconis:

I honestly don’t know what the answer to the Iranian nuclear question is.

The prospect of the likes of the Islamic Republic possession nuclear weapons is not something I look forward to. Then again, I’m still not all that comfortable with the idea of Pakistan having nuclear weapons, and don’t get me started about North Korea. Nonetheless, Pakistan has had those weapons for more than a decade now and they haven’t used them. Even same goes for North Korea. Both countries, of course, have engaged in nuclear proliferation, and that may be the greatest danger of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, not that they’d use them, but that they’d teach others how to make them.  It’s entirely possible, then, that a nuclear-armed, or nuclear-capable, Iran, may not end up being as much of a threat as we fear.

Israel, however, doesn’t seem to be inclined to wait to find out how things will turn out. Their current leadership views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat to Israel and, whether or not that is actually true, they’re likely to act accordingly. Unfortunately, their actions are likely to have consequences that we’ll all have to deal with.

UPDATE: Fred Kaplan at Slate

Glenn Greenwald

Jonathan Schwarz

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time

James Fallows

UPDATE #2: Robin Wright at The Atlantic

Christopher Hitchens in Slate

UPDATE #3: Elliott Abrams at The Atlantic

Greg Scoblete

Dave Schuler

UPDATE #4: Marc Lynch at The Atlantic

UPDATE #5: Heather Hurlburt and Daniel Drezner at Bloggingheads


Filed under Israel/Palestine, Middle East

There Are Cordoba Guitars And Cordoba Houses, Part II

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

The Anti-Defamation League, which describes itself as “the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry,” released a statment this morning opposing the building of the 13-story mosque near Ground Zero.

“In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right,” says the ADL. Full statement here:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site.  We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process.  Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

Marc Tracy at Tablet:

The Anti-Defamation League has issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic community center a couple blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. (Earlier this week, a community board recommended that the Landmarks Preservation Commission allow the project to go through.) The release goes out of its way to grant Cordoba House’s organizers good intentions and to condemn the bigotry of some who oppose it. So what is the problem? “The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location,” the ADL argues, “is counterproductive to the healing process.”

It adds:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.

Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words, “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” Except when it does the precise opposite.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

I have explained my support for the Lower Manhattan mosque project before, but let me restate two points:

1) The organization behind the project, the Cordoba Initiative, is a moderate group interested in advancing cross-cultural understanding. It is very far from being a Wahhabist organization;

2) This is a strange war we’re fighting against Islamist terrorism. We must fight the terrorists with alacrity, but at the same time we must understand that what the terrorists seek is a clash of civilizations. We must do everything possible to avoid giving them propaganda victories in their attempt to create a cosmic war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. The fight is not between the West and Islam; it is between modernists of all monotheist faiths, on the one hand, and the advocates of a specific strain of medievalist Islam, on the other. If we as a society punish Muslims of good faith, Muslims of good faith will join the other side. It’s not that hard to understand. I’m disappointed that the ADL doesn’t understand this.

Greg Sargent:

This is basically a concession that some of the opposition to the mosque is grounded in bigotry, and that those arguing that the mosque builders harbor ill intent are misguided. Yet ADL is opposing the construction of the mosque anyway, on the grounds that it will cause 9/11 victims unnecessary “pain.”

But look: The foes of this mosque whose opposition is rooted in bigotry are the ones who are trying to stoke victims’ pain here, for transparent political purposes. Their opposition to this mosque appears to be all about insidiously linking the mosque builders with the 9/11 attackers, and by extension, to revive passions surrounding 9/11. To oppose the mosque is to capitulate to — and validate — this program.

On this one, you’re either with the bigots or you’re against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them.

Paul Krugman:

So let’s try some comparable cases, OK? It causes some people pain to see Jews operating small businesses in non-Jewish neighborhoods; it causes some people pain to see Jews writing for national publications (as I learn from my mailbox most weeks); it causes some people pain to see Jews on the Supreme Court. So would ADL agree that we should ban Jews from these activities, so as to spare these people pain? No? What’s the difference?

One thing I thought Jews were supposed to understand is that they need to be advocates of universal rights, not just rights for their particular group — because it’s the right thing to do, but also because, ahem, there aren’t enough of us. We can’t afford to live in a tribal world.

But ADL has apparently forgotten all that. Shameful — and stupid.

Update: Times staff briefly removed the link to the ADL statement, because it seemed to be dead — but it was apparently just a case of an overloaded server, and I’ve put it back.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

Humorist Will Rogers once said about the repeal of Prohibition, “Repeal is all right, but the wrong people are for it.” In this case, the wrong people are against Park51, and if Abe Foxman and the ADL can’t keep their personal feelings out of the issue, they should have just kept quiet instead of handing the Bigot Brigade a public relations gift. What a disgrace.

Adam Serwer at American Prospect:

Let’s be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it’s been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politicians using anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.

I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.

J Street:

Today, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

During the high-tide of anti-semitism, and then again during the civil-rights movement, and often since, the Anti-Defamation League transcended its Jewish origins to stand as a courageous American voice against prejudice. But now, it’s making a mockery of its original mission and, in the process, it has sullied American Judaism’s intense tradition of tolerance and inclusion.  I miss the old ADL and so does America. Foxman should be fired immediately. (Meanwhile, hooray yet again for Michael Bloomberg.)

Peter Beinart at Daily Beast:

Had the ADL genuinely tried to apply its universalistic mandate to the Jewish state, it would have become something like the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) or B’Tselem (full disclosure: I’m on B’Tselem’s American board): Israeli human rights organizations that struggle against all forms of bigotry, and thus end up spending a lot of time defending Muslims and Christian Palestinians against discrimination by Jews. But the ADL hasn’t done that. Instead it has become, in essence, two organizations. In the United States, it still links the struggle against anti-Semitism to the struggle against bigotry against non-Jews. In Israel, by contrast, it largely pretends that government-sponsored bigotry against non-Jews does not exist. When Arizona passes a law that encourages police to harass Latinos, the ADL expresses outrage. But when Israel builds 170 kilometers of roads in the West Bank for the convenience of Jewish settlers, from which Palestinians are wholly or partially banned, the ADL takes out advertisements declaring, “The Problem Isn’t Settlements.”

For a long time now, the ADL seems to have assumed that it could exempt Israel from the principles in its charter and yet remain just as faithful to that charter inside the United States. But now the chickens are coming back home to America to roost. The ADL’s rationale for opposing the Ground Zero mosque is that “building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.” Huh? What if white victims of African-American crime protested the building of a black church in their neighborhood? Or gentile victims of Bernie Madoff protested the building of a synagogue? Would the ADL for one second suggest that sensitivity toward people victimized by members of a certain religion or race justifies discriminating against other, completely innocent, members of that religion or race? Of course not. But when it comes to Muslims, the standards are different. They are different in Israel, and now, it is clear, they are different in the United States, too.

More Goldberg

Mark Thompson at The League:

I don’t have any real problem with those who take offense at the decision to build this project a few blocks from Ground Zero, and particularly those who take such offense having had deep ties to New York on 9/11/01.

What I do have a problem with is those who have determined that this is an appropriate issue for political activism, and particularly those supposed advocates of “small government” who view it as appropriate that government would step in here to restrict the property rights of a private organization.  What I do have a problem with is those who claim to advocate for “states rights” and federalism insisting that it is the job of the federal government to make sure that what is effectively a zoning decision of the New York City government is overruled.  What I do have a problem with is those who are using this proposed building to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment by branding it a “9/11 Victory Mosque,” and who presume to know more about Muslims than Muslims themselves and in the process create an “inescable trap” wherein all Muslims are either lying about not being jihadi terrorists or are just “bad Muslims.”

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

The left continues to feign confusion (it is hard to believe its pundits are really this muddled) as to the reasons why conservatives (and a majority of fellow citizens) oppose the Ground Zero mosque. No, it’s not about “religious freedom” — we’re talking about the location of the mosque on the ash-strewn site of 3,000 dead Americans. The J Street crowd and the liberal defenders of the mosque seem very bent out of shape when Americans want to defend the sensibilities of their fellow citizens and when they look askance at an imam whose funding appears to come from those whose goal is anything but religious reconciliation. Again, no one is telling Muslims not to build or pray in mosques; we on the right are simply asking them not to do it in the location where Islam was the inspiration for mass murder.

It is interesting that the word mosque is not employed by those excoriating the mosque opponents. As a smart reader highlights, why is it described as a “cultural center”? Pretty dicey to articulate exactly what position the left clings to — namely, that we must allow a mosque at Ground Zero. Well, when you are that precise, it does highlight the vast gulf between the left’s perspective and that of average Americans.  (And for the record, my objections to J Street obviously aren’t limited to the Ground Zero mosque. And I certainly do believe “you are either for us or you are for them” — when it comes to Israel and to America. That this notion disturbs the left tells you precisely why it is estranged from the vast majority of Israelis and Americans.)

Dan Senor is not confused in the least. He pens an open letter to the Ground Zero mosque imam, which gets to the heart of the matter. Recalling the 9/11 attack “committed in the name of Islam,” he explains:

We applaud and thank every Muslim throughout the world who has rejected and denounced this association. But the fact remains that in the minds of many who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the Cordoba House will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a Muslim monument erected on the site of a great Muslim “military” victory—a milestone on the path to the further spread of Islam throughout the world. …

Rather than furthering cross-cultural and interfaith understanding, a Cordoba House located near Ground Zero would undermine them. Rather that serving as a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples, it would function as a divide. Your expressed hopes for the center not only would never be realized, they would be undermined from the start. Insisting on this particular site on Park Place can only reinforce this counterproductive dynamic.

This is not some right-wing, extremist view. It represents the views of a large majority of Americans and of mainstream Jewish leaders like Malcolm Hoenlein — as well as Juan Williams. But the left – which has become obsessed with universalism and finds particularism and nationalism noxious – thinks it unseemly for Americans to look after the interests of Americans, and Jews to look after Jews (as to the latter, we can only be grateful that so many pro-Zionist Christians do as well).

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Joe Lieberman comes out against building an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan:

“I’ve also read some things about some of the people involved that make me wonder about their motivations. So I don’t know enough to reach a conclusion, but I know enough to say that this thing is only going to create more division in our society, and somebody ought to put the brakes on it,” he said. “Give these people a chance to come out and explain who they are, where their money’s coming from.”

Sounds like he’s deeply troubled by the hilariously elongated chain of guilt-by-association constructed by critics.

Meanwhile, former Bushie Dan Senor writes:

9/11 remains a deep wound for Americans—especially those who experienced it directly in some way. They understandably see the area as sacred ground. Nearly all of them also reject the equation of Islam with terrorism and do not blame the attacks on Muslims generally or on the Muslim faith. But many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims. They do not understand why of all possible locations in the city, Cordoba House must be sited so near to there.

A couple things are striking about this argument. First, Senor claims that “Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials.” But the Muslim center is not being built on Ground Zero. It’s being built two blocks away, in a site that doesn’t feel especially connected to Ground Zero. Senor is suggesting that nothing but memorials should be built within (at least) a two block radius of Ground Zero. Forgive me for feeling skeptical that such a standard is being applied to any other proposed construction.

Second, there’s a very weaselly relativism at work here in his not-prejudiced plea to relocate the center. Senor is arguing, I support freedom of religion, and I believe that your group doesn’t support terrorism, but other Americans don’t feel this way. Of course this is an argument for caving in to any popular prejudice or social phobia whatsoever. Hey, I’m happy to let a black family move into the neighborhood, but other people here think you’re probably crackheads who spray random gunfire at night, so in order to prevent racial strife you should probably live somewhere else.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has emerged as the unlikely but passionate defender of the planned Muslim community center near ground zero, today traveled to Governors Island off the tip of Lower Manhattan to deliver a stirring plea for sanity in what he called “[as] important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes.”

The Daily News’ Adam Lisberg reports that Bloomberg choked up at one point as he delivered the speech surrounded by religious leaders of different faiths, with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Rather than attack the bigotry of the opponents of the so-called “ground zero mosque,” Bloomberg made several positive arguments for building the center. He traced the struggle for religious freedom in New York and affirmed the rights of citizens to do as they please with their private property:

The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

It’s worth noting that three Jewish leaders  — Rabbi Bob Kaplan from the Jewish Community Council, Rabbi Irwin Kula from the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and Cara Berkowitz from the UJA Federation — were present with Bloomberg during the speech, despite the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the project

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

Few events in recent memory have called up the resonant ideological debates of 9/11 as forcefully as the mosque being planned near the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It appears these are debates we will keep having, as New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has voted to let the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement proceed with their plans. Along with those plans will come more discussion of religious freedom, taste, and the specter of a Western/Muslim cultural World War

Ann Althouse:

Writes the NYT, reporting the city’s 9-0 vote against designating the building on the site a landmark. Now, as a matter of freedom of religion, it really was crucial not to let religion (or political ideology) affect the question whether that building should be classified under the law as a landmark, thus limiting the property rights of the owner. The requirement of neutrality in decisionmaking like that is fundamental to the rule of law.

One by one, members of the commission debated the aesthetic significance of the building, designed in the Italian Renaissance Palazzo style by an unknown architect.

That is clearly the way it had to be done. But what should not be lost, in understanding that, is that the owner’s freedom means that the owner has a choice. The owner is certainly not required to build a Muslim center and mosque on that site. Because it is a choice, it’s not wrong for the community to ask: Why are you making this choice? Why are you doing something that feels so painful to us? The community isn’t wrong to plead with the owner to choose to do something else with that property. It’s not enough of an answer to say we are doing it because we have a right to do it.

UPDATE: Will Wilkinson

Allah Pundit

Greg Sargent

William Kristol at The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #2: Dorothy Rabinowitz at WSJ

Alan Jacobs at The American Scene

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene

Joshua Cohen and Jim Pinkerton at Bloggingheads

Mark Schmitt and Rich Lowry at Bloggingheads

David Weigel and Dan Foster at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #3: Alex Massie here and here

UPDATE #4: Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, his letter to Foxman

Abe Foxman writes a letter to Zakaria

Steve Clemons

UPDATE #5: Christopher Hitchens at Slate

Eugene Volokh

UPDATE #6: Jillian Rayfield at Talking Points Memo

UPDATE #7: Charles Krauthammer at WaPo

Jonathan Chait at TNR

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #8: Joe Klein on Krauthammer

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic on Krauthammer

UPDATE #9: More Krauthammer

Kinsley responds

UPDATE #10: Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place

Steve Benen


Filed under Religion

Senator Schumer Has Something To Say

Ben Smith at Politico:

New York Senator Chuck Schumer harshly criticized the Obama Administration’s attempts to exert pressure on Israel today, making him the highest-ranking Democrat to object to Obama’s policies in such blunt terms.

Schumer, along with a majority of members of the House and Senate, signed on to letters politely suggesting the U.S. keep its disagreements with Israel private, a tacit objection to the administration’s very public rebuke of the Jewish State over construction in Jerusalem last month.

But Schumer dramatically sharpened his tone on the politically conservative Jewish Nachum Segal Show today, calling the White House stance to date “counter-productive” and describing his own threat to “blast” the Administration had the State Department not backed down from its “terrible” tough talk toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Schumer, a hawkish ally of Israel since his days as a Brooklyn Congressman, described “a battle going on inside the administration” over Middle East policy.

“This has to stop,” he said of the administration’s policy of publicly pressuring Israel to end construction in Jerusalem.

“I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk,” Schumer told Segal. “Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel. They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there.

“If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, ‘Why should we negotiate?'” Schumer said.

Schumer described the recent confrontation over construction in Jerusalem as a “kerfuffle.”

Israel Matzav:

After being badgered by Ed Koch, New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) finally blasted President Obama on Israel on Thursday. No, not on Fox or CNN or CBS or ABC, but on Nachum Segal’s JM in the AM (Hat Tip: Memeorandum) morning drive time show (which was on WFMU when I lived in New Jersey – sounds like it’s on WMPS today). Here’s a transcript: Chuck Schumer Interview with Nachum Segal 4/22/10

Nachum Segal: Straight to what has become one of the most concerning issues in the Jewish Community certainly, and for anybody in the United States, and anywhere in the world who cares somewhat, or more, about Israel. There is a perception that the White House and Jerusalem are not enjoying the same type of relationship that the White House and Jerusalem have enjoyed in the past. Need we be concerned?

SCHUMER: Well of course we should be concerned, and the thing we should most be concerned about, of course, the threat to Israel…I mean it always changes but it’s always there it seems to be the fate if Israel and it seems to be the fate of the Jewish people. Right now what are the threats? I would rank them in this order: Greatest threat- Nuclear Iran, obviously as Netanyahu has said that’s an existential threat. Second greatest threat- SCUDs in Syria these are rockets that can go four or five hundred miles and carry a bigger payload and could be launched by Hezbollah and hit any part of Israel far more damaging and devastating than the katyusha rockets. And third actually is what everyone is focused on, which is the disagreements between the United States and Israel, very real, on how to sit down and negotiate with the Palestinians. The irony is Nachum, on the first two, if you talk to the Prime Minister if you talk to the Israeli military, US-Israeli cooperation continues strong and hand in glove. Both the US and Israel greatly fear a nuclear Iran, and there are very serious discussions going on as to how to deal with it. We in the Congress Senator Lieberman and myself, Senator Bayh, are working up our sanctions bill, which even if the UN sanctions are weak we could have unilateral sanctions by the United States, for instance, if you cut of gasoline. Iranians do not produce their own gasoline, and by the way the Iranian people are ready to rebel and overthrow this regime, and if we would squeeze them economically that could happen.

SEGAL: If in fact all this is true, and let’s assume there is no reason not to believe that it’s true, that in fact Israel and the United States continue the same cooperation level they have had in the past, and we know that when it comes to serious matters, especially military matters, it’s been great cooperation, Why wouldn’t the President of the U.S. want that perception to be out there? Why would he want to alienate so many who care about Israel.

SCHUMER: Nachum this is the question I talked to Rahm Emanuel about, and the President about this week. I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk. Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel, they, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a 2-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there. If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, “Why should we negotiate?” So that’s bad and that should change and we are working on changing it. But the other two are very good, according to both the Israeli government and the Israeli military and the U.S. government. But we should make that known, why don’t they? I asked them to do just that, I said we should make it public because it will, at least, give people, who are supportive of Israel, Jew and non-Jew alike, a little bit of solace.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

That’s simply remarkable, albeit long overdue. It tells me several things. First, Schumer, who is nothing if not politically astute when it comes to New York politics, senses that there is no upside to sticking with the president on this. One wonders how many constituents he’s heard from and who is threatening to cut off the money flow to Democrats.

Second, one suspects that Schumer has gotten nowhere in private and is now forced to unload in public. It seems that while Schumer cares what American Jews think, Obama is unmoved by quiet persuasion.

Third, Schumer and other pro-Israel Democrats now have a dilemma: what do they do when the president refuses to sign on to petroleum sanctions? What do they do when the next round of bullying starts up again? They’ve been painfully mute until now, which has no doubt encouraged the White House. If Schumer is as outraged as he sounded on the radio, this will end.

We can hope this is an important step forward and will be followed by other Democratic lawmakers. Who knows, in a week or so some major Jewish organization might actually pipe up with an equally bracing evaluation of the Obami’s onslaught on the Jewish state.

One aside: Schumer also had this to say about the origin of his name: “It comes from the word shomer, which mean guardian. My ancestors were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkov, and I believe Hashem, actually, gave me the name as one of my roles that is very important in the United States Senate to be a shomer, to be a shomer for Israel.” Suffice it to say that if Sarah Palin ever said that God had given a name to her with a mission in mind, the chattering class would go bonkers. But of course, it is perfectly acceptable for liberals to get messages from God without cries of indignation echoing throughout the media. That said, if Schumer takes his name to heart, albeit belatedly, and shows some leadership in gathering other Democrats to his position (that’s what Senate leaders do, after all), there will be reason to celebrate.

Allah Pundit:

He let The One off the hook a bit by not touching on his repulsive treatment of Netanyahu at the White House or his harebrained idea to propose a Palestinian state himself, but otherwise he’s on target — especially vis-a-vis the Palestinians’ willingness to adjust their demands to exploit disagreements between the U.S. and Israel. As Yossi Klein Halevi put it, “Obama is directly responsible for one of the most absurd turns in the history of Middle East negotiations. Though Palestinian leaders negotiated with Israeli governments that built extensively in the West Bank, they now refused to sit down with the first Israeli government to actually agree to a suspension of building. Obama’s demand for a building freeze in Jerusalem led to a freeze in negotiations.”

It’s not just Schumer who’s souring on Obama on this point either. According to Quinnipiac, his approval rating on the Israeli/Palestinian issue stands at a robust 35/44, with — wait for it — two-thirds of Jewish voters saying they disapprove, down from 55 percent approval last month. Good work, champ. Exit question: Is it in fact a sign of the End Times that a libertarian with the surname Paul is now issuing strong pro-Israel statements? And if not, how long can he keep that up before the Paulnut faithful start to defect?

Steve Clemons:

This is the 2nd time I know of that Schumer has publicly crossed the line when it came to zealously blaming his own government and colleagues in delicate matters of US-Israel-Palestine policy.

During the third of three major efforts of the George W. Bush administration to get the recess appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton confirmed in the US Senate, Senator Schumer launched a passionate personal campaign to help Bolton succeed.

Schumer called many Democratic Senate colleagues and bluntly said, “A vote against John Bolton is a vote against Israel.”

Senator Christopher Dodd finally challenged Schumer’s advocacy for Bolton and this statement in a meeting of the weekly Democratic Senate Caucus at the time — and put an end to Schumer’s campaign.

What Schumer was distorting was that every administration, Republican and Democrat, had in the past been a good friend of Israel. Bolton represented the face of Jesse Helms-inspired pugnacious American nationalism largely disdainful of international institutions and engagement, and it was well within the latitude of the United States Senate to reject Bolton, or in this case filibuster him, on numerous grounds without having the Israel card pulled.

Schumer has an Israel blind spot.

MJ Rosenberg at Huffington Post:

There is nothing wrong with criticizing a President’s foreign policy (although Schumer went out of his way to support former President George W. Bush on Iraq), but the words he uses in talking about Obama’s policies are utterly inappropriate.

I am not saying that Schumer, in any way, puts Israel’s interests above those of his own country. On the contrary, his main concerns are domestic and, with a few notable exceptions, he has been a strong progressive force.

Given the nature of American politics and the need to fill one’s political war chest, a certain amount of pandering is to be expected. But this time he went too far. Does he really believe that what happens in Brooklyn stays in Brooklyn? He owes the President an apology. And, by undermining an effort that could bring security to Israel, he owes the Israeli people an apology too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Israel/Palestine, Political Figures

What’s The Arabic Translation Of Dewey Beats Truman?

Michael Wahid Hanna at Foreign Policy:

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s electoral list narrowly edged the incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Maliki’s State of Law alliance in the official (but uncertified) results of the March 7 elections announced today. The horse-trading and deal-making which will produce a new government will now accelerate. But to a very large extent, a little-noticed Federal Supreme Court decision yesterday drained the drama from today’s announcement. Despite Allawi’s winning two more seats than his rival, he may not get the chance to form a government. Allawi’s chances of becoming Iraq’s Prime minister will hinge largely on the question of how much Maliki’s Shiite rivals really hate him… and how loyal his political allies will be if their Shiite co-religionists make his exit a condition to forming a government.

The performance of Allawi and his Iraqiyya list’s performance represent a major, even stunning political realignment. But the Iraqi Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday means that contrary to general belief, he is not guaranteed the first opportunity to form a government. The ruling hinges on the interpretation of Article 76 of the Iraqi constitution, which mandates that the new president authorize a prime minister-designate representing the largest parliamentary bloc to attempt to form a government. There has been some controversy over what this meant in practice. The Federal Supreme Court interpreted the clause broadly and decided that “largest parliamentary bloc” referred to any parliamentary bloc in existence at the time when the president makes his designation — not to the lists which contested the election. If the court had ruled narrowly, then the razor-thin difference in seats would have had profound effects. As it stands, Maliki and Allawi now enter this next phase of horse-trading basically even.

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note:

Wow. When the unexpected happens in an election, it’s a good market test of whether balloting really does serve as a credible system of expressing the public’s will.

Incumbents hardly ever lose — particularly in the Middle East.

Despite Hamas winning the elections in Palestine a few years ago, President George W. Bush nonetheless maintained the mantra that those elections were the fairest and freest yet held in the Middle East. And they were — though we ended up punishing the victors.

And today, it has just been announced that Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition has won the most seats in Iraq’s parliament.

Marc Lynch:

The remarkable performance of the Iraqiya list, which is headed by Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, and includes Tareq al Hashemi, the current Sunni vice president, and a number of other leading Sunni political figures, has been the greatest surprise of the election. In the last national elections in 2005, Allawi managed only eight per cent of the vote and a mere 25 seats. He spent much of the last four years outside of Iraq, while his party meandered aimlessly through the ­political landscape. But in that period, he engaged frequently with disgruntled Sunnis (including, it is alleged, with exiled Baathists) and emerged as a vocal critic of what he called al Maliki’s creeping authoritarianism. As the election campaign unfolded, Allawi cleverly positioned himself as the most plausible alternative to ­al Maliki. His nationalist, non-sectarian positioning allowed him to appeal to ­Sunnis, but also to Shiites dissatisfied with sectarianism and frustrated with al Maliki’s autocratic and abrasive style. At the same time, ­Allawi emerged as the clear favourite of Iraq’s non-Iranian neighbours, with palpable support from Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Allawi also clearly benefited from the remarkable “de-Baathification” antics of the Accountability and Justice Commission (AJC) headed by Ahmed Chalabi and Ali Faisal al Lami. The AJC’s sudden disqualification of a vast swathe of politicians, including Saleh al Mutlak from the Al Iraqiya list, from standing on the elections based on undisclosed evidence of Baathist connections turned the election campaign upside down. The polarisation of the election and the focus on the Baathist question, rather than on the “Awakenings” period, helped Al Iraqiya garner the pragmatic support of many Sunnis. Chalabi and al Lami’s gambit seems to have backfired, as their Iraqi National Alliance list performed exceedingly poorly – and al Lami himself barely registered votes in the open list system – while sharp questions about the abuse of institutional power and the independence of state institutions will not soon fade.

Allah Pundit:

Note that this doesn’t mean Allawi is the new prime minister, only that he’ll get a chance to make a deal with other blocs — certainly the Sunnis and, perhaps, the Kurds, unless they hold his Baathist past against him — to build a majority in parliament. But never mind that. The greatest thing Maliki could do for his country, obviously, would be to bite the bullet here and set a precedent for a peaceful transfer of power. He can still do it, assuming he accepts the results of the recount, but he’s going to put the country on edge in the meantime for obvious reasons. And if he doesn’t accept the recount? Well, then it’s clusterfark time: Secular American-aligned Shiites vs. religious Iran-aligned Shiites (believe it or not, the Sadrists may play kingmaker in parliament) vs. a Sunni population that’ll feel disenfranchised and disgruntled anew that the election’s being stolen from their favored candidate. If this vote is FUBARed, who knows how many Iraqis will ever trust the system to vote again. And if shooting breaks out, who knows if there’ll ever again be an election.

So, stakes is high. If, like me, you’ve been tuned out of Iraq news for awhile, it’s time to tune back in because the next few weeks will be a crucible. For your further viewing, here’s Richard Engel dissecting the maneuvering going on right now. Note the reference to Iran “stirring the pot” against Allawi, which is bound to become a bargaining chip as the White House moves against them with new nuke sanctions.

Spencer Ackerman:

Nouri al-Maliki will secure his place in history if he becomes the first non-interim Iraqi leader to willingly relinquish power after the results of an election. (I guess we could debate whether Ibrahim Jaafari counts, but I’m inclined to say no, given the cross-coalition jockeying, abetted by the U.S., was what really removed him, but perhaps that’s ungenerous.) Maliki can look at it this way: he made the country safe enough for people to feel comfortable very narrowly voting for one of his opponents. Perhaps Maliki will prevail, but that will only delay this reckoning.

Update, 3:57 p.m.: State of Law 89 seats, National List 91 seats. Whoa.

“No way we will accept these results,” [Maliki] said on national television. He said he would challenge the results “through the law and courts,” but stressed that his opposition would be “through legal channels to transfer the authority in a peaceful and transparent manner.”

Time to earn your money, Chris Hill.

Daniel Foster at The Corner

Michael Rubin at The Corner:

And while too many pundits will use one candidate or another’s ties to Iranian officials to suggest that person has always been under Iran’s thumb, that is anachronistic analysis: The reality is that as U.S. influence wanes relative to Iran, every Iraqi politician — Chalabi, Talabani, Barzani, Maliki, and even, perhaps, Allawi — will make accommodation with the Islamic Republic in order to survive. Rather than condemn the personality, we should examine more the reasons why politicians believe it necessary to pivot closer toward Tehran.

No doubt many more sectarian Shi’a and Kurds find much to distrust in Ayad Allawi. But should Allawi be given the first choice to put together a government, we shouldn’t make blanket assumptions that he will be unable to strike bargains, especially with the Kurds. It’s kind of silly to suggest that Kurdish Regional President Masud Barzani won’t deal with Allawi because he has a Baathist past when Barzani didn’t hesitate to cooperate with Saddam Hussein himself back in 1996 when Barzani believed it to be in his personal interests. Does Allawi want the premiership enough to offer Kirkuk and its revenue on a silver platter to Barzani?

While a Maliki-Chalabi-Barzani alliance would certainly be easier to put together, woe to the reporter who forgets Iraq’s sordid history and the basic caveat of its politics: Anything goes.

Andrew Swift at Foreign Policy:

The question on everybody’s mind: what’s the Arabic translation of Orly Taitz?

Former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi has seemingly won parliamentary elections, but allegations of vote fraud and stark sectarian divisions will hamper his ability to to create a stable, working coalition, and unify the country. Moreover, some argue he shouldn’t be allowed to serve as prime minister at all — because’s his mother is Lebanese.

I’m all for a good birther movement — I’ve even tried to create one — but this one is strange even for me. He’s already served as prime minister! Newsflash to all aspiring birthers: if you want to have legitimacy, the least you can do is target unknown politicians with unusual names and backgrounds that confuse the thick-headed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Iraq

When The Biden Comes To Town…

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up:

Vice President Joe Biden travels to Israel Monday to discuss the Israel-Palestine peace process. But Israeli leaders are throwing Biden a curve ball, reversing Israel’s freeze on growth in the highly contentious settlements. Israel had earlier acquiesced to international pressure to halt the growth of Israeli settlements in Palestinian regions. What will this development mean for the difficult peace process, and for the sometimes tense relationship between the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian authority?

Laura Rozen at Politico:

Vice President Joseph Biden condemned the decision today by Israel’s Interior Ministry to build another 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem, saying it “undermines the trust” and “runs counter” to hard-fought U.S. efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

“I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem,” Biden, currently in Israel, said in a statement. “The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”

“We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them,” Biden continued. “This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict.”

Biden showed up an hour and a half late for dinner tonight at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, the pool reporter Janine Zacharia reported, suggesting the reason was U.S. consultations over the Interior Ministry’s housing announcement today. Biden and Netanyahu “took no questions,” Zacharia wrote. “In fact nobody took any questions all day.”

Israel Matzav:

Ramat Shlomo is a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem that already has more than 20,000 residents. Originally slated to be the site of the Jerusalem soccer stadium in the late 1970’s, it was converted to housing and more than 2,000 units were built there in the early 1990’s. Jews have been living there since early 1996.

Expelling all the Jews from Ramat Shlomo would mean expelling three times the number of Jews as were expelled from Gaza. The average family size is eight children.

Ramat Shlomo was in no-man’s land before 1967. It sits on the strategic Shuafat ridge, which overlooks much of Jerusalem and parts of Ramallah. Some of you may recall that three years ago I posted pictures of a Second Temple-period quarry that was discovered there (one picture is above).

Ramat Shlomo was never supposed to be an issue with the ‘Palestinians.’ Abu Mazen had agreed with Ehud Olmert in 2008 that it would remain part of Israel in any future settlement. But on Tuesday night it became an issue

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

This is an act with both short- and long-term consequences. The short-term consequence has to do with the “proximity talks” just getting underway, with the U.S. shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators: this sends a clear signal that Israel does not intend to negotiate in good faith, certainly not when it comes to the territory in East Jerusalem it conquered in 1967. This is the second time in recent weeks that the Israelis have poked a finger in the eye of the Palestinians–the first was the unilateral decision to declare its intent to “improve” several religious sites–including the Patriarch’s Tomb, site of a famous massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein–on Palestinian lands, over which Israel has no legal jurisdiction. The timing of these stunts is extremely significant, and depressing.

But there is a larger, long-term issue here: this is a calculated insult, directed at the President of the United States. It is Bibi Netanyahu kicking sand in Barack Obama’s face. This is becoming a dangerous pattern for Obama: the Chinese treated him rudely when he visited in November and again at the Copenhagen Climate Talks. The Iranians treated his attempts to negotiate with disdain and hyperbole (although the Iranians, like the North Koreans, traffick in crazy threats with no basis in reality). And now Israel, an allegedly close U.S. ally, is doing it, too.

Daniel Drezner:

As for the Israelis…. well, let’s take a look at Barak Ravid’s Ha’aretz report, shall we?

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Jerusalem yesterday was not free of embarrassing moments.

The first occurred at the President’s Residence, at the start of a meeting between Biden and President Shimon Peres. The plan called for brief remarks, which usually means a few minutes. But Peres spoke for no less than 25 minutes.

Throughout the speech, the vice president sat in his chair waiting for his turn to say something. American reporters and others present at the scene said the whole thing was very embarrassing, because, as one put it, Peres “gave a whole speech, going from one subject to another.”

Many of those present were shifting uncomfortably in their chairs, the sources said, while Peres’ aides exchanged worried looks and passed notes to each other.

In the end, his aides whispered to Peres that time was short, and he should hand the floor over to Biden – who did confine his remarks to a few minutes. The two then held their meeting, accompanied by their aides.

Seriously, what is going on over there?  This is hardly the first diplomatic screw-up they’ve had in 2010.  Most of this stuff is on the order of ticky-tack fouls, but it does add up.

UPDATE:  Well, it’s good to know the Israelis aren’t the only ones making gaffes.

Rick Richman at Commentary:

As the Obama administration is poised to proceed with “indirect” talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the chances for success in the foreseeable future are virtually nil. The PA president (a) is in the 62nd month of his 48-month term, unable to hold (and in any event unwilling to risk) new elections; (b) heads a party still corroded by corruption; (c) governs only half the putative Palestinian state; and (d) is unable to dismantle the Iranian proxy that rules Gaza. Even if an agreement could be reached on any “core” issues, the PA would be in no position to carry it out.

Daniel Larison:

So long as the benefits from the alliance keep flowing uninterrupted, Israel has no incentive to make concessions that Washington requests. After reducing or halting aid was automatically taken off the table, Washington’s requests fell on deaf ears because the Netanyahu governmen had no reason to listen to them. While the timing of the settlement announcement was probably coincidental, it was a useful reminder that the the benefits of the alliance tend to flow in one direction. Our government has only itself to blame for this. Unless there is at least the possibility of negative consequences for undesired behavior, that behavior will continue. This is not something unique to the U.S.-Israel relationship. It is true of all imbalanced and unhealthy political relationships defined by dependence and unaccountability.

The conduct of U.S. foreign policy is really quite a comedy show. Washington insists on trying to make regimes over which it has no leverage and no influence do things that they are never going to do, and it refuses to use what leverage it has over its allies to achieve its stated goals in their part of the world. A better question might be this: if Washington cannot convince an ally, client state and largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid to halt settlement construction on contested and controversial land, what makes anyone believe that our government can make the Iranian government accede to its demands?

UPDATE: Barak Ravid at Haaretz

Steve Clemons at Washington Note

Scott Johnson at Powerline

Jonathan Chait at TNR

1 Comment

Filed under Israel/Palestine, Political Figures

Two Iraq Items: Chemical Ali Finally Dead And Three Bombings In Baghdad

David Sessions at Politics Daily:

Ali Hassan al-Majeed, Saddam Hussein’s cousin who became known as “Chemical Ali” after he gassed 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in 1988, was executed Monday, CNN reports. He was hanged after being convicted in four separate trials for 13 counts of killings and genocide.

Al-Majeed was held by the United States from the day of his capture in 2003 until 24 hours before he was to be executed, when he was turned over to Iraqi officials. The execution had been postponed for political reasons, and it is unclear what change led it to be suddenly carried out.

In addition to the Kurdish genocide, Al-Majeed was sentenced to death separately for his role in putting down a Shiite uprising against Hussein in 1991, and for his part in putting down a Baghdad revolt in 1999.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

Of all the atrocities committed against the Kurds during the Saddam’s rule, Halabja has come to symbolize the worst of the repression against the Iraqi Kurds. Halabja was a town of 70,000 people located about 8-10 miles from the Iranian border.

In March 1988, the town and the surrounding district were unmercifully attacked with bombs, artillery fire, and chemicals. The chemical weapons included mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin, tabun, and VX. At least 5,000 people died immediately as a result of the chemical attack and it is estimated that 7,000-10,000 were injured.

The Jawa Report

Steve Clemons at Washington Note

It’s interesting to remember that Ali had been pronounced dead before with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, and others at US Central Command saying that in April 2003 General Ali’s body had been found.

Mark Memmott at NPR:

Three large explosions in Baghdad this morning have killed more than 30, police tell the Associated Press and Reuters. Scores more were wounded.

The AP adds that the blasts happened around 3:40 p.m. local time in a “popular hotel and restaurant district along the Tigris River.”


Update at 8:50 a.m. ET: The death toll keeps rising. Reuters reports police say at least 24 people were killed. The AP is reporting that at least 31 have died. We have updated above as well.

Update at 8:47 a.m. ET: The AP now reports the death toll is “at least 16” and says that “scores” have been wounded. Earlier, police had said there were at least 11 fatalities. We’ve updated above with the higher number.

Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. AFP/Getty Images has just distributed this photo of smoke rising from the scene of one explosion:

Smoke rises hundreds of meters into the sky following an explosion in Baghdad on January 25, 2010. Three massive blasts were heard in the Iraqi capital. (Photo by Ali Al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images)

(Ali Al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images)


Update at 8:20 a.m. ET. Lourdes says that:

— “There were a series of explosions … three bombs that targeted three different hotels.” At one, a minibus exploded. The bomb destroyed a row of houses and a family may be trapped inside at least one.

— “The fact that there were three explosions … shows this was a coordinated attack, at least that’s what the police are telling us.”

— “From what I heard … (there were) three different explosions and a lot of firefights.”

— “It’s pretty chaotic … There’s mangled cars and frankly, bits of bodies littered around the area.”

Jim Romenesko:

The recent move out of the Hamra was no accident, nor was it simply good luck. Hannah Allam, who oversees the Baghdad bureau from her base in Cairo, was in Iraq late last year overseeing the merger with the Monitor and was alarmed by the deteriorating security conditions at the hotel and some developments in the immediate neighborhood, most colorfully the openings of two brothels across the square, which in addition to their primary purpose provided an ideal place to survey the Hamra and its defenses without attracting much notice. The security force had shrunk to about half of what’s needed, largely because NBC News has bailed out of Iraq and taken its budget with it, and one day workers arrived and began tearing down the blast walls, we suspect because of a dispute over payments to someone in authority.

Foreign Editor Roy Gutman and foreign affairs correspondent Warren Strobel, both of whom did recent tours in Baghdad, agreed with Hannah’s assessment, and so we decided to find a new location and get out of the Hamra while the getting was good.

The bombings today killed at least 31 people and included a suicide car bombing inside the compound that surrounds the Hamra. Witnesses said gunmen on the main road outside the hotel began firing at the security guards manning the checkpoint that leads to the hotel compound, and then drove a pickup packed with explosives past the security barrier. The guards shot the driver dead just before the truck detonated on the street directly outside the hotel.

Laura Rozen at Politico

Leave a comment

Filed under Iraq

Will 2010 Be The Year Of Yemen?

Here’s a link to a PDF, a  Center For A New American Security paper on Yemen by Andrew M. Exum and Richard Fontaine

Glenn Greenwald talks to Gregory Johnsen

Spencer Ackerman:

So unless we make it today’s war, it’ll be tomorrow’s war. And presumably next Thursday’s Surge when everything goes wrong and needs to be magically rescued. How can you have a surge without an invasion? It’s time to think seriously, people.

Is it a mistake to respond to this with more than ridicule? Maybe, but if not: it’s a ludicrously blithe and cost-free assertion to say that we need to take preemptive action in Yemen. What the fuck does Joe Lieberman know about Yemen? What does anyone in the Washington policy community know about Yemen? Fucking nothing except that (a) there is an apparently growing al-Qaeda presence there; Abdulmutallab told investigators that he got hooked up with his botched explosive there; the USS Cole was bombed there; there’s an important port there; and… that’s it. What are the local dynamics in Yemen that a military strike would impact? What would the goals of such strikes be? What are the underlying political effects that have allowed al-Qaeda to establish itself in Yemen? What measures short of war might be better targeted to addressing those conditions? These are just a few of the many prior questions that have to be answered before such a thing is considered. Instead, Lieberman just gets to go on Fox and monger away, unchallenged. Such is life.

Matthew Yglesias:

The good news is that while progressives basically need Joe Lieberman’s vote in the Senate to pass domestic legislation, thus giving him a ton of leverage over what happens, nobody needs to listen to him about Yemen. The balance of risks, it seems to me, is neither that we’re just going to ignore the al-Qaeda movement there nor that we’re going to invade. Rather the risk is that, as Johnsen says, we’ll have too many airstrikes without “the proper groundwork to undermine al-Qaeda to the degree that these attacks would be seen as a good thing by the Yemeni population.” Nobody likes to see American airstrikes happening inside their country. But if the political context is right, people can see it as the lesser of two evils. If the context isn’t right, that can build support for al-Qaeda faster than it kills terrorists.


JOE LIEBERMAN: WHITE HOUSE GOING AFTER YEMEN? “The Connecticut senator said that an administration official told him that ‘Iraq was yesterday’s war, Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.’” What’s interesting is the raft of commenters accusing Lieberman of being a stooge for Israel because of this statement, when he’s quoting an administration official.

Ann Althouse:

I’m seeing, at the original report that I began with: “an administration official told him that…” So I didn’t think I was quoting a quote. It’s a paraphrase, I think. But Lieberman didn’t make it up, and the NYT article makes it pretty clear that the attacks on Lieberman are embarrassing and should be withdrawn quickly

Steve Clemons at TPM:

Yemen is in a very complicated place when it comes to its efforts against al Qaeda, other rebel tribes, and managing the lines of its sovereignty against explicit foreign intrusion.

Despite the Obama administration’s strange non-denial denial regarding military activities inside Yemen in which passions are running strongly inside Yemen against the US, the US is working with the Yemeni government in trying to identify and attack al Qaeda operations. Some are arguing that a quid pro quo is developing in which the administration is now engaged in a covert war against Houthi rebels, which the US has refused to identify as a terrorist group, in partial exchange for more kinetic action from the Yemen government against al Qaeda operations.

The Obama administration has to step back at some point and ask itself what the dangers and downsides are of an ever-widening military span of operations. Some neocons in addition to Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) are now pointing to Yemen as “threat next” and agitating for a much more aggressive American presence there.

National security officials in the administration need to go back and read Peter Bergen‘s Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden in which he recounts many aspects of bin Laden’s plan from the Islamic extremist uber-guru’s own words – which was to draw the US deeply into the Middle East, and by its presence — destabilize the governments in the region.

Bin Laden, hiding somewhere in Pakistan, remains the single most significant sculptor of global affairs today, pushing the buttons of an American superpower as well as other regimes, so that they engage in emotional, knee jerk crusades that undermine what is left of a global equilibrium and the perception of American power.

Bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and enemies yet to be named win with each new soldier deployed to the Middle East and South Asia.

President Obama must step back and think about America’s current strategic course.

Robert Stacy McCain at American Spectator:

Lieberman’s call for preemptive action provoked an obscenity-filled tirade from liberal blogger Spencer Ackerman, while Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress remarked, “The good news is that while progressives basically need Joe Lieberman’s vote in the Senate to pass domestic legislation…nobody needs to listen to him about Yemen.”

Yglesias then emphasized the “political context” of U.S. military action in Yemen: “Nobody likes to see American airstrikes happening inside their country. But if the political context is right, people can see it as the lesser of two evils. If the context isn’t right, that can build support for al Qaeda faster than it kills terrorists.”

By portraying U.S. military action as a basic cause of Islamic extremism, liberals thereby implicitly argue that U.S. military action can never be the appropriate response to Islamic extremism. The more we attack al Qaeda, Yglesias suggests, the more Muslims will resort to terrorism — unless we have the proper “political context,” whatever that means.

Do Yemenis really have such a nuanced perception of “political context”? This need concern us only if we accept the tacit proposition that there is potentially unlimited support for al Qaeda in Yemen or elsewhere in the Islamic world. However, more than eight years after the 9/11 attacks there is no real evidence that the U.S. military response has made Islamic radicalism more widespread than it was in 2001. Suicidal pursuit of violent death lacks universal appeal and the human resources of al-Qaeda are not infinite. Therefore, U.S. military action should not be contingent on “political context,” but rather on whether it kills terrorists or, at least, deprives them of the opportunity to plot new attacks at their leisure.

UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman and Eli Lake on Bloggingheads

UPDATE #2: Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy


Filed under GWOT, Homeland Security, Middle East

The End Of Craig At The White House


Jeff Zeleny at NYT:

The White House counsel, Gregory B. Craig, has told associates that he intends to step down from his post on Friday, putting to rest long-running speculation about whether he would remain as President Obama’s top lawyer.

Mr. Craig had been at the center of controversial decisions over whether to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as revising administration policies on the interrogation and detention of prisoners. For months, questions have circulated inside the White House about his status, but an official said early Friday that Mr. Craig had made the decision to resign.

Robert Bauer, a Democratic lawyer in Washington who has represented Mr. Obama for years, has agreed to be named to the position of White House counsel, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision was not scheduled to be made public until later Friday.

When Mr. Craig’s resignation becomes official, he will be the highest-ranking official to leave the Obama administration. He had repeatedly said he had no plans to leave, and that Mr. Obama still had faith in him, but a search had been underway for weeks to replace him.

News of Mr. Craig’s departure has been percolating for months. The Washington Post reported late Thursday that a final decision had been reached. A spokesman for the White House declined to comment, but an administration official and another person familiar with the matter confirmed the report.

Michelle Malkin:

I’ll remind you again of Bauer’s handiwork during the 2008 campaign:

*It was Bauer who lobbied the Justice Department unsuccessfully last fall to pursue a criminal probe of American Issues Project (AIP), an independent group that sought to run an ad spotlighting Obama’s ties to Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers.

*It was Bauer who attempted to sic the DOJ on GOP donor Harold Simmons and sought his prosecution for funding the ad.

*It was Bauer who tried to bully television stations across the country to compel them to pull the spot. All on Barack Obama’s behalf.

Bauer’s specialty is stifling dissent. He’s married to the woman Obama entrusted to lead the campaign to de-legitimize critics in the media.

Girding loins? You betcha.

Meredith Jessup at Townhall:

At the same time White House communications director Anita Dunn plans her “exit” from the Obama administration, her husband–Bob Bauer–will be accepting the position of White House chief counsel, according to CNN–just as Glenn Beck predicted weeks ago.

Beck had stated on-air during his Fox show that an informant in the White House tipped him off that (now former-)counsel Greg Craig would be on his way out the door, to be replaced by Bauer, a close ally of Obama.  And, just as I predicted in my original blog post on this, the White House is using Craig as a fall-boy for a failing Guantanamo policy

Moe Lane

UPDATE: Steve Clemons at Daily Beast

UPDATE #2: Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic

Leave a comment

Filed under Political Figures