If the Republican Party was really interested in winning with a coherent message that would be broadly acceptable and one that would fit with their historical principles they would put Newt Gingrich in charge and fire Steele. Will they do it? No, because Republicans, being political animals, are generally incapable of doing what is smart.
Republicans just just cannot fix being stupid!
(See 1 and 1a below.)
Richard Viguerie is always good for a snarl and even some reasonable advice. (See 1b below.)
Michael Goodwin is exasperated with Obama's nuclear plans.
However, Robert Scheer gets a tingling down his leg. (See 2 and 2a below.)
More thoughts on Obama's nuclear naivete? You decide. (See 2b, 2c and 2d below.)
Larry Summers to leave because Geithner has Obama's ears? (See 3 below.)
This former state legislator is just plum tuckered out.
I can understand because Obama's foreign policy is a pipe dream based on Rev. Wright's philosophy of G--Damn America and turn the other cheek to radical Islamists who would behead us all given the opportunity as they did the Wall Street Journal's reporter, Daniel, who wanted to understand what made them so violent. (See 4 below.)
If the comments of Baucus and Dean reveal the basis of their true intent then the passage of the health care bill should make you ill. (See 5 below.) ---
Israeli politicians are crooked enough to run for office over here. Maybe they could seek Sen. Dodd's seat or challenge Barney Frank. (See 6 below.)
Gen. Ashkenazi's downfall, according to this journalist and others I have received e mails from, is that he was capable. Can't fix stupid is epidemic? (See 7 below.)
Want a hit? (See 8 below.)
1) Steele, RNC Face Toughest Criticism Yet
By Kyle Trygstad
Staring down the most inviting election cycle the party has seen in six years, the Republican National Committee could be tempting fate as its already controversial leader comes under the hottest criticism he's seen in his 15 months as chairman.
With the party's spending outpacing its relatively good fundraising, Michael Steele critics are on the rise -- and they're going public. A $2,000 expenditure at a West Hollywood, California strip club may have been the breaking point, but issues have been bubbling beneath the surface for months.
Sean Mahoney, one of 168 RNC committeemen, announced his resignation yesterday in a letter to Steele, which was provided to the New Hampshire Union Leader. "The scandal represents a pattern of unaccountable and irresponsible mishaps that ought to unnerve every fiscal conservative," he wrote.
Speaking last night with RealClearPolitics, Mahoney said "the issue at hand is bigger than Chairman Steele," and that he deserves credit for his work last year in helping elect Republican governors in New Jersey and Virginia -- but something needs to change.
"He was all hands on deck for both elections and that's what the RNC is supposed to be all about," Mahoney told RCP. "But there's been a disappointing drumbeat of stories about irresponsible spending at the RNC. A lot of folks are deeply concerned about spending habits at the RNC and are frustrated that a lot of those funds they're sending to Washington are being spent inefficiently."
Mahoney, a party activist who says he'll continue to work to get conservatives elected this year, is reportedly considering a bid for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, and his publicized resignation will certainly help him receive some attention from the local and national press. But he's far from the only Republican to express concern for what's going on at national party headquarters on First Street Southeast.
One RNC committeeman, speaking on background with RealClearPolitics, said Mahoney's feelings are likely felt by many of their fellow national committee members, but that there is not a movement among them at this time to remove Steele.
"I think there is a lot of concern frankly," the committeeman told RCP. "You'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to be aware that we have significant problems. Someone has to deal with Michael Steele himself -- or help him deal with them. But we have problems that are significant and widespread."
Former South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson, who finished second to Steele in the 2009 race for RNC chairman, told RCP yesterday he doesn't expect to see many more members resigning.
"But we're at the beginning of the storm, and we'll see what happens," Dawson said.
Just this week, Steele replaced RNC chief of staff Ken McKay, who helped direct the committee's 2009 gubernatorial campaign strategy. Because of McKay's exit, party strategist and Steele adviser Curt Anderson announced his firm would no longer work with the RNC. And Alex Castellanos, a party strategist who recently served as an unpaid adviser to Steele, told CNN yesterday that for the good of the party Steele may need to step down.
Castellanos suggested that some fundraisers are hesitant to contribute to the RNC based on their concerns with Steele. "A lot of that money is frozen - it's not coming into the party," he said, "and perhaps a change in leadership here would thaw that and allow that support to flow."
Steele has said in recent days that he will not resign his post despite mounting pressure from donors and the press to explain the party's spending and relatively woeful cash on hand. Steele has previously been criticized for holding the 2010 Winter Meeting at a lavish Honolulu resort, taking big payments for speaking engagements and for his national book tour, as well as several verbal gaffes.
But things have far worsened since the January gathering in Hawaii. Just prior to the Winter Meeting, senior Virginia committeeman Morton Blackwell expressed immense confidence in Steele. He predicted to RCP that Steele would be "one of the most successful national chairmen in history."
However, the party cannot financially afford to lose donors because of a lack of faith in RNC leadership, party insiders say.
"It is going to be one of the major problems we're going to have to deal with in order to be of the maximum benefit to our candidates," one national committeeman told RCP.
Dawson did not call for Steele to resign, but he said the national party needs to step out of the spotlight and let the state parties do their work.
"Sometimes we just need Washington to get out of our way," Dawson said. "We need the RNC to get off the front page of newspapers and let us do what we need to do this November.
1a)Fear and loathing in the RNC
By: Byron York
Among members and insiders at the Republican National Committee, the feelings about chairman Michael Steele boil down to this: Many would be delighted if Steele were to leave the committee and take his controversies with him, but no one, at least so far, is willing to call on Steele to step down.
"I think all things being equal, a different chairman would be desirable," says one RNC member unhappy with the scandal surrounding the L.A. nightclub matter. "But nobody wants to be the first one to say that. It's back to the old adage that when Steele loses, we all lose, and there is a great deal of desperate hope that something else will happen and we won't have to do anything -- that he'll either shape up or decide to move on."
"I would say people are just embarrassed," says another committee insider. But taking action against Steele "takes organization, and I haven't talked to anybody in any state in the last three days who isn't working full time to elect Republicans." With the November mid-term elections just seven months away, taking time from that effort to debate Steele's future would be "a distraction," this insider said.
That doesn't mean that some people in and around the RNC aren't making provisional plans. "The thinking ranges from doing nothing to starting a full-court press to get rid of him," says one member. "I don't think either one of those extremes is acceptable. The wonderful thing would be if he got an offer he couldn't refuse to run for some office in Maryland, but I don't expect that to happen." What will take place instead, this member said, will likely be "a little more prickly relationship between Steele and a great deal of the RNC, because he is not helping our candidates, and he is not helping the RNC."
The biggest concern among members and insiders is not the general level of embarrassment. It's money. There is no doubt that Republicans are fired up and have hopes of re-taking one or both houses of Congress this November. That kind of enthusiasm leads to a lot of contributions. But even though the RNC took in a record amount of money in March -- $11.4 million -- members are worried that a) it is being spent too quickly and without enough accountability, and b) that the flow of contributions will ultimately slow down if the committee continues to be involved in scandal. As evidence, critics point to the fact that the RNC has raised about $120 million since the 2008 election but now has just $9.5 million in cash on hand.
"There's a great deal of irritation over the profligate spending and the opaque accounting," says the RNC member. "We have raised a ton more money than we've raised before and we have less money in the bank at the end of the month. Where did all the money go?"
Committee officials point out that there have been three high-profile off-year elections -- the Massachusetts Senate race and governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey -- in the past six months. They took their toll on the committee's finances. And all three ended in smashing Republican victories. While committee members are happy with those results, with November approaching, they're still scared about having so little money in the bank.
Of course, Steele can rightly point out that he was in the chairman's seat for those three smashing victories. Doesn't he deserve some credit for that? Despite the problems, the chairman has his defenders; some committee members are not happy with the situation at the RNC but don't blame Steele himself. "I think overall it was maybe some of the people that he had in charge, because he can't be everywhere or do everything," says another member. But focusing on Steele's problems would be a distraction, he continued, and "We can't take our eye off the ball, which is winning elections."
1b)Tea Partiers and the New Party Leaders
By Richard Viguerie
The goals driving the tea party movement will not be realized without a new generation of party leadership, something the GOP establishment understandably is loath to admit. Karl Rove's April 1 Wall Street Journal column, "Where the Tea Partiers Should Go From Here," had some good advice for Tea Partiers. It was, however, what you would expect from a Washington-establishment Republican leader. By that I mean that nothing Rove said would challenge the Republican Party's leaders, whether in Washington, D.C. or state capitols.
Tea Partiers know and remember that the Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008 not because of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama, but because Republican leaders at the national and state levels broke their promise to govern as conservatives.
It was the disastrous big-government, bribe-the-voters, run-up-the-deficit policies of George Bush, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, Bill Frist, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, etc., etc. that turned Americans against the Republican Party.
So what are Tea Partiers to do?
There is nothing wrong with following Rove's advice, such as:
1. Educate yourself and friends on key issues;
2. See where politicians stand on key issues (my comment: remember, though, that politicians will tell you what you want to hear);
3. Be sure to register and vote on November 2;
4. Get ten to twenty-five other people involved; and
5. Make sure that the ten to twenty-five are registered and vote.
Of course, none of these five recommendations threatens the ruling GOP establishment leaders or their continuing domination of the Republican Party. Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are about the business of changing America by restoring our constitutional republic. That requires changing both the Republican and Democratic parties that have contributed to, if not caused, our government's shift away from our founding principles.
Here are my five recommendations to Tea Partiers as to how to change both major political parties:
1. To paraphrase Bill Clinton advisor James Carville, "It's the primaries, Stupid." Tea Partiers should focus only on primaries now, and not focus on the upcoming November elections just yet. In the primaries, challenge every establishment, big-government incumbent. Conservatives winning in primaries will make the November elections a more significant chance for meaningful, long-term change. Over half of the filing deadlines have not yet passed.
2. Support candidates who will vote to fire their party leaders.
3. Withhold support from all Republican or Democratic national committees, and give your donations directly to principled conservative candidates.
4. In addition to running and supporting candidates for public office, run for every possible party office. The best way to get a political party to change is to take it over.
5. Rove said that Tea Partiers need to study key issues. Quite frankly, Tea Partiers already know the issues. Despite the fact that many are new to organized politics, they are savvy and wise about the direction the country needs to take. They do, however, need to read and study more than the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and other writings of the Founders, although those are, of course, the essential foundations. They should read and study the writings of great but more recent conservative thinker-activists such as Mark Levin, Bill Buckley, Russell Kirk, Barry Goldwater (The Conscience of a Conservative), and others. Tea Partiers will then better know who they are politically, will better understand what they believe, and will possess even better clarity about why they believe it. By reading conservative thinker-activist writings from the past half-century, Tea Partiers will be better able to educate, enlist, convert, and successfully debate others.
As a postscript to these five recommendations, I would add that Tea Parties should support only candidates who will pledge to repeal many of the laws, regulations, programs, and policies of recent big-government politicians -- and by that I mean both Republicans and Democrats. Also, any candidate who does not identify upholding the Constitution as one of his or her top five priorities should be suspect.
As a multi-decade veteran of the conservative movement, I can say that two of its biggest mistakes have been to become too attached to big-government Republican Party leaders and to fail to make inroads into the Democratic Party. The Tea Party can change that.
Tea Partiers need to remember that you are the leaders you've been waiting for. We all need to get out of our comfort zones and provide leadership to take back America -- and that starts with changing the Republican and Democratic Party leaders.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------2)Bam plan's nuke peril
By MICHAEL GOODWIN
A favorite complaint from politicians is that their words or actions are taken out of context. Lest we be accused here, let's put President Obama's new policy of reducing America's nuclear arsenal and restricting its use into the context of his feeble efforts to stop Iran from getting the bomb.
The result: Only outlaw states and their terrorist clients will have nukes and be willing to use them. That's the full context of Obama's strange desire to abdicate America's role as the world's lone superpower.
Obama described the policy aims to The New York Times, which concluded his changes represented the middle ground between liberals and conservatives. Nonsense.
The honest-to-Chamberlain truth is that his goal of a nuke-free world is being pursued with a peace-at-any-price recklessness.
That's not a matter of left or right political philosophy. It's a childish fantasy that is dangerous to America's health.
It is one thing to hope the rest of the world will go along if we tie both hands behind our back. It is quite another to behave as though all mankind is already on board the Peace Train.
Obama told The Times the United States would promise not to use nukes against a country that doesn't have them, even if that country first attacks us with chemical or biological weapons. He said there would be exceptions -- he cited Iran and North Korea -- because they have violated nonproliferation treaties.
He also said he wouldn't develop any new weapons, a move sensibly resisted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The combined policies fit into the suspicion that Obama sees American power as a problem in the world rather than a solution. Neutering or reducing our might, he believes, makes us and the world safer.
It's his faith-based initiative, and it makes zero sense. There is simply no historic or common-sense basis for it.
Giving up our advantages unilaterally will almost certainly make us more vulnerable, unless rival nations like Russia and China also stop pursuing their national interests.
But why would they do that? There is no incentive for them to follow us. We've negotiated against our own interests, leaving them free to pursue theirs without penalty or fear of us.
Imagine how our allies will react. If we are no longer able or willing to protect them, they would probably side with our adversaries or ramp up their own militaries to defend themselves. That could destroy the peaceful equilibrium that has kept major nations in Europe and Asia from fighting full-scale wars for more than 50 years.
Finally, the whole idea of eliminating nukes is a form of suicide if we're going to simply stand by and allow outlaw regimes like Iran to get them. Yet that's exactly what Obama is doing by settling for weak-tea sanctions at the United Nations.
Incredibly, he even seemed to admit as much. "We're not naive that any single set of sanctions automatically is going to change Iranian behavior," he said.
There you have appeasement in a nutshell. He wants the world to give up nukes and insists America lead the way, but he's not willing to stop a crazed theocracy that is determined to get them and threatens to use them.
2a)Earning His Nobel Prize
By Robert Scheer
At last, a believable sighting of that peace president many of us thought we had elected. Give Barack Obama credit, big time, for the startling progress he has made in tempering the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Sarah Palin, Neocon Messiah Conservatives & The American Right
Robert Scheer: Judge them by their enemies. More evidence that Barack Obama might be shaping up as a good president is that Norman Podhoretz hates him so much.
The Moderate Republican: An Endangered Species Conservatives & The American Right
Robert Scheer: Republicans sure know how to make Barack Obama look good. What are they going to do now, threaten to repeal a law that forces insurance companies to cover the sick?
The Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review Report for the first time prohibits "first use" of nuclear weapons against nations complying with the nonproliferation treaty. It also pledges a halt to US efforts to modernize such weapons, as had been proposed by then-President George W. Bush in his call for new nuclear "bunker busters."
Whereas his predecessor succeeded only in eliminating the nonexistent Iraqi nukes, this president has forged a treaty with the Russians that will reduce the world's supply of the devil's weapons by one-third. But it was essential to follow that up with a clear departure from the always-insane policy that the United States has a right to develop and use such weapons as conventional tools of war.
That is the right that Harry Truman acted on in perpetrating the most atrocious act of terrorism in world history when he annihilated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That is what spawned the nuclear arms race that so troubles us today, especially regarding North Korea and Iran.
Yet until Tuesday no American president had renounced the immoral claim that our nation had some God-granted right to use those weapons again. While we consistently insisted it was morally repugnant for any other state to follow in our footsteps, we continued to build ever deadlier versions of these intrinsically heinous weapons.
But that madness ended when Obama on Tuesday affirmed an all-important distinction that Bush, more than any other president, had insisted on blurring--the distinction between nuclear and all other weapons, including the chemical and biological varieties. Lumping them together as weapons of mass destruction denies the global life-ending threat that nukes alone present.
Ironically, the most important section of Obama's strategy statement, instantly attacked by his knee-jerk critics, could help fulfill the ultimate goal of Ronald Reagan. Because of Obama's declaration that "the United States will not develop new nuclear warheads...or provide for new [nuclear] military capabilities," there is now a plausible case to be made for anti-missile defense. Reagan always insisted that his Strategic Defense Initiative program was a means toward nuclear arms cuts and ultimately the abolition of these horrific implements of mass death. But SDI could be properly criticized as a cover for aggression, unless we cut the arsenals as opposed to refining and expanding them.
In his historic meeting with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan embraced the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons--just as Obama did in his April 2009 speech in Prague. It is a position that commends itself to all who honestly confront the threat these weapons pose to human existence. We have indulged the luxury of not confronting that ultimate horror because of the time that has passed since the explosion of those now relatively small nuclear bombs over Japan. As Henry Kissinger puts it in the documentary Nuclear Tipping Point, which was screened at the White House on Tuesday night: "Once nuclear weapons are used, we will be driven to take global measures to prevent it. Why don't we do it now?"
The answer is that we have become inured to the danger and lulled into accepting these weapons as usable implements of war, an attitude reflected in Tuesday's reaction by Arizona Republican Senators Jon Kyle and John McCain, who in a joint statement denounced Obama's policy as limiting the nuclear "option." They repeated the old canard that nuclear weapons are a legitimate choice in response to a non-nuclear threat.
That will be the line of those who oppose the Senate's ratification of the new START agreement with Russia and the long-overdue passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. If they win in that debate there is no serious possibility of progress in preventing the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and breaking the death wish of those who still toy with the idea that such weapons are legitimate. Those in the peace movement who think Obama should have gone further in his efforts to put the nuke genie back in the bottle should tread carefully here. Instead of demanding perfection, they should be gratified that we finally have a president who has at least laid down some important markers of progress.
After decades of both Republican and Democratic administrations indulging the absurdity that "nuclear war fighting" could have a humane outcome, Obama has reversed course. It took 150 meetings, including thirty at the White House, and the president's frequent direct intervention. The outcome is a bold statement of nuclear sanity, and for that President Obama should be applauded.
Robert Scheer, a contributing editor to The Nation, is editor of Truthdig.com and author of The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America (Twelve) and Playing President (Akashic Books). He is author, with Christopher Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry, of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq (Akashic Books and Seven Stories Press.)
2b) Our giant step towards a world free from nuclear dangerThis treaty shows the strength of America's commitment to global disarmament – and to our national security
By Hillary Clinton
Tomorrow the United States and Russia will sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) in Prague, reducing the number of strategic nuclear warheads in our arsenals to levels not seen since the first decade of the nuclear age. This verifiable reduction by the world's two largest nuclear powers reflects our commitment to the basic bargain of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – all nations have the right to seek the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but they all also have the responsibility to prevent nuclear proliferation, and those that do possess these weapons must work towards disarmament.
This agreement is just one of several concrete steps the United States is taking to make good on President Obama's pledge to make America and the world safer by reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, proliferation and terrorism.
Yesterday the president announced the US government's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which provides a roadmap for reducing the role and numbers of our nuclear weapons while more effectively protecting the United States and our allies from today's most pressing threats.
Next week President Obama will host more than 40 leaders at a nuclear security summit for the purpose of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials as swiftly as possible to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists.
And along with our international partners, the United States is pursuing diplomatic efforts that create real consequences for states such as Iran and North Korea that defy the global non-proliferation regime.
These steps send clear messages about our priorities and our resolve. To our allies and partners, and all those who have long looked to the United States as an underwriter of regional and global security: our commitment to defend our interests and our allies has never been stronger. These steps will make us all safer and more secure.
To those who refuse to meet their international obligations and seek to intimidate their neighbours: the world is more united than ever before and will not accept your intransigence.
Tomorrow's agreement is a testament to our own determination to meet our obligations under the NPT and the special responsibilities that the United States and Russia bear as the two largest nuclear powers.
The New Start Treaty includes a 30% reduction in the number of strategic nuclear warheads the United States and Russia are permitted to deploy and a strong and effective verification regime, which will further stabilise the relationship between our two countries as well as reduce the risks of miscommunication or miscalculation.
And the treaty places no constraints on our missile defence plans – now or in the future.
President Obama's Nuclear Posture Review makes the principles behind this treaty – and our larger non-proliferation and arms control agenda – part of our national security strategy. Today nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism have replaced the cold-war-era danger of a large-scale nuclear attack as the most urgent threat to US and global security. The NPR outlines a new approach that will ensure that our defences and diplomacy are geared towards meeting these challenges effectively.
As part of this new approach, the United States pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapons state that is party to the NPT and in compliance with its nuclear non-proliferation obligations. The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners. There should be no doubt, however, that we will hold fully accountable any state, terrorist group or other non-state actor that supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction.
The NPR also emphasises close co-operation with our allies around the world, and maintains our firm commitment to mutual security. We will work with our partners to reinforce regional security architectures, such as missile defences, and other conventional military capabilities. The United States will continue to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for ourselves and our allies so long as these weapons exist anywhere in the world.
Nuclear proliferation and terrorism are global challenges, and they demand a global response. That is why President Obama has invited leaders from around the world to Washington for a nuclear security summit and will seek commitments from all nations – especially those that enjoy the benefits of civilian nuclear power – to take steps to stop proliferation and secure vulnerable nuclear materials. If terrorists ever acquired these dangerous materials, the results would be too terrible to imagine.
All nations must recognise that the non-proliferation regime cannot survive if violators are allowed to act with impunity. That is why we are working to build international consensus for steps that will convince Iran's leaders to change course, including new UN security council sanctions that will further clarify their choice of upholding their obligations or facing increasing isolation and painful consequences. With respect to North Korea, we continue to send the message that simply returning to the negotiating table is not enough. Pyongyang must move towards complete and verifiable denuclearisation, through irreversible steps, if it wants a normalised, sanctions-free relationship with the United States.
All these steps, all our treaties, summits and sanctions, share the goal of increasing the security of the United States, our allies, and people everywhere.
Last April President Obama stood in Hradcany Square in Prague and challenged the world to pursue a future free of the nuclear dangers that have loomed over us all for more than a half century. This is the work of a lifetime, if not longer. But today, one year later, we are making real progress towards that goal.
2c)Obama Is Weakening America
By Tunku Varadarajan
The president's new nuclear weapons policy is just the latest (should we call it “Jimmy-Cartesian”?) indication that he is determined to hasten the country’s decline, writes Tunku Varadarajan.
Consider me unimpressed. Barack Obama’s ballyhooed “Nuclear Posture Review” has turned out, in truth, to be more “posture” than “review.”
As has been pointed out by a prominent parser of all things nuclear, the new policy actually changes very little: We weren’t going to nuke Brazil before the review and we’re still asserting the right to nuke North Korea if we need to. And even my nuclear-layman’s eye detects the thrust of platitude in the president’s assertion that, henceforward, the U.S. would “only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.” Does the president mean to tell us that his predecessors were free to consider the use of nukes in humdrum circumstances to defend trivial interests?
Other countries have their own particular interests, and will sell nuclear reactors to Iran and arms to Venezuela, no matter how compelling Obama’s family history is.
I jest here, of course, but I despair, too. I despair of this latest episode of gestural theater designed to make the U.S. look exquisitely reasonable (should we call it “Jimmy-Cartesian”?), but which in truth results in the U.S. looking flaccid, or worse, complacent. After all, who gains from a presidential posture that has, in effect, stigmatized our most potent deterrent?
In terms of foreign policy—or, better put, foreign clout—the U.S. is going through a startling period of auto-emasculation. Barack Obama has discarded his predecessor’s big stick—the wielding of which should have confirmed the flaws not of big sticks but of his predecessor—and replaced it with a mission of almost messianic outreach to our foes and most adamant competitors (while, at the same time, snubbing allies like Britain, Israel and India; Robert Kagan has a doughty essay on this in The Washington Post.)
• Michael Levi: Obama’s Nuke Plan Doesn’t Go Far Enough
Observing Obama’s foreign policy, one comes away with the impression that he is profoundly embarrassed by American exceptionalism: We are a country like any other, and let no one tell us otherwise. He also views America’s international decline as irreversible: His instinctive response is to accommodate the U.S. to the forces that have led to this decline, since to resist them would not merely be futile, but an affront to the multi-polar sensibilities of all those who, in foreign chanceries and international institutions, watch America closely for any trace of unilateralist recidivism. (Of course, it is OK to be unilateralist in the formal renunciation of strategic options, as happens with any nuclear self-denial; otherwise, multinational solidarity is always to be preferred, even when it leads to the backing of anti-American forces, as has happened in Honduras.)
• Stephen L. Carter:
Obama, Don’t Stop Building Nukes In the Obama narrative, America has been a reckless source of trouble for the world because of its arrogant interventionism. Obama’s solution, in the words of Charles Hill, a professor at Yale, is the following: “Close out the wars, disengage, and distance ourselves in order to carry out the real objective: the achievement of a European-style welfare state. Just as Reagan downsized government by starving it through budget cuts, Obama will downsize the military-industrial complex by directing so much money into health care, environ-o-care, etc., that we, like the Europeans, will have no funds available to maintain world power. This will gain the confidence of those regimes adversarial to us as they recognize we will no longer be a threat to them and that we will acquiesce in their maintenance of power over their people.” All will be well with the world.
Obama’s foreign policy has two pillars: conciliation as a tool for peace (defined as lending a close ear to every recalcitrant nation, while abjuring any American right to be censorious); and an avowed preference for pragmatism over any values-based evangelism (in effect, the elevation of pragmatism to the status of directive principle). Commentators have observed that there is an element of Bush repudiation in Obama’s foreign policy. I would go further: Bush repudiation is not “an” element. It is “the” element.
To be fair, this is exactly the way George W. Bush viewed, and repudiated, Bill Clinton—and did so with a mulish refusal to entertain policies that were at odds with the neocon vision of Pax Americana. Recall that Bush, at first, spoke contemptuously of humanitarian intervention and said that he’d only pursue the most “vital” national interests abroad (ironic, since that is the gist of Obama’s repudiation of Bush). But Bush went on to overturn Clinton on every issue: He termed China a “strategic competitor” while Clinton viewed it through the lens of commercial diplomacy; he jettisoned all the emphasis on “globalization,” with its opportunities and threats (disease, global warming, etc.), and exchanged geo-economics for geopolitics; he turned his back on the U.N., while Clinton was usually working with it; he ditched, entirely, the Middle East “peace process,” which Clinton was addicted to; and finally, the most tectonic shift of all: He intervened militarily in countries where he saw threats to the U.S., whereas Clinton had merely Cruise-missiled empty tents and aspirin factories.
As Bush did to Clinton, so Obama has done to Bush. But the visceral displacement is not working, mostly because the other side—to wit, the rest of the world—is determined to have a say in international relations too, especially when faced with a complaisant Washington. Obama can profess his multilateralism till he’s azure in the face, but—as Kagan and others have pointed out—other countries have their own particular interests, and will sell nuclear reactors to Iran and arms to Venezuela, no matter how compelling Obama’s family history is.
There is also an unseemly side to the pragmatism that is Obama’s international leitmotif. Paradoxically for a man who incarnates the progress of civil liberties in his own country, the president has literally banished human rights (that quintessentially liberal and Democratic concern) from U.S. foreign policy—just because Bush took up the cause. Of rights in China, Egypt, and elsewhere, the Obama administration has spoken only with an excessive, and dispiriting, circumspection.
So one wonders—as Putin embraces Chavez and Karzai plays host to Ahmadinejad; as Russia asserts the right to repudiate any nuclear-arms reduction treaty and China gives us the bird on the yuan; as the alliance with India languishes and the one with Britain experiences unprecedented atrophy; as Israel expresses acrid disagreement with us and Japan seeks to rip pages out of its postwar rulebook—what all the pragmatism has really, truly accomplished…
…other than give our delighted adversaries a free pass and our friends a very rude wakeup call.
Tunku Varadarajan is a national affairs correspondent and writer at large for The Daily Beast. He is also a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a professor at NYU’s Stern Business School. He is a former assistant managing editor at The Wall Street Journal.
2d)Nuclear Fantasies and Realities
By Steve Chapman
President Obama released a new policy on the use of nuclear weapons the other day. From some of the reactions, I expected that on every government building, the Stars and Stripes would be replaced with a white flag of surrender.
Rudy Giuliani lamented that Obama bases his security policy on the charming belief that "we can all hold hands, sing songs, and have peace symbols." Former United Nations ambassador John Bolton said the plan puts America "on the road to nuclear impotence."
Obama deserves much of the blame for this criticism -- not because of what he has done but because of what he has said. He has repeatedly endorsed the vision of "a world without nuclear weapons." When you make grand but wrongheaded pronouncements, some people take you literally.
What has gone unnoticed is the president's qualifying statement that our arrival in Shangri-La is "unlikely to be achieved even during my lifetime." As for what happens after 2040 or 2050, it won't be his problem.
In reality, there is no reason to think Obama has any intention of junking our doomsday weapons and confronting our enemies with an arsenal of honeyed words. Under the new arms control deal with Russia, we will get to deploy upward of 1,550 warheads. If you're on the receiving end, it only takes one to ruin your whole day.
But the alarmists see looming disarmament in three different developments. First, they decry Obama's new pledge not to use nuclear weapons even against a country that attacks us with biological or chemical weapons.
In formal terms, that was a significant change from the Bush administration's policy. In the real world, it has about as much content as the inside of a bass drum.
Obama made a point of refusing to offer this guarantee to nuclear states (I'm looking at you, North Korea) or states that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but have not abided by its terms (heads up, Iran). His offer would, however, apply if Canada starts lobbing mustard gas over the St. Lawrence Seaway.
More important is that any promise Obama makes regarding our possible use of nukes is subject to change if a crisis erupts. It's not like he signed a contract with rogue states allowing them to get a court injunction to prevent him from pushing the button.
Our enemies know that if they attack us, 1) we will have more military options than any country on earth, 2) all will be on the table, and 3) whichever one we choose will put them in a world of hurt.
Obama is also charged with capitulating to Moscow on our plans for missile defense --even though the New START agreement puts absolutely no limits on anti-missile weapons. The alleged problem is that the Russians reserve the right to withdraw if our defenses become too formidable.
Big whoop. Either side can pull out of an arms control accord anytime for any reason. If they were truly worried, the Russians would not be downsizing their offensive capability without getting missile defense concessions.
Another charge is that by refusing to develop new nuclear weapons or conduct test explosions of existing ones, Obama is practicing disarmament through deterioration. At some point, the thinking goes, our aging nukes will no longer work. So we might as well not have them.
This claim is not entirely fantastical. In fact, the directors of the country's three nuclear weapons laboratories have warned that existing methods of maintenance and refurbishment may not be enough to ensure "a safe and reliable nuclear force."
But the directors could be letting their self-interest in development and testing cloud their judgment. A 2002 report by the National Academy of Sciences found "the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing weapons stockpile without periodic nuclear tests." More recently, an independent panel of experts reached the same conclusion.
If there is a problem, it's way off in the future, and there will be plenty of time to address it. In the meantime, we have vast stores of the most destructive weapons ever created, deliverable to any target in the world in a matter of hours if not minutes.
Republicans may hope to profit from imagining that America is becoming weak and helpless. The people in charge in Tehran and Pyongyang can't afford such illusions
3)Yes, Larry Summers is Leaving
By Joshua Green
One angle in my recent profile of Tim Geithner concerned his relationship with Larry Summers, his former mentor and the director of the National Economic Council. I contend that Geithner, not Summers, has emerged as Obama's key adviser on financial matters, and that Summers isn't happy about it. (Not everybody was convinced.) Since my piece appeared, the buzz that Summers is looking to leave--or is being pushed out--has picked up. Earlier today, my colleague Marc Ambinder wrote about this, defending Summers against his critics while leaving open the possibility that he may, indeed, leave. My own view is a bit less sanguine. I think Summers is going to leave sooner rather than later, possibly before the mid-term elections, and if not then, soon afterward.
Why? Because Summers is frustrated by his role, and his colleagues are clearly frustrated with him. Alexis Simendinger had a devastating item in last week's National Journal suggesting that Summers's "legendary self-regard" and "ego the size of the national debt" had gotten out of control. Some of Summers's frustration no doubt stems from his wanting to be Treasury secretary. When that plum went to Geithner, Summers cast his eye on the Fed chairmanship and agreed to bide his time until Ben Bernanke's term ended at the NEC--a staff position well below his old job as Clinton's Treasury secretary. Most administration officials tactfully avoid pointing this out, because Summers has a fragile ego. But that's why Joe Biden is so great. "How many former Secretaries of the Treasury would come in not as Secretary of the Treasury?" Biden blurted out to the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza last fall.
But Summers didn't get the Fed job either. Apparently that didn't sit well. Administration insiders told Simendinger that Summers demanded a series of perks as compensation, including cabinet status, golf dates with the president, and a personal car and driver. In the "No Drama" Obama administration, such behavior stands out. And it isn't the first time Summers has been the target of leaks. Last June, only a few months into the administration, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times ran a Summers-focused piece on "tensions" in the economic team. A little later, Al Hunt wrote a column suggesting Obama was frustrated with Summers's poor coordination of the economic team. I heard the same thing from several sources, one of whom groused about the time spent "cleaning up Larry's messes."
Summers always seemed a bad fit for NEC director because the job entails dispassionately presenting the president with the counsel of his competing economic advisers. Summers doesn't do "dispassionate" and he didn't want to limit himself to fielding others' advice--he had plenty of his own to offer. In other words, he was supposed to be the referee, but he also wanted to play power forward. This rankled other members of the economic team, including Austan Goolsbee, Christina Romer, and Peter Orszag, enough that they're widely presumed to be the sources of many of the leaks. Summers's tendency toward bureaucratic infighting was another problem. As Jonathan Alter lays out in his forthcoming book, "The Promise," Summers maneuvered to sideline people like Paul Volcker, Joe Stiglitz, and even Orszag, behavior more characteristic of the Clinton administration than the Obama administration. Alter also reveals that Obama's nickname for Summers is "Dr. Kevorkian," which does not imply paternal fondness.
But what really makes me believe that Summers won't stick around is that all this Machiavellian intrigue has failed to win him what he wanted most: power. Summers gets plenty of presidential face time, but he's not the nexus of White House activity that everyone expected him to be, and that doesn't sit well according to the Summers associates I spoke with. In my Atlantic piece, I go into considerable detail about how Geithner, and not Summers, came to be the key person on financial matters. But it wasn't just finance. Energy and health care care were also routed elsewhere, to Carol Browner and Nancy Ann DeParle. The hand-holding of anxious lawmakers that became an integral part of the NEC job under Summers's mentor, Bob Rubin, is being handled by another economist, Mark Zandi, a former McCain adviser. Marc points out that Summers does "ride herd over the administration's infrastructure renewal program." But I'd wager that infrastructure renewal is not what Larry Summers pictured for himself when he arrived at the White House. The question in my mind is not why Summers would leave, but why he would stay?
If Summers's situtation is untenable, two questions arise: Who succeeds him at NEC? And where does he go next? I, too, heard--but, alas, could not confirm--the rumor that Rahm Emanuel has put out feelers for a possible successor. Calling around to administration and Wall Street folks, though, there seems to be no shortage of candidates. Some names floated were former Clinton Treasury official Roger Altman, former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles, and Austan Goolsbee. I'm told that Summers's deputy, Jason Furman, is an unlikely choice, so toxic is the feeling toward the current NEC. My own bet to succeed Summers would be Peter Orszag. The argument against this is that Orszag has more power and a larger staff at OMB than he would at NEC (he'd have to give up his car service, too). But I'm not persuaded. Orszag is coming off a big victory with health care, it'd be a natural time for a move. And beyond the standard measures of power, the NEC job offers the one thing hyper-ambitious DC types are helpless to turn down: regular face time with the president. The fact that the pieces are in place to enable such a move--Treasury adviser Gene Sperling (Orszag's former boss) is moving over to OMB as deputy and could easily move up--also seems like an indicator. We'll see.
I don't know what's next for Summers, and neither did anyone I spoke with. Fed chairman is out of the question, and contra the periodic blogger hyperbole, Geithner seems ever more secure at Treasury. A university presidency isn't going to happen. So a return to Harvard, Wall Street consulting and an FT column might be the likeliest option. (Alternatively, Summers could pull a Janet Reno, stay put forever, and force me to live down this item.) The natural time to leave would be after the mid-terms--but if Democrats get thumped, it might look like Summers got pushed out. The embarrassing leaks seem designed to bring about an announcement sooner rather than later, which might, in the end, be the best thing for all parties because it would inoculate Summers against a mid-term rout.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4)"I'm Tired" by Senator Robert A. Hall/MA
I'll be 63 soon. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce, and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I've worked, hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven't called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there's no retirement in sight, and I'm tired. Very tired.
I'm tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth around" to people who don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy or stupid to earn it. I'm tired of being told 'change' is good. All 'change' is NOT good.
I'm tired of being told that I have to pay more taxes to "keep people in their homes." Sure, if they lost their jobs or got sick, I'm willing to help. But if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off, $250,000 condo, on one-third of my salary, then let the left-wing Congress-critters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act that created the bubble help them with their own money. Stupidity does not improve stupid decisions.
I'm tired of being told how bad America is by left-wing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros, and out-of-touch Hollywood entertainers who live in luxury because of the opportunities America offers. In thirty years, if they get their way, the United States will have the economy of Zimbabwe , the freedom of the press of China , the crime and violence of Mexico , the tolerance for Christian people of Iran , and the freedom of speech of Venezuela . Won't multiculturalism be beautiful?
I'm tired of being told that Islam is a "Religion of Peace," when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family "honor"; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren't "believers"; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for "adultery"; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur'an and Shari'a law tells them to.
I believe "a man should be judged by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin." I'm tired of being told that "race doesn't matter" in the post-racial world of Obama, when it's all that matters in affirmative action jobs, lower college admission and graduation standards for minorities (harming them the most), government contract set-asides, tolerance for the ghetto culture of violence and fatherless children that hurts minorities more than anyone, and in the appointment of US Senators from Illinois.
I think it's very cool that we have a black president and that a black child is doing her homework at the desk where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I just wish the black president was Condi Rice, or someone who believes more appropriately in freedom and the individual and less arrogantly of an all-knowing government.
I'm tired of a news media that thinks Bush's fundraising and inaugural expenses were obscene, but that think Obama's, at triple the cost, were wonderful; that thinks Bush exercising daily was a waste of presidential time, but Obama exercising is a great example for the public to control weight and stress; that picked over every line of Bush's military records, but never demanded that Kerry release his or asked Obama about his; that slammed Palin, with two years as governor, for being too inexperienced for VP, but touted Obama with three highly questionable years as senator and as potentially 'the best' president ever. Wonder why people are rampantly dropping their subscriptions or switching to Fox News? Get a clue. I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, but the media and Kerry drove me to his camp in 2004. Coming elections are setting up for real 'change'.
I'm tired of being told that out of "tolerance for other cultures" we must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and madrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in America, while no American group is allowed to fund a church, synagogue, or religious school in Saudi Arabia to teach love and tolerance. I'm tired of America bowing to tyrants and their whims.
I'm tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight 'global warming', which no one is allowed to debate. My wife and I live in a two-bedroom apartment and carpool together five miles to our jobs. We also own a three-bedroom condo where our daughter and granddaughter live. Our carbon footprint is about 5% of Al Gore's. I'm tired of being duped to think if you're as green as Gore, you're green enough.
I'm tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. And, yes, alcohol is a drug. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses or gin in their veins while they tried to fight it off? I don't know if gay people choose to be gay, but I damn sure believe druggies chose to take drugs. And I'm tired of the 'cool' people treating me like a freak when I tell them I never tried marijuana.
I'm tired of illegal aliens being called "undocumented workers," especially the ones who aren't working, but are living on welfare or crime. What's next? Calling drug dealers, "Undocumented Pharmacists"? And, no, I'm not against Hispanics. Most of them are Catholic, and it's been a few hundred years since Catholics wanted to kill me for my religion. I'm willing to fast track for citizenship any foreigner, who can speak English, has sole allegiance to America, has no criminal record, who is self-supporting without family on welfare, or who serves honorably for three years in our military. Those are the citizens we need.
I'm tired of latte liberals and journalists, who would never wear the uniform of the Republic themselves, or let their entitlement-handicapped kids near a recruiting station, trashing our military. They and their kids can sit at home, never having to make split-second decisions under life and death circumstances, and bad mouth better people than themselves. Do bad things happen in war? You bet. Do our troops sometimes misbehave? Sure. Does this compare with the atrocities that were the policy of our enemies for the last fifty years and still are? Not even close. So here's the deal. I'll let myself be subjected to all the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo, and the critics can let themselves be subject to captivity by the Muslims who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins in Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of schoolgirls in Indonesia, because the girls were Christian. Then we'll compare notes. British and American soldiers are the only troops in history that civilians came to for help and handouts, instead of hiding from in fear.
I'm tired of people telling me that their party has a corner on virtue and the other party has a corner on corruption. Read the papers; bums are bipartisan. And I'm tired of people telling me we need bipartisanship. I live in Illinois , where the "Illinois Combine" of Democrats has worked to loot the public for years. Not to mention the tax cheats in Obama's cabinet as well.
I'm tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers, and politicians of both parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I'm tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor. I'm tired of America letting these people get away with this thievery.
Speaking of poor, I'm tired of hearing people with air-conditioned homes, color TVs and two cars called 'poor'. The majority of Americans didn't have that in 1970, but we didn't know we were "poor." The poverty pimps have to keep changing the definition of poor to keep the dollars flowing.
I'm real tired of people who don't take responsibility for their lives and actions. I'm tired of hearing them criminally blame the government, or more often self-imposed discrimination, or big-whatever for their problems. This is a crime upon America.
Yes, I'm damn tired. But I'm also glad to be 63. Because, mostly, I'm not going to have to see the world these people are making. I'm just sorry for my granddaughter and her generation.
Senator Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam veteran who served five terms in the liberal Massachusetts State Senate. He retired undefeated.
By Ken Blackwell
Byron York of Washington's Examiner has done us all a great service. His column draws on the unguarded statements of Sen. Max Baucus and former Gov. Howard Dean. (Well, Baucus, maybe. It's hard to say whether Howlin' Howard has ever made a guarded statement.)
Both of these men's statements might have been lost in the clamor following the passage of President Obama's historic health care bill. What York has done is dash into the fire and pluck out some of these red-hot quotes.
"Health reform is 'an income shift. It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans.'" Baucus, normally seen as a Democratic centrist, let the Marxist cat out of the liberal bag.
Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is no marginal figure. He told CNBC: "The question is, in a democracy, what is the right balance between those at the top ... and those at the bottom? This [health care bill] is a form of redistribution."
Sen. Baucus and Gov. Dean perhaps unintentionally revealed the real reason for ObamaCare. It was not to bend the cost curve (price controls) or to provide access to health care for all (they already have it and cannot be denied care). It was to level.
During the English Civil War (1641-49), the most radical of the Parliamentary forces arrayed against the King were called "Levelers." They, too, wanted to drag down the top earners of their day. They, too, wanted to create a Utopia. And those Levelers were willing to use force to bring about their vision of Heaven on Earth. Small wonder generations of Marxist profs have idealized the English Levelers.
Winston Churchill was not only not a socialist; he was England's greatest historian. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. Churchill also knew what was wrong with socialism. "Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."
Baucus was not alone in his "victory lip." Howard Dean confirmed what Baucus said. When he ran for president in 2004, Dean claimed to be representing "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." In a real sense, he did. Only when the liberal media took a sober look at Dean's radicalism -- and realized that Americans would never accept such an open avowal of socialism -- did they pile on.
The media again and again featured Dean's excited whoop after the Iowa caucuses. They made him look unstable. They clearly leaned to John Kerry, whose program was essentially the same as Dean's, but whose ponderous, plodding rhetorical style would make it harder to hang the "wild radical" sign around his neck.
Byron York quotes New York Times columnist David Leonhardt. Leonhardt said ObamaCare is "the federal government's biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago."
Three decades. Let's see. Might that have been under Ronald Reagan? The nearly three decades of American prosperity initiated by Reagan were welcomed and approved by Americans of all income levels. The poor got richer. The rich got richer. Not all those who were rich in 1981 were among the ranks of the rich of 2008. Reagan unleashed the creative forces of enterprise. Many of those who were poor in 1981 made great strides.
Reagan understood that "a rising tide lifts all boats." He was willing to see some become very rich, provided that all Americans were better off.
Baucus and Dean want to tax away success. They want to cook the goose that lays the golden eggs. They would agree with the 16th-century French economist Colbert, who said, "The art of taxation is to pluck the maximum number of feathers from the goose with the minimum amount of hissing."
Thanks to the passage of the unsustainable ObamaCare bill -- and these very revealing comments of Baucus, Dean, and Leonhardt -- the geese are hissing louder. You can hear them at every TEA Party. In the ancient Roman Republic, the raucous noise of the sacred geese awakened the watchmen on the wall. They saved the republic then. Maybe they'll save it now.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Club for Growth, National Taxpayers Union, and National Rifle Association.
6) Top political figures face arrest in sensational Israeli real estate graft case
Israeli police want to question at least two prominent Israelis on bribery and corruption charges in the Jerusalem Holyland real estate case, after arresting the lawyer Uri Messer, a longtime partner of ex-prime minister and former Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert, Wednesday, April 7.
Messer is suspected of acting as go-between in obtaining municipal permits in 1999 for the lavish multi-billion Jerusalem eyesore, the 30-floor Holyland Towers, in the face of widespread public and popular protest.
Police are negotiating with the attorneys of the wanted former officials, some of whom are overseas, on conditions for their return, detention and appearance in court. The court has issued a gag order banning publication of their names.
Thursday, April 8, the president of the Jerusalem district court Mussia Arad, is due to hear the Jerusalem district prosecutor's grounds for his application to reverse the order of testimony in the various graft cases outstanding against Olmert and his former secretary Shula Zaken. The prosecutor is expected to link his request to the findings unfolding in the Holyland investigation, which is led by the National Fraud Unit and Lahav 433 and was described one judge as "one of the gravest cases of public corruption in Israeli history and the cause of irreversible damage to the public interest."
Tuesday and Wednesday, police raided the Jerusalem municipal offices and the premises of the Polar Investment company which built the Holyland complex. Its proprietor Hillel Charni was placed under arrest on suspicion of paying tens of millions of shekels in bribes to top officials for building permits. Also in custody is the former city engineer Uri Shitreet, whom Olmert later awarded a slot on his Kadima party list when he ran for prime minister in 2006.
The Holyland scandal, the most sensational of several cases involving former prime minister Ehud Olmert , finds him travelling overseas. His attorney Eli Zohar said Thursday, he sees no reason why his client should be detained in the Holyland affair, which he said would peter out into nothing like all the other allegations against him.
Notwithstanding the court gag order, the revelations spilling out about the lead characters involved bespeak financial corruption on an unprecedented scale whose ramifications intrude on national politics.
This case presents before a court of justice the long known manifestation of unhealthy interrelations between capitalists and high elected officials, whereby both exploit the latter's public position to pervert the law, cheat the public and steal public funds for their personal enrichment. A nouveau social elite had begun to emerge from the morass of massive personal and political corruption, which many Israelis have come to believe endangers national security no less than any outside peril.
The party affiliation of the suspects in the Holyland affair will no doubt lead voters to ask themselves how so many suspects come from the top ranks of the party which polled the highest number of ballots in the last two elections.
7)A gift for Ahmadinejad: Israel’s enemies overjoyed that army chief’s term isn’t being extended
By Itay Landsberg
Let’s assume that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak would have been very successful in his first term in office as PM – would it be reasonable to assume that he would turn to the public and ask for a vote of confidence in the form of another term? That makes sense.
Yet in the land of dwarfs that is Israel, a successful army chief cannot similarly turn to the public. He depends on the defense minister and prime minister – two politicians who would have trouble pointing to proven success stories in managing the establishments they’re in charge of.
Two years before the Second Lebanon War, I wrote an article in favor of choosing Gabi Ashkenazi over Dan Halutz titled “A chief of staff from Golani.” Halutz was chosen, yet the Lebanon War proved that the decision was wrong. Immediately after Halutz resigned, Ashkenazi was appointed as army chief.
The IDF started to train in earnest, both the regular and reservist forces. Next, the public regained its trust in the army, in the wake of a series of successful operations – the strike on Syria’s nuclear reactor, the relative quiet we’ve seen in the territories, Cast Lead in Gaza, and Hezbollah’s quiet and realization that the next war will not be similar to the last one.
The quiet had also been maintained on the IDF’s media front. We haven’t seen feuds between generals or daily storms as result of odd statements by senior military officials. The public trusts the army chief.
This trust is needed by Israel in order to send its sons to war. There is nothing more important for a state in war than a commander’s ability to convince those who follow him and are deployed on his orders that the helm is occupied by a responsible, credible, and moral person.
Barak’s advisors at fault?
So what exactly went through the defense minister’s mind when he decided to confront the army chief and not extend his term for another year? Was it a case of a political agenda that prompts every defense minister to eliminate his army chief in his last year in office, so that the latter doesn’t threaten the minister’s status once he retires from the army? Was it a case of bad advisors, who in order to score a few more PR points with their boss-minister were willing to undermine the image of a successful army chief? Or was the decision a result of a solo brainstorming session by the defense minister?
One way or another, it’s hard to fathom why Barak doesn’t consider, for example, granting Ashkenazi another term, instead of informing him that he will end his current term as scheduled. After all, it makes sense that a complex organization such as the IDF, which had suffered management failures in the form of Mofaz, Yaalon, and Halutz, would be eager to secure Ashkenazi’s proven services and skills and ask him to stay in the post for another term.
However, in this country, the army rushes to get rid of its successful commander – despite the fact that his three predecessors, who prepared the catastrophe we saw in the Second Lebanon War, were responsible for 10 years where our national security deteriorated to a dangerous level, with only Ashkenazi being able to extract us from this state.
So why is it so urgent for Ehud Barak to get rid of Ashkenazi at this time? How many successful officers of his type does he have to spare? Is it better to take a chance with one candidate or another considering the threats faced by Israel at this time?
Ahmadinejad must be happy. Nasrallah will again celebrate the appointment of the “rookies,” as he did upon the appointment of Olmert, Peretz, and Halutz ahead of the 2006 Lebanon War. Our other neighbors will simply wonder why the Jews were always said to be a wise people. Perhaps we’re too wise.
Itay Landsberg is a member of the Forum of Battalion and Division Commanders
8)Mexico and the Failed State Revisited
By George Friedman
STRATFOR argued March 13, 2008, that Mexico was nearing the status of a failed state. A failed state is one in which the central government has lost control over significant areas of the country and the state is unable to function. In revisiting this issue, it seems to us that the Mexican government has lost control of the northern tier of Mexico to drug-smuggling organizations, which have significantly greater power in that region than government forces. Moreover, the ability of the central government to assert its will against these organizations has weakened to the point that decisions made by the state against the cartels are not being implemented or are being implemented in a way that would guarantee failure.
Despite these facts, it is not clear to STRATFOR that Mexico is becoming a failed state. Instead, it appears the Mexican state has accommodated itself to the situation. Rather than failing, it has developed strategies designed both to ride out the storm and to maximize the benefits of that storm for Mexico.
First, while the Mexican government has lost control over matters having to do with drugs and with the borderlands of the United States, Mexico City’s control over other regions — and over areas other than drug enforcement — has not collapsed (though its lack of control over drugs could well extend to other areas eventually). Second, while drugs reshape Mexican institutions dramatically, they also, paradoxically, stabilize Mexico. We need to examine these crosscurrents to understand the status of Mexico.
Mexico’s Core Problem
Let’s begin by understanding the core problem. The United States consumes vast amounts of narcotics, which, while illegal there, make their way in abundance. Narcotics derive from low-cost agricultural products that become consumable with minimal processing. With its long, shared border with the United States, Mexico has become a major grower, processor and exporter of narcotics. Because the drugs are illegal and thus outside normal market processes, their price is determined by their illegality rather than by the cost of production. This means extraordinary profits can be made by moving narcotics from the Mexican side of the border to markets on the other side.
Whoever controls the supply chain from the fields to the processing facilities and, above all, across the border, will make enormous amounts of money. Various Mexican organizations — labeled cartels, although they do not truly function as such, since real cartels involve at least a degree of cooperation among producers, not open warfare — vie for this business. These are competing businesses, each with its own competing supply chain.
Typically, competition among businesses involves lowering prices and increasing quality. This would produce small, incremental shifts in profits on the whole while dramatically reducing prices. An increased market share would compensate for lower prices. Similarly, lawsuits are the normal solution to unfair competition. But neither is the case with regard to illegal goods.
The surest way to increase smuggling profits is not through market mechanisms but by taking over competitors’ supply chains. Given the profit margins involved, persons wanting to control drug supply chains would be irrational to buy, since the lower-cost solution would be to take control of these supply chains by force. Thus, each smuggling organization has an attached paramilitary organization designed to protect its own supply chain and to seize its competitors’ supply chains.
The result is ongoing warfare between competing organizations. Given the amount of money being made in delivering their product to American cities, these paramilitary organizations are well-armed, well-led and well-motivated. Membership in such paramilitary groups offers impoverished young men extraordinary opportunities for making money, far greater than would be available to them in legitimate activities.
The raging war in Mexico derives logically from the existence of markets for narcotics in the United States; the low cost of the materials and processes required to produce these products; and the extraordinarily favorable economics of moving narcotics across the border. This warfare is concentrated on the Mexican side of the border. But from the Mexican point of view, this warfare does not fundamentally threaten Mexico’s interests.
A Struggle Far From the Mexican Heartland
The heartland of Mexico is to the south, far from the country’s northern tier. The north is largely a sparsely populated highland desert region seen from Mexico City as an alien borderland intertwined with the United States as much as it is part of Mexico. Accordingly, the war raging there doesn’t represent a direct threat to the survival of the Mexican regime.
Indeed, what the wars are being fought over in some ways benefits Mexico. The amount of money pouring into Mexico annually is stunning. It is estimated to be about $35 billion to $40 billion each year. The massive profit margins involved make these sums even more significant. Assume that the manufacturing sector produces revenues of $40 billion a year through exports. Assuming a generous 10 percent profit margin, actual profits would be $4 billion a year. In the case of narcotics, however, profit margins are conservatively estimated to stand at around 80 percent. The net from $40 billion would be $32 billion; to produce equivalent income in manufacturing, exports would have to total $320 billion.
In estimating the impact of drug money on Mexico, it must therefore be borne in mind that drugs cannot be compared to any conventional export. The drug trade’s tremendously high profit margins mean its total impact on Mexico vastly outstrips even the estimated total sales, even if the margins shifted substantially.
On the whole, Mexico is a tremendous beneficiary of the drug trade. Even if some of the profits are invested overseas, the pool of remaining money flowing into Mexico creates tremendous liquidity in the Mexican economy at a time of global recession. It is difficult to trace where the drug money is going, which follows from its illegality. Certainly, drug dealers would want their money in a jurisdiction where it could not be easily seized even if tracked. U.S. asset seizure laws for drug trafficking make the United States an unlikely haven. Though money clearly flows out of Mexico, the ability of the smugglers to influence the behavior of the Mexican government by investing some of it makes Mexico a likely destination for a substantial portion of such funds.
The money does not, however, flow back into the hands of the gunmen shooting it out on the border; even their bosses couldn’t manage funds of that magnitude. And while money can be — and often is — baled up and hidden, the value of money is in its use. As with illegal money everywhere, the goal is to wash it and invest it in legitimate enterprises where it can produce more money. That means it has to enter the economy through legitimate institutions — banks and other financial entities — and then be redeployed into the economy. This is no different from the American Mafia’s practice during and after Prohibition.
The Drug War and Mexican National Interests
From Mexico’s point of view, interrupting the flow of drugs to the United States is not clearly in the national interest or in that of the economic elite. Observers often dwell on the warfare between smuggling organizations in the northern borderland but rarely on the flow of American money into Mexico. Certainly, that money could corrupt the Mexican state, but it also behaves as money does. It is accumulated and invested, where it generates wealth and jobs.
For the Mexican government to become willing to shut off this flow of money, the violence would have to become far more geographically widespread. And given the difficulty of ending the traffic anyway — and that many in the state security and military apparatus benefit from it — an obvious conclusion can be drawn: Namely, it is difficult to foresee scenarios in which the Mexican government could or would stop the drug trade. Instead, Mexico will accept both the pain and the benefits of the drug trade.
Mexico’s policy is consistent: It makes every effort to appear to be stopping the drug trade so that it will not be accused of supporting it. The government does not object to disrupting one or more of the smuggling groups, so long as the aggregate inflow of cash does not materially decline. It demonstrates to the United States efforts (albeit inadequate) to tackle the trade, while pointing out very real problems with its military and security apparatus and with its officials in Mexico City. It simultaneously points to the United States as the cause of the problem, given Washington’s failure to control demand or to reduce prices by legalization. And if massive amounts of money pour into Mexico as a result of this U.S. failure, Mexico is not going to refuse it.
The problem with the Mexican military or police is not lack of training or equipment. It is not a lack of leadership. These may be problems, but they are only problems if they interfere with implementing Mexican national policy. The problem is that these forces are personally unmotivated to take the risks needed to be effective because they benefit more from being ineffective. This isn’t incompetence but a rational national policy.
Moreover, Mexico has deep historic grievances toward the United States dating back to the Mexican-American War. These have been exacerbated by U.S. immigration policy that the Mexicans see both as insulting and as a threat to their policy of exporting surplus labor north. There is thus no desire to solve the Americans’ problem. Certainly, there are individuals in the Mexican government who wish to stop the smuggling and the inflow of billions of dollars. They will try. But they will not succeed, as too much is at stake. One must ignore public statements and earnest private assurances and instead observe the facts on the ground to understand what’s really going on.
The U.S. Strategic Problem
And this leaves the United States with a strategic problem. There is some talk in Mexico City and Washington of the Americans becoming involved in suppression of the smuggling within Mexico (even though the cartels, to use that strange name, make certain not to engage in significant violence north of the border and mask it when they do to reduce U.S. pressure on Mexico). This is certainly something the Mexicans would be attracted to. But it is unclear that the Americans would be any more successful than the Mexicans. What is clear is that any U.S. intervention would turn Mexican drug traffickers into patriots fighting yet another Yankee incursion. Recall that Pershing never caught Pancho Villa, but he did help turn Villa into a national hero in Mexico.
The United States has a number of choices. It could accept the status quo. It could figure out how to reduce drug demand in the United States while keeping drugs illegal. It could legalize drugs, thereby driving their price down and ending the motivation for smuggling. And it could move into Mexico in a bid to impose its will against a government, banking system and police and military force that benefit from the drug trade.
The United States does not know how to reduce demand for drugs. The United States is not prepared to legalize drugs. This means the choice lies between the status quo and a complex and uncertain (to say the least) intervention. We suspect the United States will attempt some limited variety of the latter, while in effect following the current strategy and living with the problem.
Ultimately, Mexico is a failed state only if you accept the idea that its goal is to crush the smugglers. If, on the other hand, one accepts the idea that all of Mexican society benefits from the inflow of billions of American dollars (even though it also pays a price), then the Mexican state has not failed — it is following a rational strategy to turn a national problem into a national benefit.
"This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR"