Sunday, March 28, 2010

Last Call

Obama's finally playing hardball with Israel.  But Israel too can play hardball with the US, as David Sanger points out.
In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, declaring it could not live with the chance the country would get a nuclear weapons capability. In 2007, it wiped out a North Korean-built reactor in Syria. And the next year, the Israelis secretly asked the Bush administration for the equipment and overflight rights they might need some day to strike Iran’s much better-hidden, better-defended nuclear sites.

They were turned down, but the request added urgency to the question: Would Israel take the risk of a strike? And if so, what would follow?

Now that parlor game question has turned into more formal war games simulations. The government’s own simulations are classified, but the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution created its own in December. The results were provocative enough that a summary of them has circulated among top American government and military officials and in many foreign capitals. 
There's no accident to this report being in the news this week. The eleven-stage wargame the Brookings guys come up with after Israel strikes Iran fundamentally changes the game for all players involved:  the US, Iran, and Israel.

The aftermath is grim:
1. By attacking without Washington's advance knowledge, Israel had the benefits of surprise and momentum - not only over the Iranians, but over its American allies - and for the first day or two, ran circles around White House crisis managers.

2. The battle quickly sucked in the whole region - and Washington. Arab leaders who might have quietly applauded an attack against Iran had to worry about the reaction in their streets. The war shifted to defending Saudi oil facilities, and Iran's use of proxies meant that other regional players quickly became involved.

3. You can bomb facilities, but you can't bomb knowledge. Iran had not only scattered its facilities, but had also scattered its scientific and engineering leadership, in hopes of rebuilding after an attack.

4. No one won, and the United States and Israel measured success differently. In Washington, officials believed setting the Iranian program back only a few years was not worth the huge cost. In Israel, even a few years delay seemed worth the cost, and the Israelis argued that it could further undercut a fragile regime and perhaps speed its demise. Most of the Americans thought that was a pipe dream.
Sanger's piece serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that Israel can cause us lots and lots of trouble, drawing us into a third war we can't afford to fight...and cannot afford not to fight, either.  The timing is clear:  Obama is being told very clearly that he should tread much more lightly around Bibi and his government.

As BooMan says, we are facing a paradigm shift in Israel relations right now.
In effect, the president is utterly repudiating the aggressive rhetoric that Netanyahu displayed at the AIPAC conference. Bibi said that (East) Jerusalem is not a settlement. Obama says that it is.

By demanding that Israel cease building in East Jerusalem and stop razing Palestinians' property, Obama is asking Netanyahu to order something he is incapable of ordering. Or, at least, he's incapable of ordering it within his current coalition, which relies upon the Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas parties. At a minimum, the Obama administration is insisting that Netanyahu cut a deal with Kadima in order to gain the power he needs to stop construction in East Jerusalem. More likely, Obama just wants to force Bibi out of power. After all, he's insolent and indistinguishable from the neo-conservative lunatics that hijacked our own government and ran it into a ditch.
Sanger's piece is Israel's response to that shift.  "You know, we could make things much, much, much harder on you, Mr. President, if you continue to make things harder on us.  Have you thought about the consequences?"

Obama's being delivered a warning here.  How will he respond?

Sunday Funnies: I'm Yer Huckleberry (Hound) Edition

Bobblespeak Translations are up, where the continuing complete failure of the Obama adninistration is helpfully docmented by people who have no clue (like, say, Sen Lidnsey Graham.)
Gregory: Chuck AT&T proved this week that I was right all along - people are going to lose their insurance!

Schumer: No that’s a lie - just like death panels
and killing grandma

Gregory: Lindsey how do answer the charge that Republicans were right?

Graham: that’s a good tough question Gregory - Democrats are eliminating Medicare, student loans, and AT&T will have stop delivering the great customer service they are known for - it’s Armeygeddon!

Gregory: so will you repeal the law?

Graham: yes we will force the Democrats to
double funding for Medicare

Schumer: ha - oh noes!

Graham: states will have empty referendums on this bill!

Gregory: Chuck this bill costs $93 billion a year!

Schumer: that’s not very much Fluffy

Gregory: how do you answer the charge that this bill cuts the deficit but doesn’t cut it enough

Schumer: if we did nothing it would be worse bubblehead

Gregory: the CBO, the Concord Coalition and Count von Count from Sesame Street all say this will cut the debt - but how can that possibly be true when you cover millions of people?

Schumer: I heard you were a moron

Graham: I heard that too!

Schumer: from me
Guess McCain was busy this week, so hey, it's the folksy non-wisdom of Lindsey Graham. How does Huckleberry Hound keep getting on these shows anyway?

Must Be Nice Living In John Hinderaker's World

Where the unreality field protecting him from logic allows him to simply dismiss violent GOP rhetoric.
The Democrats have tried to change the subject away from their health care debacle by claiming that conservatives are threatening violence against them. Their complaints are pathetic where they are not out-and-out lies (e.g., Clyburn and Lewis), and they have taken a lot of well-deserved criticism. It is liberals, not conservatives, who rely on ad hominem attacks, outrageous allegations and violent imagery. We talked about this on our radio show today, and several callers reminded us of a particularly sorry episode of liberal violence that, for some reason, has not gotten much attention: the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul.

I attended the convention and remember the terrorist acts that were carried out by anti-Republican protesters very well. They threw bricks through the windows of buses, sending elderly convention delegates to the hospital. They dropped bags of sand off highway overpasses onto vehicles below. Fortunately, no one was killed.

These were anti-Bush and anti-Republican protesters. Is it a stretch to think that some of them, at least, may have been inspired by over-the-top, hateful attacks on the Bush administration by Democratic Congressmen, DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Michael Moore, who was a guest of honor at the Democrats' own convention, various show business personalities, and many other leading liberal figures? I don't think so. We haven't seen that sort of hate campaign since the Democrats went after Abraham Lincoln. It seems unlikely that none of the "protesters" who tried to commit murder were inspired by those liberal voices.
Yes, these acts at 2008 St. Paul were terrible and were condemned rightfully by both parties.  There were arrests made.  But here's the difference, John.  The voices stirring up the hatred on your side this time are called "Congressman" and "Senator."

It's one thing to have Michael Moore (on in the right's case, Ted Nugent) say violent things.  It's another entirely to have sitting members of Congress say them.  You don't get a pass on that.  You don't get to play the equivalence card and say "Democrats are just as guilty!"

They're not.   Start condemning these members of the Republican party.  Thanks.

Playing At Recess

President Obama's first act this weekend with the Senate gone for Easter is to make recess appointments of 15 of his nominees that the Republicans refuse to allow votes on.
Coming on the heels of Mr. Obama’s big victory on health care legislation, Saturday’s move suggests a newly emboldened president who is unafraid to provoke a confrontation with the minority party.

Just two days ago, all 41 Senate Republicans sent Mr. Obama a letter urging him not to appoint the union lawyer, Craig Becker, during the recess. Mr. Obama’s action, in defiance of the Republicans, was hailed by union leaders, but it also seemed certain to intensify the partisan rancor that has enveloped Washington.

“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disprove of my nominees,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.”

It was the first time the president has used his constitutional authority to fill vacant federal positions by making recess appointments, thus avoiding the requirement for the advice and consent of the Senate. Mr. Obama, who currently has 217 nominees pending and 77 awaiting action on the Senate floor, said Republicans had given him little choice.

“At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees to the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months,” Mr. Obama said. “I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government.”

With lawmakers back in their home states and Mr. Obama spending a quiet family weekend at Camp David, the White House issued the statement announcing the president’s intent to appoint Mr. Becker, and 14 others, mostly to fill positions on his economic and homeland security teams.

The White House said the 15 nominees had been waiting, on average, seven months to be confirmed. They are expected to begin work over the next week; the president’s action will enable them to serve without Senate confirmation until the chamber adjourns at the end of 2011. 
Bush did it, Clinton did it, Bush Sr. did it, Reagan did it...hell, up until Saturday, Obama had been the only president in modern history to NOT make recess appointments.  Glad he learned that the GOP was never going to allow a vote on any of his nominees from this point out.  Not like the GOP can call this unconstitutional, when the power to make recess appointments by the President really is spelled out right in the Constitution in Article II, Section 2:
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Good to see Obama realizing he doesn't have a choice.  I foresee another 50+ recess appointments soon.  Not like any of the rest will get a vote now.

Health Care Is The Excuse

Obama Derangement Syndrome is the diagnosis.  Frank Rich sees the situation for what it is.
That a tsunami of anger is gathering today is illogical, given that what the right calls “Obamacare” is less provocative than either the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Medicare, an epic entitlement that actually did precipitate a government takeover of a sizable chunk of American health care. But the explanation is plain: the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964.

In fact, the current surge of anger — and the accompanying rise in right-wing extremism — predates the entire health care debate. The first signs were the shrieks of “traitor” and “off with his head” at Palin rallies as Obama’s election became more likely in October 2008. Those passions have spiraled ever since — from Gov. Rick Perry’s kowtowing to secessionists at a Tea Party rally in Texas to the gratuitous brandishing of assault weapons at Obama health care rallies last summer to “You lie!” piercing the president’s address to Congress last fall like an ominous shot.

If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.

They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.

If Congressional Republicans want to maintain a politburo-like homogeneity in opposition to the Democrats, that’s their right. If they want to replay the petulant Gingrich government shutdown of 1995 by boycotting hearings and, as John McCain has vowed, refusing to cooperate on any legislation, that’s their right too (and a political gift to the Democrats). But they can’t emulate the 1995 G.O.P. by remaining silent as mass hysteria, some of it encompassing armed militias, runs amok in their own precincts. We know the end of that story. And they can’t pretend that we’re talking about “isolated incidents” or a “fringe” utterly divorced from the G.O.P. A Quinnipiac poll last week found that 74 percent of Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, while only 16 percent are aligned with Democrats.

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, some responsible leaders in both parties spoke out to try to put a lid on the resistance and violence. The arch-segregationist Russell of Georgia, concerned about what might happen in his own backyard, declared flatly that the law is “now on the books.” Yet no Republican or conservative leader of stature has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner or any of the others who have been stoking these fires for a good 17 months now. Last week McCain even endorsed Palin’s “reload” rhetoric.
Are these politicians so frightened of offending anyone in the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call out its extremist elements and their enablers? Seemingly so, and if G.O.P. leaders of all stripes, from Romney to Mitch McConnell to Olympia Snowe to Lindsey Graham, are afraid of these forces, that’s the strongest possible indicator that the rest of us have reason to fear them too. 
If there's a principled opposition to Obama's policies, they are being drowned out in the sea of false and hateful rhetoric from the Teabaggers.  It is in fact somewhat unfair that those on the Right who have arguments against what is going on are being tarred with the same brush as the extremists.  It's then the duty of the moderate, cooler heads in the Republican party to stand against these lunatics.

They refuse, instead they pander daily to the Pretty Hate Machine.  The leadership of the Republican party knows they will no longer be the leaders if they don't pay homage to the "Obama is a Socialist" crowd, and dozens of Republicans in Congress have given themselves over to this idiocy anyway.  They're not going to risk what little political power they have left by standing up to the rhetoric and the violence.

So it gets worse every week.  It will continue to do so until America finally says "enough".  Sadly, that's not going to happen until we all pay the price high enough to unite us in revulsion at the acts.
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