The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Senate Democrats Accidentally Admit They Don’t Want Their Jobs


If indeed, as Politico reports, Senate Democrats want President Obama to “make immigration changes through executive action” — changes that they themselves are not willing to vote for in legislative form… why do they want to be Senators?

At that point, you’re no longer a representative of the people, crafting legislation and law through the constitutionally-established process that dates back to the founding. You’re the Executive Order Cheerleading Squad.

Why would anyone vote for a lawmaker who wants to completely abandon their role in the process of making law?

Apparently he doesn’t really want his job.

Tags: Senate Democrats , Immigration , Barack Obama

American Liberals Experience ‘The Great Reset’ of Foreign Policy


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Great Reset: Liberals Suddenly Realize Their Ideas Don’t Work After All

Suddenly, we’re experiencing the “Great Reset.”

No, not this one…

We’re experiencing the one where America’s largely liberal political elites suddenly realize a lot of hard truths that many voices on the Right were saying all along: a U.S. troop presence in Iraq could help prevent chaos and genocide. Islamists want to reestablish a Caliphate. Vladimir Putin is not a reasonable guy. The United Nations is useless. The worldview and policy solutions expressed by Barack Obama during his rise in 2007 and 2008 were hopelessly naïve.

Any day now, they’ll suddenly realize Iran wants nuclear weapons and isn’t likely to give them up at the negotiating table!

Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times breaks it to his readers that no, the Iraq War didn’t really end; it just went on hiatus, and the American sabbatical just ended:

The Obama Doctrine, which has evolved through painful trial and error (see Libya and Syria), says the United States won’t use military force except when vital U.S. interests are threatened. But the “vital interest” exceptions Obama has cited include international terrorism, other threats to U.S. citizens and genocide — and all three are present in Iraq…

Indeed, the stakes in this war are immeasurably larger than the safety of Americans in Kurdistan (they could have been evacuated) or even the lives of thousands of Iraqi Yazidis on a mountain (although, yes, they deserved rescue too)…

Even without American boots on the ground, Obama has entered the United States in its fourth Iraq war. It won’t be over quickly. As the president said, this is going to be a long-term project.

So if a U.S. presence in Iraq does turn out to be vital to U.S. national security and the basic human decency requiring us to do more than just stand by during a genocide… then maybe George W. Bush wasn’t such a crazed warmonger after all, huh, liberals?

Ali Khedery attempts a pep talk for the president:

As a U.S. official, and now as an executive doing business in the Middle East, I have heard the same sentiment echoed privately by regional leaders for years. The reality is that your intended policy of benign neglect has actually proven to be one of malignant neglect and only strengthened our foes. But you still have 30 months left in office and there are vital American interests that need to be safeguarded—and not just on a remote mountaintop filled with desperate, fleeing Yazidi civilians. It is time to put the pivot to Asia on the backburner and to refocus on the unfinished business at hand. It is time to reengage in the Middle East, lest its widening chaos destroy what is left of your presidential legacy.

Here’s the problem: the Democratic base is functionally isolationist. Large swaths of Democratic primary voters do not want money spent overseas or troops deployed anywhere near Iraq. All of the Democrats officeholders’ opportunistic demonization of the Iraq War from 2003 to 2008 has caught up with them; their base actually believed all of that stuff about neocons and oil companies and Hallburton and “Imperial Hubris.” For the better part of a decade, Democrats insisted U.S. troops could leave Iraq and things would turn out fine for American interests.

As Ace put it, “Obama is essentially now in the position of fighting a war while pretending to not be fighting a war, because of The Base. That should go well for all of us!”

Here’s Khedery’s comments to Jake Tapper:

They don’t take the threat of transnational jihad seriously enough, as demonstrated by President Obama’s assessment of ISIS a few months ago, calling them the JV team,” said Ali Khedery, referring to comments Obama made to The New Yorker magazine, comparing the militant group to a junior varsity basketball team.

“In reality, ISIS represents the most virulent form of Islamic jihad the planet has ever seen. These folks are not Muslims, they are animals, frankly. They are a group that is so vicious, and so blood-thirsty, and such a death cult, that even core al Qaeda leadership – bin Laden’s successors namely – have disavowed them,” Khedery said in an interview with CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”

“And by doing nothing about it for months now, despite repeated warnings from the American intelligence community, what’s happened now is the cancer has metastasized, and we have a major problem on our hands, a problem that threatens regional stability, and thus threatens global stability,” he says.

“You don’t need access to CIA and NSA (intelligence) to know that they are coming, and that another 9/11 is imminent unless we act decisively, quickly, and do it right now with our allies,” said Khedery.

Well… damn.

Oh, and even the French appear to be cracking jokes about Obama’s vacations:

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has a message about Iraq for Barack Obama: Get back to the White House and do something.

’I know it is the holiday period in our Western countries,’ Fabius told a radio interviewer Tuesday in France,’ but when people are dying, you must come back from vacation.’

Full-time workers in France are guaranteed a whopping five weeks of paid vacation every year, making his plea all the more urgent.

Obama is on a family and golfing holiday in a ritzy neighborhood of Martha’s Vineyard but says he will come back to Washington briefly on Tuesday before returning to fun, sun, and more golf.

Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS , Iraq


Attempting Solutions for a Society That Sets the Stage for Depression


Also from today’s Morning Jolt:

Attempting Solutions for a Society That Sets the Stage for Depression

Read John Tabin.

For better or worse, last night’s article on NRO stirred up a hornet’s nest.

A few accomplished mis-readers seemed to think I was arguing that any of the aspects of modern society were responsible for Robin Williams’ suicide. No, I merely wondered aloud — er, in pixels — if some aspects of our modern society help set the stage for depression.

Keep in mind, as the National Institute of Mental Health puts it, “Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.” Everybody’s mind is different, and everybody’s biochemistry is different. For some folks, brain chemistry may not be a factor at all; for some folks, it may be their body doesn’t produce enough serotonin. (“Although it is widely believed that a serotonin deficiency plays a role in depression, there is no way to measure its levels in the living brain.”) If that’s the case, the circumstances of your life don’t matter very much to your mood; you could have a career and life as seemingly happy as . . . well, Robin Williams and still feel depressed. It’s easy to imagine that circumstance seeming even more maddening – everything seems fine, but the feeling of sadness won’t go away, so what’s wrong with me? Maybe I’m destined to be unhappy . . .

It’s good that everyone has touted the suicide-prevention hotline for the past 48 hours. But there was the uncomfortable fact that Robin Williams had been in rehab recently – and had in fact spent quite a bit of time in rehab over the course of his life. He sought professional help, and received it, many times over. Yet all of that couldn’t steer him away from this path. This isn’t to say people shouldn’t seek professional help, just a recognition that it isn’t a sure-fire path to healing.

To the extent depression is not biological, we know there are certain behaviors that are either contributors or symptoms: social withdrawal and isolation; self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, junk food, etc.

I picked out some elements that would be included in a dystopia deliberately designed to sow depression in its inhabitants:

  • a constant technological connection
  • online interactions replacing in-person ones
  • public instantaneous gut-level reactions to news and events, fueling a perception that the general population was stupid, hateful, racist, etc.
  • the perception of children as a burden
  • an obsession with youth and fear of aging
  • an obsession with appearances and attractiveness

I could have tossed in materialism, and the faith that some higher salary or material goods will make us happier people.

For what it’s worth, notice these trends and factors are not inherently political. I don’t think either party has a lock on obsessing over appearances and attractiveness, and I don’t think liberals or conservatives are inherently more likely to be spending too much time on the Internet.

I was recently told – in another context – that I’m great at identifying problems, and not such a great guy when it came to solving them.

I don’t want to get up on a soapbox and tell people, “here’s how you should live your life!” I get irritated enough when other people do that and tell me how to live my life. But if you find that list above resonating with you in a disturbing, all-too-familiar way . . . here’s my advice.

That constant technological connection? Turn off the computer every once in a while. Wait, NOT NOW! Finish reading the Jolt! Er, then go check Campaign Spot, read the rest of NRO, order The Weed Agency from Amazon, and then go turn off the computer. Go for a walk. You can bring your phone, but don’t check it. Determine you’re going to go have some fantastic off-line experience that you can later showcase on your on-line social networks.

Those online interactions replacing in-person ones? Think of somebody near you who you haven’t seen in a while, who you’ve been meaning to talk to, and schedule a lunch or coffee or happy hour or dinner or some other get-together. Face-to-face.

Those public instantaneous gut-level reactions to news and events, fueling a perception that the general population was stupid, hateful, racist, etc.? Make sure that your perception of “people” is driven more by the people you interact with in person than the teeming mobs on Twitter or other online forums. You’ll find some fools and malcontents in your off-line travels, too, but generally people are politer and nicer in person.

That perception of children as a burden? Spend time around a kid. Any age will do, but I’m finding four and six full of fascinatingly bizarre questions and conclusions about the world. Think about them as protégés, sidekicks, students, someone to carry a torch that you will pass on someday. We’re all capable of creating amazing and wonderful things, but the only amazing and wonderful thing that we can create that can go on to create additional, new and different amazing and wonderful things is a child. It makes all the dirty diapers and spilled milk and Lego pieces under your feet and OH FOR GOD’S SAKE WHO WAS MESSING WITH THE BLINDS IN DADDY’S HOME OFFICE?!? I TOLD YOU KIDS NOT TO–

I mean, they’re worth it.

That obsession with youth and fear of aging? Presuming you’re older than your high school years . . . would you really want to go back to that? Acne? Cliques? Awkwardness around the opposite sex? Algebra (or insert your least favorite class here)? Isn’t there some part of yourself you like more now than you did then? As you look at your life today, isn’t there some part of your life that you can take pride in, and acknowledge that your younger self never could have accomplished that?

That obsession with appearances and attractiveness? Look, you’re going to have your good days reflected in that photo you use as your profile picture, and you’re going to have your bad days. Everybody’s a mess when they get out of bed in the morning. Trust other people to like you for more than your appearance.

Poll: Mia Love Leads by 12 in Utah House Race


“Congresswoman Mia Love, R-Utah” is not a done deal, but the odds look good right now: “A new Zions Bank/ opinion poll conducted by Dan Jones/Cicero Group shows Love with 44 percent and [Democrat Doug] Owens with 32 percent support with less than three months to go until the election. 19 percent are undecided.”


Tags: Mia Love

Way More than a Handful of Lobbyists Work in the Obama Administration


Elsewhere on NRO, Michelle Malkin greets the “sleepyheads” in the D.C. press corps who are only now noticing “the White House is infested with Beltway lobbyists.”

In today’s Morning Jolt, I noted that the New York Times reported on this topic and referred to only “a number” of lobbyists, conveniently omitting any sense of scale of the phenomenon for its readership. 

Obama Administration: Actually, We Were Cool With Lobbyists All Along

All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date. All of them.

Particularly the ones related to ideas that seem good and not particularly partisan:

The Obama administration on Tuesday rolled back part of its ban on lobbyists serving in government, narrowing one of the president’s signature policies in the face of a legal challenge.

Under a new rule, registered lobbyists whom Mr. Obama had previously barred from serving on government advisory boards may now participate if they are representing companies or groups and not acting on their own behalf.

The change was published in the Federal Register and took effect immediately, the administration said. It comes after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the Obama administration’s efforts to dismiss a lawsuit by six lobbyists who challenged the ban’s constitutionality after being excluded from a trade advisory committee. The lobbyists said their First Amendment rights to petition the government had been violated.

The change is the latest example of the limits of the president’s effort to rein in the influence of special interests in government. Mr. Obama barred lobbyists from contributing to his campaign and signed an order on his first day in office in 2009 prohibiting them from serving in his administration.

But Mr. Obama has made a number of exceptions to that rule and has hired lobbyists for several important jobs.

Bad form, New York Times. You should offer a specific figure, or at least a ballpark range, for the “number of exceptions.”

Last year the Obama administration hit 119. The conclusion then:

Obama’s rules have largely served to fuel unregistered lobbying. He writes “as lobbying is increasingly conducted by unregistered lobbyists, the disclosure system becomes increasingly less transparent.”

Obama’s “war on lobbyists” was an attempt to capture populist passion. It worked. Now, McGrath aptly concludes, Obama “must bear some responsibility for continuing levels of public cynicism and mistrust of politics, for having made promises he knew he couldn’t keep.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Lobbyists


An Awkward Complication for the Democrats’ Favorite Narrative



How has this not been widely discussed before?

Tags: Democrats , African-Americans

If Your Morning Jolt Doesn’t Arrive Regularly...


Hillary Calls Obama to Say She Didn’t Mean to Criticize Him


Looks like Hillary’s attempt to distance herself from Obama’s foreign policy did not go over well in the White House:

I understand this was the hold music:

You know how we know that Team Obama was irked about Hillary’s comments?

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Barack Obama

Flush! Democrats Count Up How Much They Spent to Help John Walsh


Also from today’s Jolt

Looks like Democrats wasted a bunch of money on the aborted campaign of appointed Sen. John Walsh (D., Mont): “Senate Democrats huddled to support Walsh, making leadership PACs the fresh appointee’s second largest contributing industry. 42 Senators — four out of five of Democrats in the upper chamber — gave to Walsh through their leadership PACs, for a total of $246,000 . . . Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent close to $18,000 in outside expenditures in the race, one of its nine targets this cycle. The largest outside spender in the election was the progressive veterans’ group, which spent close to $300,000 backing Walsh.”

Tags: John Walsh

Can’t the Right Argue in Multiple Kinds of Styles?


From the Tuesday Morning Jolt

Must We Fume at Each Other? Can’t the Right Argue in Multiple Kinds of Styles?

Here’s Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe,  crossing the U.S.-Mexican border in an Osama bin Laden mask recently:

Here’s then-GOP congressional candidate Raj Peter Bhakta, crossing the U.S-Mexican border on top of an elephant, with a Mariachi band, in 2006:

Katearthsis – ignore the Selina Kyle name in her Twitter handle, boys, I’m fairly certain she’s not Catwoman – is one of us. She’s a young  woman of deep religious faith and one of the few art students interested in conservatism. I have a tough time believing that she’s the problem facing today’s Right.

She didn’t think much of O’Keefe’s latest video. You can scroll through her feed for her full arguments, but the gist is she thinks putting on a bin Laden mask and sloshing through a narrow portion of the Rio Grande, far from any border patrols, is a fairly silly way to illustrate a point that very few people would dispute: at this point it is not terribly difficult to sneak into the United States from Mexico.

So, thousands of immigrant children cross the border, but for some people it takes @JamesOKeefeIII to show the border isn’t secure. No.

— Selina Kyle (@katearthsis) August 11, 2014

Actually, I suspect those people already knew the border wasn’t secure; they feel that O’Keefe in a bin Laden mask vividly illustrates the potential danger of an insecure border.

Twitchy ripped into Kate for criticizing O’Keefe; some good folks on Twitter ripped into Twitchy for what they perceived as group-think.

Maybe O’Keefe’s video is your cup of tea, maybe it isn’t. It probably does tap into that “get a load of this!” share-able element necessary to take an idea viral, but on the other hand, the obstacle is not really getting Americans to believe the border is not secure. The obstacle isn’t really getting Americans to believe the border ought to be secure, either. The obstacle is getting incumbent politicians, and this administration in particular, to believe that securing the border ought to be a priority – and that any “path to citizenship” scheme can’t be seriously considered until the border and its steady supply of new illegal immigrants is shut off.

The “you’re hurting your cause by being a clod” argument sprung up recently in another context.

Ann Coulter recently had her annual slow-news-cycle-dominating national controversy – she’s guaranteed one per year in her contract, right? – contending that missionary work and running medical clinics in poor countries represented a foolish choice for a Christian:

If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia. Ebola kills only the body; the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence spread by so many Hollywood movies infects the world.

If he had provided health care for the uninsured editors, writers, videographers and pundits in Gotham and managed to open one set of eyes, he would have done more good than marinating himself in medieval diseases of the Third World.

Erick Erickson, the Anchoress, Pete Wehner, and Peter Rosenberger, among others, strongly objected to Coulter’s argument.

One point I would note is that while O’Keefe and Coulter are different ages, they’ve both achieved a certain prominence and status with their respective styles. Whether or not you or I like it, they’ve decided it works for them. And the proof is in the book contracts, YouTube hits, television appearances, syndicated columns, speaking gigs and so on. No matter how much someone tells them to change their style or the way they approach advocating for their ideas, these two – and most of us! — are never going to change, or at least are extremely unlikely to change.

So I’m not sure it does anyone much good to yell at anybody who’s having an impact on the Right and demand they change.

It’s been said that “conservatism is a mansion with many rooms.” (Somewhere someone is scoffing, ‘great, even our metaphors make us look like the rich guys.’) If we don’t all agree on every issue –military interventions, trade policy, gay marriage, abortion, eliminating the home mortgage deduction, boosting the child tax credit – why do we have to agree on styles and tones of public argument?

The creaking-from-book-weight bookshelves are set up in the new house, and on the top shelf, you can see my selections from the more serious side of political thought – the boss, Robert Novak, Christopher Hitchens, William F. Buckley, George H.W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani…

… and then a shelf below you can see another side of the political world: Michael Kelly, Mark Steyn, Christopher Buckley, P.J. O’Rourke, Greg Gutfeld, Adam Carolla, Dennis Miller – and yes, Anthony Bourdain.

There’s room in the movement for just about everybody – even the voices that drive us batty sometimes. With metronomic regularity, people cite Buckley driving the John Birch Society out of the conservative movement like St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, and call for a modern-day equivalent effort to drive out the faction of the conservative movement that irks them most. But that kind of excommunication requires a couple factors that rarely align in today’s conservatism: 1) a figure nearly-universally respected or revered the way Buckley was; 2) a faction within the movement that has few allies or other conservatives inclined to keep them inside or defend them; 3) a broad movement that is receptive to the idea that the particular faction is so noxious, wrong-headed, or detrimental to the larger cause that it has to go.

Perhaps we could add a fourth factor: a sense that the movement is sufficiently successful that it can afford to kick out potential allies.

Tags: James O'Keefe , Border Security , Ann Coulter , Conservatism

‘You’re Not On the List.’


Maybe it’s just a routine scheduling snafu, or confusion about whether a campaign is having a “private event.” Perhaps the gentleman in the tie-dyed overalls is in the wrong, or perhaps the Merkley staffers are being a little too brusque in keeping people out of the event. 

But it probably doesn’t help Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat, if seniors are getting turned away from his events, and leaving pretty irked that they’ve been asked to leave:

Tags: Jeff Merkley

The President’s Busy Day Continues


The poor man just can’t enjoy his vacation uninterrupted: “Obama, who arrived at Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday, headlines a late afternoon event for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at a private residence in Tisbury, Mass.”

He will also make some remarks to the public about Iraq this afternoon.

The commander-in-chief taking a moment to review his options at Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs, as U.S. combat operations began over Iraq. 


UPDATE: Hm? ”Audio only?”

Tags: Barack Obama , DSCC

America At War in Iraq, Day Four


Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaking in Sydney, Australia, today: “On the assessment of the effectiveness of the air strikes, they have been very effective, from all the reports that we’ve received on the ground. I will be speaking with General Austin here in a couple of hours. I spoke with Chairman Dempsey this morning. I have been talking with our people on a — on a regular basis, not just on those assessments, but all the other dimensions of — of what we’re doing and how we’re doing and future operations in Iraq.”

Above, in this AP photo, President Barack Obama laughs while golfing with former NFL player Ahmad Rashad at Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014.

Tags: Chuck Hagel , Barack Obama , Iraq

FLASHBACK: Three Weeks Ago, White House Asked Boehner to Repeal Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq


Three weeks ago National Security Adviser Susan Rice wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, asking him to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq:

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon said that when he heard from Boehner about Rice’s letter, “I thought he was joking.

The White House contends that the current military operations in Iraq are not covered by the 2002 Congressional authorization of military force, and are instead consistent with the War Powers Act, which gives the president broad authority to authorize the use of the military in operations that last fewer than 60 days.

Tags: Susan Rice , Iraq , ISIS

If Only Hillary Had Been In a Position to Influence U.S. Foreign Policy!


This morning we hear Hillary Clinton make her most explicit criticism of her old boss, President Obama, telling The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

If only she had been in some sort of official position where she could offer and establish a set of organizing principles for U.S. foreign policy!

She also laments, “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.”

If only she had some position or role where she could help tell the American story!

She tells Goldberg, “One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States.”

Indeed, which is why one would think our State Department would listen to the warnings of our ambassadors in places, like, say, Benghazi.

Then she told Goldberg: “I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets… Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

 “[J]ust as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians,” mistakes are made, she said. “We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are—and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position—that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”

She went on to say that “it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.”

She continued, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict. … So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”

A lot of friends of Israel will applaud those words, but imagine how the world would have reacted if she had said that, say, a week and a half ago. Hillary Clinton’s comparably pro-Israel views may still get her in trouble with the Democratic Party’s base, but she sure was quiet these past two weeks, wasn’t she?

Above: Hillary, quietly yearning for an organizing principle.



Tags: Hillary Clinton

NRSC: Look Who Else Is Skipping Official Duties to Attend Fundraisers!


From the first Morning Jolt of the week, a first look at a new NRSC ad hitting the opposition – both President Obama and several Senate candidates – for attending fundraisers and missing official duties:

NRSC: Look Who Else Is Skipping Official Duties to Attend Fundraisers!

All summer long, folks on the Right and more than a few in the center have criticized President Obama for keeping up with a relentless pace of attending political fundraisers while major crises at home and abroad explode and worsen. By July 26, he had attended 399 fundraisers during his presidency. In eight years, George W. Bush attended 328.

This morning, the National Republican Senatorial Committee unveils a new ad that reveals that several Senate Democrats and Senate Democratic candidates – Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa, skipped hearings and votes to attend fundraisers.

A nice closing line: “Barack Obama and Senate Democrats are prioritizing their pocketbooks over yours.”

Tags: NRSC , Bruce Braley , Barack Obama , Jeanne Shaheen , Mark Begich

Can the Right Never Tell Obama He’s Making the Right Decision?


If a conservative or Republican thinks air strikes against ISIS are a good idea… how loudly should they commend the president? Do most grassroots conservatives so strongly oppose this president and what he has done in office, that they cannot bring themselves to support any of this policies? Do they fear that any words of praise will somehow strengthen the president’s hand in other policy areas?

Or is it that after “leading from behind” in Libya, the Benghazi attacks and the false explanation of the YouTube video, a slow and ineffective response to Putin’s aggression, futile cease-fire efforts in the Middle East, a withdrawal from a worsening mess in Afghanistan, a quickly-forgotten “red line” in Syria, and so on, grassroots conservatives with hawkish instincts simply have no faith in Obama’s ability to successfully execute a policy they agree with?  

Republican foreign policy gurus gave President Obama and his administration considerable grief for not maintaining a significant U.S. military force in Iraq and not successfully negotiating a long-term status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. Today, his remarks indicated that the United States may be making a long-term military commitment to fighting ISIS in the country: “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks. … This is going to be a long-term project.”

President Obama makes brief remarks and answers a few questions from reporters about U.S. operations in Iraq, before leaving for his two-week vacation at Martha’s Vineyard. 


Tags: Iraq , ISIS , Barack Obama

The Pride of Ill-Informed Protest


The Left’s capacity to avert its eyes from human rights abuses that violate its principles is quite astounding:

“Ma’am, do you know anything about how Hamas treats homosexuals?”

Quick refresher:

The Hamas-controlled Gaza strip has declared lethal homophobia to be its policy. Hamas cofounder Mahmoud Zahar has said, “You in the West do not live like human beings. You do not even live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?”

In an April broadcast on Hamas’s Al-Aksa TV, which was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Syrian academic Muhammad Rateb al- Nabulsi said, “Homosexuality involves a filthy place, and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”


Tags: Gaza Strip , Hamas , Israel

Suddenly, the Most Important Dam in the World


See this dam?

That is the Mosul Dam, “a gargantuan, poorly-constructed dam in Iraq that, if breached, could launch a 65-foot-tall wall of water into one of the country’s largest cities and send flood waters all the way to Baghdad.”

Baghdad is 220 miles away — akin to blowing up a dam in Boston and flooding New York City.

And now ISIS controls it, according to Kurdish authorities: “Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of the president of the Kurdistan region, confirmed on Friday that Islamic State militants had seized control of Iraq’s biggest dam in their latest offensive in the north of the country.”

Back in 2007, U.S. engineers warned about the dam’s poor conditions and the risk of failure: 

“A catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam would result in flooding along the Tigris river all the way to Baghdad,” the US military commander General David Petraeus and the US ambassador Ryan Crocker warned the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in a letter on 3 May this year. “Assuming a worst-case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul Dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave 20m deep at the city of Mosul, which would result in a significant loss of life and property.”

At that time, the death toll of a catastrophic failure was estimated to reach a half-million people.

Tags: Iraq , ISIS

After a Summer of Horrors, America Prepares to Punch Back


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

We’re Dropping Aid, and Maybe Some Bombs, if ISIS Gets Frisky.

We give President Obama a lot of deserved grief. But last night, facing  a tough choice, he finally did something besides vote “present.”

President Obama said Thursday that he authorized “targeted airstrikes” if needed to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq, as well as airdrops of food and water to religious minorities in Iraq who are under siege from Islamic militants and trapped on a mountaintop.

“Today, America is coming to help,” Obama said.

The administration has been weighing options for weeks, but the issue has come to a head with a mounting humanitarian crisis and unrelenting progress by Islamist extremists.

The most immediate crisis involved the Yazidis, a small religious minority, who have fled their homes and are trapped on a mountaintop surrounded by Islamist militants and are facing dehydration and starvation.

The U.S. military made an initial airdrop of meals and water to thousands of civilians threatened by militants on Thursday. The aircraft that made the drop safely exited the region after conducting a low-level flight and staying over the area for 15 minutes.

Three U.S. cargo aircraft delivered 72 bundles of supplies, including food and water, the Pentagon said. The aircraft were escorted by two FA-18 fighter attack jets.

The United States “cannot turn a blind eye” while innocent families face the prospect of “genocide,” Obama said, justifying U.S. military action that could eventually include airstrikes.

This is not “meddling” where we’re not wanted. The situation is simple. The Iraqis and Turks have made their own limited airborne efforts to save those refugees, but nobody has the abilities we have. Either we do it, and save lives, or most of those lives don’t get saved.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that ISIS would steer clear of attacking Americans. We know who these guys are.

“This is about America’s national security,” said Ryan Crocker, who was ambassador to Iraq under Mr. Bush and to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama. “We don’t understand real evil, organized evil, very well. This is evil incarnate. People like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the ISIS leader, “have been in a fight for a decade. They are messianic in their vision, and they are not going to stop.”

But if not, then the question arises: How far is Mr. Obama willing to go? He said on Thursday that there is “no American military solution” to the Iraqi insurgency, pointing again to the need for a new politically inclusive government in Baghdad. What he might do if that fails he did not say. And while aides stressed this is a narrow mission, they acknowledged scenarios in which it could expand.

Here’s what we could be doing in the coming days:

A senior administration official described the airstrike authorization as “narrow,” but outlined a number of broad contingencies in which they could be launched, including a possible threat to U.S. personnel in Baghdad from possible breaches in a major dam Islamist forces seized Thursday that could flood the Iraqi capital.

U.S. aircraft also are authorized to launch airstrikes if the military determines that Iraqi government and Kurdish forces are unable to break the siege that has stranded tens of thousands of civilians belonging to the minority Yazidi sect atop a barren mountain outside the northern town of Sinjar.

“As we can provide air support to relieve that pressure, the president has given the military the authority to do so,” the senior official said. He said that congressional leaders had been consulted, but that Obama had the legal authority as commander in chief to launch the strikes to protect U.S. personnel and national security interests.

And now, the ominous news

The consensus among ex-CIA analysts, former military officers, and Iraq veterans who spoke with The Daily Beast is that the Peshmerga’s abilities were overrated. No one questions the Kurds’ willingness to fight, but their military prowess appears to have degraded in the years since the U.S. military stopped training them and withdrew from Iraq.

Douglas Ollivant, a former Army officer who advised Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq and served under two presidents in the National Security Council, expressed a view common among military and intelligence officers: “I think the general consensus among the American military people in country is that the Kurds just aren’t any better than any other military force in Iraq, and we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re having the same lack of success as the rest of the Iraqi army.”

A former Special Forces officer in Iraq who maintains extensive contacts among the Kurdish forces points out another factor affecting their performance. “The Kurds’ biggest weakness is the size of the border they have to protect from ISIS and the imperative they are under to yield nothing,” he said. “ISIS can give up territory, but the Kurds cannot.”

Air strikes against ISIS targets can weaken the group, buy time, and prevent it from massing on Kurdish forces, but according to military and CIA veterans, air power alone will not be decisive.

This summer we’ve seen one evil force after another acting with impunity – ISIS crucifying people and committing religious cleansing and blowing up Christian shrines and churches, Russian separatists blowing airliners out of the sky, Taliban agents infiltrating the ranks of the Afghan army and killing our troops, Hamas launching rockets and hiding behind kids.

It is heartening to see America finally punching back.

Tags: Iraq , ISIS


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