August 20, 2011
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On Wednesday, Qusair fell to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Qusair is a strategic town that connects Damascus with Assad’s Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean, with its ports and Russian naval base. It’s a major strategic shift. Assad’s forces can now advance on rebel-dominated areas in central and northern Syria, including Aleppo.
You know you’re in trouble when you can’t even get your walk-back story straight. Stung by the worldwide derision that met President Obama’s fudging and fumbling of his chemical-weapons red line in Syria, the White House leaked to The New York Times that Obama’s initial statement had been unprepared, unscripted and therefore unserious.
Fate is fickle, power cyclical, and nothing is new under the sun. Especially in Washington, where after every election the losing party is sagely instructed to confess sin, rend garments and rethink its principles lest it go the way of the Whigs. And where the victor is hailed as the new Caesar, facing an open road to domination.
The rout was complete, the retreat disorderly. President Obama got his tax hikes — naked of spending cuts — passed by the ostensibly Republican House of Representatives. After which, you might expect him to pivot to his self-proclaimed "principle" of fiscal "balance" by taking the lead on reducing spending. "Why," asked The Washington Post on the eve of the final "fiscal-cliff" agreement, "is the nation's leader not embracing and then explaining the balanced reforms the nation needs?"
Let’s understand President Obama’s strategy in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. It has nothing to do with economics or real fiscal reform. This is entirely about politics. It’s Phase 2 of the 2012 campaign. The election returned him to office. The fiscal cliff negotiations are designed to break the Republican opposition and grant him political supremacy, something he thinks he earned with his landslide 2.8-point victory margin on Election Day.
In mid-September 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed and the bottom fell out of the financial system. Barack Obama handled it coolly. John McCain did not. Obama won the presidency. (Given the country's condition, he would have won anyway. But this sealed it.)
Vice presidential picks are always judged by their effect on the coming election. They rarely have any.
There are two ways to run against Barack Obama: stewardship or ideology. You can run against his record or you can run against his ideas.
At the outset of his recent foreign trip, Mitt Romney committed a gaffe. In answer to a question about the Olympics, he expressed skepticism about London’s preparations.
It’s the judiciary’s Nixon-to-China: Chief Justice John Roberts joins the liberal wing of the Supreme Court and upholds the constitutionality of Obamacare.
A very strange story, a 6,000-word front-page New York Times piece on how, every Tuesday, Barack Obama shuffles "baseball cards" with the pictures and bios of suspected terrorists from around the world and chooses who shall die by drone strike. He even reserves for himself the decision of whether to proceed when the probability of killing family members or bystanders is significant.
It was our much-anticipated quarterly lunch with Tim Kurkjian, baseball analyst extraordinaire, wherein George Will and I bathe in a constant flow of obscure statistics,
In May 1967, in brazen violation of previous truce agreements, Egypt ordered U.N. peacekeepers out of the Sinai, marched 120,000 troops to the Israeli border, blockaded Eilat (Israel’s southern outlet to the world’s oceans), abruptly signed a military pact with Jordan and, together with Syria, pledged war for the final destruction of Israel.
Poor Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. Once again he’s been pilloried for fumbling a historic Supreme Court case.
Last year President Obama ordered U.S. intervention in Libya under the grand new doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect." Moammar Gaddafi was threatening a massacre in Benghazi. To stand by and do nothing "would have been a betrayal of who we are," explained the president.
As the space shuttle Discovery flew three times around Washington, a final salute before landing at Dulles airport for retirement in a museum, thousands on the ground gazed upward with marvel and pride. Yet what they were witnessing, for all its elegance, was a funeral march.
“I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” — Barack Obama, on the constitutional challenge to his health care law, April 2
“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him (Putin) to give me space. ... This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” — Barack Obama to Dmitry Medvedev, open mic, March 26
Obamacare dominated the 2010 midterms, driving its Democratic authors to a historic electoral shellacking. But since then, the issue has slipped quietly underground.
Yes, of course, presidents have no direct control over gas prices. But the American people know something about this president and his disdain for oil. The “fuel of the past,” he contemptuously calls it. To the American worker who doesn’t commute by government motorcade and is getting fleeced every week at the pump, oil seems very much a fuel of the present — and of the foreseeable future.
Imperial regimes can crack when they are driven out of their major foreign outposts. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not just signal the liberation of Eastern Europe from Moscow. It prefigured the collapse of the Soviet Union itself just two years later.
Once upon a time, small ball was not Barack Obama’s game. Tuesday, it was the essence of his State of the Union address. The visionary of 2008 — purveyor of hope and change, healer of the earth, tamer of the rising seas — offered an hour of little things: tax-code tweaks to encourage this or that kind of behavior (manufacturing being the flavor of the day), little watchdog agencies to round up Wall Street miscreants and Chinese DVD pirates, even a presidential demand “that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.” Under penalty of what? Jail? The self-proclaimed transformer of America is now playing truant officer?
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And it matters not whether you find amusement in libertarians practicing dynastic succession. What Paul has already wrought is a signal achievement, the biggest story yet of this presidential campaign.
Is this any way to pick a president? Absolutely. It works. It winnows. And it has produced, after just one contest, an admirably worthy conservative alternative to Romney.
Huge excitement. Two Earth-size planets found orbiting a sun-like star less than a thousand light-years away. This comes two weeks after the stunning announcement of another planet orbiting another star at precisely the right distance — within the so-called “habitable zone” that is not too hot and not too cold — to allow for liquid water and therefore possible life.
In the first month of his presidency, Barack Obama averred that if in three years he hadn’t alleviated the nation’s economic pain, he’d be a “one-term proposition.”
It’s Iowa minus one month, and barring yet another resurrection, or something of similar improbability, it’s Mitt Romney versus Newt Gingrich. In a match race, here’s the scorecard:
Dare the Senate Democrats to vote down the grandest of all bargains. Dare Obama to veto his own debt commission. Dare the Democrats to actually do something about debt.
In 2008, the slogan was “Yes We Can.” For 2011-12, it’s “We Can’t Wait.” What happened in between? Candidate Obama, the vessel into which myriad dreams were poured, met the reality of governance.
You’ve got your Mexican standoff, your Russian roulette, your Chinese water torture. And now, your Libyan crossfire. That’s when a pistol is applied to the head and a bullet crosses from one temple to the other.
The Vegas fight mildly unsettled the Republican race. But its central dynamic remains. It awaits the coalescence of anti-Romney sentiment around one challenger. Until and unless that happens, it’s Romney’s race to lose.
What do you do if you can’t run on your record — on 9 percent unemployment, stagnant growth and ruinous deficits as far as the eye can see? How to run when you are asked whether Americans are better off than they were four years ago and you are compelled to answer no?
But there must be some error. Because otherwise everything changes. We shall need a new physics. A new cosmology. New understandings of past and future, of cause and effect. Then shortly and surely, new theologies. Why? Because you can’t have neutrinos getting kicked out of taverns they have not yet entered.
Abbas unwaveringly insists on the so-called “right of return,” which would demographically destroy Israel by swamping it with millions of Arabs, thereby turning the world’s only Jewish state into the world’s 23rd Arab state. And he has repeatedly declared, as recently as last week in New York: “We shall not recognize a Jewish state.” Nor is this new. It is perfectly consistent with the long history of Palestinian rejectionism.
A most revealing window into our president’s political core: To impose a tax that actually impoverishes our communal bank account (the U.S. Treasury) is ridiculous. It is nothing but punitive. It benefits no one — not the rich, not the poor, not the government.
The Great Social Security Debate, Proposition 1: Of course it’s a Ponzi scheme.
The new conventional wisdom on 9/11: We have created a decade of fear. We overreacted to 9/11 — al-Qaeda turned out to be a paper tiger; there never was a second attack — thereby bankrupting the country, destroying our morale and sending us into national decline.
Such an achievement, such a life, deserves a monument alongside the other miracles of our history — Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR — which is precisely where stands the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
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