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FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, November 12, 2008


By Allahpundit

Via the Standard, a follow-up to yesterday’s death match post. No official word yet, but it’s in the works:

Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, has decided to run for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee and is in talks with Newt Gingrich to win the former House speaker’s endorsement, FOX News learned Tuesday.

Steele declined to comment, but a source close to the situation said Steele would announce his candidacy as early as Thursday.

The source also contradicted a report in Tuesday’s Washington Times that Steele and Gingrich were competing for the RNC post.

“There is no fight,” the source said. “This tension between Michael Steele and Newt Gingrich is totally fabricated and, in fact, Gingrich and Steele are working together to create a new strategy for the direction of the GOP.”

The chief opposition appears to be current chair Mike Duncan, who shouldn’t be much of an obstacle having just presided over the worst GOP debacle since 1976. Steele beat Newt in our web poll yesterday, incidentally — 51/49 among just shy of 5,000 votes cast, a testament to his enduring popularity among the base via his FNC appearances even though he’s never won elected office higher than lieutenant governor. As for Gingrich, Ross Douthat’s take calls to my mind one of the many money lines from Raging Bull: “You give me all these answers, but you ain’t giving me the right answer.”

Via Marc Ambinder, in case you’re jacked at the thought of Chairman Steele, a new website coincidentally appeared yesterday featuring an online petition to draft him for the position. Sign up here. Exit question: Is this the surest sign yet that Newt’s thinking of a run in 2012? Remember, Huck allegedly wants his own former campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, in at RNC. If Gingrich plays kingmaker with Steele, he’s got important friends in high places ahead of the next primaries.


By Allahpundit

Not so Changey.

President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party…

“He’s going to take a very centrist approach to these issues,” said Roger Cressey, a former counterterrorism official in the Clinton and Bush administrations. “Whenever an administration swings too far on the spectrum left or right, we end up getting ourselves in big trouble.”…

[H]e more recently voted for a White House-backed law to expand eavesdropping powers for the National Security Agency. Mr. Obama said he opposed providing legal immunity to telecommunications companies that aided warrantless surveillance, but ultimately voted for the bill, which included an immunity provision.

The new president could take a similar approach to revising the rules for CIA interrogations, said one current government official familiar with the transition. Upon review, Mr. Obama may decide he wants to keep the road open in certain cases for the CIA to use techniques not approved by the military, but with much greater oversight

Advisers caution that few decisions will be made until the team gets a better picture of how the Bush administration actually goes about gathering intelligence, including covert programs, and there could be a greater shift after a full review.

He and Dubya do have a lot in common, the Wash Times wryly observes. Actually, though, the boldface part most closely reflects the thinking of yet another president — namely, Clinton, who famously (or, rather, not famously) endorsed coercive interrogation two years ago in ticking bomb scenarios provided there’s some oversight mechanism like FISA review. Alan Dershowitz had the same idea, going so far as to propose “torture warrants” for exceptional cases. If The One does in fact load up his cabinet with old Clinton hands like Emanuel and Lawrence Summers at Treasury, and if it’s true that he’s made taking out Bin Laden a top priority, some variation on the Billy Jeff plan would be an obvious way to let him maneuver in extracting info from “difficult” subjects on Osama’s whereabouts or other pressing matters.

That said, does anyone seriously believe he’s going to pick a fight with the left on this, of all subjects? Dubya’s intel policies lie at the core of the nutroots’s Bushitler derangement; The One’s de facto ratification of warrantless wiretapping in his vote for telecom immunity was the one sin for which they really hammered him during the campaign. He needs his base early on, especially if things get hairy with the economy and/or Iran, and this would be the surest way to alienate them. I think Gabe’s right, that we’ll soon be told it’s a case of an “overzealous” aide having spoken “inartfully” about Obama’s plans and that he fully intends to make the CIA a waterboard-free zone — which it’s been since 2003, you may recall, and which it was before 2003 except in three cases.

Elsewhere in the Journal, rumor has it that The One is thinking of keeping Gates on for at least another year. A fine idea, no matter which way he’s leaning on Iraq. But then, you already knew that tooTuesday, November 11, 2008




By Charles Johnson

Lunatics and antisemites are coming out of the woodwork, and demanding that Barack Obama appoint an anti-war Secretary of Defense.

Arms control advocates and anti-war activists are ratcheting up pressure on President-elect Barack Obama to dump Defense Secretary Robert Gates and replace him with a more strident anti-war voice.

Nominating Gates to stay, “would be a violation of the mandate for change that Obama says he represents,” said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the anti-war group CodePink. 

A better bipartisan fit for Obama, they say, is Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who brings out what they like about Gates – his ability to deal with Russia, Iran and Syria – without the direct link to Bush’s policies. 

“That would be an unmistakable sign from the Obama camp that they really are nonpartisan,” said Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com. “He would be great.”


By Charles Johnson

The retrial of the Hamas-linked Islamic charity known as the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development is in its final phase: Purpose of HLF’s Charity Debated in Closing Arguments.

DALLAS – They sang praises to a terrorist group, had telephone access to its leadership and deceived the public about their true ambitions, a federal prosecutor said Monday about the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF).

Five former HLF officials are on trial for illegally routing millions of dollars in donations to Hamas through a series of Palestinian charities, known as zakat committees, that prosecutors say are controlled by the terrorist group.

In his closing argument, federal prosecutor Barry Jonas pointed to what he called the “highlights of the highlights” of the government’s six-week case. It includes hundreds of exhibits, ranging from wiretapped telephone calls to audio and video conferences to stacks of bank records.

But the case likely hinges on whether jurors agree the zakat committees were controlled by Hamas. Jonas pointed to instances in which some committee officials were identified as Hamas members in media interviews and by other Hamas officials. Telephone records in evidence tied in other committee officials. And a former HLF fundraiser testifying for the government said that the zakat committees were a part of Hamas.

It’s an assessment shared by the Palestinian Authority, Jonas noted.

The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, to be replaced by a Palestinian state governed by Shariah, or Islamic law, Jonas said. It also calls for providing charity “to everyone who is in need of it.”

Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor and terrorism expert, testified that a social wing has proven critical for successful terrorist movements throughout history.

Hamas has three branches, Jonas said, a military arm that carries out terrorist attacks, a social arm that wins hearts and minds of the population through charitable work, and a political arm that controls the money and sets policy.

Much of Jonas’ argument was spent reviewing audio and video tapes in evidence. Rallies in which Hamas leaders appear or were praised were shown. A skit featuring defendant Mufid Abdelqader, who performed in a band at many of these functions, ended with him pretending to strangle an actor portraying an Israeli civilian.  Tuesday, November 11, 2008




By Lisa Benson

Political Cartoons by Lisa Benson




By Richard Fernandez

Abe Greenwald describes some of the “buyer’s remorse” a few Obama supporters may be feeling now they can see his policies and personnel lineup take shape. Disappointments among supporters are inevitable, especially when expectations have been pitched so high. Some of this “remorse” will come from getting things we don’t want any more, under changed conditions. For example, Kathleen Pender of the SF Chronicle describes how Barack Obama’s campaign tax promises ought to wait until better times.

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama proposed more than a dozen tax changes that would affect individuals. The net effect would be to raise taxes on higher-income people and reduce them for low- and middle-income ones. Most of the ideas were floated before credit markets froze and the economy faltered. By the time the Obamas and their new puppy settle into the White House, things could be even worse. Pundits say this could force Obama to shelve his tax plans while he focuses on the economy.

The time-lag factor affects everything. Much of Obama’s foreign policy toward Iraq was formed when it was widely perceived as a disaster and Afghanistan was seen as the ‘winnable’ war, and we are now in a situation where the two theaters may have changed places. Although it remains to be seen whether BHO will adapt to circumstances or stick to a fixed plan no matter what the consequences, unforeseen explain why a candidate must often act contrary to his promises. “Change” is a fact of life, not a plan that a politician can necessarily impose.

In a way electing a politician resembles entering into a futures contract. Political supporters who “buy into” a promise may or may not get delivery; that is dependent on how sincerely a candidate offered his promises and whether they could ever be carried out to begin with. Sometimes what a political coalition bargains for turns out to be the last thing they need. Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement was popular before bubble burst; what the public wanted turned out to be the last thing they needed.  Tuesday, November 11, 2008




By Ed Morrissey

The more we know about Barack Obama’s advisers, the more familiar they seem — and not in a good way.  Jonathan Weil notes that more than one of them have ties to corporate scandals, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.  For a candidate who promised change and hope, this looks very much like the same old incompetence and corruption:

Take a good look at some of the 17 people our nation’s president-elect chose last week for his Transition Economic Advisory Board. And then try saying with a straight face that these are the leaders who should be advising him on how to navigate through the worst financial crisis in modern history.

First, there’s former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Not only was he chairman of Citigroup Inc.’s executive committee when the bank pushed bogus analyst research, helped Enron Corp. cook its books, and got caught baking its own. He was a director from 2000 to 2006 at Ford Motor Co., which also committed accounting fouls and now is begging Uncle Sam for Citigroup- style bailout cash.

Two other Citigroup directors received spots on the Obama board: Xerox Corp. Chief Executive Officer Anne Mulcahy and Time Warner Inc. Chairman Richard Parsons. Xerox and Time Warner got pinched years ago by the Securities and Exchange Commission for accounting frauds that occurred while Mulcahy and Parsons held lesser executive posts at their respective companies.

Mulcahy and Parsons also once were directors at Fannie Mae when that company was breaking accounting rules. So was another member of Obama’s new economic board, former Commerce Secretary William Daley. He’s now a member of the executive committee at JPMorgan Chase & Co., which, like Citigroup, is among the nine large banks that just got $125 billion of Treasury’s bailout budget.

Weil’s not finished yet.  He notes the baggage surrounding other Obama advisers like Penny Pritzker, Laura Tyson, William Donaldson, and even Warren Buffet.  All of them have accounting scandals in their past, which doesn’t square with Obama’s promise to end the supposed cronyism and greed on which he blamed the current financial crisis.

Weil calls on Obama to scrap his board entirely and start from scratch.  Perhaps he might do so, after seeing how damaging Jim Johnson’s past was during his campaign and unhesitatingly tossing the former Fannie Mae chair under the bus last spring.  If not, this looks like a Who’s Who of the kind of villains Obama painted in his vapid populist rhetoric over the last two years — which says volumes about his commitment to the ideals he espoused as a presidential candidate.  Tuesday, November 11, 2008




By Gary Varvel

Political Cartoons by Gary Varvel




By John Hinderaker

This is the dreariest part of a modern political cycle: the weeks and months after a Republican defeat. It all seems depressingly familiar: Urban conservatives of a certain stripe say that we need to get rid of the social conservatives. Hard-line conservatives say that we got too liberal and we need to toughen up. Moderate Republicans say we got too "extreme" and need to move toward the center. Others point to demographic doom if we don't jettison old-fashioned elements of conservative thought and appeal to the MTV generation, Hispanics, etc. We've been here before, too often.

This year, the intra-conservative sniping seems more listless than usual. There doesn't appear to be much conviction in any corner. My own view is that our political dialectic has reached a dead end. The current constellation of issues, which has been fairly constant for around thirty years, has played itself out. That doesn't mean the issues aren't important; they are. But the political lines that we've drawn and the ways in which we've defined the issues have become sterile and no longer hold much promise of any actual resolution of the problems in question.

We'll be writing a lot about this in the coming months, I think. I think it's pretty obvious that conservatives need to find new ways to address issues, new ways to apply conservative solutions to problems, new ways to shape conservatism to make it more appealing to a broader slice of the population. I haven't figured out what those new ways are, of course. But take the example of Barack Obama. By merely raising the idea of a new kind of politics that would get past the current battle lines and come at issues from new directions, he became one of the most popular figures of our time, even though he had absolutely no clue how to do what he talked about. We should be able to do at least as well as that.

One thing we need to do is talk more about opportunity, and frame more issues in terms of how to maximize opportunity. That won't do much, maybe, with the 50-year-old voter whose opportunities are mostly behind him, but it ought to help with young voters, who see the world by nature as one of limitless opportunity and don't want it constrained. Ronald Reagan made young people his most reliable voters by telling them that they didn't have to listen to those who said the country was going downhill and that their opportunities would therefore be less than their forefathers'. It's natural for immigrants, too, to think in terms of opportunity.

Conservatives need to be willing to take on the big issues and the big ideas. That means entitlements. Conservative tax policy has pretty much reached a dead end. Every time taxes have been cut, the cut has been deepest for the lowest-income taxpayers, and the tax system has become more progressive. Now, close to half of all voters pay no income taxes. So the allure of the income tax cut that largely framed Reagan's domestic policy is gone. On the other hand, payroll taxes, Social Security and Medicare remain. They're also bigger than most people realize, since it's commonly believed that one's employer pays half of one's Social Security.

So maybe there is a way to combine these elements that could work. Take Medicare out of play as an entitlement, which is unsustainable, and convert it to a block grant program to the states, which would be encouraged to use it to subsidize participation in a wide variety of insurance plans that would compete for the patronage of retired people. Make Social Security what it should be, a mandatory savings program, with savings ensured by the equivalent of taxation. Maybe these elements could be combined with general collections and revenues in a tax system that is not steeply progressive but that would be seen as fair by a broad consensus of taxpayers, given not just the sources but the uses of the money.

These are some general thoughts of probably zero value. But in my view, a great deal of work by conservatives is needed to develop policy approaches that have unified, conservative themes; that can appeal to voters who are not already committed conservatives; that build on the experience of successful application of conservative principles to the problems of prior generations; that hold out a real hope of tackling our intractable problems like entitlements, not just the low-hanging fruit of earmarks, etc.; and that have the potential to inspire people to believe that they are not just trying to stave off the latest goofy liberal idea, but are actually working toward a better future. I think we've lost track of how inspirational conservatism has often been, through our history.

That's more than enough for now. Others will have far better ideas, but the discussion needs to be had.  Tuesday, November 11, 2008



A Taliban suicide bomber has struck again in Pakistan's insurgency-wracked northwest. The latest attack occurred outside of a stadium in Peshawar, the capital of the Northwest Frontier Province.

Three people were killed and several others were wounded after a suicide bomber detonated his vest at the main gate of the stadium, Geo TV reported.

The targets of the attack appear to have been Bashir Ahmed Bilour, the provincial Chief Minister, and Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani. Bilour "narrowly escaped the suicide attack," sources told the news agency. Ghani left the stadium just 10 minutes prior to the attack.

Both Bilour and Ghani are members of the Awami National Party, the ethnic Pashtun political party that controls the government Northwest Frontier Province after the February 2008 election. The party is opposed to military action against the Taliban and advocates a peaceful end to the fighting in Pakistan's northwest. The party has backed peace agreements with the Taliban in the past.

The Awami National Party has been the target of multiple Taliban attacks over the past year. The Taliban conducted two major strikes against ANP offices in North Waziristan and Kurram the week before the election, killing and wounding scores of its members. In the beginning of October, Taliban spokesman Mullah Omar said senior leaders in the Awami National Party, including Bilour and Ghani, are on the list of public figures targeted for assassination.

On Oct. 2, the Taliban came close to assassinating Asfandyar Wali Khan, the president of the Awami National Party. A suicide bomber detonated his vest in a guesthouse next to Khan's home during the Eid-ul-Fitr celebration.

Today's attack is the latest in the Taliban's terror and military campaign that has gripped Pakistan. Suicide bombers have struck in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Wah, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, and Bannu over the past year. More than 2,000 Pakistanis have been reported to have been killed in suicide attacks alone this year.  Tuesday, November 11, 2008


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