Category Archives: The World

Graham rants about Benghazi, tries to hold his party accountable on immigration

The conflicting personas of Lindsey Graham were on display over the weekend.

On Saturday morning, seeing that Rep. Trey Gowdy’s committee had completely exonerated the Obama administration on Benghazi, I looked for reaction from our senior senator. I found none either on his Twitter feed nor in my email inbox, so I wrote to Graham aide Kevin Bishop, seeking a response. I still haven’t heard from Kevin (it was, after all, the weekend), but I see CNN got a response out of the senator. He said the panel’s report was “full of crap.” And then he did a poor job of supporting that statement. (His rambling about this official said this, and that official said that, sounds like Trekkies arguing about whether Gene Roddenberry was wrong not to do a followup episode to “The Trouble with Tribbles.” It’s just so esoteric, and seemingly moot.)

You can hear his comments above.

Meanwhile, on immigration, while doing the standard GOP thing of blaming the president, he also gave both barrels to the obstructionists in his own party:

“Shame on us as Republicans,” he added. “Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that is national security, it’s cultural and it’s economic.”

Dismissing talk of impeachment and pointing to bills passed in the Senate that have stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Graham continued, “I’m close to the people in the House, but I’m disappointed in my party. Are we still the party of self-deportation? Is it the position of the Republican Party that the 11 million must be driven out?”

It’s hard being Lindsey Graham. Everybody lets you down…

I wish he could just coherently explain to us what he wants with regard to Benghazi. It seems that he’s still obsessing over what Susan Rice said. Well, I long ago just learned to disregard most of what Susan Rice says, and Sens. Graham and John McCain did a lot to help me reach that conclusion, so, mission accomplished.

But he just. Keeps. Going. ON about it…

There was one excuse for pursuing investigation on Benghazi — to learn from the event so as to prevent future embassy/consulate security disasters. We should try to identify mistakes made, so as to make sure nothing like this happens again.

What Susan Rice said just seems to have become irrelevant SO long ago. I mean, what she said was already wrong and inoperative before she said it. It made no difference to anything that happened in the real world, except to tell us we shouldn’t put her in sensitive positions of responsibility. Which the president seems to have some compulsion to do, which is problematic.

But it doesn’t make the Gowdy investigation “full of crap.”

Hutto hits Graham, again, for not being ‘downhome’ enough

There’s not much new about it. It’s his usual thing about how he thinks the job of a U.S. senator should be about worrying about everyday conditions on the ground here in South Carolina rather than in the rest of the nation and the world.

Which isn’t my concept of a senator’s role at all. When I hear Hutto say these things, I sometimes wonder whether he ought to quit the South Carolina Senate and run for county council. He seems to be all about the local level.

But don’t go by me. He’s running a populist campaign, and I don’t have a populist bone in my body.

Here’s the release that goes with the ad:

Hutto Begins Statewide TV Blitz

 

Orangeburg, SC – Democratic nominee for US Senate Brad Hutto began running TV advertisements across South Carolina today.

The ad can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhQTgegprZk&feature=youtu.be

The ad contrasts Lindsey Graham’s role as a Washington DC insider, self-promoter and potential Presidential candidate to Brad Hutto’s pledge to be a Senator who will work for South Carolina. In the ad Hutto advocates for a hike in the minimum wage, securing equal pay for women, and protecting financial security for seniors.

At the ad’s conclusion, Hutto says “We need a Senator who cares more about making a difference than making headlines.”

Hutto campaign manager Lachlan McIntosh describes the buy as major. “People will see it and they’ll be talking about it.”

 

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As you see when you watch the ad, the one new wrinkle in this one is making fun of Graham talking about the presidency, which is certainly fair game. The incumbent was sort of asking for it with that…

Sen. Tim Scott: Ban travel from Ebola-stricken countries

And now, we have this proposal from U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC:

Charleston, SC – U.S. Senator Tim Scott released the following statement regarding travel restrictions from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa. Senator Scott is a member of both the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees.Scott,Tim

“First and foremost, my heart goes out to those infected with Ebola and their families both in the United States and in West Africa. This is a terrible virus, and one the world must come together to stop.

As infections continue to spread here in the United States, the trust of the American people has been shaken by the administration’s response thus far. It is clear that a temporary travel ban for foreign nationals traveling from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa should be put in place. The President has the authority to do so, and we have seen that airport screenings and self-reporting simply are not enough.

While both the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health state that patients without a fever are not contagious, recent studies from West Africa show that almost 13 percent of confirmed cases did not present with a fever. Screenings have also only been initiated at five airports, and even at airports travelers’ symptoms can be masked by over-the-counter medications.

This is about the safety of the American people, and nothing more. As the fight against Ebola continues, a temporary travel ban for foreign nationals traveling from the epicenter of the outbreak is a necessity.”

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I find myself wondering: Did he decide independently to join the voices advocating this, or did Republicans get together and decide that his was the most sympathetic face they had for advancing such a proposal?

I say that in part because, although a number of Republicans have said it, it has tended to be those in tight races, such as Scott Brown and Thom Tillis. Sen. Scott, of course, is in the opposite of a “tight race.”

Ebola in the U.S. has now reached the critical ‘WTF?’ stage

800px-Ebola_virus_virion

So, let’s review the chart here, shall we?

  • Patient presents at Dallas hospital with symptoms consistent with Ebola. He tells ER staff that he’s been in a country affected by the outbreak. They send him home.
  • He comes back to the hospital days later, is finally diagnosed and treated, but dies — which of course is going to happen in far too many cases with this horrific disease.
  • It takes DAYS for anyone to take it upon themselves to put on hazmat suits and go clean out the apartment where this guy was sick before going into the hospital. Human beings are living in that apartment during that time.
  • We learn that a nurse at the hospital that treated the deceased has contracted the disease. This shatters our hubris about how, here in the U.S. we know how to treat infectious diseases safely.
  • Today, we learn that a second nurse who treated this patient is sick with Ebola. Which makes us wonder what in the world kinds of procedures were in place at that hospital. And whether Ebola transmits a LOT more easily than we had been told.
  • Between being infected and showing symptoms, the second nurse flew to Cleveland and back, the return trip on the day before coming down with the disease. Authorities are now trying to reach the 132 people who were on board  Frontier Airlines flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas with her on Monday. She was supposedly being monitored for signs of Ebola during the period in which she took this trip.

OK, so maybe the proper, professional reaction to these developments isn’t “WTF?,” but a more dignified, “Really?”

But a great deal of incredulity is a natural reaction, along with more than a little alarm.

As we speak, all over the country, hospitals and government health officials are (one hopes) reviewing plans and procedures. Which is good, because Ebola is horrible enough, and enough people are going to suffer and die, without committing boneheaded errors that help it along…

Before the last few weeks, everything I knew about Ebola came from Tom Clancy novels — specifically, Executive Orders (in which a fictional Iranian regime launches a deliberate germ-warfare attack on the United States using the virus, infecting thousands) and Rainbow Six (in which a super-radical environmental group, backed by a billionaire businessman, attempts to wipe out the rest of the human race using the disease).

Ever read a Tom Clancy novel? He was a great respecter of expertise, of whatever type — military, medical, what have you, his tales were filled with calm, super-competent professionals who always knew exactly what to do in a dangerous situation, and usually did it flawlessly. He was a great admirer not only of technology, but of procedure. When a patient came in with a high fever, nausea and petechiae, the staff swept into action sealing off the area and instituting ironclad safety procedures, making sure none of the medical professionals contracts the disease, and even if they do, that they don’t take it out into the world with them.

Apparently, it doesn’t always work that way in the real world. To say the least…

I do well on the serious tests, badly on the silly ones

Pew quiz2

The trend continues.

There was a story in The Washington Post this morning about the fact that “One third of Americans think the government spends more on foreign aid than on social security.”

Stupid one third. Of course, this is a continuation of the stubborn belief that we spend some huge proportion of our budget on foreign aid, when we spend about 2 percent on it. People continue to get this wrong, against all reason, even though their foolishness has been written about over and over and over and over and over. This is related to the increasing irrational hostility toward government in general — most people don’t like the idea of foreign aid, so they overestimate how much is spent on it.

It’s the sort of thing that makes you want to give up on democracy. On your bad days, anyway. At the least, it underlines the superiority of representative democracy over the direct kind.

Anyway, the story said the findings came from one of those Pew quizzes I like so much, so I immediately went and took this one. I got 11 out of 12 right, putting me ahead of 96 percent of those tested.

But… and here’s the really, really embarrassing thing… I missed the same question as the stupid one-third did. No, I didn’t say “foreign aid.” I gave a different wrong answer. I knew the right answer, and if I had just done it in a hurry, I’d have gotten a 100. But I thought, “I haven’t compared these things in awhile. Maybe this other thing has overtaken the one I think it is. Maybe this is a fargin’ trick question.” So I chose the other thing. But it was, of course, the first thing.

The irony is that if I had done what I have to do taking the weekly Slate News Quiz, I’d have gotten it right. That test is timed, and I hate that about that test. I also hate that it is deliberately about details in the news, rather than about whether you know overall what’s going on, and the relationships between different facts (which is what Pew tests).

Anyway, this being Friday, I went and took that one. And bombed. See the results below.

I would do better on that if it weren’t timed. I can usually see through the red herrings and at least intuit the right answer if I take a little time. But you’re penalized for taking time. So I do badly. Note that I completed the test in one minute, 47 seconds. Which for me is barely enough time to properly consider one question, much less 12.

And yet, I took too much time on the other test. Go figure.

slate quiz

Is the Special Relationship getting a little less special?

Halcyon days of the Special Relationship.

Halcyon days of the Special Relationship.

See this news today?

Britain, Belgium and Denmark on Friday joined the U.S.-led coalition of nations that are launching airstrikes on Islamic State group militants in Iraq, committing warplanes to the struggle against the extremists….

Good for them, but what took so long? The French have been with us from the outset. The French! Plus Saudi Arabia and other countries in the neighborhood.

Apparently, the PM had to do some heavy lifting to bring this about:

British Prime Minister David Cameron made a passionate plea that spelled out the consequences of inaction in drastic terms – noting that the militants had beheaded their victims, gouged out eyes and carried out crucifixions to promote goals “from the Dark Ages.”

“This is about psychopathic terrorists that are trying to kill us and we do have to realize that, whether we like it or not, they have already declared war on us,” he said. “There isn’t a ‘walk on by’ option. There isn’t an option of just hoping this will go away.”

Cameron told a tense House of Commons in a more than six-hour-long debate…

Why would debate have taken six minutes, much less six hours? Yeah, I know — Iraq. The same electorate that tossed out Churchill after WWII turned on my man Tony Blair over Iraq, and they’re still kind of cranky over it.

Sigh. All’s well that ends well. The vote was 524-43 for action, so that’s something.

And remember Kosovo?

And remember Kosovo?

Why DO Americans freak out so over single-payer?

One recent morning, I watched another episode of “The West Wing” while on the elliptical trainer. It was the one titled “Drought Conditions,” the 16th episode of Season 6. It’s the one you might remember best from the scene when Josh and Toby actually get into a fight, right there in the West Wing, and Toby gets a nasty cut on his cheekbone. (See above.)

At this point in our story, Josh has left the White House to manage Matt Santos’ bid for the Democratic nomination for president. His candidate has done better than expected in New Hampshire, but Josh is worried about another candidate who has come out of nowhere to start grabbing support that should go to Santos. This new candidate, Rafferty, is using language that Toby once wrote for Bartlet in favor of a single-payer health care system. Toby admits he’s been collaborating with Rafferty. This is what precipitates the fight.

Anyway, there are two or three conversations about this, and we pick up on the fact that, way back before they won the White House, everybody else had to talk Toby (and presumably President Bartlet) down from their politically unpalatable position.

This was so familiar to me. This episode aired two years before I wrote my column asking why no presidential candidate, even in the Democratic field, dared to say “single-payer,” other than fringe extremists such as Dennis Kucinich. Barack Obama certainly didn’t dare say it. My attitude was much the same as Toby’s: What’s the point in even having Democrats, if they can’t stand up for something so obvious, so commonsense, so entirely accepted in the rest of the advanced world — and so in their wheelhouse ideologically?

Anyway, I finished watching the episode just as I finished with the elliptical trainer. (I do 40 minutes, which is almost perfect for watching American “hour-long” commercial TV shows.)

While doing my crunches and stretches after, I put on a few minutes of a “30 Rock” that I’d started watching previously. It’s the one when Jack and Avery have their baby, reluctantly, in Canada after failing to get back across the border before she gave birth.

Which leads to this exchange, which interrupts a phone call Jack is having with Liz Lemon:

Avery: This woman is trying to tell me that we don’t have to pay for any of this.

Woman: Right. The Canadian health care system…

Jack: Oh, no you don’t. We will not be party to this socialist perversion. You will take our money.

Woman: I’m sorry, sir, I can’t do that.

Liz (on the other end of the phone): Oh, this is gonna be good.

Jack: Avery, can you walk yet?

Avery (rising from her bed, holding the baby): I am right behind you, Jack.

Jack: Let’s go find a Canadian who will take our money.

That is played for laughs, and it is hilarious, particularly Jack’s hyperbolic crack about “socialist perversion.”

But what it’s making fun of isn’t funny. Why DO Americans freak out so over something that Canadians and Brits take for granted?

Y’all know me. I’m a center-right kind of guy (if you must place me on that stupid left-right spectrum), and on some things a neocon. I want the federal government out of things it has no business in, such as education (which means, by the way, that I would never vote for the fictional Matt Santos — he comes across like he’s running for school board rather than POTUS).

But putting everybody into the same risk pool and eliminating profit from the payment system just seems like common sense, not radical at all. Paying my premiums (or if you prefer, taxes) for coverage that I can never lose, no matter where I go to work in the future, also just makes sense to me. Having something simpler than either the patchwork of private coverage or the complex maze of Obamacare just makes sense to me.

I don’t get why it doesn’t make sense to other people — and in fact, freaks them out so. I mean, intellectually I understand that some people have a sort of religious horror of the government being involved with anything. I accept that they are that way. But I have trouble understanding why they’re that way. Why do Americans get so worked up about something that other people who are so like us culturally — such as the Brits, and the Canadians — take for granted, as a matter of course?

Some of y’all have tried to explain it to me in the past. Maybe you should try again. Maybe I’ll get it this time. Then again, maybe not.

The thing is, I can probably recite all of the objections. The words I know. What I don’t get is the passion, the horror at the idea. It’s the emotion that eludes my understanding…

Khorasan a worse threat than ISIL? What’s next? Terrorists with superpowers, led by General Zod?

When it comes to foreign affairs and matters of national and collective security, Americans are notorious about not paying attention, or not paying attention for long — and then being totally shocked and surprised by subsequent developments.

If network news starts showing starving people in Somalia, we’re all, “Let’s send in the troops and feed those people!” Then, after the Battle of Mogadishu, we’re like, “What! We still have people over there and they’re getting killed? Let’s get out of there!”

The fact that the NSA was collecting and sifting metadata to counter terrorism was known by people who paid attention for years, and uncontroversial. Then Edward Snowden makes a fuss and we’re all like, “What!?!? I didn’t know we were doing that! Let’s stop it!”

And so forth.

Although I used the pronoun “we” above, I like to think of myself as not really one of those Americans. I like to think I follow things less fitfully, and am less surprised at developments.

But today, I feel like one of those people.

Here I had just gotten used to the idea that ISIS, which the organization itself calls Islamic State, and the in-the-know people inside the Beltway call ISIL, was this shocking new animal, a self-financing terrorist army, with capabilities that made those old Mustache Petes in al Qaeda look pathetic, with the power to capture and hold territory and carve out new countries at will. So I felt like I was hip and up-to-date and had a good grasp on things.

But then we started bombing targets in Syria last night — no surprise there, of course, to those of us paying attention — and all of a sudden there’s a shocking new wrinkle. Not only were we hitting ISIL targets, but… well, read this from The Washington Post:

In addition to a broader campaign of airstrikes against Islamic State targets across Syria on Monday night, the United States also pounded a little-known but well-resourced al-Qaeda cell that some American officials fear could pose a direct threat to the United States.

The Pentagon said in a statement early Tuesday that the United States conducted eight strikes west of Aleppo against the cell, called the Khorasan Group, targeting its “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communications building and command and control facilities.”

Army Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr., director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later told reporters that the group was in the “final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the U.S. homeland.” He added, “We believe the Khorasan Group was nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe” or the United States, having attempted to recruit Westerners who can more easily enter the target countries….

The Independent termed Khorasan “a terror group more feared by US officials than Isis.”

And I’m all like, “WHAT!?! We’re just beginning to deal with ISIL, which I’ve come to understand is way worse than al Qaeda, and now you tell me there’s something out there even worse — which I don’t think I had ever even heard of before now? WTF?”

“What am I going to learn about tomorrow? A terrorist army with superpowers, led by General Zod?”

But then I calmed down, and realized that Khorasan is only worse than al Qaeda in that it was planning attacks here at home. Which is certainly one sense of “worse,” from an American perspective. But they don’t seem to be a rampaging terrorist army like ISIL. They’re more old-school. In fact, Muhsin al-Fadhli learned the terror trade at Osama bin Laden’s knee.

Khorasan is a serious new threat, apparently pursuing an unusually sophisticated strategy:

Khorasan hasn’t arrived to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. It’s not interested laying claim to great swaths of land and resources, as is the Islamic State. Rather, American officials told the Associated Press, its members have come from Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan to exploit the flood of Western jihadists who now have skin in the fight — and possess very valuable passports. According to the AP, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri dispatched this deputy to recruit those Western fighters, who have a better chance of escaping scrutiny at airports and could place bombs onto planes.

But so far, they don’t seem to have superpowers. Which is reassuring…

Regarding Scotland, I add my cheers to Friedman’s

Friday night, I ran into our own Phillip Bush at the Greek Festival. He had a pint of beer in hand, which he had obtained at the craft beer stand next to the main tent, where Greek-flavored music was being performed. I asked if he would recommend one of the beers. He said that, Anglophile that I am, I should get a Skunk Cabbage ESB, to celebrate the Scots’ rejection of separatism.

Which I did. And I congratulate the local brewers — I liked it better than the legendary Fuller’s ESB.

But I congratulate the Scots even more heartily. And I share this Tom Friedman column, which Samuel Tenenbaum brings to my attention:

Three Cheers for Pluralism Over Separatism

MADRID — THIS was an interesting week to visit Britain and Spain — first to watch the Scottish separatists push for independence and then to watch Basque and Catalan separatists watching (with disappointment) the outcome of the vote. One reaction: I’m glad a majority of Scots rejected independence. Had they not, it would have clipped the wing of America’s most important wingman in the world: Britain. Another reaction: God bless America. We have many sources of strength, but today our greatest asset is our pluralism — our “E pluribus unum” — that out of many we’ve made one nation, with all the benefits that come from mixing cultures and all the strengths that come from being able to act together.

As I’ve asked before: Who else has twice elected a black man as president, whose middle name is Hussein, whose grandfather was a Muslim, who first defeated a woman and later defeated a Mormon? I’m pretty sure that I will not live long enough to see an ethnic Pakistani become prime minister of Britain or a Moroccan immigrant president of France. Yes, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., reminds us that we’re still a work in progress in the pluralism department. But work on it we do, and I’ll take the hard work of pluralism over the illusions of separatism any day….

Graham, McCain blame Obama for not stopping ISIL earlier

This is from an op-ed piece by the two senators in National Review:

President Obama cannot avoid his share of responsibility for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). As dangerous as ISIS is now, its rise was neither inevitable nor unpredictable. Time after time, President Obama had the opportunity to act when U.S. engagement could have made a decisive difference, and in pulling back from America’s traditional leadership role, he left a vacuum for other, more dangerous actors to fill. As a result, the situation in Iraq and Syria has descended into a crisis that poses a direct threat to the United States. Worse yet, our options for countering this threat are fewer and far worse than they were just a few years ago.

At least four of President Obama’s key decisions stand out…

Boiled down, the four are:

  1. The “failure to leave a residual force in Iraq in 2011.”
  2. In 2012, “when President Obama’s entire senior national-security team — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Petraeus, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey — identified the threat posed by radicalization in Syria and recommended a proposal to arm and train elements of the moderate Syrian opposition.”
  3. “President Obama’s decision not to strike the Assad regime in September 2013 after Assad crossed the president’s own red line…”
  4. “Finally, in the fall of 2013, President Obama refused to launch targeted strikes against ISIS in Iraq when some U.S officials and Iraqi leaders were urging him to do so…”

Hindsight is indeed 20/20, but in this case, a lot of people were seeing trouble back then, and trying to tell the president. Of the four, I continue to find No. 2 the most startling. That wasn’t about the president’s political opponents second-guessing him. It was about him ignoring his whole team.

Open Thread for Thursday, September 18, 2014 — Special Scottish Referendum Edition

Today, I’ll offer you two choices:

  1. Discuss the independence referendum in Scotland, results of which will come in over the next few hours.
  2. Discuss whatever you like. I mean, if the Scots can do whatever they like, including committing economic suicide, then why shouldn’t my fellow Americans say what they please? (Within reason, and my civility rules, of course. Because this blog isn’t a bloody democracy. Harrumph.)

I see that YouGov has the Scots deciding to stay in the UK. If that’s correct, they haven’t gone completely mad. Or, if you prefer, they haven’t gone totally radge.

As to why I oppose Scottish secession, I do so for the same assorted reasons I oppose the Confederacy, Quebec secession, the disintegration of the Balkans, the Anschluss and Putin slicing off a chunk of Ukraine on the grounds of protecting ethnic Russians. Throw in my Anglophilia and my affinity for the Special Relationship, which causes me not to want to see Britain divided and weakened.

Also, I think the Union Jack is one of the most beautiful flags ever. By comparison, the St. Andrew’s Cross alone seems rather sad…

1200px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg

Yes, says the general: Ground troops may be necessary

Here’s today’s lede story for The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal:

Dempsey opens door to combat troops in Iraq

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff raised the possibility Tuesday that U.S. troops could become involved in ground attacks against the Islamic State, despite repeated pledges to the contrary from President Obama.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. military advisers are helping Iraqi government forces prepare for a major offensive to reclaim territory seized by the Islamic State in recent months. Although the advisers have been assigned primarily to assist with planning and coordination, Dempsey for the first time suggested that they eventually could go into the field on combat missions.

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Islamic State] targets, I’ll recommend that to the president,” he testified….

Maybe we can degrade and destroy ISIL with only air power. But as I’ve said before, we don’t know that we can — which is why it is ill-advised, sinking to the level of “doing stupid (stuff),” to rule out using ground troops on the front end. (Saying you don’t want to do it is one thing. Saying on the front end that you won’t is another matter.)

Ground combat troops could become necessary. Which is why a senior general officer, who must have plans for all contingencies, would say what Gen. Dempsey said. And why the president shouldn’t have said what he said.

Going into a fluid military situation, you can’t know that it won’t become necessary to resort to ground combat. You just can’t.

Lindsey Graham’s reaction to Obama’s ISIL speech

Above is a video of Lindsey Graham speaking on the House floor about the plan for combating ISIL that President Obama spoke about last night.

Here are some excerpts from Graham’s speech:

  • “About the speech last night, what bothered me the most was the way it started. The President tried to tell us that as a nation we’re safer today than we have ever been. Do you believe that? I don’t. There are more terrorists, more organizations with more money, more capability, and more weapons to attack our homeland than existed before 9/11. We’re not safer than we were before 9/11 and that’s just an unfortunate fact.”
  • “Every president, every senator makes mistakes. History judges you not by the mistakes you make but by what you learn from them.”
  • “Here’s what I ask of the President – stop caveating everything. Look the enemy in the eye and say ‘We will destroy you’ and stop. Look the American people in the eye and say ‘We have to win, we will win and I will do what is necessary to win.’”
  • “The American military…..they’re tired, but they’re not too tired to defend this country.”
  • “The President also said this operation against ISIL will be like other CT (Counter-terrorism) operations over the last five or six year. No, it will not! This is not some small group of people running around with AK-47s. This is a full blown army. They were going to defeat the Kurdish Peshmerga, a pretty tough fighting group, if we hadn’t intervened. To underestimate how hard this will be will bite us.”
  • “Mr. President, please be honest with the American people about what we face. Somebody’s got to beat this army. This is not a small group of terrorists. They have howitzers. They have tanks. They are flush with money. They are getting fighters from all over the world. But they can and will be defeated. They must be defeated.”
  • “There is not a force in the Mideast that can take these guys on and win without substantial American help.”
  • “Mr. President, if you need my blessing to destroy ISIL, you have it. If you need to follow them to the gates of hell, I will send you a note – ‘go for it.’ If you need Congress to authorize your actions, let me know. You say you don’t and I agree with you, but if it makes us stronger for this body to vote in support of your plan to destroy ISIL, I will give you my vote. But here’s what I expect in return — your full commitment to win.”
  • “One thing I can promise the American people – if we take on ISIL and lose – we will unlock the gates of hell. And hell will come our way.”

Graham speak

The best part of President Obama’s speech tonight

Here it is:

When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety — our own security — depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for — timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth….

Yes, that is what sets this nation apart. We are the nation that will go halfway ’round the world to save endangered and oppressed people. And we are the one nation that can do that, time and again. We have the power; we have the resources. And therefore we have the moral obligation.

That’s not the only reason we must “degrade and destroy” ISIL. It also involves doing “what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for.”

The monsters of ISIL must be stopped. And we’re the ones to do it. It’s great that the president is enlisting others to help. But it’s going to depend on us, and our resolve to end this evil.

Good news: It’s not the economy. Bad news: It’s not foreign affairs, either…

Last week, the WSJ’s Daniel Henninger wrote a column that, from my perspective, was expressive of wishful thinking.

At one point, he wrote, “The world has reframed the politics of the 2016 election.”

A bit later, he said, “In a foreign-policy election, as it looks like we are going to have in 2016…”

Oh, if only it were so, Daniel.

Reason would dictate that we would have such an election. To begin with, all presidential elections should be foreign-policy elections, since that’s the most critical part of the job of POTUS.

But with what’s happening now in Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan and so on, there should be no question at all — a rational electorate would want first and foremost to know how a prospective president would lead us in dealing with the rest of the world.

But it doesn’t work that way, does it?

Still, my heart beat a bit faster when I saw this headline on my NPR app this morning: “It Might Sound Stupid, But Maybe It Isn’t The Economy This Time.”

But then I read on. Turns out that the world out there still doesn’t make the cut:

The economy is not the No. 1 issue?

That’s right. Gallup pollsters asked voters what was important, and the No. 1 topic turned out to be dissatisfaction with politicians. No. 2 was immigration. The economy had slipped to No. 3….

“Foreign policy/Foreign aid/Focus overseas” came in sixth.

And even the economy’s third-place status was rather artificial. Yes, “Economy in general” came in third, but “Jobs/unemployment” came in fourth. And if you combine the two, which would make more sense, they’re easily in first place.

And don’t get all overexcited and think that because “immigration” came in second, the public is all worried about the horrific conditions in Central America. No such luck.

If I had responded to that poll, and the question had been open-ended, I might have said, “dissatisfaction with voters…”

We’re in trouble when a really big country is in the hands of a guy who says stuff like this

When I saw the headline, I had to ask the question:


Can you believe this? A country that until recently was one of the world’s two superpowers is now in the hands of a guy who goes around saying stuff like this?

So, OK… the Russians are saying this was quoted out of context, which means, we hope, that Putin was saying, essentially, I’m not trying to take Ukraine. If I were trying to take Ukraine, I’d take Ukraine.

But still. The problem here is that Putin is the kind of guy who does say stuff like this, with or without his shirt on. And that’s trouble for all of us…

HERE’s a strategy for dealing with ISIS: Let’s do them the way the Aggies did the Gamecocks

tan suit

And oh, yeah — what’s with the tan suit?

Yes, that headline is my way of admitting that I don’t have a strategy for dealing with ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State/QSIS. I don’t even know how to solve the confusion over what to call them.

But then, I’m not POTUS. And the man who is is taking a lot of flak for his honest admission yesterday that “We don’t have a strategy yet.” (Possibly the worst such gaffe since Toby Ziegler said C.J. Cregg could go to Ramallah to “swat at suicide bombers with her purse.”) Which he perhaps deserves, for having made some of the decisions that led to the metastatic growth of the former al Qaeda in Iraq that has turned into that new thing, a self-financing, blitzkrieging army of bloodthirsty terrorists.

But having left Iraq without any sort of residual force to act as a counterbalance to instability, and having ignored the advice of his entire national security team three years back when there was still a chance to prop up some moderate alternatives in Syria, I’m not entirely sure what the president should do, what we should do, now.

Which is why you might see me indulging myself in irrelevancies, with the rest of the ADD brigade, over such trivia as the president’s tan suit. Sorry about that. But truly, I’m at a loss for more helpful observations to offer.

And, oh, yeah — Russia is invading Ukraine with impunity. (At least the president is visiting Talinn to express support for a nervous NATO ally, for what that’s worth. I’m not sure how reassuring that will be. They’ll probably be on pins and needles hoping he doesn’t say the words, “red line.”)

Any ideas, folks? I’ll be glad to pass them up to the White House.

Seriously, I’m glad the president wants to get his ducks in a row and have a strategy, instead of the fits and starts of our actions thus far, which have had a “what are we actually trying to do?” feel about them. Although driving them from Mosul Dam was encouraging, as was rescuing the Yazidi. But we need something a little more thought-out, and effective, than a #bringbackourgirls type of reaction to outrages.

And I hope this administration is up to it. A lot of people — including, I saw this morning, Maureen Dowd and Eugene Robinson, not your usual Obama-hating suspects — seem to have their doubts these days.

Graham gives Rubio a big pat on the head in SC

I sort of missed this event up in Anderson yesterday, but U.S. News and World Report was there:

Lindsey Graham Calls Marco Rubio ‘Son of Ronald Reagan’

South Carolina’s senior senator offers high praise of his colleague.

ANDERSON, S.C. – Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., “the son of Ronald Reagan when it comes to national security” Monday night at a barbecue gathering of nearly 1,000 conservatives in the upstate.

South Carolina’s senior senator also dubbed Rubio “a rising young star” in the GOP “who you will see a lot,” a nod to his colleague’s White House aspirations in 2016.

The high praise comes from one of the Senate’s biggest foreign policy hawks at a time when the country is confronting how to deal with the unraveling violence and chaos in Iraq being caused by the radical Islamic State….

Not to mention, it comes as certain Republican stars are championing isolationism.

I don’t know whether this is just Lindsey being polite to the visiting fireman, or maybe he’s getting on the Rubio bandwagon. This bears watching.

When you think about it, who is coming along in the next generation to carry the national security torch in the GOP? Also, I suppose Graham and McCain appreciate the help they got from young Master Rubio on the ill-fated immigration bill — which frankly was the first time I took favorable notice of him.

ISIS, the Black Hole of Evil

Flag_of_The_Islamic_State.svg

If Iran, Iraq and North Korea once constituted the Axis of Evil, what is ISIS?

It’s the Black Hole of Evil. It’s growing rapidly in mass, sucking in territory throughout the regions of the Tigris and Euphrates, and sucking in people — the sort who flock to evil and wish to be a part of it — from across the globe. You’ve probably already seen the statistic that there are more British Muslims in the jihadist force now than there are serving in the British military.

By comparison, al Qaeda is the Quaint Mom-and-Pop Shop of Evil, tut-tutting on the sidelines as its onetime offshoot grows and grows and grows, committing atrocities at which bin Laden’s old organization blanches.

I was inspired to this observation by Richard Cohen’s reflection today on the Islamic State as an expression of evil:

I used to not believe in evil. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “the evil empire,” I thought it was a dandy phrase but also a confession of ignorance. The word itself connotes something or someone diabolical — bad for the sake of bad. The Soviet Union was bad, I conceded, but not for no reason. It was bad because it was insecure, occupying the flat, inviting, Eurasian plain, and because it had a different system of government that it dearly wanted to protect. Reagan had it right, though. The Soviet Union was evil.

Now we are facing a different type of evil. The Islamic State, in whose name Foley was beheaded, murders with abandon. It seems to love death the way the fascists once did. It is Sunni, so it massacres Shiites. It is radical Sunni, so it eliminates apostates. It is Muslim, so it kills Yazidis, a minority with a religion of its own, and takes as plunder their women as concubines. Men are shot in graves of their own making.

The Nazis are back — differently dressed, speaking a different language and murdering ostensibly for different reasons but actually for the same: intolerance, hatred, excitement and just because they can. The Islamic State’s behavior is beyond explication, not reacting as some suggest to the war in Iraq — although in time it will try to settle some scores with the United States — but murdering and torturing and enslaving because this is what it wants to do. It is both futile and tasteless to lay off blame on others — the West, the colonialists of old or the persistent Zionists — or to somehow find guilt in the actions of the rich or powerful because they are rich or powerful. You can blame the victim. You can even kill him….

Cohen was in turn inspired by this essay by Martin Amis in the Financial Times over the weekend. I’m still plowing my way through that. More observations may be forthcoming in this space…