Quote of the Day

“There is a loss of spirit in the west; where we don’t believe in ourselves; where our history is flawed; where we teach our kids all of the sins of the American republic and none of the glories. When you do that for a long enough time, you end up with a generation that doesn’t know why they should be proud to be Americans; why they should be defending America.”

Charles Krauthammer, on Tucker Carlson Tonight, June 5, 2017

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The West’s Loss of Will to Defend Itself

From Charles Krauthammer:

There is a loss of spirit in the west, not so much in the U.S. as in Europe, where we don’t believe in ourselves, where our history is flawed, where we teach our kids all of the sins of the American republic and none of the glories. When you do that for a long enough time, you end up with a generation that doesn’t know why they should be proud to be Americans, why they should be defending America.

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A Truly Unconscionable President

Well of course the Justice Department objected — it was illegal. It isn’t only the optics; it isn’t only that they are just looking ridiculous in denying that it was a quid pro quo. Obviously it wasn’t a coincidence. The reason that it was objected to by Justice — there is a statute that prohibits us from engaging in Iran dealing with dollars. So they had to print the money here, ship it over to Switzerland, turn it into Swiss francs and euros, and ship it over to Iran. If a private company had done this, this is called money laundering. The CEO would be in jail right now.

Win One for Nino

From Charles Krauthammer:

Let’s understand something about the fight to fill the Supreme Court seat of Antonin (“Nino”) Scalia. This is about nothing but raw power. Any appeal you hear to high principle is phony — brazenly, embarrassingly so.

In Year Seven of the George W. Bush administration, Senator Chuck Schumer publicly opposed filling any Supreme Court vacancy until Bush left office. (“Except in extraordinary circumstances.” None such arose. Surprise!) Today he piously denounces Republicans for doing exactly the same for a vacancy created in Year Eight of Barack Obama.

Republicans, say the Democrats, owe the president deference. Elections have consequences, and Obama won reelection in 2012.

Yes. And the Republicans won the Senate in 2014 — if anything, a more proximal assertion of popular will. And both have equal standing in appointing a Supreme Court justice.

It’s hard to swallow demands for deference from a party that for seven years has cheered Obama’s serial constitutional depredations: his rewriting the immigration laws by executive order (stayed by the courts); his reordering the energy economy by regulation (stayed by the courts); his enacting the nuclear deal with Iran, the most important treaty of this generation, without the required two-thirds of the Senate (by declaring it an executive agreement).

Minority Leader Harry Reid complains about the Senate violating precedent if it refuses a lame-duck nominee. This is rich. It is Reid who just two years ago overthrew all precedent by abolishing the filibuster for most judicial and high executive appointments. In the name of what grand constitutional principle did Reid resort to a parliamentary maneuver so precedent-shattering that it was called “the nuclear option”? None. He did it in order to pack the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia with liberals who would reliably deflect challenges to Obamacare.

On Tuesday, Obama loftily called upon Congress to rise above ideology and partisanship in approving his nominee. When asked how he could square that with his 2006 support of a filibuster to stop the appointment of Samuel Alito, Obama replied with a four-minute word-salad signifying nothing. There is no answer. It was situational constitutional principle, i.e., transparent hypocrisy.

As I said, this is all about raw power. When the Democrats had it, they used it. The Republicans are today wholly justified in saying they will not allow this outgoing president to overturn the balance of the Supreme Court. The matter should be decided by the coming election. Does anyone doubt that Democrats would be saying exactly that if the circumstances were reversed?

Which makes this Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s moment. He and his cohorts have taken a lot of abuse from “anti-establishment” candidates and media for not using their congressional majorities to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, block executive orders, etc.

What was the 2014 election about, they say? We won and got nothing. We were lied to and betrayed by a corrupt leadership beholden to the “Washington cartel.”

As it happens, under our Madisonian Constitution, the opposition party cannot govern without the acquiescence of the president, which it will not get, or a two-thirds majority of the Congress, which it does not have.

But no matter. Things are different now. Appointing a Supreme Court justice is a two-key operation. The president proposes, the Senate disposes. There is no reason McConnell cannot hold the line. And he must. The stakes here — a radical generation-long reversal of direction of the Supreme Court — are the highest this Senate will ever face.

If McConnell succeeds, he will have resoundingly answered the “what did we get for 2014?” question. Imagine if the Senate were now in Democratic hands. What we got in 2014 was the power to hold on to Scalia’s seat and to the Court’s conservative majority.

But only for now. Blocking an Obama nominee buys just a year. The final outcome depends on November 2016. If the GOP nominates an unelectable or unconservative candidate, a McConnell victory will be nothing more than a stay of execution.

In 2012, Scalia averred that he would not retire until there was a more ideologically congenial president in the White House. “I would not like to be replaced,” he explained, “by someone who immediately sets about undoing everything that I’ve tried to do for 25 years.”

Scalia never got to choose the timing of his leaving office. Those who value the legacy of those now-30 years will determine whether his last wish will be vindicated. Let McConnell do his thing. Then in November it’s for us to win one for Nino.

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Awaiting a President

From Charles Krauthammer:

Tell me: What’s a suicide bomber doing with a passport? He’s not going anywhere. And, though I’m not a religious scholar, I doubt that a passport is required in paradise for a martyr to access his 72 black-eyed virgins.

A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the terrorists. Why was it there? Undoubtedly, to back up the Islamic State boast that it is infiltrating operatives amid the refugees flooding Europe. The passport may have been fake, but the terrorist’s fingerprints were not. They match those of a man who just a month earlier had come through Greece on his way to kill Frenchmen in Paris.

If the other goal of the Paris massacre was to frighten France out of the air campaign in Syria — the way Spain withdrew from the Iraq War after the terror attack on its trains in 2004 — they picked the wrong country. France is a serious post-colonial power, as demonstrated in Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic, and Mali, which France saved from an Islamist takeover in 2013.

Indeed, socialist President Francois Hollande has responded furiously to his country’s 9/11 with an intensified air campaign, hundreds of raids on suspected domestic terrorists, a state of emergency, and proposed changes in the constitution to make France less hospitable to jihad.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, titular head of the free world, has responded to Paris with weariness and annoyance. His news conference in Turkey was marked by a stunning tone of passivity, detachment, and lassitude, compounded by impatience and irritability at the very suggestion that his Syria strategy might be failing.

The only time he showed any passion was in denouncing Republicans for hardheartedness toward Muslim refugees. One hundred and twenty-nine innocents lie dead but it takes the GOP to kindle Obama’s ire.

The rest was mere petulance, dismissing criticisms of his Syria policy as popping off. Inconveniently for Obama, one of those popper-offers is Dianne Feinstein, the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She directly contradicted Obama’s blithe assertion, offered the day before the Paris attack, that the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIL) was contained and not gaining strength. “I have never been more concerned,” said Feinstein. “ISIL is not contained. ISIL is expanding.”

Obama defended his policy by listing its multifaceted elements. Such as, “I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters.” An “entire” discussion, mind you. Not a partial one. They tremble in Raqqa.

And “We have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL.” Yes, and what would we do without Luxembourg?

Obama complained of being criticized for not being bellicose enough. But the complaint is not about an absence of bellicosity but about an absence of passion, of urgency, and of commitment to the fight. The air campaign over Syria averages seven strikes a day. Seven. In Operation Desert Storm, we flew 1,100 sorties a day. Even in the Kosovo campaign, we averaged 138. Obama is doing just enough in Syria to give the appearance of motion, yet not nearly enough to have any chance of success.

Obama’s priorities lie elsewhere. For example, climate change, which he considers the greatest “threat to our future.” And, of course, closing Guantánamo. Obama actually released five detainees on the day after the Paris massacre. He is passionate about Guantánamo. It’s a great terrorist recruiting tool, he repeatedly explains. Obama still seems to believe that — even as the Islamic State has produced an astonishing wave of terrorist recruitment with a campaign of brutality, butchery, and enslavement filmed in living color. Who can still believe that young Muslims are leaving Europe to join the Islamic State because of Guantánamo?

Obama’s other passion is protecting Islam from any possible association with “violent extremism.” The Islamic State is nothing but “killers with fantasies of glory.” Obama can never bring himself to acknowledge why these people kill and willingly die: to advance a radical Islamist millenarianism that is purposeful indeed eschatological — and appealing enough to have created the largest, most dangerous terrorist movement on earth.

Hollande is trying to gather a real coalition to destroy the Islamic State, even as Obama touts his phony 65. For eleven post-World War II presidencies, coalition leading has been the role of the United States. Where is America today? Awaiting a president. The next president.

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Obama’s Common Cause

From Charles Krauthammer:

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that the American public rejects the president’s Iran deal by more than 2-to-1. This is astonishing. The public generally gives the president deference on major treaties. Just a few weeks ago, a majority supported the deal.

What happened? People learned what’s in it.

And don’t be fooled by polls that present, as fact, the administration’s position in the very question. The Washington Post/ABC poll assures the respondent that, for example, “international inspectors would monitor Iran’s facilities, and if Iran is caught breaking the agreement economic sanctions would be imposed again. Do you support or oppose this agreement?”

Well, if you put it that way, sure. But it is precisely because these claims are so tendentious and misleading that public — and congressional — opinion is turning.

Inspections? Everyone now knows that “anytime, anywhere” — indispensable for a clandestine program in a country twice the size of Texas with a long history of hiding and cheating — has been changed to “You’ve got 24 days and then we’re coming in for a surprise visit.” New York restaurants, observed Jackie Mason, get more intrusive inspections than the Iranian nuclear program.

Snapback sanctions? Everyone knows that once the international sanctions are lifted, they are never coming back. Moreover, consider the illogic of President Obama’s argument. The theme of his American University speech Wednesday was that the only alternative to what he brought back from Vienna is war because sanctions — even the more severe sanctions that Congress has been demanding — will never deter the Iranians. But if sanctions don’t work, how can you argue that the Iranians will now be deterred from cheating by the threat of . . . sanctions? Snapback sanctions, mind you, that will inevitably be weaker and more loophole-ridden than the existing ones.

And then came news of the secret side agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. These concern past nuclear activity and inspections of the Parchin military facility where Iran is suspected of having tested nuclear detonation devices.

We don’t know what’s in these side deals. And we will never know, says the administration. It’s “standard practice,” you see, for such IAEA agreements to remain secret.

Well, this treaty is not standard practice. It’s the most important treaty of our time. Yet, Congress is asked to ratify this “historic diplomatic breakthrough” (Obama) while being denied access to the heart of the inspection regime.

Congress doesn’t know what’s in these side agreements, but Iran does. And just this past Monday, Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to the supreme leader, declared that “entry into our military sites is absolutely forbidden.”

One secret side deal could even allow Iran to provide its own soil samples (!) from Parchin. And now satellite imagery shows Iran bulldozing and sanitizing Parchin as we speak. The verification regime has turned comic.

This tragicomedy is now in the hands of Congress or, more accurately, of congressional Democrats. It is only because so many Democrats are defecting that Obama gave the AU speech in the first place. And why he tried so mightily to turn the argument into a partisan issue — those warmongering Republicans attacking a president offering peace in our time. Obama stooped low, accusing the Republican caucus of making “common cause” with the Iranian “hard-liners” who shout “Death to America.”

Forget the gutter ad hominem. This is delusional. Does Obama really believe the Death-to-America hard-liners are some kind of KKK fringe? They are the government, for God’s sake — the entire state apparatus of the Islamic Republic from the Revolutionary Guards to the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei who for decades have propagated, encouraged, and applauded those very same “Death to America” chants.

Common cause with the Iranian hard-liners? Who more than Obama? For years, they conduct a rogue nuclear weapons program in defiance of multiple Security Council declarations of its illegality backed by sanctions and embargoes. Obama rewards them with a treaty that legitimates their entire nuclear program, lifts the embargo on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, and revives an economy — described by Iran’s president as headed back to “the Stone Age” under sanctions — with an injection of up to $150 billion in unfrozen assets, permission for the unlimited selling of oil, and full access to the international financial system.

With this agreement, this repressive, intolerant, aggressive, supremely anti-American regime — the chief exporter of terror in the world — is stronger and more entrenched than it has ever been.

Common cause, indeed.

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Strategic Paralysis

From Charles Krauthammer:

His secretary of defense says “the world is exploding all over.” His attorney general says that the threat of terror “keeps me up at night.” The world bears them out. On Tuesday, American hostage Kayla Mueller is confirmed dead. On Wednesday, the U.S. evacuates its embassy in Yemen, cited by President Obama last September as an American success in fighting terrorism.

Yet Obama’s reaction to, shall we say, turmoil abroad has been one of alarming lassitude and passivity.

Not to worry, says his national security adviser: This is not World War II. As if one should be reassured because the current chaos has yet to achieve the level of the most devastating conflict in human history. Indeed, insists the president, the real source of our metastasizing anxiety is . . . the news media.

Russia pushes deep into eastern Ukraine. The Islamic State burns to death a Jordanian pilot. Iran extends its hegemony over four Arab capitals — Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, and now Sanaa.

And America watches. Obama calls the policy “strategic patience.” That’s a synonym for “inaction,” made to sound profoundly “strategic.”

Take Russia. The only news out of Obama’s one-hour press conference with Angela Merkel this week was that he still can’t make up his mind whether to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons. The Russians have sent in T-80 tanks and Grad rocket launchers. We’ve sent in humanitarian aid that includes blankets, MREs, and psychological counselors.

How complementary: The counselors do grief therapy for those on the receiving end of the T-80 tank fire. “I think the Ukrainian people can feel confident that we have stood by them,” said Obama at the news conference.

Indeed. And don’t forget the blankets. America was once the arsenal of democracy, notes Elliott Abrams. We are now its linen closet.

Why no anti-tank and other defensive weapons? Because we are afraid that arming the victim of aggression will anger the aggressor.

Such on-the-ground appeasement goes well with the linguistic appeasement whereby Obama dares not call radical Islam by name. And whereby both the White House and State Department spend much of a day insisting that the attack on the kosher grocery in Paris had nothing to do with Jews. It was just, as the president said, someone “randomly shoot[ing] a bunch of folks in a deli.” (By the end of the day, the administration backed off this idiocy. By tweet.)

This passivity — strategic, syntactical, ideological — is more than just a reaction to the perceived overreach of the Bush years. Or a fear of failure. Or bowing to the domestic Left. It is, above all, rooted in Obama’s deep belief that we — America, Christians, the West — lack the moral authority to engage, to project, i.e., to lead.

Before we condemn the atrocities of others, intoned Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast, we shouldn’t “get on our high horse.” We should acknowledge having authored the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, etc. “in the name of Christ.”

In a rare rhetorical feat, Obama managed to combine the banal and the repulsive. After all, is it really a revelation that all religions have transgressed, that man is fallen? To the adolescent Columbia undergrad, that’s a profundity. To a roomful of faith leaders, that’s an insult to one’s intelligence.

And in deeply bad taste. A coalition POW is burned alive and the reaction of the alliance leader barely 48 hours later is essentially: “Hey, but what about Joan of Arc?”

Obama’s Christians-have-sinned dismissal of the West’s moral standing is not new, however. It is just a reprise of the theme of his post-inauguration 2009 confessional world tour. From Strasbourg to Cairo and the U.N. General Assembly, he indicted his own country, as I chronicled at the time, “for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness (toward Europe), for maltreatment of natives, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantánamo, for unilateralism, and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.”

The purpose and the effect of such an indictment is to undermine any moral claim to American world leadership. The line between the Washington prayer breakfast and the Ukrainian grief counselors is direct and causal. Once you’ve discounted your own moral authority, once you’ve undermined your own country’s moral self-confidence, you cannot lead.

If, during the very week Islamic supremacists achieve “peak barbarism” with the immolation of a helpless prisoner, you cannot take them on without apologizing for sins committed a thousand years ago, you have prepared the ground for strategic paralysis.

All that’s left is to call it strategic patience.

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