Friday, September 7, 2012

Obama and the Empathy Gap - By Charles Krauthammer

SEPTEMBER 6, 2012 8:00 P.M.

Contra Michelle, her husband is not campaigning out of compassion.
By Charles Krauthammer   -   national review online

Given the state of the economy, by any historical standard, Barack Obama should be 15 points behind Mitt Romney. Why is he tied? The empathy gap. On “caring about average people,” Obama wins by 22 points. Maintaining that gap was a principal goal of the Democratic convention. It’s the party’s only hope of winning in November.
George H. W. Bush, Romney-like in aloofness, was once famously handed a staff cue card that read: “Message: I care.” That was supposed to be speech guidance. Bush read the card. Out loud.
Not surprisingly, he lost to Bill Clinton, a man who lives to care, who feels your pain better than you do — or at least makes you think so. In politics, that’s a trivial distinction.
On Wednesday night, Clinton vouched for Obama as a man “who’s cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside.” Nice phrase, but not terribly persuasive. The real job of Clintonizing Obama was left to Mrs. Obama. As she told it in the convention’s most brilliantly cynical speech, her husband is not just profoundly compassionate but near-Gandhiesque in feelings.
Others spoke about what Obama had done. Michelle’s job was to provide thewhy: because he cares. Her talk was a syllogism: Barack loves his wife, he loves his children, he loves his family — therefore, he loves you.

I have no doubt about the first three propositions, but the fourth is a complete non sequitur. We were assured, nonetheless, that the president is a saintly man, dispensing succor — health care (with free contraceptives), auto bailouts, fairness lawsuits — to his people. The flood of tears in the hall testified to the power of this spousal paean. Its brilliance lay in Michelle’s success in draining from Obama any hint of ideological or personal motivation.

The problem with swallowing the “he cares, therefore he does” line is that it so plainly contradicts what we’ve seen over the last four years. Barack Obama is a deeply committed social democrat who laid out an unashamedly left-liberal agenda at the very beginning of his presidency and then proceeded to try to enact it.

Obama passed Obamacare, regulated Wall Street, subsidized Solyndra because that fits an ambitious left-wing agenda developed in his youth, now made possible by his power: redistributionist, government-centered, disdainful of success, suspicious of private enterprise, committed to his own vision of social justice.

Also missing from her speech was any hint of his outsized self-regard and personal ambition. Is he pursuing reelection because he cares? Or because it’s the ultimate vindication of the self-created man who came from nowhere to seize the prize? And whom defeat would turn into a historical parenthesis?

In 2008, Obama tellingly said that Ronald Reagan was historically consequential in a way that Bill Clinton was not. Obama clearly sees himself as the anti-Reagan, the man who reverses the 30-year conservative trajectory that Reagan launched (hence his consequentiality), and returns America to the 50-year liberal ascendancy that FDRbegan and Reagan terminated.
This makes you world-historical. This is what drives the man who kept inserting the phrase “New Foundation” in the major speeches he gave in the early months of his presidency. The slogan was meant to make him the rightful heir to the authors of the “New Deal” and “New Frontier.”

The phrase never took. But the ambition was unmistakable.

All this does not make Obama either bad or unique among presidents. But it does give lie to the lachrymose portrayal of him as the good family man writ large, presiding kindly over his flock.

His pledge in 2008 of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” speaks to the largeness of both his ideology and his self-regard. That’s the far more plausible explanation of his drive to win, characterized by a ruthless single-mindedness that undid the Clintons in 2008 (and at times unhinged Bill) and that has so relentlessly demonized Romney in 2012.
The millions of dollars devoted to that demonization account for some of that 22-point “empathy gap.” Michelle’s soap-opera depiction of her husband as a man so infused with goodness that it spills over onto his grateful subjects was meant to maintain the other part of that gap.
I didn’t buy a word of it, but as a speech, Michelle’s was very effective. After all, what else do you say when you’re running for reelection in a land — as described so chillingly the next night by Elizabeth Warren — wracked with misery and despair?

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2012 theWashington Post Writers Group.

President Obama Fails to Make the Case for Re-election in Charlotte

September 7, 2012


By Jay Haug

Toward the end of President Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last night, he said something unusual. He paused and remarked. "I am no longer a candidate. I am the president." The audience cheered. It was as if Mr. Obama was trying to draw water from the campaign well of 2008. Was he insecure? Did he feel he wasn't qualified to be president? Many felt he was not back then. Was he pleading with the audience to not allow the Republicans to take it away? Did he have to remind the audience that he has actually governed for nearly four years? Or did he remind them because his presidency has been one long candidacy? It was some or all of the above, with his famous "I" statements thrown in for recognition.

This is a tired presidency. Obama's performance in Charlotte felt like a reunion of buddies trying to recapture the magic of years ago. The Obama true-believers with beatific smiles on their faces were in need of some "hair of the dog" from 2008 to keep them going. They got it in a rambling speech filled with one-liners from a president who did almost nothing to defend his actual record. The president offered "bold, persistent experimentation" for the future without defending why that recipe had not only failed but scared more the half the population. He pleaded that "our problems can be solved" and "not always by another government program." But he did not explain why "another government program" always seems to be the medicine.
Are you sick of the work "invest?" For clarification purposes it means "raise taxes." Someone should go through every speech in Charlotte  and change "invest" to "tax" to get the real meaning. Obama regaled the audience with private sector stories, people who have succeeded. After all, this is America. But the key to understanding the Charlotte Democrats and Obama is this. The private sector gets their rhetoric. Government gets the money, programs and effort.  
Democrats are the party of government. What unites Americans, they unashamedly told us, is government. Citizenship means, not the endless and layered private and community associations touted by de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, but loyalty and praise for the federal government and its programs. Obama said the usual "we believe that anybody can become the next Steve Jobs" but went on to say "it is within our power to do that." The context and implication is that government or federally provided student loans or some other hand-out will do that. He already said "You didn't build that." He tells now that yes, we, the government, can. He ironically proclaimed that "government is not the source of all our problems." How about some?
On energy, President Obama was disingenuous. He claimed that "we cut oil imports" during his time in office, when the actual figures show we are more dependent on foreign oil since January 2009. He touted energy development and output, when most of the output was due to higher energy prices and new technology, much of which he opposes. He made no attempt to defend his dismal record in shutting down energy production. He did, however, address "the threat to our children's future." Was this the exploding national debt? No. Climate change.
On tuition costs, Mr. Obama pledged to cut them in half while refusing to address the real cause, the dangerous reliance on government subsidized student loans which have driven college costs through the roof. How he planned to reduce them he didn't say.
On foreign policy, truth was hard to find. He praised his administration for ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the easy part of war. In the former, more Americans have been killed since he took office than before. He counted the military as "making us safer and more respected" in the world, as if our brave women and men in uniform live to serve his foreign policy interests. One gets the feeling from many Democrats that the military are props in their culture war. On Israel, he said that our support "must not waiver" though waiver it has. Mr .Obama also appeared to equate defense spending with wars, as if a strong military got us into them instead of preventing them. Dangerous thinking there.
But he did address reductions in spending  a $1 billion agreement with Republicans and a $4 billion reduction in oil subsidies, pocket change in Washington these days. He accused Republicans of wanting government to do "almost nothing." Really? Perhaps in his view "cutting something" and doing "almost nothing" are nearly identical. Democrats and Obama touted "saving the auto companies" when in fact what really happened was that Mr. Obama wiped out existing GM stockholders and gave 60% of the company to the unions. and GM is still in need of tens of billions of dollars. The stock has no dividend and is going nowhere.
Finally, there appeared to be modest adjustment to the Obamamania of 2008. Hope and change is now "faith and hope." The president appeared to be asking "do you still believe in me?"  Are you willing to trust your own eyes or my words? He mentioned the path ahead would be harder and longer but did not disabuse many Americans of this hard fact: President Obama himself has made it harder and longer through exploding debt, choking regulation, profligate spending and a misguided attempt to remake the nations health insurance industry. This is the kind of "Forward" most Americans disbelieve in.
Many of the delegates seemed to be distracted, tired and bored by the time Mr. Obama took the stage.  But that was not going to deter him from one more shot. At the end, he gave one more try for the medicine of 2008. "The election four years ago was not about me. It was about you." He seemed to be asking, "Are you still with me?" Are you willing to overlook four years and do it all again? In the view of many who heard his speech, that question remains unanswered for most of us outside the camp of true believers.
Jay Haug is the author of Beyond the Flaming Sword. He can be reached at

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Rivlin: Democratic 'Jerusalem Mistake' No Accident

The omission of Jerusalem from the Democratic Party platform was intentional, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin says
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By David Lev
First Publish: 9/6/2012, 11:07 AM

Speaker Reuven Rivlin
Speaker Reuven Rivlin
Israel news photo: Flash 90
The absence of Jerusalem's status as the capital of Israel in the Democratic Party platform was no oversight, and not the result of a “bureaucratic snafu,” as some Democrats tried to claim in the face of the embarrassing flip-flop on the matter at the party's convention 

Wednesday night, Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said Thursday. The Democrats intended to leave Jerusalem off the agenda, and only changed their minds due to the sharp criticism from Republicans and supporters of Israel in the U.S., he said.

“And I see no cause for optimism on their decision to change the platform to reflect Jerusalem's status,” Rivlin said in a radio interview Thursday. “This was no mistake or slip of someone's mind. I have no doubt that President Obama restored Jerusalem to the platform because of political and electoral pressure, and because of the sharp criticism in Israel and the U.S.,” he said.

The party most definitely suffered a black eye over the brouhaha, media reports in the U.S. said. After sharp criticism earlier in the week over the removal of a section in the platform saying that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, as well as removal of all references to G-d, party officials moved to reinstate both sections. The proposed change would include a line that said that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel," and that “it should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths." G-d was also restored t the platform, with the sentence that Obama, on his second term, will conduct “an administration that will give every hard-working American the opportunity to realize his G-d given potential.”

However, when convention chairman Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, called for a voice vote to approve the insertion of the Jerusalem sentence, he was met by a loud chorus of opposition – with witnesses saying that at least half, if not more, of delegates voicing opposition to inserting the clause about Jerusalem. Voice approvals require a three quarters majority, and after the first vote, Villaraigosa awkwardly called for a second vote, citing “interference” that prevented him from clearly hearing the results. Only after three votes was the resolution declared approved. In response, witnesses said, the crowd turned on Villaraigosa, jeering him as he left the stage.

Rivlin said that under such circumstances it was impossible to chalk up the omission to an accident. “This is not something that can be corrected with the stroke of a pen. It is a clear signal, showing the complete breakdown of the Obama administration's understanding of the importance of Israel to the Middle East strategy of the U.S.”

Bee's Note:
See the following American Thinker article, posted Sept. 6, 2012:
Obama knew of the omission of God and Jerusalem from the platform before the convention
Read more:

and, an article on PJ Media:

There’s More Missing from the Democratic Platform Than God and Jerusalem

Mark Levin video and Obama Spins His Unpopularity As a Virtue

Bee's Note:   Please take a few minutes to listen to the following video, by Mark Levin:
 Mark Levin - Obama's Legal Strategy?

 Published on Sep 5, 2012 by 
Since before his election, Barack Obama has said he wanted to "fundamentally transform America." His whole mantra of "change" was about the same thing--that America wasn't good enough and needed to be changed. After his election, Obama went on his overseas "apology" tour, as if America really needed to apologize to the rest of the world for anything. After Obama's election, his wife, Michelle Obama, said that for the first time in her life she was proud of America. Appartently, the Obamas have never believed America to be exceptional or special, and never been very proud of America. Now, even after four years of "change," Obama still believes that America must be rebuilt into his socialist ideal. Mark Levin has something to say about that, and as usual he's absolutely right. Wake up, America! This nation doesn't need this socialist or the dreams of his father in order to be a great nation, because throughout its history America has been proven time and again to be the greatest nation ever created.

@SethAMandel09.07.2012 - 11:00 AM
Barack Obama unveiled his new campaign theme last night: the president is unpopular. More specifically, the president keeps enacting unpopular policies. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also Mitt Romney’s campaign theme: he, too, wants you to know the president is unpopular.
The audience last night heard this point alluded to throughout—usually euphemistically as a willingness to make tough choices–but Obama himself explicitly brought it up. “If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them,” Obama said near the end of his speech. And he’s right.
Even after the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality, only 13 percent of the country, according to Gallup, wanted to keep the law in place as-is. (Only 20 percent of Democrats did, so opposition to the bill continues to be bipartisan—though to be fair, 45 percent of Democrats wanted the law to be changed to expand the federal government’s role.)
By now, everyone paying attention is familiar with the Obama administration’s promises on the stimulus bill, and the massive failure of those promises. Polls reflect that as well; heading into the 2010 midterms, 68 percent of Americans said the bill was a waste. As the Hill noted at the time:
The figure suggests that the cornerstone of the Obama administration’s agenda to bolster the economy has fallen flat with voters as elections loom in four weeks. The poll also hints that the White House’s effort to sell the bill to the public has been far from successful.
It’s safe to say that Americans’ impression of Obama’s “agenda to bolster the economy” hasn’t much improved, as last month’s Gallup poll found only 36 percent approve of the president’s handling of the economy.
Of course, the centerpiece of the Obama effort to brand himself as a public opinion-ignoring executive is the auto bailout. It was mentioned all throughout last night’s convention lineup, and was likely what the president was thinking about when he joked about his inability to read polls. But the auto bailout was so unpopular that this is how the New York Times described its improving numbers:
It was, to put it gently, unpopular. In polls at the time, 3 in 4 Americans said Washington should not broaden its effort to help the carmakers, as it ended up doing; nearly 6 in 10 poll respondents opposed the bailouts once they happened; and 54 percent of people said they were “mostly bad for the economy.” Largely negative polls accumulated through 2010 and 2011, too.
But more recent polls seem to show a thaw in public opinion — even if the auto bailout remains relatively unpopular, as far as government initiatives go.
Keep in mind, that was the “good news.” So yes, the president’s policies are unpopular. But why is he reminding the public of that? The plain answer is that he has no other options. There is no getting around the president’s failure on the economy or the unpopularity of his policies. So the only way to spin those numbers is to depict the president as a man who follows his gut instead of the polls.
How to tell the president has nothing to run on? Just read the New York Times’s editorialon Obama’s speech. Its headline? “President Obama’s Second Chance.” The president, so fond of golf, wants a mulligan. And trying to turn his unpopularity into a virtue is his last shot at getting that second chance.

CSIS releases report on scenarios for attacking Iran


elder of ziyon/ The Center for Strategic and International studies just released a report detailing a number of scenarios of either the US or Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. Here’s the executive summary:
• Over the past couple of months, speculation about a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities has made headlines around the globe. This report addresses how the U.S.  could take the lead in carrying out a preventive  Military Strike against Iran If all peaceful options have been exhausted and Iran has left no other means to convince it to stop or change its course in pursuing nuclear weapons . It also examines how the US could provide a defense umbrella against any Iranian air and  missile retaliation that would be aimed at U.S. military targets and allies in the region, in particular the GCC states.
• A key question arises is what should the objectives of a military strike be? To halt the Iranian nuclear program? To set it back five years or for one year? This criteria is the key to defining the force allocation required to achieve a successful mission against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
• The study shows that the initial strike should be against key Iranian nuclear enrichment and research facilities, ballistic missile basis located around the country, numerous mobile ballistic missile launchers dispersed around Iran and main ballistic missile production facilities. At the same time, it shows that the payloads required to hit underground enrichment facilities with a high level of damage, to carry out the scale of initial and follow-up attacks, and providing  resources such as near real time intelligence required to detect and destroy other potentially lethal Iranian military weapons, for instance ballistic missiles that could be used in a retaliation, can only be carried out by the United States.
• An initial U.S. strike will require a large force allocation consisting of Defensive Counterair and Offensive Counterair Operations, such as the main Bomber Force, the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense System, Escort aircraft for the protection of the Bombers, Electronic Warfare for detection and jamming purposes, Fighter Sweep and Combat Air Patrol to counter any air retaliation by Iran.
• While such first strike will try to be as effective as possible, the U.S. would be the only country that has the air power, support capability, and mix of sea-air forces in the Gulf  to continue a sustained campaign over a period of time and restrike after an initial  battle damage assessment it is found that further strike sorties are required.
Several other key points are made in the analysis:
• The aging Iranian airforce will definitely be no match against the U.S. and even the GCC airforces. In addition the Iranian Air Defense systems do not have the Command Control Communications and Intelligence required to detect, track and shoot down the US advanced military combat aircraft. However U.S. planners will definitely take all operational planning precautions necessary to ensure that both the Iranian Airforce and Air Defense system are ineffective and all U.S. combat aircraft have a high probability of survival throughout.
• U.S. officials are working with allies in the Gulf to develop the capability to defeat the threat Iran poses to the Gulf, allied territory, and the flow of trade and energy exports GCC countries worry that during a crisis, Iran could try to prevent their ships from traversing the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off their oil export business.
• The only effective counter-strike capability Iran has other than asymmetric warfare in the Gulf, and the use of proxies like Hezbollah,  is their Ballistic Missile Force. A massive retaliation strike with whatever launching sites that have survived the U.S. first strike could still cause quite a considerable damage to the GCC states, in energy, finance and various other critical infrastructure centers.
• The U.S. is currently involved in building a Defensive Shield against a massive Iranian Ballistic Missile attack targeted at the GCC states. The defensive shield consists of a Multi-Tier Ballistic Missile Defense System consisting of  Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability, PAC-3, missile systems supported with the most advanced Radar and Command and Control facilities.
• Ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems have been provided to Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman, as well as stationing Aegis-equipped warships in the waters of the Arabian Gulf. The U.S. has been developing an integrated early warning radar system across the GCC states that could help U.S. and GCC forces to quickly respond to an Iranian missile attack.
• Israel does not have the capability to carry out preventive strikes that could do more than delay Iran’s efforts for  a year or two.
• Finally, the fact that US has the capability  to carry out preventive strikes does not mean it should not seek to negotiate an end to the threatening aspects of Iran’s nuclear programs. The brief shows just how dangerous any war in the Gulf could be to the world’s economy – although Iran is more vulnerable than any of its Southern Gulf neighbors.
• The U.S. also needs its Gulf allies as key partners and must consider the “law of unintended consequences.” Preventive military strikes could push the presently volatile middle east region into a war with far reaching global political, military, and economic consequences.
The report gives two scenarios for an Israeli strike. One is a conventional strike using aircraft. the other is using tactical nuclear weapons as the only means to attack the underground facilities.
It is possible that Israel will carry out a strike against Iranian Nuclear Facilities, if the U.S. does not, with the objective of either destroying the program or delaying it for some years. The success of the Strike Mission will be measured by how much of the Enrichment program has it destroyed, or the number of years it has delayed Iranian acquisition of enough Uranium or Plutonium from the Arak reactor to build a nuclear bomb.
• We conclude that a military strike by Israel against Iranian Nuclear Facilities is possible and the optimum route would be along the Syrian-Turkish border then over a small portion of Iraq then into Iran, and back the same route. However, the number of aircraft required, refueling along the way and getting to the targets without being detected or intercepted would be complex and high risk and would lack any assurances that the overall mission will have a high success rate
• The U.S. would certainly be perceived as being a part of the conspiracy and having assisted and given Israel the green light, whether it did or had no part in it whatsoever. This would undermine the U.S. objectives in increasing stability in the region and bringing about a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It will also harm for a very long period of time relations between the U.S. and its close regional allies.
• Another scenario is in using Low Yield Earth Penetrating Nuclear Weapons as a substitute for conventional weapons to attack deeply buried nuclear facilities in Iran. Some believe that these are the only weapons that can destroy targets deep underground or in tunnels.
• The U.S. would not allow any other country, even a strong ally such as Israel, to use them, unless another country had used nuclear weapons against the U.S. and its allies.
• A strike by Israel on Iran will give rise to regional instability and conflict as well as terrorism. The regional security consequences will be catastrophic.
Their conventional scenario estimates a strike force of some 95 planes.
In essence over 25% of the high end combat aircraft of Israeli Airforce and 100% of the Tankers will have to be allocated for this mission.
• One strike would not necessarily be enough to achieve the mission objectives. Strike aircraft need to return for another strike. This would put a heavy burden on the Israeli Airforce.
• We can conclude that a military strike by the Israeli Airforce against Iranian Nuclear Facilities is possible, however, it would be complex and high risk in the operational level and would lack any assurances of a high mission success rate.
• Iranian retaliation will have a devastating regional consequences. U.S. expects Israel to be responsible and not to carry out such a strike.
• Air to ground strike mission can be difficult to implement and would involve some risks. Flying on a very tight route, practically hugging the Turkish-Syrian borders. Aerial refueling along the way and avoid being detected by Turkey, Syria and the U.S. Flying down to S/L when in Iranian territory, avoid being detected by flying low and applying ECM all the way. If detected by Iranian air defense the strike formation should be prepared to encounter interceptors, and to encountering firing of
ground based SAMs.
It is a very interesting, if sobering, report.

Obama presents himself as 'tested' leader

Obama presents himself as 'tested' leader in convention speech, says ‘hope’ still alive

President Obama sought to rekindle his 2008 message of “hope” Thursday night, promising to lead America to a “better place” if they will grant him another four years in office – and dismissing his Republican opponent as someone who is not ready for the pressures of the Oval Office.

The man who four years ago ran for the highest office in the land as a first-term senator presented himself on stage at the close of the Democratic convention in Charlotte as the experienced, battle-tested choice. No longer the upstart, Obama leveraged the power of his incumbency to make his own case, as he and Mitt Romney now dive into the general election race.

“I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed – and so have I,” Obama said, after formally accepting the party’s nomination. “I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the president.” 

Obama, speaking to a backdrop of dreary economic times, urged his 2008 supporters not to lose faith. He cautioned that the vision of “hope” and “change” would only fizzle if they vote him out of office.

“If you turn away now – if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible … well, change will not happen,” Obama said. “If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void. ... Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The president stressed that he still has the “hope.”
“As I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naive about the magnitude of our challenges,” he said. “I’m hopeful because of you. … If you share that hope with me, I ask you tonight for your vote.” 

The crowd erupted in cheers as Obama was joined onstage by his family, as well as the vice president and his family, at the end of the address and the trademark convention confetti rained down on the crowd. Vice President Biden spoke before Obama, as he accepted the nomination to be the Democratic running mate.

Read more:
Bee's Note:

 If at first you don't succeed ...
Lie ... Lie again.
I did not listen to all the speeches - caught bits and pieces - and even during those brief moments, my ears began to bleed listening to the lies presented as so-called "truth".  I did listen to a portion of Obama's speech last night and what I heard was a child-like plea to America, from Obama, to please give him another chance ...please, please, please ... 
Please give Obama a second chance and 4 more years to completely send America back to the days when she was first founded; give him more time to remove the U.S. CONSTITUTION completely and allow him to become America's first dictator; allow him 4 more years to add more stimulus packages, oversee Obamacare, prepare more shovel-ready jobs; slam our ally so far into the ground, there will be no need for the Muslims/Iran to do the work of annihilating Israel; continue gifting BILLIONS to all the Islamic, non-democratic, anti-American, anti-Israel countries (for balance in the Middle East...sic.); keep attempting to convince America that "Russia is our Number One ally" (he said this last night during his speech!); and oh, don't forget, the same "hope" he promised to Americans in 2008 is the same "hope" he continues to have for America today! ... Giving Obama a second chance is like begging for a whipping, while standing by to watch him completely destroy our nation.  
Obama asked for "more time" and Americans would truly love to give him at least 40-50 years.
But, enough about my opinions ... here are the National Reviews reasons - all 689 reasons why you should not vote for Obama: 



September 6, 2012
by Barry Rubin
When the authors of the Democratic Party’s platform’s sections dealing with the Middle East—I dealt with the section on Israel in a previous article—finished it, they were no doubt quite satisfied. They felt that they had built a strong case for reelecting President Barack Obama along the following lines:
America is more secure and popular. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are on the run. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are ending. America is supporting democracy, women’s rights, and gay rights around the world. Isn’t this great leadership? How could anyone not vote for Obama?
When I read the platform I am shocked and disappointed. I can pick a bit at the issues of popularity, Afghanistan, and Iraq. But the failure to deal with revolutionary Islamism is ridiculously glaring — they didn’t use the tiniest fig leaf to cover themselves — making a mockery of the democracy and human rights pretensions. The treatment of Middle East allies is shockingly insulting. The issues of Syria and Egypt are simply dodged. There is not a single mention of the opposition in Iran. All terrorists not directly involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks are ignored. There is not the slightest hint that any Democratic regional strategy for America exists at all.
Not a single word implies that the United States is willing to help allies fight revolutionary Islamist threats. In fact, the words “Islam” and “Muslim” do not appear once, even in some discussion of good Muslims versus bad radical heretics. They could not even bring themselves to say something like: “Islam is a religion of peace but there are some extremists who wish to distort its teachings, take power, and institute repressive and anti-American dictatorships. We support our allies in defending themselves against these threats and support true democratic reformers in fighting against such oppressive forces that deny equality to women, religious minorities, and gay people.” But they didn’t even do that.
If they don’t even see the main threat at all, how can one trust such people to rule the country and provide leadership in the region?
What can American allies in the region — aside from Israel — expect from President Obama to protect them from internal revolutionaries, international terrorists, and revolutionary Islamist states? Here’s the passage in its entirety:
President Obama is committed to maintaining robust security cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council states and our other partners aimed at deterring aggression, checking Iran’s destabilizing activities, ensuring the free flow of commerce essential to the global economy, and building a regional security architecture to counter terrorism, proliferation, ballistic missiles, piracy, and other common threats.
That’s all you get Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates! How confident are you in Obama’s leadership?
Well, here’s the lead of a Reuters story on this topic that came out during the Democratic National Convention: “The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideological affiliates in the Arab Spring uprisings has stoked fears among Gulf Arab governments that the United States may one day abandon its traditional allies as it warms up to Islamists.”
Back to the platform. Let’s get the bragging out of the way first:
When President Obama took office in January 2009, our armed forces were engaged in two wars. Al- Qaeda, which had attacked us on 9/11, remained entrenched in its safe havens. Many of our alliances were strained, and our standing in the world had diminished. Around the world and here at home, there were those who questioned whether the United States was headed toward inevitable decline.
On one hand, whatever George W. Bush’s faults he had already essentially won the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (as much as that was possible) and dislodged al-Qaeda from its “safe havens.” Obama criticized the strategy that won in Iraq. So that’s a lie.
Quite true, alliances were strained, standing in the world had diminished, and there were those who asked if the United States was in inevitable decline. The problem is that, generally speaking, the situation is worse — certainly in the Middle East — in all three categories three years later.
There follows a long section on “Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq,” which credits Obama for pulling out American troops and implying that Romney and other Republicans would have left American combat troops there forever. In fact, I think it is quite fair to say that there was a consensus that the U.S. role was coming to an end. I believe a Republican president would have done precisely the same thing that Obama did. Pulling out the troops was a correct move, so Obama can claim credit for it but not as his unique idea.
The optimism about Iraq’s future is even more questionable:
Moving forward, President Obama and the Democratic Party are committed to building a robust, long- term strategic partnership with a sovereign, united, and democratic Iraq in all fields—diplomatic, economic, and security—based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
In fact, Iraq analysts discuss how difficult and dangerous the situation is in the country today and how the Obama administration has done nothing to try to make it better.
On Afghanistan we are told: Obama “refocused our efforts there in 2009, setting the clear goal of defeating al-Qaeda and denying it an ability to reestablish a safe haven in Afghanistan,” as if Bush had never thought of that idea. But in fact it also claims Obama was able to “reverse the Taliban’s momentum and to give the Afghans the time and space to build the capacity of their security forces. We have accomplished that, and now we have begun the process of bringing our troops home from Afghanistan.”
While I support the withdrawal, it is well-known among Afghan experts that the Taliban is actually doing well, that the Afghan security forces are seriously flawed, and that Obama’s administration has played footsy with the Taliban. After a U.S. withdrawal anything is possible. Also the whole problem of Pakistan’s betrayal of U.S. trust (and ample funding) is not mentioned anywhere.
The section on al-Qaeda includes legitimate Obama administration successes but can’t help but tendentiously imply that Bush was losing the war and that only Obama succeeded. The closing line of this section contains a very important hint for understanding the problem with Obama policy:
…We are committed to an unrelenting pursuit of those who would kill Americans or threaten our homeland, our allies, our partners, and our interests around the world.
This is nonsense. There is an unrelenting pursuit of al-Qaeda but hardly of terrorists attacking allies, partners, and even interests. Think: Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, Hamas, Hizballah, the Syrian regime (until it broke down in civil war), terrorist forces in Syria, and even Iran (whose operations in Iraq to kill Americans are an open secret).
Two of the most interesting of the platform’s sections deal with Iran and support for democracy. Revealingly, the discussion of Iran is under the heading “Preventing the Spread and Use of Nuclear Weapons.” In other words, it isn’t that Iran poses some special threat but is just part of the overall need to rid the world of nuclear weapons, including the American ones.
Naturally, it talks about the sanctions put on Iran — nicely sharing credit with “international powers and Congress.” But it also includes some whoppers:
When President Obama took office, Iran was ascendant in the region, and the international community was divided over how to address Iran’s nuclear violations.
Really? The fact is that Iran was hardly ascendant and the international community — except for such countries as Turkey, Russia, and China that have never changed their line — was ready for serious action. It just took Obama two long years to show leadership.
Working with our European allies and with Russia and China, the administration gained unprecedented agreement for the toughest ever UN sanctions against Iran….
That’s true but doesn’t mention that their agreement was gained by exempting them from the sanctions. The rest is pretty much standard policy that using diplomacy and pressure is best but other options including military force remain on the table.
The problem, though, is that Iran is never addressed as a strategic problem, involving its wider strategy of subversion and seeking regional hegemony. That is a big weakness in Obama policy, for example not mentioning Iran’s sponsorship of anti-American terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere. Why? Because this might add pressure to do something about Iran and also bringing up the dreaded subject of radical Islamism and the fact that Tehran leads a bloc of allies that Obama was reluctant to touch.
Finally, there is a section extolling the kind of policy that the very same people would have ridiculed and reviled (and not incorrectly, by the way) a couple of years ago as Bush’s “neo-conservatism”:
Across the Middle East and North Africa, we have stood with the people demanding political change and seeking their rights during the Arab Spring. Since the beginning of the protests in Tunisia, the United States has consistently opposed violence against innocent civilians, supported a set of universal rights for the people of the region, and supported processes of political and economic reform. When the Egyptian people flooded Tahrir Square in Cairo demanding democracy, the administration actively engaged the Egyptian government, military, and people in support of a transition away from decades of dictatorship and towards democracy.
What can one say? The administration pushed out an allied government, then pressed against America’s best friends there, and helped produced a “democracy” that is hourly now headed toward being an anti-American dictatorship. There is no hint of any of these problems. And by the way — let’s make this clear — the administration didn’t just support the moderate liberal reformers but the anti-democratic Islamists. Incidentally, do any of those “universal rights” contradict Sharia law?
There’s a sentence on Libya (a relative success story) and Yemen (a disaster but what else is new?). Most interesting is the discussion of Iran and Syria.
Here is Iran, officially declared by the United States as the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, a country murdering Americans in Iraq and elsewhere, and a place where a massive opposition has been crushed. So what does the platform say about that?
In Iran, President Obama spoke out in support of the pro-democracy protestors and imposed human rights sanctions on the Iranian government.
Yes, that’s it. What human rights sanctions? How about: We support the Iranian people in struggling against and overthrowing a brutal dictatorship. And by the way, we’re sorry we didn’t say anything when the regime stole the election and shot down demonstrators in the street but instead congratulated President Ahmadinejad on his reelection.
Concerning Syria:
We have led the international community to politically and economically isolate the regime, to increase pressure on President Assad to step down, and to provide assistance to unify the Syrian opposition in order to enable a stable transition. Moving forward, we will work to hasten the end of the Assad regime and support a political transition to a stable and democratic Syria.
Or, in other words, we acted as if Assad was our good buddy for more than two years and flattered him, then when we had to we finally recognized what he was like and we are giving guns to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists to take over. Oh yes and we organized a transitional council dominated by anti-American Islamists.
Oh, I forgot they cannot talk about revolutionary Islamism.
If you want to talk about a war on women, note that the platform has a whole section of vague promises about “Standing up for Women’s Rights around the Globe” followed by one on “Gay Rights as Human Rights.” Given the failure to deal with the treatment of women and gays (not to mention Christians) by Islamists, this is a joke. Radical Islamism trumps everything including “universal values.”
Let us imagine a party platform in, say, 1950, that didn’t mention Communism, devoted just a few sentences to the USSR, ignored supporting the liberation of the satellite states, and put forward no strategy for dealing with this challenge. Liberals and Democrats  met the challenge of the Cold War. They are not facing up to this one.
At first glance and to the general public, the Middle East and international affairs sections of the Democratic platform might seem impressive. In fact, they show an administration while it can claim some credits — often for merely continuing predecessors’ policies — is going to be extremely dangerous if it rules for four more years.
Thumbnail and image courtesy shutterstock /  Wil Tilroe-Otte

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Should Israel bet the farm on US promises?


September 5th, 2012
Recently, Israel’s security cabinet met for 10 hours to discuss, among other things, Iran. Details of  the meeting were secret, but
It is likely that among the issues discussed were the “red lines” that Israel would like the United States to establish as a way of deterring Iran from moving ahead. While Netanyahu has not publicly declared what he thinks those red lines should be, Uzi Arad, the former head of the National Security Council, said that they could include a declaration that any uranium enrichment beyond 20 percent would be a direct trigger for military action.
Arad, in an Israel Radio interview, said other possible red lines could be the discovery of additional uranium enrichment plants – like the once secret facilities at Natanz and Fordow – or the interference with the work of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
In addition, Arad said that the US has not yet spoken in “categorical terms” making crystal clear its determination to stop the Iranian nuclear march.
An example of this, he said, would be clearer presidential declarations to the effect that the US will not tolerate or allow a nuclear Iran, and will use all means to prevent it.
Other “categorical” expressions of this determination, Arad said, could be congressional authorization now of the use of force if diplomacy fails to convince the Iranians to halt, and a clear statement that the military objective of any US action would not be to “buy time,” but rather to prevent Iran from ever being able to build a nuclear bomb.
There is also this, from an AP report:
After tense exchanges with the Americans, Israeli political and defense officials said Tuesday that the sides are now working closely together in hopes of getting their positions in sync. Clearer American assurances on what pressure it is prepared to use against Iran, including possible military action, would reduce the need for Israel to act alone, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a security matter.

I hope that this does not represent the thinking of Israeli policymakers. It is imperative to deal with reality as it is, not as we would wish it to be. And reality is 1) that only military action or acredible threat thereof will stop Iran from developing deliverable nuclear bombs, and 2) that an Obama administration, or even a Romney administration, is highly unlikely to provide this.
A strategy of stopping Iran by getting the US to promise to enforce red lines is only a promise; and nations — the US is not alone in this — do not keep promises when doing so is not determined to be in their interest.

Here is an example. In 2004, the US was very interested that Israel carry out its proposed withdrawal from the Gaza strip. President Bush wrote a letter to then-PM Ariel Sharon — I would link to the original, but it has been removed from the White House website — promising that
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949…

Israeli officials insisted that there was also an informal agreement that this would be understood as allowing construction in settlements located in areas that Israel intended to keep in any proposed agreement with the Palestinians.
By 2008, even the Bush Administration was backing away:
National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, at a news briefing in January [2008], suggested that Bush’s 2004 letter was aimed at helping Sharon win domestic approval for the Gaza withdrawal. “The president obviously still stands by that letter of April of 2004, but you need to look at it, obviously, in the context of which it was issued,” he said.
The Obama Administration finished the job in 2009:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected Israeli assertions that the Bush administration had reached a binding agreement with Israel on Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
“We have the negotiating record, that is the official record that was turned over to the Obama administration by the outgoing Bush administration,” Clinton said Friday at a joint press conference with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.
“There is no memorialization of any informal or oral agreement” concerning the settlements, she said.
Since coming to office in January, President Barack Obama has repeatedly called on Israel to halt all settlement activity in Palestinian areas, a demand rejected by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israelis say they received commitments from the previous US administration of President George W. Bush permitting some growth in existing settlements.
They say the US position was laid out in a 2004 letter from Bush to then Israeli premier Ariel Sharon.
Clinton rejected that claim, saying any such US stance was informal and “did not become part of the official position of the United States government.”

Is this the kind of promise-keeping that a nation can bet its existence on? I don’t think so.