Archive for May, 2011

Sometimes a member of the privileged class sinks so deeply into unintentional self-parody that you have to wonder how he or she can even think those thoughts, let alone give them voice or commit them to paper.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

I’m referring to the words of French philosopher and sophisticate Bernard-Henri Lévy in Tina Brown’s “The Daily Beast”, about sexual assault allegations against the aristocratic socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund.

This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering [DSK] to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.

There is a hint of an echo of a legitimate point hiding in Lévy’s astonishingly tin-eared statement.  The custom of the “perp walk” has evolved into a powerful and sometimes abusive tool used by prosecutors to undercut the presumption of innocence.  But that’s not the point BHL is trying to make.

Jonah Goldberg had the best rebuttal I’ve seen:

I count myself blessed to live in a country where a poor maid from Guinea can have the head of the IMF dragged off a plane “simply” because she offered credible evidence she was sexually assaulted.

Jonah goes on to point out that America has its own history of making excuses for the powerful, citing Ted Kennedy at Chappaquiddick and the serial philanderings and sexual harassment allegedly committed by Bill Clinton.

But to me the most striking example is one that Jonah does not mention: film director Roman Polanski, who was arrested in 2009 after 32 years as a fugitive from justice.  Hollywood and the left in general rallied around the famous director, most outrageously in the person of Whoopi Goldberg, who said on “The View”:

I know it wasn’t rape-rape. It was something else but I don’t believe it was rape-rape.

Really?  According to contemporaneous grand jury testimony by the 13-year-old victim, Polanski gave her champagne and a quaalude, and then had penetrative sexual contact despite her repeated protests.  I’d love to hear Whoopi explain what exactly distinguishes that from “rape-rape.”

Back to DSK, whom Mark Steyn lumps in with Timothy Geithner, the tax cheat who was confirmed to oversee the IRS because a liberal president “needed” him.  Steyn says the two episodes provide

a glimpse of the widening gulf between the government class and their subjects in a post-prosperity West. Neither Geithner nor Strauss-Kahn has ever created a dime of wealth in his life. They have devoted their careers to “public service,” and thus are in the happy position of rarely if ever having to write a personal check. At the Sofitel in New York, DSK was in a $3,000-per-night suite. Was the IMF picking up the tab? If so, you the plucky U.S. taxpayer paid around 550 bucks of that, whereas Strauss-Kahn’s fellow Frenchmen put up less than $150.

Even if the charges against DSK are never proved, the fact that the head of an intergovernmental agency that makes development loans to poor countries thinks it’s OK to stay in a $3,000 hotel suite is a scandal in its own right.  As Jon Stewart said of the fact that DSK posted cash bail of $1 million, “How does the head of the International Monetary Fund get that kind of… well, there goes Nigeria’s mosquito net money.”

 

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-05-16/bernard-henri-lvy-the-dominique-strauss-kahn-i-know/

Playing Chicken With the Debt Ceiling

Early August is the latest estimate for when the U.S. government will max out its credit cards and reach its $14.3 trillion debt limit.  Specifically, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says the limit will be reached on August 2, which reminds me of a sure-fire gag line.  Next time a pregnant woman tells you her baby is due August 2, or any specific date, ask her “what time?”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

The Obama Administration and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke both say it is essential to raise the debt limit, and various partisans raise the specter of calamity if the U.S. defaults on its debt payments.  Yesterday’s Washington Post reminds us that both sides are capable of resorting to such talk, quoting Ronald Reagan in 1973:

“The full consequences of a default – or even the serious prospect of default – by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar.”

The “serious prospect of default” is a nice touch, recognizing the reality that an actual default is extremely unlikely.  On the Wall Street Journal‘s always-worthwhile (and free) “Opinion Journal Live” podcast at the top of this post, editorial board member Mary Kissel notes,

“There’s nobody serious in Washington, either on the Republican side or on the Democratic side, who’s going to let the U.S. default on its debt.  It would be simply far too catastrophic, not just for the U.S. markets but for global markets.”

As Kissel goes on to describe, House Speaker John Boehner and top Republicans are insisting that deep spending cuts will be the price for GOP support for raising the debt ceiling.  The Republicans are playing a strong hand, as polls show that Americans who say they have enough information to understand the issue oppose raising the ceiling by more than 2 to 1.  That gap will narrow as more people focus on the dangers of a default, which truly would be horrific.

But here’s an official “All That Is Necessary” prediction:  Between now and August 2, the administration will announce that it has found ways to push that deadline back.  In the meantime, the center of gravity of the debate on spending cuts and taxes will continue to move to the right.

Osama White House celebrationThe Rev. Bernard Poppe, my priest and friend, is more liberal than I am.  (Ditto for 98% of his flock at St. George’s Episcopal, in the deep blue town of Maplewood, NJ.)  So when Bernie started his sermon on Sunday by indicating he had mixed feelings about the death of Osama bin Laden, I was prepared to sit politely in silent disagreement.

But I found I had no quarrel with anything he said.

He said he was pleased at the news bin Laden had been killed — but then appalled by the tenor of the celebration in front of the White House and elsewhere.  He questioned his own motives: “I’m not supposed to rejoice  at anybody’s death.” He was unpersuaded by the notion that bin Laden had been “brought to justice,” because justice implies due process and an opportunity to mount a defense.  The celebrations made it seem more like vengeance than justice.  I hope I am accurately reflecting what he said — Father Poppe sometimes posts his sermons online, but this one was delivered without notes.

Father Poppe

I also reject the “brought to justice” formulation, although my reasons probably differ from Bernie’s.  The idea that the fight against Islamic jihadism is a war, not a law-enforcement issue, is a well-established conservative meme — I’ve written about it here, here and especially here.  Bin Laden declared war on America in 1996, but our government did not acknowledge that we were at war until that awful day in 2001.  Much of the Left still has not acknowledged it, although President Obama, to his immense credit, has.

My faith teaches me that Osama bin Laden was a child of God and a sinner — and that he shared those traits with me.  Few people in recent history have more fully earned a double-tap to the forehead, and yet hatred and the lust for vengeance are ugly emotions that lead to bad places.  It’s appropriate for a minister to remind us of these things.

But if we are not to celebrate death, and if we reject the law-enforcement model, I still believe there is reason to rejoice in the success of the Navy SEALs.  We cheer not for vengeance or justice, but for victory.  We did not start this war, and it is not over, but our side has won an enormously important battle.  I think we can celebrate in good conscience.

Props to the Prez for Getting bin Laden

Got it done.

I’ve been highly critical of President Obama in the past, and I have no doubt that I will be again.  I’m opposed to essentially his entire domestic agenda, and I hope to help vote him out of office 18 months from now.

However.

On the foreign affairs and national security front, Obama’s performance has been a mixed bag — which is to say, much better than on domestic matters.  After the newly elected President retained Bush’s defense secretary, I started tagging some of my posts with Bush’s Third Term.  Obama went on to allow the Iraq war to stay won, and properly escalated in Afghanistan.  (I’m puzzled by Libya, but hoping for the best.)

For at least the next 20 months, Obama is my president, and on some level I wish him well — particularly in his role as commander-in-chief.  I have nothing but contempt for Rush Limbaugh’s pre-election “I hope he fails” rhetoric, or for his sarcasm in the wake of Obama’s success this week.

The 1980 debacle at Desert One

The SEALS did the most dangerous part of the mission, of course, but don’t underestimate the danger Obama stared down in giving the green light. The mission went off flawlessly — but there was no guarantee of that.  The compound could have been more heavily defended, multiple helicopters could have been lost.  It’s not hard to imagine an outcome like Desert One in 1980, which cost eight American lives and contributed to Jimmy Carter’s defeat.

The safer route would have been to have a Predator launch a missile into the compound — zero chance of American casualties, and presumably 100% casualties in the compound.  But that would have meant the death of multiple women and children, and no guarantee that bin Laden would subsequently be identified.

Despite the risks, despite not being certain that bin Laden was even in the compound, Obama signed off on the mission.  It could have ended badly, but it did not, and Obama deserves enormous credit for a landmark victory in the war against Islamic fascism.  Congratulations, Mr. President, and thank you.

Now about that healthcare bill…

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He shaved before Obama's speech

A teacher in Washington state found a unique way to keep the memory of the 9/11 attacks alive:

Weddle has wanted to cut his beard for years. His wife, Donita, has wanted him to cut it, too. But for Weddle a vow is a vow and so he hadn’t even trimmed it until Sunday night.
Weddle was a substitute teacher in Wenatchee when the infamous al-Qaeda terrorist attack occurred on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 3,000 Americans.

Weddle was so caught up in the news that he neglected to shave. A week or so later, he vowed not to shave until bin Laden was captured or proven dead. He figured it would just be a month or two.

Looking like that, he would have been ill-advised to visit Pakistan. (H/T: Neo)

Oh yes, commentary… I’ve been more focused on reading than on writing.

Obviously it’s a huge victory for Obama, who deserves credit not just for authorizing the raid, but for insisting on putting boots on the ground rather than just firing a missile from a drone.  In addition to ensuring that Osama is actually dead, the commandos apparently scooped up every computer and thumb drive they could find. Apparently hundreds of analysts are pouring through the captured files now, although why some official thought it was a good idea to leak that fact is beyond me.

Delighted though I am in the outcome, I have to say I thought Obama’s flowery speech Sunday night was a bit unseemly in its striving to take credit for the achievement.  When Saddam was captured, President Bush left it to the local ambassador to make the announcement.

Pakistan has a lot of explaining to do.

Finally, chalk up yet another outstanding mission for the Navy SEALS. I may get in trouble with my son for saying this, but how did the Navy end up being the go-to service for elite snipers and commandos?  Wouldn’t you expect that it would be the Marines or Army?

Hey, I wonder what I’d look like if I grew my beard really long…

1979