D. O’Connor writes: A little over 40 years ago, Richard Nixon went from a landslide re-election winner to a president forced to resign in disgrace. Nixon’s downfall was the direct result of his unsuccessful attempts to politicize through patronage of an independent, straight-arrow FBI. The commonsense, ethical lesson from this for all government officials would be to avoid attempts to use our nation’s independent fact-finder as a partisan force.
There is as well, of course, a more perverse lesson to be learned from Nixon’s downfall at the hands of an independent FBI, to wit: there is much power to gain by politicizing the Bureau, but only if its upper-leadership team is all on partisan board. Emerging evidence increasingly suggests, sadly, that this was former FBI Director James Comey’s leadership strategy in our country’s most sensitive investigations.
In the years running up to the 1972 election, Deputy Associate FBI Director Mark Felt, serving under feisty bulldog J. Edgar Hoover, staunchly refused the entreaties of Nixon lieutenants to act politically, e.g., to whitewash an ITT/Republican bribery scheme and to lock up innocent war protestors. Felt, the natural successor to Hoover, fell out of White House favor as a result.
Following the death of Hoover in May 1972, Nixon appointed in place of Felt the decent but politically malleable L. Patrick Gray. When six weeks later five burglars were arrested in the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, Nixon’s Justice Department tried to limit, through Gray, the scope of the FBI’s investigation. Unfortunately for Nixon, regular Bureau agents, led quietly but spectacularly by Felt, fought these attempts, with a far worse result for Nixon than if the Bureau had been left alone to do its job. Read the rest of this entry »
FISA Memo Is Scarier than Watergate.
Victor Davis Hanson write: The Watergate scandal of 1972–74 was uncovered largely because of outraged Democratic politicians and a bulldog media. They both claimed that they had saved American democracy from the Nixon administration’s attempt to warp the CIA and FBI to cover up an otherwise minor, though illegal, political break-in.
In the Iran-Contra affair of 1985–87, the media and liberal activists uncovered wrongdoing by some rogue members of the Reagan government. They warned of government overreach and of using the “Deep State” to subvert the law for political purposes.
We are now in the midst of a third great modern scandal. Members of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice sought court approval for the surveillance of Carter Page, allegedly for colluding with Russian interests, and extended the surveillance three times.
But none of these government officials told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the warrant requests were based on an unverified dossier that had originated as a hit piece funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump during the current 2016 campaign.
Nor did these officials reveal that the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele, had already been dropped as a reliable source by the FBI for leaking to the press.
Nor did officials add that a Department of Justice official, Bruce Ohr, had met privately with Steele — or that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, had been hired to work on the dossier.
Unfortunately, such disclosures may be only the beginning of the FISA-gate scandal.
Members of the Obama administration’s national security team also may have requested the names of American citizens connected with the Trump campaign who had been swept up in other FISA surveillance. Those officials may have then improperly unmasked the names and leaked them to a compliant press — again, for apparent political purposes during a campaign.
The agency’s response to a freedom of information request submitted by The Wall Street Journal doesn’t exclude the possibility that recordings could have been created by another entity.
In recent days, the two men have offered differing accounts of whether Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey in private conversations within the White House complex to ease off the FBI’s probe of former national security adviser Mike Flynn.
On Friday, Mr. Trump kept the tapes mystery alive, telling reporters in the White House Rose Garden, “I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future.” He added, “Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.” Read the rest of this entry »
Obama, Trump and Surveillance
James Freeman reports: Another day brings another series of tweets from President Trump that have his opponents—and even some of his allies—expressing shock and outrage. In one particularly incendiary missive this morning Mr. Trump wrote, “ James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” It’s no surprise that Mr. Trump is once again dominating the news via Twitter, but reporters might also want to pay attention to presidential use of a much more powerful set of electronic tools.
Mr. Trump’s political skills have been repeatedly underestimated, including by your humble correspondent. But at the risk of being proven wrong again, the prediction here is that Mr. Trump will fail if he thinks he’s going to prevent the former FBI director from conducting effective media relations. This is Mr. Comey’s core competency.
Democrats expressed shock. “For a president who baselessly accused his predecessor of illegally wiretapping him, that Mr. Trump would suggest that he, himself, may have engaged in such conduct is staggering,” said Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “The president should immediately provide any such recordings to Congress or admit, once again, to have made a deliberately misleading — and in this case threatening — statement.”
Mr. Schiff also took to Twitter on Friday to add: “Mr. President, if there are ‘tapes’ relevant to the Comey firing, it’s because you made them and they should be provided to Congress.”
So the ranking Democrat on the House intel committee clearly seems to be concerned about the possibility that a president would record the conversations of a subordinate in the executive branch. Rep. Schiff also spent years in Congress professing to be deeply concerned about government collection of telephone metadata, which did not even include the content of any conversations. So it would clearly follow that if the executive branch were spying on the Congress and a president’s political opposition, Mr. Schiff would be horrified.
Yet Mr. Schiff’s Twitter followers are still awaiting comment on yesterday’s report from a congressional colleague suggesting that’s exactly what happened. Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) appeared on Fox News Thursday afternoon and said that a Senate colleague “confided to me that he was surveilled by the Obama Administration, including his phone calls.” Read the rest of this entry »
It’s the 106th birthday of Ronald Reagan, and since he was one of the most widely recognized world leaders, it’s not hard to find some interesting facts about the 40th president.
Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois. Reagan had a long career as an actor and union leader before he became the governor of California in the 1960s and won presidential elections in 1980 and 1984.
Here are 10 facts about President Reagan you may not know.
1. Reagan really did enjoy jelly beans. According to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, his favorite flavor was licorice. Reagan started eating jelly beans in 1967 as he was trying to quit a pipe-smoking habit. He switched to Jelly Bellies a decade later.
2. One food that Reagan didn’t like was brussels sprouts. This is according to the Reagan Library website. In her autobiography, Nancy Reagan said her husband wasn’t a fussy eater since he traveled on the public speaking circuit for decades, but he also didn’t like tomatoes.
3. Reagan’s nickname of “Dutch” was given to him at an early age by his family. Reagan’s ancestry is Irish on his father’s side and Scots-English on his mother’s side. The name came from his childhood haircut, among other things.
4. The future President’s last movie role was in the 1964 release, The Killers. Based on an Ernest Hemingway story, it was Reagan’s only role as a villain in a film, and it was the first made-for-TV movie. However, The Killers was considered too violent for TV, and released to movie theaters instead.
5. The future President lost partial hearing in one ear when he was hurt on a movie set in the late 1930s, after a gun was fired next to his ear. Decades later, President Reagan wrote to Michael Jackson offering his support after Jackson was burned filming a TV commercial.
6. Ronald Reagan started out in life as a Democrat and supported the New Deal efforts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Reagan officially became a Republican in 1962, but he had grown more conservative during the 1950s as he toured as a General Electric spokesman.
7. Reagan was not the original choice to star in “Casablanca,” instead of Humphrey Bogart. The urban legend over the issue is documented on snopes.com, and it started with a paragraph in a Warner Brothers’ press release issued before the movie was made. Bogart was always expected to play the lead role. Read the rest of this entry »
10 fascinating facts about Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon was one of the best-known American politicians of the 20th century’s second half, and one of the most controversial. So how much do you know about the 37th President on the occasion of his birthday?
Nixon burst on to the political scene just after World War II, when he won seats in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate from California. His political career ended in August 1974, with his historic resignation during the Watergate scandal.
In between, Nixon became one of the most famous figures in the world and fixture in national politics. Here are a few things you may, or may not know, about his roller coaster career.
1. Nixon and Franklin Roosevelt are the only two people to appear on a national presidential ticket five times. Nixon won election in four of the five races, as did FDR. Nixon was the winning vice presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956, and he won the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections. Roosevelt won four presidential elections and lost as a vice presidential candidate in 1920.
2. Nixon had a chance to attend Harvard but had to decline. As a student, Richard Nixon was third in his class and was offered a tuition grant to Harvard, but he was needed at home by his family.
3. He was also an outstanding law student. After graduating from Whittier College in California, Nixon received a full scholarship to Duke Law and he graduated third in his class.
4. Nixon was a lieutenant commander in the Navy during World War II. He served in a variety of administrative positions, but didn’t see combat during his time in the Pacific.
5. Richard Nixon almost became an FBI agent in the 1930s. Nixon applied to the agency but never heard back about his application. He has been accepted but then budget cuts eliminated his position.
6. Nixon was only 39 years old when he ran for vice president in 1952.Presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower didn’t have a preference for a running mate, and party leaders favor Nixon for his anti-Communist stance and his strength in California.
7. Nixon survived two potentially fatal political losses in 1960 and 1962. Defeats in the presidential campaign against John F. Kennedy and the 1962 Californian governor’s race led many political observers to predict Nixon’s career was over. Within six years, he was President after winning a hard-fought campaign in 1968. Read the rest of this entry »
The Pauline Kael Award Goes To… The Left
Charlotte Hays writes: The other day, when a friend who is old enough to have matured past her Bernie Sanders infatuation—but hasn’t—said to me with a mixture of awe and disdain that I was the only person she knew who voted for Trump, she put me in mind of the New York film critic Pauline Kael. “I can’t believe Nixon won,” Kael is famously supposed to have remarked of Richard Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972. “I don’t know anyone who voted for him.”
As likely the only out-of-the-closet Trump voter in my trendy Adams-Morgan neighborhood in Northwest Washington D.C., I feel it is my right and solemn duty to bestow upon some unsuspecting worthy the Pauline Kael Award for 2016. Only problem is, there aren’t enough Paulies to go around this year. The competition is fierce. But a few contenders stand out:
“If your social circles are like mine,” Brooks wrote, “You spent Tuesday night swapping miserable texts. Not all, but many of my friends and family members were outraged, stunned, disgusted and devastated. This is victory for white supremacy, people wrote, for misogyny, nativism and authoritarianism. Fascism is descending.”
Further demonstrating his gift for unintended humor, Mr. Brooks professed himself to be “humbled and taught by this horrific election result.” How humbled? In the column, Brooks goes on to humbly offer himself and like-minded thought leaders (his social circle?) as being graciously available to pick up the pieces when Trump resigns or is impeached, which Brooks humbly predicted would happen within a year, thus sending all those chastened Trump yahoos back into their hollows so that Brooks and his ilk can redesign American politics.
“The job for the rest of us,” Brooks argued without a trace of irony or self-awareness, “is to rebind the fabric of society, community by community, and to construct a political movement for the post-Trump era. I suspect the coming political movements will be identified on two axes: open and closed and individual and social.” Humble pie this is not. Read the rest of this entry »
Who is Michael Collins?
Neil Armstrong may have been the first person to walk on the moon, but he wasn’t the only astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission; someone had to stay onboard the ship.
Molly Fosco writes: Michael Collins is one of three astronauts that were aboard the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. You’re probably a little more familiar with the other two astronauts from the mission, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. That’s because Collins is the only one that didn’t get to actually walk on the moon, which is why he’s sometimes referred to as the “forgotten astronaut.”
Collins was the command module pilot on Apollo 11 so he stayed behind to man the spacecraft while Armstrong and Aldrin took their famous moonwalk. Ultimately, this means that Collins isn’t a household name, but he’s still a very important part of space history. Read the rest of this entry »
The departure of Mr Ailes could have an impact on the Republican party. Supremely well connected, he has helped shape the Republican agenda for more than a decade.
Roger Ailes is heading for the exit at Fox News Channel, the influential cable network beloved by American conservatives, with Rupert Murdoch and his sons in agreement that he should leave amid allegations of sexual harassment.
“Three of Fox News’ biggest stars — Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren — have clauses in their contracts that would allow them to depart if Mr Ailes were to leave the network…”
The timing and terms of the departure of the man who turned Fox News into a media and political powerhouse were unclear on Tuesday evening. Mr Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the channel’s parent company, and Lachlan, his older son and co-chairman, would prefer to wait until after this week’s Republican convention, two people briefed on the matter told the Financial Times.
James Murdoch, Mr Murdoch’s younger son and chief executive, was pushing for Mr Ailes to go as soon as possible, those people said.
Late on Tuesday, the Drudge Report said that Mr Ailes had left Fox News with a $40m severance package. 21st Century Fox denied the report in a tweeted statement, saying: “Roger is at work. The review is ongoing. The only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”
“In another blow to Mr Ailes, New York magazine reported on Tuesday that Megyn Kelly, arguably Fox News’ biggest star, told lawyers leading the internal investigation that Mr Ailes had sexually harassed her a decade ago. 21st Century Fox declined to comment on the report and Fox News referred queries to its parent company.”
In 2012, the last year for which Mr Ailes’ pay was disclosed in the company’s proxy filing, he earned a total of $21m, including a $5m salary. Read the rest of this entry »
At an awards ceremony, Obama praises journalists. Back in the White House, he blocks honest press queries with all his power.
Jack Shafer writes: The last person in the world who should be lecturing journalists on how to do journalism is President Barack Obama. Yet there Obama was Monday night at a journalism award ceremony, yodeling banalities about the role of a press in a free society, moaning over the dangers posed by “he said/she said” reporting, and—to the delight of the assembled audience—attacking Donald Trump in every way but name.
“The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration.”
— Leonard Downie Jr. in a Committee to Protect Journalists report
The press-heavy crowd, convened by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications to give the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting to Alec MacGillis, clapped at Obama’s 30-minute address, encouraging his best Trump-baiting lines about “free media” and the dangers of “false equivalence.”
At the awards dinner for Syracuse’s Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, President Barack Obama lectured the media and their responsibilities toward an informed electorate.
What they should have done is bombard Obama with rotten fruit or ripped him with raspberries for his hypocrisy.
“Shame on Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for allowing Obama—a documented opponent of the press—to pontificate on journalistic practice.”
How do we hate Obama’s treatment of the press? Let me count the ways. Under his administration, the U.S. government has set a new record for withholding Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a recent Associated Press investigation.
FOIA gives the public and press an irreplaceable view into the workings of the executive branch. Without timely release of government documents and data, vital questions can’t be answered and stories can’t be written.
“The only press award he has any business awarding is a special commendation to Trump, thanking him for making Obama look like a free-speech radical by comparison.”
Obama’s “Insider Threat Program” has turned employees across the government—from the Peace Corps to the Social Security Administration to the Department of Agriculture—into information-squelching snitches. If this isn’t Trumpian behavior, I don’t know what is.
“What makes Obama’s speech so unstomachable is the way he praises reporters at an award ceremony by calling their work ‘indispensable,’ ‘incredible,’ ‘worth honoring’ and essential to democracy while simultaneously blocking honest press queries with all the formidable energies of his office.”
“Obama hates the press,” New York Times national security reporter James Risen said not long ago, “and he hates leaks.” AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee has decried the “day-to-day intimidation of sources” by the Obama administration, judging it worse than the Bush administration on that score. And in a 2013 piece, POLITICO’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen documented Obama’s mastery of “limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.”
As ProPublica has reported, at the same time the Obama administration has been paying lip service to protecting whistleblowers, it has pursued national security leaks to the press with a vehemence unmatched by any previous administration, using the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who leak to journalists more times than all previous administrations combined. Read the rest of this entry »
People who asked for records under the Freedom of Information Act received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, setting a record.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration set a record for the number of times its federal employees told disappointed citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn’t find a single page requested under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a new Associated Press analysis of government data.
“It’s incredibly unfortunate when someone waits months, or perhaps years, to get a response to their request – only to be told that the agency can’t find anything.”
— Adam Marshall, an attorney with the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
In more than one in six cases, or 129,825 times, government searchers said they came up empty-handed last year. Such cases contributed to an alarming measurement: People who asked for records under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, also a record. In the first full year after President Barack Obama’s election, that figure was only 65 percent of cases.
“It seems like they’re doing the minimal amount of work they need to do. I just don’t believe them. I really question the integrity of their search.”
— Jason Leopold, an investigative reporter at Vice News and a leading expert on the records law
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday he was not familiar with the figures showing how routinely the government said it can’t find any records, although the Justice Department also highlighted them in its own performance report. Earnest said federal employees work diligently on such requests, and renewed his earlier complaint that the U.S. records law has never applied to Congress since it was signed into law 50 years ago by President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat.
“Congress writes the rules and they write themselves out of being accountable,” Earnest said. He urged reporters “to continue the pressure that you have applied to Congress to encourage them to subject themselves to the same kinds of transparency rules that they insist other government agencies follow.”
The new data represents the final figures on the subject that will be released during Obama’s presidency. Obama has said his administration is the most transparent ever.
The FBI couldn’t find any records in 39 percent of cases, or 5,168 times. The Environmental Protection Agency regional office that oversees New York and New Jersey couldn’t find anything 58 percent of the time. U.S. Customs and Border Protection couldn’t find anything in 34 percent of cases.
“It’s incredibly unfortunate when someone waits months, or perhaps years, to get a response to their request – only to be told that the agency can’t find anything,” said Adam Marshall, an attorney with the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
It was impossible to know whether more requests last year involved non-existent files or whether federal workers were searching less than diligently before giving up to consider a case closed. The administration said it completed a record 769,903 requests, a 19 percent increase over the previous year despite hiring only 283 new full-time workers on the issue, or about 7 percent. The number of times the government said it couldn’t find records increased 35 percent over the same period.
“It seems like they’re doing the minimal amount of work they need to do,” said Jason Leopold, an investigative reporter at Vice News and a leading expert on the records law. “I just don’t believe them. I really question the integrity of their search.”
In some high-profile instances, usually after news organizations filed expensive federal lawsuits, the Obama administration found tens of thousands of pages after it previously said it couldn’t find any. The website Gawker sued the State Department last year after it said it couldn’t find any emails that Philippe Reines, an aide to Hillary Clinton and former deputy assistant secretary of state, had sent to journalists. After the lawsuit, the agency said it found 90,000 documents about correspondence between Reines and reporters. In one email, Reines wrote to a reporter, “I want to avoid FOIA,” although Reines’ lawyer later said he was joking. Read the rest of this entry »
What did he know and when did he know it? The immortal question about Richard Nixon and Watergate should be posed to Barack Obama about Syria. What and when did he know about Vladimir Putin’s axis-of-evil coalition?
Michael Goodwin writes: The significance is not limited to Syria. The question goes to the heart of the Iran nuclear deal, especially the timing of the congressional votes.
Imagine Obama trying to sell the Iran deal now. With Russia, Iran and Iraq working together to muscle the United States aside and defend Bashar al-Assad, the president couldn’t possibly argue that the nuke deal would help stabilize the Middle East. Nor could he argue that Russia could be trusted to help enforce restrictions on Iran.
The strong likelihood that Obama would have lost the Iran vote if Congress knew then what the world knows now suggests the possibility the president concealed the Russian plan until the Iran deal was done. That view fits with his single-minded determination to get a deal at any price, including making key concessions and downplaying Iranian threats to Israel and the United States.
After all that, what’s another lie?
That view is also supported by the chronology, which reveals strong evidence the president hid the truth.
For much of September, reports of Russia moving soldiers and military equipment into Syria invariably said the Pentagon was “puzzled” or the White House was “unclear” about Putin’s intent. Obama declared on Sept. 11 that whatever the dictator’s plan, it was “doomed to fail.”
The claims of fuzziness about Syria allowed Obama to keep the focus on his push to sell the Iran pact to Congress. He touted Russia’s support, vowed to impose “snapback” sanctions if Iran cheated and said he would work to stop the mullahs’ regional aggressions.
His arguments and arm-twisting kept 42 Senate Democrats in line, enough to save the deal. Yet soon after opponents lost their final vote, on Sept. 17, Russia revealed that it would lead a coalition of Iran and Iraq to intervene militarily to save the Assad regime. Read the rest of this entry »
Are we conservative? It’s a question worth asking.
Christopher Bedford writes: When the biggest-drawing presidential candidate is a socialist, when the Republican front-runner is a reality TV star, it’s worth wondering if we ever really were. We: The Americans.
“So two months before John F. Kennedy would defeat Richard M. Nixon, 90 or so young men and women gathered at the Sharon, Connecticut estate of their young leader, William F. Buckley, to declare, ‘In this time of moral and political crises, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths.'”
Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan. These men bestrode 20th century politics, each standing for largely different things. So how could sound political conservatism be the reason for Mr. Reagan’s popularity when Messrs. Roosevelts each represent its rejection?
“The ‘certain eternal truths’ that followed were the most succinct explanation of American political conservatism since the Bill of Rights — and remain so today.”
Maybe the real reason all three ascended wasn’t necessarily their ideas, but how they made Americans feel in their moment of crisis.
“Fifty five years after Sharon, the things we stood for remain much the same. So make your case to America, conservatives. Now as much as ever.”
In our moment of crisis, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump seem to have harnessed something similar: A populism, which drawing its power from the industrialists, the Depression, the Malaise, the illegals or the bankers, has captivated the people.
All populists respond to the peculiar interests of their times, but beyond his ascension, Mr. Reagan was right for his. And his ideas — our ideas — are right for now.
Because populism being popular doesn’t mean right-thinking isn’t the solution, any more than eight disastrous years under this White House do. Thinkers from Thomas Aquinas to Edmund Burke flourished because they — their ideas, their values, their civilizations — were in grave danger, and long since, we’ve trudged through dark days to build the greatest civilization the world has ever seen.
It’s likely that America isn’t necessarily conservative now any more than it was in the days of Roosevelts or Reagans, but before the Republican Party — led astray by a quarter century of Bush Republicanism — settles for an easy, gut-level populism, remember that conservatives have had the solution in the past. And have those solutions still. Read the rest of this entry »
The presidential candidates for the 1992 election debated each other in the the second of three scheduled presidential debates. The participants were President George Bush, Governor Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot.
They answered questions from the audience that regarded their campaigns and their policy preferences, which mostly focused on economic issues. The audience consisted of 209 undecided voters from the Richmond, VA area.
Richard Nixon chose little-known Maryland governor Spiro Agnew as his running mate for his 1968 presidential bid. Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey lampooned Agnew in this “Laughter” ad, created by Tony Schwartz, best known for the infamous “Daisy Girl” commercial for Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
History: President Nixon Resigns With This Letter, Initialed by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Today, August 9, 1974Posted: August 9, 2015
Historical analogies most popular with the administration reveal precisely why this deal is so fraught with risk.
Analogies, Sigmund Freud once wrote, decide nothing, but they can make one feel more at home. President Obama is explicitly comparing his diplomatic triumph with Iran to President Nixon’s opening to China in 1972. Nixon, the president explained in a July 14 interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, “understood there was the prospect, the possibility, that China could take a different path” of “very important strategic benefit to the United States” — a point repeated in supportive commentary by Fareed Zakaria, and others. Meanwhile, former Obama National Security Council official Phil Gordon has cast the president’s breakthrough with Iran as a noble contrast to the George W. Bush administration’s alleged rejection of diplomacy with North Korea, claiming that Pyongyang developed nuclear weapons because Bush refused to implement a similar disarmament framework with North Korea negotiated by President Bill Clinton.
It is not surprising that an administration that came into office rejecting geopolitics and poo-pooing strategy in favor of “don’t do stupid [stuff]” would treat history as a plaything for twitter-sized talking points. But the historical analogies most popular with the administration reveal precisely why this deal is so fraught with risk.
Nixon was right to play the China card against the Soviets in 1971 — but for reasons that simply do not apply to Iran. First, in 1971, China already had nuclear weapons and Nixon never asked Mao to abandon them. Second, the Soviet threat to Washington and Beijing, which ultimately drove the two countries together, was incalculably graver than the threat posed by the Islamic State to either Iran or the United States (the president and National Security Adviser Susan Rice have dismissed the Islamic State as “the JV team” and “not an existential threat” so perhaps they do not even really believe their own Nixon analogies). Third, the more militant, pro-Soviet faction in China led by Lin Biao had been purged by 1971, whereas Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds Force are on the ascendance and, in fact, will gain billions of dollars as a result of being delisted from the sanctions list. Read the rest of this entry »
As tensions with China rise, U.S. foreign policy thinkers are dusting off ideas from the Cold War—and questioning the long-standing consensus for engagement with Beijing
Andrew Browne writes: Writing in 1967, at the height of the Cold War, Richard Nixon proclaimed a new American ambition: to “persuade China that it must change.”
“Taking the long view,” he wrote, “we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors.” Four years later, having ascended to the White House, Nixon engineered an “opening to China” that promised to turn the communist giant into a diplomatic partner, one that would adopt America’s values and maybe even its system of democracy.
“The turmoil in U.S. policy has been especially evident in recent months. An unprecedented stream of advisory reports from leading academic centers and think tanks has proposed everything from military pushback against China to sweeping concessions.”
For many Americans today, watching the administration of President Xi Jinping crack down hard on internal dissent while challenging the U.S. for leadership in Asia, that promise seems more remote than ever before. In his recently published book “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” Michael Pillsbury—an Asia specialist and Pentagon official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush—writes that China “has failed to meet nearly all of our rosy expectations.”
[Order Michael Pillsbury’s book “The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower” from Amazon.com]
U.S. foreign policy has reached a turning point, as analysts from across the political spectrum have started to dust off Cold War-era arguments and to speak of the need for a policy of containment against China. The once solid Washington consensus behind the benefits of “constructive engagement” with Beijing has fallen apart.
“The prescriptions vary, but their starting point is the same: pessimism about the present course of U.S.-Chinese relations.”
The conviction that engagement is the only realistic way to encourage liberalization in China has persisted across eight U.S. administrations, Republican and Democratic alike. Jimmy Carter bequeathed Nixon’s policy to Ronald Reagan; George W. Bush to Barack Obama.
The turmoil in U.S. policy has been especially evident in recent months. An unprecedented stream of advisory reports from leading academic centers and think tanks has proposed everything from military pushback against China to sweeping concessions. The prescriptions vary, but their starting point is the same: pessimism about the present course of U.S.-Chinese relations.
“For its part, China is utterly convinced that the U.S. is pursuing a policy of containment. “
The mood shift in Washington may end up being every bit as consequential as the one that came over the U.S. immediately after World War II, when it dawned on America that the Soviet Union wasn’t going to continue to be an ally. That is when the legendary U.S. diplomat and policy thinker George F. Kennan formulated his plan for containment.
“In one important respect, history is repeating itself: Both China and the U.S. have started to view each other not as partners, competitors or rivals but as adversaries.”
In a 1947 article in Foreign Affairs, he wrote that the U.S. “has it in its power to increase enormously the strains under which Soviet policy must operate, to force upon the Kremlin a far greater degree of moderation and circumspection than it has had to observe in recent years, and in this way to promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the breakup or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.” Kennan’s strategy—to bleed the Soviet Union through nonprovocative resistance—offered comfort to Europeans who feared that they faced a stark choice between war and capitulation.
“China’s missile and naval buildup, as well as its development of new cyber- and space-warfare capabilities, are aimed squarely at deterring the U.S. military from intervening in any conflict in Asia.”
A similar anxiety about China’s actions and intentions has now taken hold among many Asians. U.S. friends and allies in the region are flocking to America’s side to seek protection as Mr. Xi’s China builds up its navy, pushes its fleets farther into the blue ocean and presses its territorial claims. In what is just the latest assertive move to alarm the region, China is now dredging tiny coral reefs in the South China Sea to create runways, apparently for military jets.
The U.S. is resisting. President Obama’s signature “pivot” to Asia—designed both to calm anxious U.S. friends and to recognize the region’s vast strategic importance in the 21st century—is bringing advanced American combat ships to Singapore, Marines to Australia and military advisers to the Philippines. Japan, America’s key ally in Asia, is rearming and has adjusted its pacifist postwar constitution to allow its forces to play a wider role in the region. The purpose of much of this activity is to preserve the independence of smaller Asian nations who fear they might otherwise have no choice but to fall into China’s orbit and yield to its territorial ambitions—in other words, to capitulate. Read the rest of this entry »
Peter Berkowitz writes: In October 2009, the Obama White House launched a concerted attack against critical press coverage, one unparalleled since the days of the Nixon White House. In one respect, Barack Obama and Richard Nixon were in agreement: both perceived a distinctly liberal bias in the media. Nixon denounced the press for its leftism, Obama objected to the press’s deviation from it. So Obama and his senior staff singled out for condemnation Fox News, the lone television network that did not serve up the fawning coverage the president and his team had come to expect.
In “The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech,” Kirsten Powers recounts that in the space of a few days, White House communications director Anita Dunn, her deputy Dan Pfeiffer, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel openly asserted that the administration properly excluded Fox reporters from press briefings because Fox was not a legitimate news organization. When asked for comment by NBC News, President Obama stood behind his team.
Grousing about criticism is only human, and presidential displeasure with the press is nothing new. But wielding the presidential bully pulpit to decree what counts as legitimate news coverage represented an ominous turn in American politics.
“The smearing of opponents of the progressive party line as purveyors of hatred; the denigration of critics of left-liberal public policy as racists, sexists, and homophobes; and the ostracism of advocates of faith, tradition, and the virtues of America’s experiment in self-government as minions of sinister forces—these have become routine features of intellectual life at our leading universities.”
Separation of press and state is as essential to the American constitutional order as separation of church and state. In one respect, religious freedom depends on press freedom: a press that is answerable to, or in the pocket of, the government will be unwilling to report, or incapable of reporting accurately, when government exceeds its lawfully prescribed boundaries.
What could the president and his advisers have been thinking in orchestrating an assault on Fox News? Where could our president, a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School and a former lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, have gotten the idea that it was government’s prerogative to determine who properly reports the news and to supervise the flow of opinion in the country?
Sad to say, they could have been thinking they were faithfully implementing the ideas about the need to regulate speech that they had learned in college. The smearing of opponents of the progressive party line as purveyors of hatred; the denigration of critics of left-liberal public policy as racists, sexists, and homophobes; and the ostracism of advocates of faith, tradition, and the virtues of America’s experiment in self-government as minions of sinister forces—these have become routine features of intellectual life at our leading universities. The development of doctrines designed to curtail nonconforming speech was already well under way by the time Obama attended college in the early1980s and law school in the early 1990s. Read the rest of this entry »
Bob Fredricks writes: Hillary Clinton called President Obama “incompetent and feckless” and charged that he had “no hand on the tiller half the time” during a boozy reunion with college pals, a new book claims.
“Obama’s allowed his hatred for his enemies to screw him the way Nixon did.”
— Hillary Clinton
The scathing attacks came as the wine was flowing at a May 2013 dinner at Le Jardin Du Roi, a cozy French bistro near the Clinton family home in Westchester, according to “Blood Feud,” by best-selling author Edward Klein.
The former first lady, months removed from being Obama’s secretary of state, unleashed the verbal assault between sips of vino, sources told the author.
“The thing with Obama is that he can’t be bothered, and there is no hand on the tiller half the time. That’s the story of the Obama presidency. No hand on the f–king tiller.”
“When her friends asked Hillary to tell them what she thought — really thought — about the president she had served for four draining years, she lit into Obama with a passion that surprised them all,” Klein wrote.
“Obama has turned into a joke.”
Clinton ranted, “The thing with Obama is that he can’t be bothered, and there is no hand on the tiller half the time. That’s the story of the Obama presidency. No hand on the f–king tiller,” according to the book, which was excerpted exclusively in Sunday’s Post.
“Obama has turned into a joke,” she went on, according to Klein.
“The IRS targeting the Tea Party, the Justice Department’s seizure of AP phone records and [Fox reporter] James Rosen’s e-mails — all these scandals. Obama’s allowed his hatred for his enemies to screw him the way Nixon did,” she raged, the book says, adding that she called the president “incompetent and feckless.” Read the rest of this entry »
She erased emails after the Benghazi probe wanted to see them
If the House panel investigating Benghazi really wants to get a look at Hillary Clinton’s emails, perhaps it should subpoena the Chinese military. Beijing—which may have hacked the private server she used to send official email as Secretary of State—is likely to be more cooperative than are Mrs. Clinton and her stonewall specialists now reprising their roles from the 1990s.
“Mrs. Clinton’s real message to Congress: You’ll see those emails over my dead body.”
On Friday Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, disclosed that he couldn’t cooperate with the Benghazi committee’s request that she turn over her private server to an independent third party for examination. Why not? Well, the former first diplomat had already wiped the computer clean.
Of course she had. What else would she do?
The timing of the deletions isn’t entirely clear. Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy says they appear to have been deleted after Oct. 28, 2014, when State asked Mrs. Clinton to return her public records to the department. That could qualify as obstruction of Congress, as lawyer Ronald Rotunda recently argued on these pages.
The deletions certainly violate Mrs. Clinton’s promise to Congress on Oct. 2, 2012, when the Benghazi probe was getting under way. “We look forward to working with the Congress and your Committee as you proceed with your own review,” she told the Oversight Committee. “We are committed to a process that is as transparent as possible, respecting the needs and integrity of the investigations underway. We will move as quickly as we can without forsaking accuracy.”
Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kendall say the vanishing emails don’t matter because State and the committee already have all the relevant documents and emails they’ve asked for. But State and the committee don’t have the actual emails, only the printed copies she provided to State.
Hillary used iPad for official emails at State
The Hill reports: Hillary Clinton used an iPad and Blackberry to send official emails at the State Department despite her claim that she relied on a personal address to avoid the inconvenience of multiple devices, according to The Associated Press.
And State had previously assured the committee it had everything it had asked for before Mrs. Clinton coughed up 850 pages of email copies from her private server this month—emails State couldn’t turn over before because she hadn’t provided them despite clear State Department policy that she and other officials do so….(read more)
Mrs. Clinton’s real message to Congress: You’ll see those emails over my dead body. Read the rest of this entry »
Rich Lowry writes: …His surprise unilateral change in the U.S. posture toward the Castro dictatorship came without even the pretense of serious promises by the Cubans to reform their kleptocratic, totalitarian rule.
The trade of Alan Gross, the American aid worker jailed in Cuba for the offense of trying to help Jewish Cubans get on the Internet, for three Cuban spies is understandable (we also got back one of our spies, and Cuba released several dozen political prisoners as a sweetener).
“If tourism were the key to empowering and eventually liberating the Cuban people, the country would be a robust democracy by now. About a million Canadian tourists go to Cuba every year. In total, more than 2 million tourists visit annually, and yet the Castro regime is still standing.”
The rest of Obama’s sweeping revisions — diplomatic relations and the loosening of every economic sanction he can plausibly change on his own — are freely granted, no questions asked. It is quid with no pro quo. Even if you oppose the isolation of Cuba, this is not a good trade.
After waiting out 10 other U.S. presidents, the Castro regime finally hit the jackpot in Obama, whose beliefs about our Cuba policy probably don’t differ much from those of the average black-turtleneck-clad graduate student in Latin American studies.
“The Cuba embargo is condemned as a relic of the Cold War. But the root of the matter is the Cuban regime that is itself a relic, an inhuman jackboot left over from the era when people actually professed to believe in workers’ paradises.”
Every dictator around the world must be waiting anxiously for a call or a postcard from Obama. The leader of the free world comes bearing gifts and understanding. He is willing to overlook human-rights abuses. And his idea of burnishing his legacy is to clinch deals with his country’s enemies. Read the rest of this entry »
Facing adversity, Obama has no idea how to respond
This came to mind when contemplating President Obama. After a devastating election, he is presenting himself as if he won. The people were not saying no to his policies, he explained, they would in fact like it if Republicans do what he tells them.
You don’t begin a new relationship with a threat, but that is what he gave Congress: Get me an immigration bill I like or I’ll change U.S. immigration law on my own.
“He had family challenges and an unusual childhood, but as an adult and a professional he never faced fierce, concentrated resistance. He was always magic. Life never came in and gave it to him hard on the jaw. So he really doesn’t know how to get up from the mat. He doesn’t know how to struggle to his feet and regain his balance. He only knows how to throw punches. But you can’t punch from the mat.”
Mr. Obama is doing what he knows how to do—stare them down and face them off. But his circumstances have changed. He used to be a conquering hero, now he’s not. On the other hand he used to have to worry about public support. Now, with no more elections before him, he has the special power of the man who doesn’t care.
“In the meantime he is killing his party. Gallup this week found that the Republicans for the first time in three years beat the Democrats on favorability, and also that respondents would rather have Congress lead the White House than the White House lead Congress.”
I have never seen a president in exactly the position Mr. Obama is, which is essentially alone. He’s got no one with him now. Read the rest of this entry »
Some Guys Who Didn’t Bitch and Moan About Quarantine: Apollo 11 Astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins & Neil Armstrong, July 1969Posted: October 29, 2014
Within the Mobile Quarantine Facility, Apollo 11 astronauts (left to right) Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong relax following their successful lunar landing mission. They spent two-and-a-half-days in the quarantine trailer en route from the USS Hornet to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. The Hornet docked at Pearl Harbor where the trailer was transferred to a jet aircraft for the flight to Houston.
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 28, 2014
“In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.”
“I apologize for lying to you. I promise I won’t deceive you except in matters of this sort.”
Failure Upon Failure
Stephen F. Hayes writes: A year before his first inauguration, Barack Obama laid out the objective of his presidency: to renew faith and trust in activist government and transform the country. In an hourlong interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal on January 16, 2008, Obama said that his campaign was already “shifting the political paradigm” and promised that his presidency would do the same.
“Journalists not only swallowed this legend, many of them promoted it. Obama didn’t appear ideological to influential political reporters because they shared his views. He wasn’t liberal, he was right.”
His model would be Ronald Reagan, who “put us on a fundamentally different path,” in a way that distinguished him from leaders who were content merely to occupy the office. “I think that Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not. And in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”
If Reagan sought to minimize the role of government in the lives of Americans, Obama set out to do the opposite. “We’ve had a federal government that I think has gotten worn down and ineffective over the course of the Bush administration, partly because philosophically this administration did not believe in government as an agent of change,” he complained.
“I want to make government cool again,” he said.
“When he’s not on the golf course, the president seems to spend most of his time fundraising for vulnerable Democrats, threatening executive action on those things he can’t accomplish by leading, and working to minimize crises of his own making. This is a failed presidency.”
Obama believed in government, and he was confident that his election would signal that the American people were ready to believe again, too.
“Rather than restore faith in government, the Obama presidency has all but destroyed it.”
As we approach the sixth anniversary of his election, the Obama presidency is in tatters. Obama’s policies, foreign and domestic, are widely seen as failed or failing. His approval rating is near its lowest point. Obama’s base of support is loyal and fierce and shrinking. Much of the country sees him as incompetent or untrustworthy, and government, far from being “cool,” is a joke on good days and a threat on bad ones.