Monday, January 11, 2010

Just Another Manic Monday

The endless navel gazing of the news media, in which they pretend not to have a role in public perceptions, is nauseating. Here's what I saw on the Times home page this morning:
Week in Review

Opponents love to cast Democrats as weak, and labels stick. What it might take for the president to look strong.

What utter bullshit. The article itself isn't bad, but the lede is often all that matters for a majority of readers. Just how difficult is it for the news profession to learn this.

Geriatric and insular

I liked Michael Calderone’s piece on the Sabbath gasbags, especially this:

The shows are particularly ripe targets for critics who see them as the epitome of insider Washington and conventional wisdom. James Wolcott, writing in Vanity Fair last year, for example, described watching the show that Stephanopoulos recently vacated to be “like receiving an engraved invitation to apoplexy.”

“With occasional exceptions, the Sunday shows come across as geriatric and insular, having long been eclipsed and upstaged by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Fox News, MSNBC and much of the Web,” New York Times columnist Frank Rich, a frequent critic, said in an e-mail to POLITICO.

I always wonder if the reason that these shows have such old guests (McCain, Broder) is that they have such old audiences. But, honestly, I’m pretty sure my 89 year-old grandmother is sick of Cokie Roberts and David Broder by now. So that can’t be the whole explanation.

Sullivan: Lieberman And McCain Back Netanyahu Against Obama - In Israel

One critical aspect of president Obama's Middle East policy is finding a way to stop Israel continuing to expand settlements on the West Bank. Without a permanent cessation of such activity, there's no way to get the two sides together. But Israel simply refuses to cooperate, as it has refused for two decades in its land-grab, and is eagerly anticipating the end of its temporary semi-freeze of some settlements, while it maintains its policy of populating East Jeruslame with as many Jewish-Israelis as possible. In such a situation, having some leverage over Israel is essential to advancing US interests in forging a settlement that could help undercut some of the rationale for Islamist terror.

So what do several sitting Senators do in such a delicate situation in which George Mitchell has recently raised the option - a remote one, but an option - of withholding loan guarantees as the first Bush administration did. They go to Israel and back prime minister Netanyahu against their own president in an open news conference.

The man who lost the last election reacts by directly undercutting the victor's foreign policy goals, and does so abroad in the very country Obama is trying to push toward change.

Lieberman, for his part, is effectively telling the Israelis that Obama does not control US foreign policy with respect to Israel, and that he will be prevented by Congress from exerting any pressure. He says this with a certainty, as if the autonomy of the president is simply moot. And remember that Lieberman and McCain often invoke the necessity for sanctions against foreign countries the US is trying to nudge or persuade in one way or another. Here's Lieberman's quote (and the video of his backing Netanyahu against Obama is here):

Any attempt to pressure Israel, to force Israel to the negotiating table, by denying Israel support will not pass the Congress of the United States. In fact, Congress will act to stop any attempt to do that.

Message to a foreign government: if the US president tries to pressure you in any way, we will stop him and back you. McCain endorses Netanyahu's position entirely, ignoring the settlement issue, and boldly supports a foreign leader over his own president. For good measure, they also both back the Netanyahu government's position on Iran, calling for massive, general crippling sanctions rather than more targeted measures against the Revolutionary Guards. This again is effectively backing Netanyahu against Obama.

Are you surprised? Me neither. As an Israeli reader writes:

I was under the impression that foreign policy was formed in the White House, not congress, and isn't it a bit weird for two right-wingers to attack the US administration on foreign soil? Then again, It's Israel.
Think Progress: GOP plans on reintroducing legislation to ban and deport immigrants from ‘terrorist’ countries.
This past week, Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-SC) announced his intention to update and reintroduce the Stop Terrorists Entry Program Act (STEP) that would prohibit “the admission of aliens from countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism as well as Yemen to the United States.” Barrett originally introduced the legislation back in 2003 and believes recent events have created an even greater need to “secure America” by amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to ban immigrants from Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Yemen and Syria from ever stepping foot in the U.S.:

While President Obama may have declared an end to the War on Terror, it is clear our enemies did not get the message. Twice in the past two months, radical Islamic terrorists have attacked our nation and the Administration has failed to adapt its national security and immigration policies to counter the renewed resolve of those who seek to harm our citizens…In light of these unfortunate facts, I intend to introduce legislation that will enhance our national security through common sense changes to our current immigration laws. The STEP Act of 2010 bars the admission of aliens from countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism [...]

However, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) points out that neither alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan nor Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has been charged with trying to detonate a bomb on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day, would’ve been “affected in the slightest” by Barrett’s proposed bill. NIAC has launched a national campaign against the bill, which it describes as “offensive to American principles, harmful to US interests,” and discriminatory. Barrett is currently running for governor of South Carolina and was recently criticized for missing more than one-third of all votes taken in 2009, “by far the highest number among all members.”

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