walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Published on: April 7, 2015
The Middle East and Beyond
Politics as Bloodsport

The troubling remark everyone missed in Tom Friedman’s interview with President Obama—and some ruminations on the sad state of American political discourse.

I will tell you how to really understand Tom Friedman’s April 4 interview with the President, but to do it properly I need to begin with a rather sweeping detour.

Once upon a time humanity was suffused by political theology—that union of beliefs about the world “above” and the world “below” that bound politics inseparably to religion. This meant in most times and places that the authority of priests, who sited the origins of their authority in the world above, decided among divergent claims about order and justice in the world below.

One result of the union described by political theology was to invest quotidian decisions about how to organize and regulate what we call today the public sphere with transcendent importance. In a mental universe in which the holy and the profane, the sacred and the ordinary, had yet to be divided, nearly every decision implicated ultimate principles. It followed that to contest priestly authority in any sphere was to cast aspersions upon its legitimacy in all spheres. That was manifestly dangerous, because the authority of the priests defined the in-group/out-group boundaries critical to both the internal and external security of the community.

Imagine hunter-gatherer groups if you like, or better, shamans and witchdoctors in early agricultural settlement some 10,000 years ago. But you can just as easily read about how the Catholic Church determined that Galileo Galilei’s heliocentrism made him a heretic. Indeed, with a little imagination and a small dash of courage, you can even assess practically all contemporary arguments from authority, whether avowedly priestly or not, in a similar manner.

And then one day, a remarkable thing happened: Some very religious people in Europe differed over some extremely critical (to them) theological propositions. They could not solve their disputes, and their disagreements led to protracted periods of horrific violence. In the end, to make a long, bloody, and fairly well known story short, at least some societies eventually learned to carve out a space for politics separate from the ultimate claims of religion. They created the social concept of the secular, and by so doing delimited the sphere of the sacred.

From the concept of the secular there eventually arose the intellectual innovation of popular sovereignty—the idea that while the authority in the world above still governed the private lives of people in the world below, authority over the communal world below in all its public functions resided within, not outside of, that society itself.

As everyone knows (or ought to know), Hobbes endeavored to base political authority on necessity, essentially the idea that a political community needed a sovereign not by divine right, but because in its absence life would become, as he famously put it, nasty, brutish, and short. This implied that the King was not also really the head of the Anglican Church, or at any rate should not be—a very bold claim at the time, and one that led Hobbes to see the need to protect himself from accusations of heresy. It is simply impossible to understand first few chapters of Leviathan without grasping this point.

It fell to Locke and others to make an argument against the divine right of kings not from dour necessity but from a moral logic informed by premises other than those that Hobbes began from. The natural rights of individuals, Locke believed, showed that a republican form of government was superior to a monarchical one because it allowed a useful form of pluralism in the face of existential doubt about the best way to solve collective problems. Locke’s understanding of individual liberty as a natural right also placed logical limits on the state, a proposition that resonated widely in a chastened post-Civil War England. It was not too far a leap from the principle of liberty as a natural right to the idea of democracy as a procedural necessity to protect that right from the usurpation of the state.

It was natural, too, that the admission of doubt and the assertion of pluralism as a social good came out of the Anglo-Protestant tradition. It was in England that a natural pluralism, probably based on land-tenure circumstances shaped by topography, produced the Magna Carta almost exactly 800 years ago. It was in England that the fecund heterodoxy of the early post-Reformation period produced an extant and undeniable religious pluralism, one so energetic that in time it allowed even for the free expression of the Roman Catholicism from which the Anglo-Protestant tradition had sprung. It was out of this singular environment that doubt acquired an aura of virtue and mere forbearance morphed into actual toleration—both developments being genuinely revolutionary in the European context. England was not entirely alone in this development; neighboring Scotland and newly independent Holland, in particular, shared many similar attributes.

From the merger of these historical and philosophical developments there arose in time a characteristic set of attitudes and what we might call dispositions toward political life. Five such clusters of attitudes or dispositions matter most.

First, no one had a lock on political truth anymore than anyone could have a consensually acknowledged lock on theological truth—an understanding that created the basis for the concept of a loyal opposition and the toleration of political dissent. Secular truth can be evasive, uncertain, plural, and changeable without insulting the Deity. This enables a citizen to strongly disagree with a leader without demonizing him, to engage arguments without disparaging persons.

Second, disagreements were understood as natural and healthy; disputes civilly aired were believed to reveal the better way forward. Dialogic discourse rather than dictatorial narratives held pride of place. Socrates, not Plato’s philosopher-king, prevailed.

Third, defeat in political contests came to be seen as inherently provisional and temporary; there is always the next election. That realization, in turn, conduces to compromise and conciliation, other means of rendering politics something other than a continuously zero-sum proposition.

Fourth, it followed that while the contract that defined the republican political regime as such (the constitution) had to remain above the political fray for the sake of political stability, that contract could be adjusted as deemed necessary by the same procedural means that applied to rule-of-law itself. Hence a constitution or a foundational law could be revered without becoming sacrosanct or frozen.

And fifth, with distance put between public and private spheres of life, confidence grew that the political system could contain disagreements in such a way as to preclude civil violence. This, in turn, freed individuals to believe anything they wished and everything they could, unfettering and ratifying the full expression of their imaginations and creativity. In short, a well-ordered public sphere became the best guarantee of private happiness, and enabled lucky people to recognize that not just faith, but life itself, transcended politics. (If this isn’t close to what Jefferson meant in the Declaration, then I don’t know what he meant.)

Dear reader, if you are an American of a certain age and education, you know this detoured path very well. But what you may not fully appreciate is that these attitudes and dispositions remain rare on this planet, even in countries nominally described as republics and democracies. They are fragile, too, even here. They are subject to mass forgetfulness in the absence of heroic efforts, from generation to generation, to socialize new members of society into these attitudes and dispositions, and that mass forgetfulness in turn generates a high potential for institutional decay. They are especially vulnerable in tumultuous times that tend to point a lot of emotional energies toward political life.

Above all, these attitudes and dispositions, and the institutions they enable, are most certainly not the default drive of humanity. They arose and matured under unusual conditions in only a few places. They are not in any way natural; they are rather an artifice or an achievement of civilization some centuries in the making. They are therefore the exception, not the rule, both “vertically” through history and “horizontally” across the world right now. There is no country in the Middle East, for example, that displays these attitudes and dispositions in great abundance, not even genuine democracies like Israel and Turkey, and certainly not Iran and the Arab countries.

Your patience is fraying, I know. You are getting frustrated, if not angry. What has any of this to do with Thomas Friedman engaging the President on the Iran deal? Plenty, I think.

President Obama acquitted himself very well with Mr. Friedman. Unless one thinks the President was knowingly lying through his teeth, he showed himself a master of the multifaceted political, technical, and even strategic issues at stake. Obviously, the President was in advocacy mode, and so now and then bent an interpretation in the desired direction. But this was no tall tale, no act of pandering, no substance-free exercise in debased partisan manipulation. He acknowledged the shortfalls of the past and the uncertain difficulties ahead. He offered up a reasonable balance of skepticism and hope on that score. The gist of his replies to Friedman’s mostly non-softball questions had all the markings of a logical argument, presented with sincerity and an unmistakable acceptance of personal responsibility. It was, in short, an act of leadership more than an act of mere salesmanship, and as such a relatively rare moment in a presidency whose foreign policy judgments have been mostly shallow and excessively partisan in motivation.

That does not mean we must agree with his arguments, of course. The President made one comment that particularly troubles me, which I will discuss in a moment. But the depth and sophistication with which the President made his arguments has already made an impact. Together with the revealed terms of the framework deal, even experienced Republican national-security grayheads respect his position more than before. A key half dozen Democratic Senators who had been suspicious of the deal are already, some of them, backtracking, giving the impression that so long as the White House acknowledges Congress’ role here, they will give him the benefit of the doubt on the substance, at least until the end of June. After all, parsing the details shows any honest observer that both sides made difficult choices, that the U.S. position was not so feckless that concessions flowed like floodwaters over the dam lip.

The President’s interview performance was of such a caliber that it at least opens a space for the attitudes and dispositions that make American politics, at its zenith, a beacon of best practice for the world. The President made an argument on the logical merits, not an argument from authority. He was humble enough to have earned the right to expect that those who disagree with him will engage his arguments and not his person, and that they will express reservations with civility and the respect due the President’s office in a democracy. The President also suggested flexibility for the period until the end of June, with Iran, with U.S. allies, and with Congress; so there is reason to hope that what ultimately emerges at least through the latter two interlocutors will be better for the debates and compromises ahead.

Now, I have several reservations about this deal as it stands at the moment, as of course do many others. Yet it is not as bad as I had feared it might be, a premonition I marched up and down the field in several earlier posts. But one remark the President made unifies my reservations into an outright concern. I foreshadowed the existence of this concern just above, and I predicted its possible emergence in a previous post. So what is this about, and why does it matter?

Fairly early on in the interview, the transcript has an exchange going like this:

The notion that Iran is undeterrable—“it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’—understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naive—but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. . . . We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?”

I took this to mean that Friedman introduced the term “underterrable” and the President interrupted him to answer the question by finishing the thought. That is also the impression one gets from the video. But just to be sure, I asked Friedman if he thought the President meant that we could deter Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons or Iranian use of nuclear weapons—for the language allows either possibility. He answered that he thinks the President meant the latter, and his extended remark, it seems to me, bears that interpretation out.

This is what concerns me, and here is why. On April 2, I wrote:

Despite the Administration’s insistence, for many years running now, that deterrence does not apply and cannot be trusted in a multivalent strategic environment like that of the Middle East, one can imagine a shift that would de facto create a deterrence (and extended deterrence) posture as a supposed bridge between an Iranian breakout and new U.S. efforts to roll back the Iranian program. To the extent that a breakout is ambiguous—and it can be made so, especially if the United States has reason to be very slow about detecting and admitting a problem—it opens the way for a line of talk that goes something like this: Iran may have one or two deliverable nuclear weapons, but absent any threats to use those weapons, the United States will engage in negotiations to roll back that capacity, and so will not preempt. Even if the word deterrence is never used, that’s what such a position would amount to.

Words matter. Note that despite the Administration’s insistence all along that “all options remain on the table”, coupled with the repeated assertion that Iran will not be allowed to have a nuclear weapons capability, it has never once used the word “preemption” to describe its policy. That, of course, is exactly what it comes down to, but to say that would be way, way too Bush-like. If preemption is now the policy but the word is never spoken, one can imagine without too great a strain a situation in which deterrence can become the policy without its ever being explicitly stated.

Remember, Friedman first uttered a form of the D-word, but the President did not repeat it, in any form. See what I mean?

This matters because it may describe some confusion or conflation, or it may describe a slippery slope of sorts spinning out from the inability to achieve in the Iran negotiations what the Administration initially set out to achieve. Several Principals Committee meetings back in 2009-10 reached a different conclusion (and it has become known that there were more PC meetings on Iran, thanks in no small part to the intelligence community’s revelations about the Fordow facility, than on any other national security issue). That conclusion was that the superimposition of the Cold War deterrence model on the Middle East would not work, and would lead instead to a mousetrap proliferation scenario that would be extremely dangerous for everyone, including the United States. I and many others have detailed why this superimposition is a serious conceptual mistake (I did so most recently on March 4 here), so there should be no need to repeat it here—not that this has prevented many so-called experts from assuring us that deterrence would work just fine. One can only hope that the President has not changed his analysis in recent months, but his comment to Friedman makes one wonder.

About the vulnerability of American democracy’s “best practice” to regressions into political theology, there is no reason to wonder. Our public discourse, even over matters that used to be and still should be above partisan politics, has become increasingly less rational, less responsible, and less civil. For every veteran Bush-hater out there we have now an equal and opposite Obama-hater. Some personal experiences, if I may, to illustrate the point.

It has become embedded in “common knowledge” on the Left in the United States, and certainly abroad, that the Bush Administration generally, and Colin Powell in particular in his February 2003 speech to the UN Security Council, knowingly lied about weapons of mass destruction stockpiles in Iraq. It is simply beyond discussion that Administration principals actually worried about that subject; it was all allegedly mere pretext. I have even had people look me in the eye and declare that there is no difference, morally or otherwise, between knowingly lying and simply being mistaken about some point of fact. Such is the underwhelming capacity for moral logic among true Bush haters.

Obama haters are equally certain that the President actually despises his own country and its history, and a certain subset of haters is as certain that he hates Israel and Jews and has conspired from the start to do irreparable harm to Israeli security and well-being. Thus all that the President said about Israel in the Friedman interview, and by implication his explicit acknowledgement of the anti-Semitism of the Iranian leadership, has to be out and out duplicitous to such haters. He is indeed lying through his teeth, they are sure.

The Bush haters and the Obama haters have something important in common: The attitudes and dispositions of a liberal democracy in no way populate their mental landscapes. Their default discourse tense is the ad hominem. An argument is not right or wrong on its logical merits, but simply by virtue of who makes it. All supporters of the object of hatred are automatically wrong; detractors at least get the benefit of the doubt. The opposition is not loyal, but both immoral and seditious, hence deserving of neither toleration nor respect. I can disagree with the President (for whom I did not vote) without stigmatizing him as evil or maleficent; true haters are incapable of this distinction. I can adjust my assessment expectations of the Iran negotiations when I see new evidence concerning them; true haters dare not.

I used to think until fairly recently that those who love to hate over American politics were either aberrant or rare personalities. I am mindful that regression from the benign mean of liberal democracy did happen before, when a blast of ideological dogmatism very reminiscent of political theology’s characteristic tones led the country into a disastrous Civil War. But I thought we’d learned our lesson once and for all time, and that such indulgences were behind us.

Now I’m not so sure. Whatever else they do, the internet and kindred social media technologies seem to have democratized the popularity of politics as bloodsport. The bottom-feeding frenzy seems to intensify day by day, judging by most of the from-the-hip commentary that trawls beneath the waterline of feature essays. Its crypto-theological dogmatism is unmistakable, and not surprising in an age when politics so often trumps religion as creedal anchor number one. It does so in the case of the Iran portfolio despite the leavening details of the prospective framework accord with Iran, and despite Friedman’s interview of President Obama this past Saturday.

I do worry about how this diplomatic dagger dance with Iran will turn out, but I worry as much about the increasingly acrid, shrill, and irrational tone that infests what passes for our political discourse. An old professor of mine, a curious but wonderful fellow named E. Digby Baltzell, once remarked that the tragedy of American society in the 20th century was that the prodigious native energies of American religion had migrated into politics, to the detriment of both. A truer or more alarming nutshell analysis has yet to pass my eyes.

Adam Garfinkle is editor of The American Interest.com.
show comments
  • truthsojourner

    And why would we not think of the possibility that Obama is lying through his teeth? He has certainly done it before. That doesn’t make us Obama haters. I don’t hate the man. I simply do not trust him.

    • Peter

      My sentiments exactly.

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      Why not hate? Who abjures it? Only the Leftist and only opportunistically. Hate is the future and a bright one it is. Forward.

  • johngbarker

    “the prodigious native energies of American religion had migrated into politics, to the detriment of both” This is one of those rare and powerful insights that need elaboration from our distinguished commentator.

    • azt24

      On the left, politics has become their religion, which gives them the self-righteousness of an Inquisitor when their dogma is defied (see: Indiana). On the right religion is still identified as religion.

  • jeburke

    All true, Adam, yet it’s entirely possible that right-wing paranoia about Obama is nonsense, yet his policies and actions, especially vis a vis Iran, are disastrous.

    In any case, the indispensable Henry Kissinger (who rose to prominence as an analyst of nuclear deterence) has a lot to say about deterence and Iran in his book, “World Order.” Two Kissingerian observations are important:

    – Iran is not and does not conceive itself to be a traditional Westphalian “state.” Rather, it regards itself as a kind of revolutionary Islamic entity that is entitled for theological reasons essentially to hoodwink the infidels. It may be foolish not to take their worldview seriously.

    — Cold War deterence was made possible by an elaborate system of weapons and counter-weapons, early warning systems, trip wires, negotiated agreements, tacit agreements, and mutually embraced international structures – none of which exist in today’s Middle East.

    • Peter

      Very insightful. Thanks for posting.

    • Frank Natoli

      http://www.npr.org/2014/09/06/346114326/henry-kissingers-thoughts-on-the-islamic-state-ukraine-and-world-order

      I know Hillary as a person. And as a personal friend, I would say yes, she’d be a good president. But she’d put me under a great conflict of interest if she were a candidate, because I intend to support the Republicans. …

      Yes, I’d be comfortable with her as the president.

    • John Morris

      Even simpler is to note that deterrence worked well against the Soviets for a reason that does not apply here. As you correctly note, Iran is a deeply Islamic State where the Soviet Union was Godless Communists and that difference is key. The Soviet leaders, not believing in an afterlife, desired to rule this world and the idea of ruling a radioactive wasteland did not appeal to them. The Iranian leaders do not share this view and therefore the threat of MAD may not have much, if any, power to deter them.

      This deal is bad because it conceded the Iranians a bomb, even if not for a decade. A promise to destroy them if they destroy us may not deter them at all. For that reason they must not be permitted to ever acquire one until such time as their beliefs change.

      This deal is therefore bad. As currently outlined it is unacceptable and it assumes two additional things that are unwise to assume. One that the final deal will not involve Obama giving Iran even more concessions to get a ‘deal.’ and two that Iran will even obey the terms of the deal anyway, which history tells us they will not.

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      If it’s factual, is it Right Wing? Or just right? Hmm. Forward.

  • DiaKrieg

    Steven A. Cook wrote just yesterday: “Not that Turkey is or ever was a democracy.” (No Way Out”)
    Adam Garfinkle writes today: “…even genuine democracies like Israel and Turkey…”
    Which is it?

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      Turkey’s elections, including the one that gave us the anti-Attaturk, Erdogan, are as valid an expression of the public will as you will find in the region. Gaza has had its elections and voted for Jihad every chance. If they would wage war, let them feel it first. Fire and plenty of it is the tonic. Fire, pestilence and death. Forward.

  • wigwag

    Almost everything Adam Garfinkle says in this essay is wrong. It’s too bad that the rough and tumble of politics is too much for his dainty sensibilities but politics has always been a bloodsport. In his recitation of the historical development of western liberalism, he never actually bothers to tell us when that golden age of political civility was. Was it during the French Revolution? What about the remarkably nasty campaign between Adams and Jefferson (and they were friends for goodness sakes). How about during the European revolutionary period in the mid 19th century? Does Adam know anything about the political campaigns of Gladstone and Disraeli? They hated each other with far more passion than the animosity between Obama and any of his GOP opponents (or for that matter, Obama and Netanyahu) and they ripped each other to shreds with great regularity. Has Garfinkle acquainted himself with any of the vicious, sarcastic and personal invective that Winston Churchill directed against his political opponents? If he thinks that politics as bloodsport is a recent phenomenon, maybe he should go back and read Roosevelt’s famous 1936 speech at Madison Square Garden. That would be the one where Roosevelt labeled his opponents as “the old enemies of peace; business and financial monopoly, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism and war profiteering. In case Adam doesn’t think this rises to the level of bloodsport, after claiming that his opponents “are unanimous in their hatred of me,” Roosevelt reminds his audience that he “welcomes their hatred.” Who was the opponent who inspired this zealous antagonism? It was the bland Alf Landon.

    If this was the only error in his essay, Garfinkle could be forgiven for his dream of decamping from the angry confines of our nation’s Capitol for the friendlier fantasyland of Lake Wobegon, but his errors go on and on. How anyone can read or watch the Friedman interview with Obama and conclude that Friedman lobbed anything but softballs at Obama is truly perplexing. Friedman didn’t ask Obama a single probing or challenging question. He could have asked how the President planned to prevent the Sunni Arab nations from seeking their own nuclear arsenals; he didn’t. He could have asked if an Iran relieved from sanctions and thus more financially secure than ever might use some of that new-found wealth to increase its support of Assad and Hezbollah; he didn’t bother. He could have inquired if Obama had read Henry Kissinger’s critique of his Iran policy in Kissinger’s new book but apparently it never occurred to Friedman. Obama picked Friedman to conduct this interview because he wanted softball questions and that’s precisely what he got. Friedman was a sycophant before this most recent interview and nothing published in this week’s New York Times suggests that Friedman remains anything other than an Obama lackey.

    The part of the interview that made me laugh hardest was where Obama said,

    “What I would say to [Israelis] is what I’m willing to do is to make the kind of commitment that would give everybody, in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them.”

    When Israelis watched rocket after rocket launched at them from Gaza several months back, Hamas may not have been a “state” actor, but much of its weapons and the funds and expertise to make those weapons came from Iran. Did Obama stand by Israel? Nope; in fact he attempted to halt the flow of weapons to Israel and he (and his dimwitted Secretary of State) criticized Israel relentlessly. A journalist committed to asking hard questions might have pointed out this contradiction; Friedman the suck up couldn’t be bothered.

    When Obama talked about the “kind of commitment” he would give everyone in the region, Friedman might have asked him how a President who has leaped over so many red lines with reckless abandon, could possibly inspire trust that his commitments mean anything. Of course, he didn’t. Friedman could have inquired whether the U.S. decision to topple Qadaffi or fail to live up to commitments made to Ukraine might impact Iran’s views about nuclear weapons; of course that would be too much to ask.

    Maybe Adam can tell his loyal readers why an Administration that casually tossed in the garbage written commitments made by George W. Bush to Ariel Sharon should inspire confidence that this President or future Presidents should be trusted with new commitments they might make.

    The reality is simple; when Obama said “if you like your health insurance you can keep your health insurance; he knew it wasn’t true. He was lying. When Obama claims that he will stand by Israel if it’s attacked, the only people in the world who don’t know Obama is lying through his teeth may be Tom Friedman and Adam Garfinkle. If it’s too much for Adam to hear Obama called what he is, a disingenuous liar, Adam should get out of Dodge and find another profession. I hear there’s a shortage of interior decorators in Lake Wobegan. Maybe that job would be a better match for his temperament.

    • azt24

      Good comment. I would also add that the right-wing idea that Obama hates this country is not based on ad-hominem but on observation of what the Right believe to be Obama’s true philosophy (once his dissembling to get elected has been set aside), Post-Colonialism and Statism. Obama has been sheep-dipped in Leftism his whole life. His whole outlook is Marxist-derived.

      In such an outlook, the idea that the democratic US is morally superior to oppressive theocratic Iran is absurd; Post-Colonialists think the third world is more virtuous than Western oppressors. Didn’t Obama just say “Iran is a complicated country, like we’re a complicated country”? Equals, see? This is not the first time Obama has given the clear idea that the US should approach enemy countries as a humble equal, not give ourselves airs as superpower. Ironically, he has no problem playing the boss superpower with allied countries like France and Israel. Presumably the allies are also morally tainted by being Western themselves, or by being allied with America.

    • jeburke

      Good points. Having lived through the 60s and 70s with their upheavals, riots, assassinations, impeachment, etc., I agree that life and politics in the US was never peaceful in that era. Still, odd though it may seem, in foreign policy, the broad consensus forged in the war and the early cold war period pretty much held up through the Carter presidency and into the Reagan years. Sure, there were heated disagreements — leading even to street clashes about Vietnam — but the US remained armed to the teeth, engaged around the world, true to its alliances, and with significant bumps in the road widely conceded to be the leader of the West and deferred to as such. This would not have happened without a broad and durable consensus about our role in the world both among political and opinion leaders and the public.

    • AmyH

      This +1000. Great Comment

    • Diggsc

      Garfinkle doesn’t really mean that politics is more vindictive now than in the past. What he means is that given how horrible Jimmy Carter was, how immoral Bill Clinton was, he’s surprised at the vindictiveness against Obama. Conservatives were much more subtle, even wimpish, in their criticism of Democrats of yore. While Leftists were writing and producing and cheering plays about Bush’s assassination, conservatives were being pilloried for asking a simple question about Obama, like, say, where were his college transcripts so we can actually see if he’s the intellectual giant we are being told he is. Now that the conservatives have decided to take at least one glove off, guys like Garfinkle have their panties in a huge wad.

    • keith12345

      You really expect any media member to ask a President “probing” or “challenging” questions? He would immediately get blacklisted. Recall Jon Ralston, the well-respected top political reporter in Nevada. He once asked Harry Reid a question he didn’t like, and he refused to ever talk to him again (this was decades ago). Reporters generally will not rock the boat for fear that their access and their livelihood will be cut off.

      • mikekelley10

        –Reporters generally will not rock the boat for fear that their access and their livelihood will be cut off.–

        Unless, of course, that President is a Republican, in which case there are no holds barred.

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      Ha! Well said. It is the Left that has rubbished the very concept of civility and good work that has been. We will have to battle our domestic Leftists and not too far off, either. Luckily, they are pussies. Forward.

  • melk2

    I voted for Gore over Bush but the idea that Bush was LYING about Iraqi WMD makes no sense both in terms of how little anyone could know for sure about Iraq and, of course, the very clear-cut language of UN Resolution 1441. Everyone was convinced about a real Iraqi WMD threat.
    But there is no need for paranoia to characterize President Obama. He is simply a very predictable Far-Left ideologue. His pronouncements on anything have the sonorous predictability of sunrise and sunset. I voted for him in 2008 but not in 2012.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Do your last three sentences mean that Obama did not change but your wishes did? Or did you just like Romney/Ryan better than McCain/Palin?

  • FriendlyGoat

    I wish high authors of contemplative publications were willing to deal in the questions ordinary people might wonder about:

    1) We could (presumably) do a lot of bombing of Iranian nuclear and military assets. Can we bomb away the determination of Shiite or Sunni Islam? Is it better to bomb things or hold the potential on the perpetual “table” (nothing “off the table”) to “maybe” bomb things and only if necessary? Which one really benefits the free world most? Which one might destabilize an ALREADY-nuclear Pakistan, for instance?

    2) Do we in the west really even understand the seemingly-permanent determination of both Shiite and Sunni Islam? Going back to the start of this article, do we “get it” that 1,600,000,000 Islamic people are being pushed further and hard toward the “political theology” that was described here as “once upon a time”? And that someone just projected the number at 3,000,000,000 by the year 2050? Do we get it that we’re in a permanent messaging war for the minds of 1/3 of humanity?

    Jumping to the latter portion of this article:

    3) Do we wonder why WIDELY-cheered “birthers” spent years trying to disqualify Obama for president on him possibly being born in Kenya (to an American mother), but would happily elect Ted Cruz president when he was absolutely born in Canada to an American mother? Does this indicate that some of the participants in the present polarization (a whole major party, basically) have gone completely off rails of admitted logic?

    4) Why do we find so many of the church Christians in our country wedded to the idea of political “bloodsport” in alliance with the Republican Party? Even if we understand the anti-abortion position of certain church folks, why can’t you find hardly anybody in the pews who understands that high-end tax cuts DO NOT “create jobs”? Even if we understand that some people do not approve of same-sex marriage, why are there seemingly-few people in pews who think man-made climate change is a real issue? Why on earth are church people more-or-less aligned with ever-loosening gun laws and ever-increasing personal arsenals in the hands of just anybody and everybody?

    Why are people in pews opposed to Medicaid expansion and/or other efforts to get health care to people who need health care and who are NEVER going to be able to afford American “market rates”? Why do church people seem to be against minimum wage and waiting for WALMART to finally lead a modest social change on that issue? Why do church people whose elders are all on Social Security and Medicare seem to gripe about “entitlements”? Why do church people claim to wish for “small government” when the federal government, in particular, has done SO MUCH to improve the quality of life for church people on dozens of things from clean air to the safety of bank deposits? Why do church people worship the likes of Rush Limbaugh for making so cotton-pickin’ much money off of THEM while feeding them junk philosophy that does not comport with their claimed belief in Jesus?

    The last few paragraphs above express concern and regret about “the increasingly acrid, shrill and irrational tone that infests what passes for political discourse”. The next-to-last sentence admits this is happening to the detriment of American religion. Now, can we explore some simple little core questions about why we’re in this philosophical mess and how we’re planning to get out of it?

    • qet

      FG–I am not advocating for present military action (had to make that clear), BUT, it is a historical fact that we DID bomb away the determination of the Nazis and of the Japanese imperialists (and certainly we did NOT bomb away the determination of the Vietnamese communists; the point isn’t to prove that the technique always works but that it can sometimes work). Your question here is unfinished: bomb away Sunni and Shi’a determination to what? As far as I know no one (no one in any position of authority, that is) contemplates a world from which Islam has been bombed away. Rather, the question is whether we could bomb away the seeming inability of some Islamic peoples to cohabit the world in peace with the rest of us, whether we could bomb away their determination to bomb us away (after their own fashion).

      Your questions vis-a-vis US domestic political alignments are unworthy. There already is a host of “contemplative publications” whose bread and butter is precisely the asking of the questions you ask. More fundamentally, you ignore the obverse of every coin you toss out. The “messaging war” you mention has two combatants, not just one. Islam is in the same messaging war for our minds. I think it is high time that the Left in this country focus its scrutiny on where WE are being pushed by THEM. The radical Islamists are effecting a coalescence and strengthening of conservative/religious forces here at home, forces that you fear and loathe. I would think your chief concern would be to complain more of the radical Islamists and seek to deter them from facilitating that coalescence than to constantly scold and impugn conservatives here for reacting predictably to the provocation.

      I can’t believe you are so obsessed with the political sideshow of the so-called “birthers.” 60 years ago, your ideological predecessors mocked the obsession of the right with communist “infiltrators,” “pinkos,” etc. yet elected a dedicated anti-communist hawk (JFK). The train of politics has never gone off the rails of logic because it was never on them to begin with. You obsess over “birthers” who are a tiny minority (your fear has amplified their fearsomeness), yet no word on the admission by one of the highest officeholders in the land–former Senate Majority Leader H Reid–that he knowingly and purposefully, without even the sense of shame or decency to pretend otherwise, LIED about Romney to prevent him being elected. I’d say that the “birthers” are very small beer compared to this.

      As to the political alignments and paradoxes you mention, I will only mention two in response. First, the “livable jobs” you lament are no more created by the Left’s dogmatic government spending mantra than by the right’s dogmatic tax-cut mantra. The disappearance of those jobs was not caused by policy and cannot be reveresed by policy. But politicians and political parties have to have something to sell, have to act like they do have the solution, and so they urge equally ineffectual policies. And since not even the Democrats are willing to appropriate the wealth of their fatcat Wall Street, hedge fund, banker donors in service to their dogma, they target whatever remains of the broad “middle classes” that still exist and who still have a shot at living the Ammerican Dream that the Democrats say the Republicans have destroyed. You need to own this fact, FG. Notice I am not defending the GOP or tax cuts. I am pointing out the reality of the Democrats. Religion may be the opium of the Right masses but policy is the opium of the Left; the key term in both cases being “opium.”

      Second, the “bloodsport” you claim the Right endorses pales in comparison with, is positively anemic next to, the bloodsport of the churchgoing masses of the Left. It is the Left that is demanding the arrest and imprisonment of climate change heretics. It is the liberal wing of the Episcopal Church–still the largest Protestant denomination, I believe–that has just declared the denial of climate change to be a sin. A sin!!!! Talk about people in pews! It is the Left who now anathematizes Pilate’s famous equivocation–What is truth?–and insists with all the fury of St. Cyril that there is but one Truth and anyone who says different is impious and must be suppressed. Now, your specific arguments about Medicaid are just What’s the Matter with Kansas? You claim there is a fatal inconsistency in being willing to receive government payments while simultaneously demanding smaller government. Well, inconsistencies abound on both sides. Perhaps you will ask one of the left-inclining contemplative publications you read to answer to those inconsistencies?

      • FriendlyGoat

        1) Thomas Frank was quite right in asking “What’s the matter with Kansas?” . There is a HUGE inconsistency in actually depending upon government programs while pretending to be against them in the church circles. This is mostly rooted in ignorance of what church people believe will actually be cut if they elect Republicans to drown the government in the tub. They really don’t have a clue what they are asking for.

        2) The hardcore “birthers” were considered kinda nutty because most people believed Obama was actually born in Hawaii and there was no real issue. Had Obama been proven born in Kenya, almost EVERY Republican in the USA would have instantly declared him disqualified, possibly including the Republicans on the Supreme Court. Along comes Cruz, and no one on the right thinks he is disqualified at all. You can call me “obsessed” for thinking this weird, but I’d just as soon call right-wingers “obsessed” for not readily admitting the profound flip-flop on this subject. Ted is just “special”, we’re to suppose?

        3) My comment was primarily written for Adam Garfinkle—not that we can expect that TAI authors actually read their comments. This article —-in the last paragraph —–says something I believe is true:
        “That religion has migrated into politics to the detriment of BOTH”.
        I’m quite concerned that this junk is pushing the spirit of Jesus out the door of the churches and the members don’t seem to either notice or care. Mr. Garfinkle is trying to cruise above the meat of this fray, and I wish he wasn’t. If either he or you attempted to answer the little questions you think “unworthy”, we might all gain some useful insight into our national philosophical malaise.

        4) I’m no friend of Islam. I think every word of it is false, starting with the statement of faith: “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is His Prophet”. No, no, no, no and no. To ALL of it.
        The necessary messaging war is a thorough debunking of the whole thing. The free world seems to have no idea where to start on this.

        • qet

          Re (1) — you hang your argument on the nail of the concept of “dependence.” There are many problems with this: (i) receiving benefits from the government does not necessarily translate to dependence on them; dependence suggests that there are no alternatives, which leads to (ii) the government has created that very dependence, by continually expanding and even “pushing” (the drug dealer reference is very apt) them onto the population while simultaneously enacting policies that kill off all alternatives. The good churchgoers of Kansas are dependent on government benefits in the same way as someone whose kidneys have been removed is dependent on dialysis. I freely admit that the GOP, despite its stock political rhetoric, while it rarely if ever creates the spending that produces the dependence, has been equally responsible for preserving it. In fact this is the fundamental issue dividing the GOP base today.

          Re (2) — as far as I can tell, this is just a garden-variety case of hypocrisy. As such, it takes its place alongside the thousands of others, on both sides.

          Re (3) — we differ in our perception of which side’s politics are more driven by a fanatical religious consciousness. Also, as I said in another comment to this article, I thoroughly disagree with Garfinkle’s notion that “religion” and “politics” either ought to be, or can be, compartmentalized and kept separate.

          Re (4) –the “free world” had its chance. It was called The Enlightenment at first, and later called positivism. Western civilization tried the Enlightenment and positivism for over 200 years–a fair test–and they have been rejected. I am not a religious person, but even I can see that Enlightenment positivism has nothing in the realm of “values” to offer humanity–which needs values as it does food and air–comparable to the values offered by instituted religions. The free world would probably do better to push Buddhism as an alternative to Islam than “secular humanism” or some such de-faithed ideology.

          • FriendlyGoat

            1) Excepting the situations of VERY wealthy people, there has not been any private-sector solution for the problem most families would have with the potential medical bills of their grandparents. At least 90% of the people in America are completely dependent upon the Medicare concept, whether they know it or not. When they align with people who broadly deride those “entitlements” they are either clueless or disingenuous.

            2) I don’t know if the Cruz-for-president thing is garden-variety hypocrisy or a symptom of a larger unwillingness to reason.
            Ted probably won’t be elected, but the fact that his own party accepts his candidacy as “okay” is just astonishing, really.

            3) I can’t get away from the firm belief that we can have much better government AND much better churches with maximum separation of those spheres. (I think the same would be true in every majority-Muslim country too.)

            4) It would be fine with me if Buddhism replaced Islam everywhere. Maybe you’re on to something.

    • Anthony
    • fastrackn1

      “Now, can we explore some simple little core questions about why we’re in this philosophical mess and how we’re planning to get out of it?”

      I think the introduction of the internet has exacerbated what has always been heated debate of philosophical ideas, so it now appears to be a ‘mess’. I don’t know that we should ‘”get rid of it”. I think it is healthy.
      Besides, with billions able to reach the internet, it will only increase.

      • azt24

        The introduction of the internet has broken the monopoly of the media gatekeepers. Walter Cronkite can no longer make the whole country believe a false story.

        • fastrackn1

          My thoughts exactly!
          Walter, Brian and the rest have been neutralized.
          And let’s not also forget how much cable/satellite TV with it’s multitude of niche channels has released the grip that the ‘big 3′ (ABC, NBC, CBS) had on news and other subjects for so many years.
          I can honestly say that I haven’t watched any of the big 3 since Johnny Carson retired….

        • Dan Greene

          How true!

  • Peter

    With all sincerity, Obama, when campaigning in 2007, said that he did not support gay marriage. This year, with the publication of David Axelrod’s book, we learned that Obama lied. He knowingly, intentionally lied. And he did it with convincing sincerity and humble appearance. I no longer believe him. And I have no faith in he or John Kerry to negotiate a good deal.

    • FriendlyGoat

      A ” no” answer on same-sex marriage should not preclude a Democrat from even running for president, and a “yes” answer should not preclude a Republican from even running——given the dozens of other issues more germane to what a president actually does. But you know reality on that in current politics as well as I do.

      I’m grateful for the Obama years on a variety of subjects and do not believe his position one way or the other on same-sex marriage is going to determine how our Supreme Court soon decides it. Either the five conservative males at SCOTUS hang together and send it back for FOREVER-AND-EVER argument in the statehouses, or one or more of them peels away from the others to normalize and equalize the issue on a national basis. Obama is not going to determine this outcome.

      • Peter

        My intent — albeit poorly stated — was to show how convincingly Obama can lie. I support gay marriage and I voted for Obama in 2008. (I voted for Hillary in the primary because I felt she had great experience and Obama had none.) However, gay marriage was never an important issue for me. Israel is an important issues and so is Iran getting a nuclear bomb.

        • FriendlyGoat

          I can’t argue with you if you are concerned about Israel’s existence. I don’t think Iran is getting a nuke, however.

          • azt24

            The only serious question is whether Iran will actually build a nuke, or pause as a threshold nuclear state with only a couple of months of construction standing between it and a nuclear arsenal.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, there is the possibility of Israel and Saudi Arabia bombing whatever they like—-maybe even together.. And that might be a better answer than us doing it, no?

          • Dan Greene

            Let’s be real: Saudi Arabia may be able to bomb Yemen (with marginal effect) but that’s all that minimal Saudi military competence allows for. The idea of Saudi Arabia trying to bomb Iran is comical, and the Saudis know that, so they won’t try.

            Israel obviously has a lot more capability but not the geographical location and not the support capabilities absent US participation, which is not going to happen.

            So, I’d say you can write off any Saudi or Israeli air strike on Iran.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Which means we’re to do it?

          • Dan Greene

            No, it means that no one is likely to do it (thank God.)

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, okay. That’s the point of the recent negotiations, which I support. But we can’t tell Israel not to attempt whatever it wishes. Truth be known, Shiites hate us, Sunnis hate us, and many Israelis don’t like us much unless we’re useful for bombing something on their behalf.

            I’d rather say, hey, we’re doing a world agreement and you guys can do whatever you want. Maybe they can’t, but that’s not the whole point of a “position” we might take.

          • Dan Greene

            Yes, we can absolutely tell Israel not to attempt what it wishes, if what it wishes is contrary to our interests. If they want to do something against US interests, then they can damn well forfeit the money and UN vetoes that we provide them.

            I agree with you that we are in bad shape in the ME. Amazing to think what advantages we have over the other major Eurasian powers–China, Russia, India, EU–who all have restive Muslim populations. In theory, we should be in great shape by comparison. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Why, in reality, are we not in great shape?

          • FriendlyGoat

            We’re not in great shape because Islamic people are being taught by their religious leaders to diss Judaism AND Christianity AND secular societies. It’s a messaging war and I always find myself going back to our need to convince otherwise-Muslim minds that the sayings of Mohammad actually don’t supersede everything else in human thought. It’s not easy, but what else is there?

          • Dan Greene

            Yes, but WHY has the anger developed in the Muslim world? It’s important to keep in mind that resistance to Western policies–in part intrusive and domineering policies, let’s admit–was primarily secular in nature until the 1980s. So Islamism is an iteration of a larger trend of resistance to what we are doing in the region. This is not merely about Imams “dissing” us. We need to face up to the fact that our behavior plays a central (though not the only) role in what has emerged. We self-indulgently tell ourselves that we are just “doing God’s work” and that all resistance is just craziness. Self-delusion is our biggest problem.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I believe we should have some regrets about some of our actions in the ME and elsewhere. But I have stopped believing that Islam would be better if we were better. Christianity has the words and spirit of Jesus to over-ride and negate many of the Old Testament excesses of coercion. Islam really doesn’t have that without someone being willing and able to super-impose SOME of the sayings of their Prophet over others. Some clerics may have gotten away with it in the past, but not anymore. It’s really hard now for Islamic clerics to turn the thing away from what we see in a dozen or more countries. This is why we are “waiting for the moderates” to prevail. And they no longer can.

            I want us to treat all people as well as we can. I don’t blame us for Islamic excess, however. I think we have to blame Islam itself for being a muddled mess.

            Gotta go spend some time with my dear spouse. Nice talking with you.

          • Dan Greene

            It’s not a question of Islam’s being better if we are better. Whatever problems Islam has in the ME are only OUR problems because we have aggressively entered the region to use it for our purposes: Control of energy markets, energy exports, and for Eastern European (and other) Jews, and general geopolitical significance.

            I agree with you in a general sense on the NT, but if we look back over the last century (to the beginning of WW I) we can see that Westerners/Christians have done a lot more killing than Muslims. How do we account for this reality?

            OK, au revoir.

          • azt24

            The Israelis have the means, and the Saudis have the geography. If the Saudis decide to facilitate the Israelis bombing Iran, we suddenly have a different calculus.

          • Dan Greene

            No, the Israelis don’t have the assets to give them reasonable assurance of a tactical success great enough to compensate for all the problems a strike on Iran would cause them.

            It’s academic anyway. Israeli threats to strike Iran have never amounted to anything more than a series of maneuvers to try and make the US either attack Iran or enact massive sanctions. Israel is not going to strike Iran. The risk-reward ratio is much too high from an Israeli perspective.

          • Dan Greene

            And if they “pause,” what will they be pausing for?

      • AmyH

        FriendlyGoat, this may come as a surprise to you but some of us, believe it or not, think that lying to win elections is scummy and it makes the person who does it untrustworthy.

        • FriendlyGoat

          I hope you will apply that standard to the candidates of an entire party who tell you guns are good, public education is bad, government assistance in health insurance is abominable, mankind has no role in climate change, the immigrants can all be deported, and that high-end tax cuts “create jobs”.

          • Paul

            Which party does that? Because what I usually hear is that guns, being an inanimate object and all, are neither good nor bad and it’s rather pointless to subject the vast majority of people who will never do anything bad with a gun to endless new laws that the people who intend to do bad things with them will mostly ignore anyway.

            Or that public education as it stands has a lot of problems, and throwing more money at them or imposing top-down solutions from on high will not solve any of them.

            Or that markets work best, and Government interference in health care markets usually does more harm than good, because politicians usually care more about winning their next election than they do about dealing with the unintended consequences of their actions.

            Or that perhaps man does have a role in climate change, but the most catastrophic predictions about climate change don’t seem to be coming true, and it’s not worth stunting the world economy and condemning hundreds of millions of people worldwide to poverty in order to address this ‘threat’.

            Or that the United States has borders, and a legal immigration process, and that people who ignore that process and just sneak in are breaking our laws and should be treated accordingly, not rewarded with taxpayer-provided benefits and given a fast track to becoming citizens. If Democrats disagree with this, then they should run on a platform of open borders and at-will citizenship for anybody who shows up and let the people decide.

            Or that individuals know best what to do with their own money, so all else being equal it’s better to let them keep it as opposed to having it taken by politicians.

          • FriendlyGoat

            One of our parties would happily support the gathering of comprehensive statistics on gun deaths and gun injuries. One resists that.

            One of our parties believes public schools must be publicly financed and private schools must be privately financed. One doesn’t.

            One of our parties understands that health care should not be only available to people, including children, seniors and the disabled, who happen to have the money to pay American market rates. One denies that humanitarian ideal.

            One party is concerned about climate change. One isn’t.

            One party wants to blame immigrants for the ills of society WHILE hiring them as cheaply as possible under the table. One doesn’t.

            One party knows that “individuals doing the best with their own money” never got you a road, a sewer system, a public school, a flood-control project, a public park, a public utility, a safe bank, a state police—-or even any fair labor standards in the private sector. The other party actually does know those things——but lies about them daily.

          • mikekelley10

            Guns are good. I plan to buy another soon. Public education does suck. Just ask any employer about their young new-hires. “Climate change/global warming” is man caused. It’s done with “adjustments” and “research” tainted by government and left-wing foundations’ money:

            –In truth, the overwhelming majority of climate-research funding comes from the federal government and left-wing foundations. And while the energy industry funds both sides of the climate debate, the government/foundation monies go only toward research that advances the warming regulatory agenda. With a clear public-policy outcome in mind, the government/foundation gravy train is a much greater threat to scientific integrity.

            Indeed, experts in the research community say that it is much more difficult for some of the top climate scientists — Soon, Roger Pielke Jr., the CATO Institute’s Patrick Michaels, MIT’s now-retired Richard Lindzen — to get funding for their work because they do not embrace the global-warming fearmongering favored by the government-funded climate establishment.–

            http://www.nationalreview.com/article/414359/global-warming-follow-money-henry-payne

          • Boritz

            How can you deny that tax cuts “create jobs”? They also “cure” disease and “improve” your “love life”.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I’m going to assume by your second sentence that your first sentence is in jest. But in case it’s not, I believe that high-end tax cuts cause a concentration of wealth at mere trading levels above where anyone gets hired. I think such cuts enable high-paid CEO’s who are paid highly to pare work forces. I think that reduced revenues going into government cause less public-sector hiring and less purchases from private-sector entities. And I think lower taxation of company income means companies are likely to run with fewer workers because lower taxes mean any profitable company gets to keep more of the savings achieved by laying people off.

            In a time of very, very low interest rates, the idea that capital cannot be formed for ANY promising venture is just silly—if it’s promising. We have a shortage of business ideas that work, but we do not need more high-end tax cuts to fund those ideas. Capital is sitting around everywhere looking for yield.

  • http://abiasedperspective.wordpress.com Luke Phillips

    To be perfectly fair, such immature and ad hominem discourse has always characterized American politics, all the way back to Philip Freneau’s character slandering of President Washington (backed by Jefferson, too.) I think the only difference (human nature being what it is) is that the volume of such blather has increased as politics has democratized and as technology has made ideas and information easier to disseminate.

  • animalmother

    I generally really enjoy your analysis of things – but I object to you throwing cold water on the notion that Obama is simply lying through his teeth as you put it – of course he’s lying, that’s what this guy does – his whole political career is based on the fact that he can say and do whatever he wants because he believes that the media will protect him. Like a true ideologue Obama believes that he is right about everything and anyone who disagrees with him is by definition wrong and therefore if he needs to lie in order to push what he knows is right forward then that’s fine.

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      Media protect an Obama? Or a Clinton? Or a Kennedy? Or any old dumpster-diving Marxist?!?!?!? The devil you say!

  • qet

    I second the view of wigwag and others who point out, essentially, that politics ain’t beanbag and never has been. “Bloodsport” may be an unfortunate metaphor in this context, as the highly refined and delicate sensitivity of modern Western elites to things as primitive as blood positively recoils when reminded that politics is war by other means. But in another respect the metaphor is entirely apt. I read somewhere recently someone’s opinion that “blood”–i.e., ethnic and national heritages and loyalties–is today the primary organizing principle of our politics. Whether one agrees with this or not, it cannot be denied that blood in this sense is certainly a prominent feature of our politics. Frankly I was surprised by Garfinkle’s seeming endorsement of what I take to be a thoroughly discredited idea; namely, that politics can be swept clean of human passions. I do not believe for one minute that the Founders even held such views. Their genius lay precisely in their ability to construct a form of government that could contain those passions.

    As for Obama’s interview, I am equally surprised by Garfinkle’s surprised at Obama’s reasoning. I saw nothing in there that looked any different or any more sophisticated than what he has said all along. Maybe it helps that he said it rather than his near-illiterate flacks. The issue (to me) has never been whether there is a logic to his approach; certainly there is. The issue (I thought) has been the existence of a flaw in that logic. Obama’s stated basis for “testing the propositions” is that the US has supreme power in all events on which it can fall back if need be. Yet at the same time he says that there is no effective military option available. Garfinkle himself observed in a piece last year or the year before that diplomacy, to be effective, requires that a credible threat of force be perceived by the parties. It is just that credible threat that has gone missing.

    In any case, a couple of things stood out for me in the interview. One is that, when discussing the rapprochement with Cuba, Obama refers to testing the proposition that engagement is “a better outcome for the Cuban people.” Shouldn’t he be guided by whether it is a batter outcome for the American people? Perhaps the two people’s interests are identical in this regard or at least aligned, but the verbiage to me is telling; it lends support to the views of his critics that the interests of this country are not foremost in his thinking. Another is the way he refers to the situaiton vis-a-vis Israel. Apparently his concern is not that Netanyahu’s position might be seen as anti-American–that is, contrary to the interest of this country–but “anti-Democrat.”

    Finally, I must note the irony of our President, presiding over a US “body politic” that seems to be coming apart at the seams and himself often appearing to be a rather joyful aider and abettor of that process, explaining how the US must “strengthen the body politic” of Arab countries!

    • Dan Greene

      “when discussing the rapprochement with Cuba, Obama refers to testing the proposition that engagement is “a better outcome for the Cuban people.” Shouldn’t he be guided by whether it is a batter outcome for the American people?”

      What did you want him to say? “I’m establishing relations with Cuba, because I’m afraid that if we leave Cuba out in the cold, that one of these fine days, China or Russia will establish a base there again.” Seems a bit impolitic to me.

      Let’s not confuse rhetoric with policy substance.

      Obama is a “joyful aider and abettor” of the disintegration of the US body politic? Did you watch The Manchurian Candidate recently?

  • jeburke

    Henry Kissinger and George Schultz have an excellent piece in the WSJ about the Iran talks and “framework.” It touches on the problems with deterrence I noted in my earlier comment and makes critical points about verification. Plus this, which I had not realized (though I should have):

    “Negotiating the final agreement will be extremely challenging. For one thing, no official text has yet been published. The so-called framework represents a unilateral American interpretation.”

    No text?!

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-iran-deal-and-its-consequences-1428447582

    • azt24

      No text, no signatures, no agreement.

      • jeburke

        Exactly. This sheds light on the intransigent comments from the Supreme Leader and Iran’s President. They know they have not yet agreed to anything, while Obama has been trying to hoodwink Americans into believing he has a deal and the best possible deal.

  • wigwag

    “Now, I have several reservations about this deal as it stands at the moment, as of course do many others. Yet it is not as bad as I had feared it might be…” (Adam Garfinkle)

    It was Daniel Patrick Moynihan who coined the term “defining deviancy down;” had he been alive today, I suspect that he would have read Adam’s post and concluded that Adam is defining disarmament down.

    How bad or not bad Adam suspected that the deal would be, is besides the point. What matters to the region and ultimately the world is whether it’s a good deal or a bad deal. For a discussion of that issue go here,

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-unfolding-farce-of-obamas-deal-with-iran/

    • Dan Greene

      So if a decades-long fiasco with regard to Iran’s nuclear program is “defining deviancy down,” then what do we say about our almost immediate acceptance of India’s nuclear weapons program and our offering a deal to them for nuclear energy as a reward??

  • Frank Natoli

    Fourth, it followed that while the contract that defined the republican political regime as such (the constitution) had to remain above the political fray for the sake of political stability, that contract could be adjusted as deemed necessary by the same procedural means that applied to rule-of-law itself. Hence a constitution or a foundational law could be revered without becoming sacrosanct or frozen.

    I would like to think that by “adjusted” Garfinkle means “amended as per Article V” but unfortunately he doesn’t say that, does he? I speculate Garfinkle did not say so because Obama and Democrats act as if “adjust” really means “disregard and do whatever the hell you please” using weasel words like “living constitution” to mean that the words themselves are meaningless.

    There are ad hominem Bush haters. And there are ad hominem Obama haters. But the equivalence that Garfinkle thus draws fails to reckon with the Constitutional lawlessness that is solely the province of Obama and Democrats and that, Mr. Garfinkle, is a reasoned attack not ad hominem

    Obama and the Democrats know that his treaty will not deter the Iranians from continuing to isolate bomb grade and critical mass necessary U-235. Obama and the Democrats also know that the “Little Boy” bomb, used on Hiroshima, was of such trivial technology, using a artillery barrel to shoot a half critical mass cylinder of U-235 into another half critical mass cylinder of U-235 thus achieving an uncontrolled fission reaction, that it did not even need to be tested. The earlier and famous Alamogordo test was of much more sophisticated imploding hollow sphere Pu-239, that was later used on Nagasaki. The “Little Boy” yield was inefficient, but it did produce close to 20,000 tons of TNT equivalent. Fissionable material is the bomb. The Iranian centrifuges are delivering the fissionable material, as the mile long uranium hexafloride separation building at Oak Ridge did 70 years ago. Obama and the Democrats have given the Iranians a green light to go nuclear. Congratulations, Democrat voters.

    • Dan Greene

      >>”Obama and the Democrats know that his treaty will not deter the Iranians from continuing to isolate bomb grade and critical mass necessary U-235.”

      How am I to understand this? When you say “continuing to isolate bomb grade…U-235,” I’m unclear what the evidence for this claim is or even what precisely is means. There is absolutely no evidence that Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons at all. That is either an irrational obsession or a rational worst-case scenario depending on your point of view. By “bomb grade” do you mean uranium enriched to a level sufficient for a weapon? Or what?

      A few relevant realities:

      1. The US prevented Iran from buying enriched uranium starting in the 1980s, a violation of its commitments under the NPT treaty. It was that action that put this whole show on the road that we are still dealing with. As a result of our reneging on our NPT responsibilities, Iran began to develop an enrichment capability of its own in the 1990s.

      2. Iran proposed negotiations with the US in 2003 to address the nuclear issue, regional issues and much else. The US refused because we wanted regime change in Iran. The Bush administration made no reply to the Iranian offer of talks.

      3. In 2004, Iran volunteered to suspend enrichment while negotiating a final agreement with the EU-3 (France, Germany, UK). At that point, Iran might still have agreed to give up enrichment and buy enriched uranium as it had originally wanted to do. US hostility killed the deal, because once again, we wanted to capitalize on what we thought was a great success in Iraq to bring about regime change in Iran and Syria.

      4. The 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate from our Intelligence Community (IC) found that any Iranian nuclear weapons work ceased in 2003. (It is not clear what the evidentiary basis for implying that Iran had any weapons program at all prior to 2003 really is, as nothing has ever been released that remotely substantiates that, but at least it said clearly that as of 2007 Iran was NOT working to develop nuclear weapons, a finding that has been repeated annually since 2007.)

      The bottom line is that our strategic incompetence has led us into this totally avoidable mess. Our general antipathy to Iran in the 1980s was perhaps to some extent understandable, with the hostage crisis and the targeting of US forces in Lebanon by Hezbollah. (Of course, we should have understood that favoring one faction in the Lebanese Civil War was bound to make us the target of other factions. And when we tote up the things that Iran has done to us and compare it to the things that we have done to them over the last 75 years, it’s surprising that they are not MORE hostile to us.)

      Once Khomeini had died and the Iran-Iraq War was over and Iran had intervened to get US hostages in Lebanon released at the end of the 1980s, that would have been the time for a rapprochement, but then, in the 1990s, the Israel Lobby began to be a bigger and bigger problem in our Iran policy and has continued to be so up to the present day. Israel wants regime change in Iran, plain and simple. No end to sanctions and other punitive measures is acceptable for the Israeli leadership no matter what they say to the contrary.

      We have been led into a strategic dead end and still can’t even understand that that is where we are! We could have settled this decades ago and Iran would today have no enrichment program. Too late for that as it is now a matter of national pride and much hardened feelings. And Iran knows that Russia and China share their deep unhappiness with US policy. Now we have China working to create a parallel global financial structure to rival the one we dominate and for the same reason that Iran now insists on maintaining an enrichment capacity. Incredible incompetence. And the worst is that instead of listening to OUR intelligence community, we listen to the paranoid concoctions and trumped up “intelligence” of Israel and its lobby. Total insanity!

      • Frank Natoli

        http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-news-report-tehran-will-start-using-fastest-centrifuges-on-day-deal-takes-effect/

        “Iran will begin using its latest generation IR-8 centrifuges as soon as its nuclear deal with the world powers goes into effect, Iran’s foreign minister and nuclear chief told members of parliament on Tuesday, according to Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency.”

        I beg your pardon for stating what should be obvious:

        (1) Uranium appears in nature mostly as isotope U-238 which is not fissionable and much less as isotope U-235 which is fissionable.
        (2) Bomb grade uranium, i.e., fissionable uranium, must be a relatively high purity U-235.
        (3) The most common way to separate U-235 from U-238, being that they are chemically identical, is by focusing on their atomic weight.
        (4) Centrifuges, as I note in my original post, are used to separate U-235 from U-238, by focusing on their atomic weight. There is no other relevant usage.
        (5) The Iranian foreign minister and nuclear chief has confirmed the above.

        Your move.

        • Dan Greene

          Why do you imagine that a random quote from Fars via Times of Israel means anything in particular? From the Wikipedia article on Fars:

          “In June 2012, [Fars] released an interview with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in which he wanted a strategic alliance with Iran. Both the competing Iranian news agency Press TV and the Egyptian news agency MENA have disputed the authenticity of this interview.”

          “In April 2013, [Fars] carried a story claiming a 27-year-old Iranian scientist had invented a time machine that allowed people to see into the future. A few days later the story was removed, and replaced with a story quoting an Iranian government official that no such device had been registered.”

          “In September 2012, the agency picked up – as fact – a story from The Onion, a satirical newspaper, about a supposed survey showing “an overwhelming majority of rural white Americans would rather vote for Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad than U.S. President Barack Obama in the upcoming U.S. elections”.[9][10] Fars News Agency later apologized for its mistake, with excuse that leading Western media ‘also had many similar goofs'”.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fars_News_Agency

          The only thing that Fars can testify to is the relative press freedom in Iran. It is otherwise full of zany stories that document its untrustworthiness as a news agency. In fact, your quoting Fars reminds me of this egregious example of bad journalism by TAI only a few weeks ago: “The Day the Mullahs Smiled.” Note my extended comment in the comment string for the article on TAI’s reliance on another ludicrous “news” outfit.

          http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/03/25/the-day-the-mullahs-smiled/

          I mean really, Iranian officials are are supposedly planning to cheat on the emerging agreement and discussing it openly in front of the press–and conveniently the fringe Iranian press? is that what you are alleging? I think you need to consider how leaders actually function in the real world, not on Planet X or wherever you formulate your views.

          Even the ToI article provides this caveat:

          “If accurate, the report appears to make a mockery of the world powers’ much-hailed framework agreement with Iran, since such a move clearly breaches the US-published terms of the deal, and would dramatically accelerate Iran’s potential progress to the bomb.”

          Key phrase: “IF ACCURATE…”

          With regard to your points 1-4, if Iran has these centrifuges and is dead-set on a bomb as you seem to assume, then why have they not already gotten one? Why wait until after an agreement? They have already enriched up to nearly 20%. It’s clear that they could go up to “bomb-grade,” i.e.’ 90+% if they wanted to. If they do it after the agreement (which would abrogate the agreement) then what do they achieve? They have one nuclear weapon against Israel’s 200 and they have wrecked their strategic policy in the region and globally. Talk to me about the motives for doing something so self-destructive.

          Time for you to start thinking strategically and not simply take your cues from whatever Israel-friendly stooge happens to be posting some trash article for TAI, much less the Times of Israel, for goodness sake.

          • Frank Natoli

            I see you do not believe that Iran is operating centrifuges. You are not a reasonable or rational person. Sorry.

          • Dan Greene

            Wow–great response! You’ve really got it going on, Frank!

            By the way, it’s obvious that Iran is operating centrifuges. They just aren’t doing what you imagine they’re doing with them.

          • Fred

            You are not a reasonable or rational person.
            Just noticed that did you? You must not have seen many of Dan’s comments. He is so blinded by his lunatic hatred for Israel and the Jews he figures anybody else who hates them must be good.

          • Dan Greene

            You couldn’t make a substantive rebuttal of my argument if your life depended on it, could you, Fred? Because Frank could really have used a little help, but clearly you’re not up to the task. Iranian capabilities and intentions are a bit too complex for you to deal with, I imagine. But glad you dropped in to provide Frank with some aid and comfort!

  • Brian Stahl

    With regards to shrillness, have you ever read Alasdair MacIntyre’s wonderful “After Virtue”? You only need the first six chapters to figure out why we’ve gotten so crazy, although I doubt you’ll want to stop reading at that point. We live in an emotivist culture where people’s opinions are not based on logic or reason, but on subjective preference for one virtue over another. There is no rational way of sorting out which virtue is the higher value in any given circumstance, and so we resort to shrill bickering and protest.

    I could go on, but MacIntyre says it all better.

  • peckerwood

    Lying through his teeth is what Obozo does for a living. The Mary McCarthy quote regarding Lillian Hellman comes to mind, i.e., every word is a lie, including “and” and “the,”

  • ThomasD

    When Barack Obama directs the LA Times releases the Rashid Khalidi tape I’ll be less skeptical of Obama’s true emotions regarding Israel.

  • ReformedTrombonist

    Gun-running. IRS. Criminalizing political differences. Benghazi. Emails missing. Non-responses to FOIA requests. Conservative groups showing up in lists of potential terrorist groups. ISIS and the complete meltdown of our previous successes in Iraq. Yemen.

    I could go on.

    All of this, just due to honest differences of opinion.

    Gee, I feel so ashamed.

  • ripsnorter

    Many years ago I read a 5,000 word piece in GQ or Esquire about George H. W. Bush, who was running for reelection. The author asked Bush which was his favorite Beatle. Everyone knows, the author wrote, that Bush should have said Paul. Instead, he said John. And thus the author unleashed his 5,000 words.

    I voted against Obama twice. But I also vote against these windy disquisitions.

  • AmyH

    We think the President is lying because he he is trying to circumvent Congress but not calling what is being developed a “treaty” (or at least not a TREATY treaty) and so insists it is not under Congress’s purview to give advice and consent for it when very clearly it should be. We also think he is lying because despite his words and yours here, his actions show he despises Netanyahu and Israel (whether that is because he is predisposed to that hatred or whether he has come to these feelings on account of Netanyahu insisting strongly that Israel has the right to exist and will protect that right through all available means I certainly don’t know). Finally, we think the President is lying because that seems to be his default action when faced with opposition… “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” ring any bells.

  • submandave

    There is a palpable need for some to find in criticism of Obama a right-wing analog to the left-wing reflexive hatred of Bush, and while I will certainly agree that there are some who do indulge in Obama-derangement (it is a running joke in our household that anything bad is Obama’s fault: “We’re out of toilet paper in the hall bathroom – it’s that damn Obama again”), but I feel some of that desire is often just an effort to lump legitimate criticism with unfounded bias, not unlike the way “racism” was throughout his administration been tossed out casually to discredit and ignore any criticism. It is entirely possible to listen to his remarks to Friedman and conclude he is lying based solely upon his prior actions, his prior associations, his prior statements, and his well-documented track record of lying whenever he seems to feel it is politically convenient.

    • John Morris

      Ya. The guy has borne false witness pretty much every single time an important issue has been debated for six years in office and as far back before as one cares to look. It ain’t speculation anymore, it is documented fact. The proposition that he is now speaking the truth on this Iran issue is thus an extraordinary claim and thus requires extraordinary evidence. Seeing none, and plenty of reasons to suspect deception, it is therefore reasonable to assume he is lying.

  • Deserttrek

    the crassness in politics is the result of the egotists and corrupt bastards in politics and the media ….. they like the bad neighborhoods have no one to blame but themselves

  • Diggsc

    If a president were elected to office who DID have the desire to reduce America to a second-rate status; who did have the desire to leave Israel defenseless, or at least out of the protective sphere of American deterrence; who did have the desire to promulgate racial enmity in America; who did have the desire to make American allies question their alliance and make American enemies question American resolve…if someone were to come into office to do all these things, what would they be doing different from what Obama is doing now?

    • John Morris

      Exactly. The apologist says that if Obama were truly the enemy within the gates he would be totally unfettered and settle every score in a single blow in these waning days of his last term but this is said from either ignorance or deception. He is already running dangerously close to losing the 1/3 of the Senate needed to continue ruling by decree and you have to wonder just how much farther and faster he could actually push without triggering a coup here of the sort that recently saved Egypt from Obama’s insane plot to install the Muslim Brotherhood in power there. We have strong traditions of civilian rule but the military do swear an oath to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and they take it deadly serious.

      My point is that he is probably already doing the most damage possible consistent with the possibility of holding the office and keeping the possibility of passing it off to Hillary. And that last part is essential since if the Conservatives actually managed to beat Hillary (and Jeb) much of Obama’s damage could be reversed, OCare for example is still deeply unpopular and needs another eight years to truly be irreversible.

  • http://twitter.com/newclasstraitor NewClassTraitor

    Any sufficiently advanced degree of incompetence is functionally indistinguishable from malice. (With apologies to Arthur C. Clarke.)

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      Ha! Heart the comment. Heart the handle. What’s not to heart? Forward.

  • RaymondJelli

    Wow, What a multi paragraph straw man. Division of powers existed in ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Most governments had priests separate from kings because there was a sense of the absolute divine and the messy secular. It is not a primitive belief to believe that there is an ultimate creator and an ultimate truth. Totalitarians believe not in an ultimate (and for mere mortals humbling) truth but in their own flawed application of will. Garfinkle somehow believes that because he found Obama compelling in a single interview that the lies from Obamacare, Benghazi, etc. are no longer relevant. Maybe he can just go to an Occupy rally and say religion is stupid. He’d have a crowd of people agreeing there.

    • Fred

      Division of power existed even in the so-called “theocratic” Middle Ages. I just finished reading a book of Aquinas’s political thought, and he takes great care to distinguish the secular from the religious powers. There were civil wars in Dante’s Italy between factions that supported the Pope and factions that supported secular rulers. It all goes back to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesars and unto God what is God’s.” State religions were an artifact of the Reformation.

  • George Pepper

    Prolixity is not a virtue; economy of expression is.

  • keith12345

    Surprised that this guy is trying to defend Bush. WTF?

  • Winston

    I agree with the basic premise. But Obama’s sympathies and motives are a completely legitimate issue because his actions and rhetoric make it so.

  • Winefred

    I persisted with this article, despite its initial social Darwinist analysis of history (an offense to any medievalist, or anyone who dissents from the Enlightenment), but could not help being rattled by the paralleling of Bush-hatred and so-called Obama-hatred. It is perfectly reasonable to make objective analysis of each of these men as men, and evaluate how their personal flaws impacted their policy decisions and governing style. This is not ad hominem attack, it is just one mode of rational assessment, especially insofar as it is based on evidence rather than emotion. Rational people, whether they approved of his Presidency or not, have usually had to admit that with Bush, “what you see is what you get”. Even for those of us who opposed the election of Obama from the get-go, it took awhile to form an opinion about whether those aspects of which we did not approve were a product of accident (based on his naivete, inexperience, and ignorance) or by design (based on a cultivated disdain for America’s history, national character, and political convention). There would seem to be no room for doubt after more than six years, that with Mr. Obama, what you see bears little or no relation to what you get, and that this is very much by design.
    Concluding, as a point of fact, that Obama is fundamentally deceptive is still not a complete analysis of his motives or character — such further analysis requires further reason applied to observation, which is something one can do without succumbing to emotion. More and more thinking Americans, of various political opinions, are coming to the conclusion that Mr. Obama has a deep-seated animus towards the traditional personality and identity of the United States, and the policies that derive therefrom, and that the most honest thing he has ever said in this regard was his stated intention to “transform America” upon his arrival in the Oval Office.
    I hadn’t actually intended to comment at any length about the content of this article, but rather to comment on the comments. The comments began with such thoughtful and well-written responses that I felt I had little to add. As I scrolled through the comments I expected to see what usually happens these days, which is that they quickly devolve into name-calling and ugly, ignorant dog-fights, but this is not what happened. It was a delight to read on, even when strong differences arose, which were argued with respect and coherence. I had begun to think such things were not possible anymore, so kudos to everybody — especially to our friend Wigwag, who nails it from his/her very first sentence.

  • Alec Rawls

    The important part of Garfinkle’s column is where he notes Obama giving his view that Iran can be deterred from USING atomic bombs, essentially that MAD can work with them the way it worked with Russia. Garfinkle asked Friedman to clarify that this was what Obama was saying and Friedman said he thought it was. So yes, Obama’s comments are clarification that he is indeed proceeding on a path to allow Iran to gain nuclear weapons.

    Why Garfinkle dressed that up in a preface about not jumping to the worst interpretation for partisan purposes (never mind an absurdly long such preface) I don’t know. He must travel in left wing circles (that is Democrat circles) where he is sure that he will be attacked as a partisan for noting even the most obvious Obama negatives.

    Unfortunately he also succeeds in largely burying the revelation that is the actual subject of his post. Witness Instapundit’s excerpt. He evidently never got to the revelation. I only saw it because I scrolled down for the promised “troubling remark everyone missed in Tom Friedman’s interview with President Obama.”

    “To do it properly I need to begin with a rather sweeping detour,” begins Garfinkle. No, to do it with some hope of preserving his standing as a Democrat he needs to add a mile of defensive padding. “That word ‘properly,’ I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

  • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

    One simple fact makes all the rest of this moot. No, we are NOT preserving our capacities to militarily counter Iran. Just the reverse, as anyone who has read the news this last week knows. As a doctrinaire Leftist, of course Obama is crippling the military. He has done it from Day One and he continues to do so, not just he US military but all of “The West” to the extent he may. Iran and most of Islam is nothing but a psycho ward with weapons. What caliber of weapon is the only question. Obama is a traitor in that he openly engages in war AGAINST the US and our allies and in favor of the Jihadis. He does this consistently, persistently and mendaciously. As the defector put it so well, the US is no more than a mouthpiece for The Islamic Republic against the declared (though only lately defended) interests of Europe, France foremost. Obama is ON THE OTHER SIDE in the great Jihad against YOU, moron. Yes, YOU. If you are gay, that goes double. Don’t think so? Read all the public statements again. Obama is as much an enthused Jew and infidel murderer as any stone caster in Gaza. Deal with it. Forward.

  • PDQuig

    He is indeed lying through his teeth, they are sure

    WaPo awarded Obama the Lie of the Year Award. Obama has been repeatedly caught telling out-and-out falsehoods–not just “spin,” but provably false statements. For those of us who pay attention to such minutia as presidential lies, they have become too numerous to count. Bush Derangement Syndrome rested on a series of leftist falsehoods (Bush lied, the Katrina response was the federal government’s fault and not the LA governor and New Orleans mayor, the infamous yellowcake lie, the supposed outing of Valerie Plame) re-purposed into endlessly repeated talking points. Obama, on the other hand, is a serial, provable liar.

  • Dracovert

    Obama has the characteristics of a clinical psychopath, as described by Dr. Hervey Cleckley and By Dr. Robert Hare. What ever faults Bush may have had, Bush was nowhere close to being a psychopath. After Germany’s encounter with Hitler, you would think that the Germans would be the first to recognize another psychopath, but they did not and welcomed Obama the first time around, but they have cooled to Obama considerably more recently.

    The psychopathic Soviet Union died of dishonesty, corruption, and incompetence in 1991 and is now reviving as a psychopathic power under Putin. This is a repeating scenario; the psychopathic militant Islamists have revived periodically for fifteen centuries. The only times that psychopathic powers were finally terminated were under Napoleon, Hitler, and Tojo. The moral, social, and economic costs of ending the psychopathic reigns of France, Germany, and Japan were massive, but historically that is the only way to terminate psychopathy.

    We are now faced with new dangers and new opportunities; psychopathic powers are threatening technological breakthroughs in intelligence and weaponry which could leave psychopathic powers unassailable. On the other hand, current knowledge of psychopathy and current technical capabilities could terminate the psychopathic leadership of the militant Islamic states. We already know that psychopathic Marxist powers can be contained until they fail of corruption and incompetence, as the Soviet Union did in 1991. All bets are off if anyone anywhere starts showing off their nuclear capabilities.

  • saunan

    I read the stuff about Locke and Hobbes, expecting the denouement to excoriate Obama for lowering the bar of American politics another notch toward “bloodsport” – which Obama clearly has done. Instead, what I found was a twisted moral relativism.

    Philosophically speaking, the author and his illustrious professor may be right. But who bears responsibility for encouraging “mass forgetfulness” of the rare “attitudes and dispositions” that characterize a liberal democratic republic? Why, that would be the Democratic Left, personified by Barack Hussein Obama and the New York Times.

    And we’re supposed to give both Obama and the NYT a pass because Obama told the “truth” in one solitary interview, to a newspaper that spawned Walter Duranty. I feel like I’ve been slimed.

  • csmats

    The Iranians are saying Obama is lying about the deal. Giving Obama the benefit of the doubt and assuming the Iranians are the actual liars, that means conservatives were right all along in saying the Iranians are not to be trusted. But if the Iranians are trustworthy as Obama claims, the only other alternatives are either that Obama is the one lying or he’s simply incompetent. How is it “bloodsport” to merely point out the logical alternatives?

  • stevewfromford

    Consider Mr Garfinkle, it is not necessary for Obama to “hate” America for the right to be correct that he means the US harm. Obama can love his country if it was just different from what it is now and so can be convinced, as I believe he is, that his mission is to change, in some fundamental way, America. In order to fundamentally change something one must first get rid of that which currently occupies the space. Thus can Obama love America and yet seek to destroy much of it!

  • Xenophon

    This kind of article is exactly why I read TAI. I may not agree with the majority of the conclusions that Mr. Gerfinkle draws, but I can understand the logic that lead to those conclusions, and the questions that his interpretation of events leaves unanswered.

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