January 8, 2014

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Here’s Don Imus as he opened his show this morning,

“And now Bob Gates, former secretary of defense, has a book that would give you an erection. He drops a safe on the president. … This guy is the worst president, I can’t even think of a worse president.”  The new Gates book will be in the news so we have a little bit today and then more starting next week. Paul Mirengoff of Power Line says this just confirms what we all thought about cynical Dem politicians.


… (Bob) Woodward describes Gates’ report as one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat. That’s an understatement. Expending American blood on behalf of a strategy one has devised but doesn’t believe in is despicable, if not criminal.

John Kerry came to prominence as a young soldier demanding to know who would be the last to die for a mistake. But at least in Vietnam, the president was in the process of withdrawing from the war — one which had been ramped up under his predecessor. In 2010, by which time Gates says Obama did not believe in the ramp-up strategy he had formulated, the U.S. was forging ahead with that strategy. Phased withdrawal did not begin until mid-2011.

Gates reveals other similarly despicable behavior by both Obama and Hillary Clinton. He writes:

“Hillary told [Obama] that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political.”

Gates was surprised when he heard this conversation. But the only surprising thing is that Obama and Clinton had it with Gates present. Modern Democrats consistently make decisions about war and peace based on political calculation, rather than on what’s best for America. …



More from Steve Hayward.

So the first of what has become a pastime of recent two-term presidencies is out today: a critical memoir from a senior cabinet official.  Former defense secretary Bob Gates has a memoir coming out that looks to be very hard on Obama, but perhaps even harder on Obama’s would-be successors Joe Biden and Hillary.

Of Slow-Joe Biden, Gates writes that “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” and that he nearly resigned in 2009 over Obama’s dithering over Afghanistan.

As usual, Bob Woodward seems to have the inside track on Gates’s forthcoming book, noting that the book “reflects outright contempt for Vice President Joe Biden and many of Obama’s top aides.” …



Last on this subject for now from Seth Mandel.

… Today both the Washington Post and New York Times published revelations from former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates’s forthcoming memoir. The Post’s account, written by Bob Woodward, notes that Clinton apparently admitted to President Obama that her opposition to the “surge” was pure politics, since Obama was opposed to the surge and they were in competition at the time. Picking up from that, Woodward’s Post colleague Chris Cillizza speculates on how the excerpt could harm Clinton’s prospects:

But, remember this is Hillary Clinton we are talking about.  And, the criticism that has always haunted her is that everything she does is infused with politics — that there is no core set of beliefs within her but rather just political calculation massed upon political calculation. Remember that she began slipping in the 2008 Democratic primary when her opponents seized on an overly political answer on giving drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants during a debate in  late 2o07.

Gates’s version of why Clinton opposed the surge fits perfectly into this existing good-politics-makes-good-policy narrative about the former secretary of state. And that’s what makes it dangerous for her —  and why you can be sure she (or her people) will (and must) dispute Gates’s recollection quickly and definitively.

Whether it hurts Clinton might depend largely on who runs against her in the Democratic primary. But he’s right that the reputation of both Clintons has always been not to say a single word that hasn’t been focus-grouped into the ground. If Clinton was hoping her time as secretary of state would temper that reputation, the Gates memoir is yet another example of how difficult it can be for a politician to shake an entrenched narrative, especially one, like this, that is accurate.

The Post story isn’t kind to Biden either. (It’s brutal toward the Obama White House in general, but Obama has no more presidential elections ahead of him.) …



Larry Sabato launched his column at Politico with the teasing thought the GOP could win both houses next November.

Another midterm election beckons, and over the next 10 months we’ll see headlines about a thousand supposedly critical developments—the “game changers” and the “tipping points.” But we all know there aren’t a thousand powerful drivers of the vote. I’d argue that three factors are paramount: the president, the economy and the election playing field. And, at least preliminarily, those three factors seem to be pointing toward Republican gains in both houses in the 2014 midterms. …

… But Obama’s popularity has sagged badly in his fifth year. While some unforeseen event in 2014 might add some points to his job approval average, the odds are against a full restoration; it’s just as likely Obama’s polling average, currently in the low 40s, will decline further—though Obama may have a relatively high floor because of consistent backing from minority voters and other elements of the Democratic base.

As 2014 begins, the environment for the Democrats in this election year is not good. The botched, chaotic rollout of the Affordable Care Act is the obvious cause, but it is broader than that: the typical sixth-year unease that produces a “send-them-a-message” election. Fortunately for Democrats, the GOP-initiated shutdown of the federal government in October has tempered the public’s desire for a shift to the Republican side, too. “None of the above” might win a few races in November if voters had the choice. …



Walter Russell Mead posts on the 10 biggest winners of 2013. One thing the winners have in common is they are arrayed against president bystander. Meaning they have little competition.

Looking back at 2013, some actors on the international scene, both state and non-state, notched up significant achievements and advances. Others didn’t do as well. In developing our list of the world’s biggest winners and losers in 2013, AI didn’t make moral judgments. This is a realist calculation, looking at who gained power during the year and who lost.

1. President Vladimir Putin and Russia

The champagne corks were popping in the Kremlin after a banner 2013. With Edward Snowden ensconced in Moscow, Putin can celebrate Russia’s biggest embarrassment of the United States since the fall of the Soviet Union. But that’s only the beginning. Russia’s client Assad defied bloodcurdling White House threats of bombing raids and demands that “Assad must go” in Russia’s biggest geopolitical victory over the United States since Brezhnev was in power. As icing on the cake, a desperate, fumbling White House had to accept a Russian proposal to escape from the trap President Obama built for himself. Russian foreign policy makers hadn’t had this much fun since the Bay of Pigs. Finally, to complete the Kremlin’s annus mirabilus, a clueless European Union lost out to Russia in a battle to bring Ukraine into a trade association with the rich western bloc. What makes this string of impressive victories even more impressive is that President Putin is playing with a weak hand. His economy is in trouble, his army is rife with corruption, his population is in decline, and his country faces a growing Chinese superpower to the east and a growing threat from terrorists in the south. Underfunded, underequipped, and underrespected, Vladimir Putin danced rings around Barack Obama, John Kerry and Angela Merkel this year.  Western stupidity is his chief strategic asset, and in 2013 at least, there was a lot of that going around.

2. Iran

Close behind Vladimir Putin as the biggest winner of 2013 comes the Islamic Republic of Iran. …

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