(Video) Senator Rubio makes a fool out Senator Harkin over Cuba


**Posted by Phineas

This is truly a popcorn-worthy use of your time, my friends.

Background: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), one of the leading progressives in the Senate, took a trip to Cuba recently. Perfectly legal, members of Congress can go on such fact-finding missions when they wish. The senator must have visited an alternate-Earth Cuba, however, because, when he came back, he had nothing but praise for the Communist dictatorship:

It makes sense that as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Tom Harkin would want to check out how other countries are doing when it comes to public health. So he spent last week in Cuba, where he saw all sorts of things that made quite the impression on him.

Cuba is a “poor country, but they have a lower child mortality rate than ours,” the Iowa Democrat said to reporters Wednesday. “Their life expectancy is now greater than ours. It’s interesting—their public health system is quite remarkable.”

This was all a bit much for Marco Rubio (R-FL), himself the son of Cuban refugees who had to flee the island to escape that wonderful health system, and so much else. (1) So, in a speech before the Senate, he proceeded to mop the floor with Harkin’s useful idiocy. From the Miami Herald:

This wasn’t some Cold War-era fulmination about Castro’s regime.

Rubio’s speech was about current events: the protests in Venezuela, the Maduro government and the ties it has with the Castros, who repress their own people and helped inspire the suppression in Caracas.

Venezuela is becoming the new Cuba.

For 14 minutes and 16 seconds, Rubio gave the best oration of his political career, speaking largely off the top of his head and with only the barest of notes. Rubio sometimes dripped with sarcasm or simmered with indignation as he made the case to Congress that the United States needs to continue Cuba sanctions and punish Venezuela.


My only question is at what point did Harkin sneak out in embarrassment?

I know Rubio has lost his luster with conservatives because of his support for the Senate immigration bill last year. Indeed, he’s fallen well-off my own short list, as I came to question his judgment. But, in this speech on tyranny in Cuba and Venezuela, on the fecklessness of the Obama administration’s policy in the region and the fatuousness of Castro apologists such as Tom Harkin, all I can say is “Viva, Marco!”

RELATED: More at Hot Air.

(1) If you want to read one of the best books about what life under the Castro brothers has really been like, I recommend Armando Valladares’ memoir, “Against All Hope.” I’m tempted to send Tom Harkin a copy.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Lessons of World War I. @BarackObama, take note


**Posted by Phineas

World War I montage

There’s an excellent (1) article by Victor Davis Hanson (2) on the lessons to be drawn from World War I, or, as I sometimes call it, the 19th century’s collective act of mass suicide (3). As this is the centennial year of the war’s start, we’re naturally seeing and will see all sort of books, articles, and programs about how it happened, whose fault it was, and what we can learn from it.

Hanson’s article deals with the last. After reviewing the standard analyses regarding secret treaties, rigid mobilization plans, and a too-harsh peace, all of which have their flaws, he keys on one that has bearing for our increasingly dangerous world, today — misjudgment:

One of the lessons of the outbreak of World War I is the importance of perceptions. At some point in 1914 the German military and diplomatic community concluded that the country not only could pull off a successful lightning strike against France, but could do so without starting a world war — given various events over the prior decades.

Such flawed thinking is a good reminder that appearances often matter as much as reality in provoking wars. Hitler certainly was suicidal in attacking his de facto partner, the Soviet Union, in June 1941. But for all his crazy ranting about his grievances, Untermenschen, and grand strategy, it was the false perception that the Soviet Union would quickly collapse — given its recent dismal performance in Poland and Finland, and the prior purging of its officer corps, contrasted with the recently successful Blitzkrieg in Poland and Western Europe — that persuaded Hitler to try something so fatally dangerous.

And yet, at the end of both wars, Germany was defeated –crushed, in the latter case– by the nations her leaders has mistakenly deemed weak. War had assumed its role as the final arbiter of the realities of power, at the price of wholesale destruction and millions dead.

For which Hanson sees a rough parallel and lesson for today:

China, like the Westernized Japan of the 1930s, wants influence and power commensurate with its economic clout, and perhaps believes its growing military can obtain both at the expense of its democratic neighbors without starting a wider war. North Korea is not convinced that demanding concessions from South Korea — or simply humiliating it and the U.S. — by threats of war would not work. Iran trusts that the age of the U.S. mare nostrum in the Mediterranean is over, that the Sunni Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms are spent, that once-unquestioned Western guarantees to Israel are now negotiable, that nuclear acquisition is an agreed wink-and-nod obtainable enterprise, and that terrorist appendages can achieve political objectives in the Middle East just as effectively as carrier groups.

Putin dreams that the Russian imperial world of the 1950s can live again, through coercion, Machiavellian diplomacy, and the combined lethargy of the EU and the U.S. — and he often is willing to take some risks to refashion current realities. Failed socialist and Communist states in Latin America nonetheless believe that a distracted or uninterested U.S. no longer cares to make the argument that transparent democratic capitalism is the region’s only hope for the future. The miseries of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are apparently no reason for them to feel that they should not extend them to other countries.

And then ties it to our current leadership:

Amid all that, a minor bow and apology here, or an inadvertent pink line and empty deadline there, matters. Gratuitous talk of “reset” and “lead from behind,” coupled with serial scapegoating of past U.S. policies and presidents, massive new debt and vast cuts in defense, also sends a message to our rivals and enemies that occasional gambles and aggressive moves that would usually be seen as stupid and suicidal may not be any more.

World War I became “World War I” when Germany believed that Britain would not fight to support France or honor an ancient treaty with little Belgium. They were wrong, but part of the reason they were wrong was due to the diffident mixed signals being sent by London. The world now has to hope that the diffidence emanating from Washington doesn’t lead to similar misjudgments in Moscow, Beijing, or Tehran.

(1) Kind of a needless adjective, when talking about anything written by VDH.
(2) Why isn’t this man in the Senate, instead of the blithering idiot Boxer? I demand satisfaction!
(3) Update: I should have made this clear, I guess, but, no, I do not believe the First World War was fought in the 19th century. As I explained to a commenter, WWI and the “suicide of the 19th century” refers to the civilization of the “long 19th century,” a term some historians use for political, diplomatic, and cultural themes that were dominant from roughly 1789 to 1914. The chronological 19th century ended at midnight, December 31st, 1900. The world of the 19th century came to an end in August, 1914.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Foreign Service officers revolt against lousy Obama appointees


**Posted by Phineas



In the Catholic Church, the sin was called “simony,” the buying and selling of sacred offices, such as bishoprics. The practice was one of the abuses that lead to the Reformation. Now Foreign Service officers are rising against a secular simony, the Obama administration’s appointment of unqualified ambassadors who also happen to be big campaign donors:

After a string of rocky confirmation hearings for President Obama’s diplomatic nominees, the group representing America’s Foreign Service professionals signaled Friday that it’s had enough.

The organization, in a major rebuke, is now urging that the White House set minimum qualification standards for its ambassadorial nominees.

“The topic of the qualifications of ambassadorial nominees is of great interest to AFSA’s membership,” The American Foreign Service Association said in a statement. “All Americans have a vested interest in ensuring that we have the most effective leaders and managers of U.S. embassies and missions advancing U.S. interests around the globe.”

The American Foreign Service Association has long argued that ambassadorial nominees should, for the most part, come from the ranks of career professionals — as opposed to the ranks of top-dollar political donors. But the organization is taking its concerns to a new level, announcing Friday that it will propose new guidelines for “the necessary qualifications and qualities” for diplomatic candidates.

The statement said the group has been “closely monitoring” recent confirmation hearings.

AFSA has good reason to be upset. Administrations have typically operated under a 70-30 rule, under which political appointees (as opposed to professionals) were kept to around thirty percent of the available posts. Some went a little higher, others a little lower. The Obama administration, on the other hand, has broken all records: per AFSA, fully 53% of all appointees have been political, the trend rocketing during the second term.

If they were qualified, the practice would contemptible and venal, but tolerable. But many of these appointees are spectacularly unqualified:

  • Senator Max Baucus, appointed to represent us in China, admitted he was “no real expert” on China. This is the same China that holds most of our debt and is a growing military rival in the Pacific. The only reason Team Smart Power yanked him out of the Senate (from which he was retiring) was to try to save the seat for the Democrats in the coming midterms.
  • Hotelier and mega-bundler George Tsunis was so ignorant of of Norway, to which he had been appointed, that he managed to offend the Norwegian government at his confirmation hearing.
  • Noah Mamet, another bundler, admitted under questioning that he’s never been to Argentina, one of the most important countries in South America and which appears to be heading into a crisis. Maybe they should have asked if he could find it on a map.
  • And Colleen Bell, an Obama bundler and soap opera producer appointed to be our ambassador to Hungary, a nation whose democratic institutions are under attack by rising fascism, couldn’t describe our strategic interests in this NATO ally. Senator McCain utterly humiliated her in her hearing.

AFSA, which is not a union per se and has traditionally kept a low profile, is making the unprecedented demand that ambassadorial appointments meet some minimum qualifications. One would think this would already be true, but not apparently in Chicago-on-the-Potomac.

What’s next? Appointing Obama’s favorite horse?

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#Benghazi: Lady Macbeth regrets


**Posted by Phineas

American Blood, US Consulate, Benghazi

“Madame sends her regrets.”

The Democratic Party’s presidential nominee-in-waiting (1) spoke before the annual convention of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association in New Orleans last weekend and took full responsibility for the security lapses at Benghazi that led to the deaths of four Americans, including the Ambassador, saying, “I was in charge, but I put politics ahead of good sense. I failed, and now four good men are dead because of my failure.”

Wait. No, she didn’t.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton remained vague Monday about whether she will run for president in 2016 and said the attacks on the U.S. outposts in Benghazi, Libya, were the biggest regret of her four years as the United States’ top diplomat.

Before a large crowd of politically active car dealers, Clinton, the overwhelming favorite among possible Democratic presidential contenders, discussed her signal accomplishments — notably a recommendation that U.S. commandos go into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden (2) — and her regrets.

“My biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi,” she said during a question-and-answer session after her keynote speech at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention in a packed 4,000-seat room.

Four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed when militants attacked the lightly protected U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi and a better-fortified CIA base nearby on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

“Regrets.” Pardon me while I spit. Regrets are what you send when you can’t attend a dinner party. Regret is what you feel for not asking that neat girl or guy in high school to the prom, or when you turn down a great job offer and later realize how stupid you were.

Those are things you regret.

What happened in Benghazi was an atrocity, a murderous attack on US government personnel made possible by multiple layers of serial incompetence at the State Department, including the Secretary of State, herself, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Regrets?” Try “criminal negligence.”

Instead of speaking to car dealers, Clinton should be facing a jury.

via Sister Toldjah in email

PS: Might as well get this out of the way — “What difference, at this point, does it make?” A lot, Hill. A lot.

(1) In her own mind, at least.
(2) Please. I’ll give Obama credit for ordering a direct assault on bin Laden, but, let’s be real: any American president, including James Buchanan and Jimmy Carter, would have done the same. And, Hillary? You were just one adviser among many.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

He’s the Smartest President Ever, so give him easy words


**Posted by Phineas

"No big words, please"

“No big words, please”

From Florida’s Shark Tank via Jim Geraghty’s Morning jolt, it seems we have an explanation for the “Polish death camps” kerfuffle that roiled relations between our two countries a while back.

His speechwriter was trying to protect him:

In an exclusive audio file furnished by Shark Tank reporter, Special K, the President’s $75K a year speechwriter, Kyle O’Connor, who wrote the speech in question, discussed how this gaffe really came about during a talk he had with a group of college kids in Washington, D.C.

O’Connor stated that he was concerned about the pronunciation of the name of the death camp, so he opted to remove the name from the speech, and replace it with “Polish death camp.”

According to O’Connor, all of Obama’s “Wizards of Smart” didn’t  catch the gaffe, and signed off on it, but after the political excrement hit the fan, O’Connor was told that it was not a big deal, that, “ no one could have caught it.”

Per Power Line (h/t Geraghty), the camp’s name was “Belzec.” Yep. Real toughie, there.

As for “not a big deal,” if you’ll recall, the Poles were none too happy that Nazi death camps were attributed to them, thanks to sloppy speech writing. “No one would have caught it?” Pardon me? Just how ignorant are these people? The Holocaust is one of the most horrific events in human history, and the Nazis placed many of the camps in occupied Poland. No one ran this speech by the guy on the East European desk at State? Surely, after he was done spit-taking, he would have gently informed (1) the White House they were about to gravely insult an ally. Again.

Once again, no one in this administration was held responsible for their performance. Instead, the whole thing became a standing joke involving camps where genocide took place. Read the rest for the punch line.

If the words “juvenile” and “callow” come to mind when you think of this administration, you’re not far off.

(1) As in screaming his lungs out.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Smart-Power Success! Al Qaeda takes Fallujah!


**Posted by Phineas

Your Obama foreign policy team

Your Obama foreign policy team

Not “al Qaeda central,” as the Obama administration likes to call it, but the revived affiliate “al Qaeda in Iraq” (Zarqawi’s old outfit), which is more or less merged with its Syrian equivalent in one big happy family of murdering jihadi psychos.

And, taking advantage of internal Iraqi political frictions, they’re making their move:

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, an al Qaeda branch in the Middle East, and its tribal allies have taken control of Fallujah less than one week after launching an offensive in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. Meanwhile, the military and tribes that oppose the ISIS have launched counterattacks in Ramadi and other cities and towns along the Euphrates River.

Security officials and reports told the BBC that the ISIS fighters “control the south of the city,” while “tribesmen allied with al Qaeda hold the rest of Fallujah.” Reuters reported that “the northern and eastern parts of the city were under the control of tribesmen and militants.”


Jihadists waving al Qaeda’s black flag have occupied police stations and government buildings, and are issuing calls from mosques for men to join the fight against the government.

The military has responded by shelling areas of the city under ISIS control. The total number of people killed during the fighting in Fallujah is not yet known.

ISIS fighters seized control of parts of Fallujah and Ramadi, the two largest cities in Anbar, on Tuesday after the Iraqi military withdrew from the cities in the wake of clashes between government forces and the tribes following the arrest of a senior Sunni politician in Ramadi. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda seizes partial control of 2 cities in western Iraq]. Maliki ordered the troops to return to the cities after cutting a deal with the tribes, but not before the ISIS quickly moved in and seized control.

Politics between the Sunni tribes in Anbar with each other and strained relations with the Shiite Maliki government in Baghdad gave ISIS their opening (for example), but I have a hard time imagining this coming to pass if Team Smart Power hadn’t a) utterly bungled the negotiations over a Status of Forces agreement with Iraq, thus leading to our total withdrawal, and b) also bungled the Syrian situation so badly that a promising opportunity to bring down Assad and deal a body-blow to Iran was instead practically given gift-wrapped to al Qaeda affiliates (and Iran…).

Bungling. That seems to be the common element here.

Fallujah, Ramadi, Tal Afar, Baquba, and so many other places in western Iraq and around Baghdad were liberated by American and Iraqi blood and treasure. I don’t know if this situation will deteriorate into a crisis, or if Iraqi security forces can push ISIS out, but, as of now, Barack Obama and his foreign policy geniuses are flushing everything those men and women fought for down the toilet.

RELATED: via Hot Air, Secretary of State Kerry says “You go, Iraq! Just don’t expect any real help from us…”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Shocker: Syria to miss deadline on Obama WMD deal


**Posted by Phineas

"This thing hates me."

Wishes he’d never heard of Syria

Hey, didn’t the Assad regime get the message that Obama really meant it when he said he was really, really serious about getting Syria to give up its chemical weapons? Keep this up, and he’ll go tell Putin on them:

Syria’s failure to move part of its chemical weapons arsenal to a Mediterranean port has prompted warnings that the disarmament deal struck with the country is falling seriously behind schedule.

A Norwegian navy frigate sent to escort a convoy carrying Syria’s mustard gas and sarin stockpile has said it has been advised to expect a substantial delay.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body in charge of the UN-backed plan to destroy 1,300 tonnes of Syria’s chemical weapons, said it had put in place all the necessary “logistical and security” arrangements.

However, it added that tomorrow’s deadline for the shipment of the weapons-grade munitions cannot be met and could only proceed if President Bashar al-Assad’s government “intensified efforts” to move the material.

I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

Of course, everyone knew this would happen: Obama leapt at the deal brokered by Russia because he had stupidly opened his mouth and laid down an ultimatum he wasn’t prepared to back up. In the meantime, Assad has gained more time to defeat the rebels, his Iranian paymasters keep Syria as a client state and bridge to their proxies in Lebanon, and American influence in the region sinks lower as Obama can’t even enforce the minimum terms of a fig-leaf agreement he and Secretary Kerry touted as a major breakthrough.

That “smart power” sure has paid off, no?

via Jim Geraghty

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Americans held in Libya, head-meets-desk quote. Update: released?


**Posted by Phineas

There’s breaking news tonight that four Americans, likely military, are in the custody of the Libyan government, having been taken during a visit to the Roman ruins at Sabratha. As of this writing, no information has been released as to any charges, and the State Department has issued no statement. (Probably wise, until we learn more.)

Reading the NYT article, I did a double-take when I read the following:

Since the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens on Sept. 11, 2012, employees of the American Embassy have operated with extraordinary caution. Rigorous security rules preclude any movements outside the heavily fortified embassy compound without advance planning and an armed guard. The compound is locked at night, and no one is permitted to enter or exit. Counterterrorism has become a central focus of the work there, and the compound brims with well-armed security officers.

Just brilliant. It takes the needless deaths of four US personnel, including an ambassador, at the hands of our sworn enemies for us to finally start providing anything resembling adequate security. Hillary Clinton’s legacy is secure, and I’m sure the souls of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods are ever so relieved.

Meanwhile, I would suggest to the Libyan government that it remember who put them in power in the first place and that, if any of these men are hurt in any way, we have long memories, and Barack Obama won’t always be president.

UPDATE: Per CNN via KCCI, the four have been released. No confirmation yet, nor any word on their condition or why they were held in the first place.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

In which Barack Obama resembles James Buchanan


**Posted by Phineas

"Obama's true predecessor"

“Obama’s true predecessor”

Not in the sense of “after him, a civil war,” of course. That line of thinking, which I’ve occasionally seen, is a bit overwrought. But something Stanley Kurtz wrote today made me think of Jimmy B.

Discussing what may have motivated Obama to ink this bad deal with Iran, Kurtz discounts the idea that it was done to give the administration a win after the Obamacare debacle. Rather, Kurtz thinks that Obama did this because his support has shrunk to his hardcore base, and that base hates the very idea of violent conflict with Iran. To keep from losing this last group, which is already angry over Obamacare’s problems, Obama is willing even to sign an agreement that wreaks havoc on the US position in the Middle East, as long as it postpones conflict with Iran. Kurtz writes:

Americans are weary of war and few on any political side were inclined to bail Obama out of his Syrian “red line” misadventure. Yet there is still a strong constituency for taking action when core American interests are threatened. That constituency, unfortunately, stands largely outside of Obama’s base.

To the extent that this analysis is valid, it means that as long as Obamacare is on life-support (for the next three years, by most accounts), Obama’s policy inclinations and political survival alike will conspire to dictate American weakness on the world scene. With Obama down to his dovish core supporters, we are paralyzed abroad.

And it’s this that makes me think of the hapless Pennsylvanian. Faced with a potential crisis, trapped by his ideology and party supporters who loathed the idea of federal intervention against the states, Buchanan sat there and temporized and let the problem fester until he could hand it off to Lincoln and say “You deal with it!”

And so it is with Obama and whoever succeeds him.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#IranDeal: It wasn’t just the Israelis and the Saudis Obama backstabbed


**Posted by Phineas

"Left to rot."

“Left to rot.”

There’s been a lot of talk since the weekend about the deal brokered between Iran on the one hand, and the US and its European partners on the other, that supposedly somehow represented a breakthrough in the quest to prevent the Iranian mullahs from getting their hands on nuclear weapons. Discussions have centered around diplomacy and grand strategy, and the motives of the Iranian and US governments. Matter of “high politics,” as they might have said in the 19th century.

But the agreement touches people on a very personal level, too. Left unmentioned in any of the negotiations are Americans trapped in Iranian prisons, men such as Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor from Idaho who was accused of the horrid crime (in Iran, under Islam) of preaching the Gospel and helping to establish home churches (1). Abedini was yanked off a bus, his passport taken from him, and he was consigned to Iran’s notorious Evin prison.

And, in the negotiations leading to this wonderful deal, the US never mentioned him once:

Two words are nowhere to be found in the pages of text that spell out a new interim nuclear deal with Iran: Saeed Abedini.

Now some supporters of the American pastor, who’s been detained in Iran for more than a year, are accusing U.S. officials of betraying Abedini by signing off on an agreement that doesn’t get him out of prison.

“We were across the table from the Iranians, and we did not bring home Americans. To me that’s a tragedy and that’s outrageous,” said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini’s family in the United States.

While analysts debated the nuclear agreement’s pros and cons, Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, said she was trying to comfort her two young children.

“It’s very painful,” she told CNN’s “The Lead” on Monday. “My kids were crying this morning, saying, ‘God, don’t let Daddy die. Bring him home.’ “

One would think an American government, leading a nation founded on principles of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, would have raised a stink about Abedini at these negotiations, something along the lines of “You want sanctions lifted and your sequestered cash released? Give us Abedini and we’ll talk.” (2)

But then one would remember Barack Obama is in charge. Defending Americans in danger abroad is a bit alien to him, as we learned in Libya.

Via Bryan Preston, who connects Abedini’s abandonment to his Christianity and draws a parallel to the Obama administrations attacks on religious liberty here. I disagree with Bryan on this: nations have often sacrificed individuals for “reasons of state” when a higher goal was at stake. In the Obama administration’s case, the nuclear deal with Iran was paramount, and if the government was willing to blindside Jewish Israel and Muslim Saudi Arabia with this, they weren’t going to let the fate of Saeed Abedini (or Robert Levinson) stand in the way. It’s shameful and cynical, to be sure, but not religiously motivated.

RELATED: There are several good articles explaining why this deal stinks. At The Weekly Standard, John Bolton calls this “abject surrender.” Writing at PJM, Michael Ledeen points out, among other excellent observations, that the Iranian treasury was almost empty, but we’ve now agreed to give them billions. Genius. Eli Lake at The Daily Beast quotes an expert who says this comes close to a “nuclear 1914 scenario.” How fitting, with the hundredth anniversary of World War I approaching. James Carafano calls this a deal based on a dangerous fantasy — Munich II. My own observation is this: Regardless of the restrictions placed on the Iranian public nuclear program by this deal, if you think there isn’t a secret program run in parallel by the military that is still going full-speed, you’re high.

This deal makes war more likely, not less.

PS: There’s a support page for Pastor Abedini at Facebook, and a web site for Robert Levinson.

(1) Abedini’s offense was compounded by being himself a convert to Christianity from Islam. Under Islamic law, that is the crime of apostasy and is punishable by death. I suppose the Iranians thought they were being merciful for just sticking him in jail for eight years.
(2) Not that I’m a religious person, but I believe very strongly in the natural right of all humans to freedom of speech and religion, and, within very broad bounds, government should stay the heck out. No law is legitimate that oppresses those rights, and an American government that won’t stand up for its citizens’ rights in the face of a tyranny that tramples both is craven.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)