Gitmo backlash plagues Obama

Gitmo backlash plagues Obama

Thomas Lifson
House Democrats, facing the voters next year, understand how Obama’s decide first, plan later closing of Gitmo puts America at risk. Even though some of his supporters think that having said he will close is enough, the inconvenient truth is that these guys are going to end up in the United States, some of them on the streets and on welfare.

House Republicans get it, and have produced this video.


I think that as far as it goes, it is fine. But it needs to be followed by video featuring Obama’s face promising to close Gitmo, and pointing out that none of the allies he promised to charm into taking Gitmo prisoners are buying.

Page Printed from: at May 08, 2009 – 04:05:07 PM EDT

Morning Bell: Obama’s Job Killing Tax Plan

Morning Bell: Obama’s Job Killing Tax Plan 

First the good news: earlier this week President Barack Obama admitted that high taxes kill jobs. Now the bad news: he wants to raise taxes on U.S. companies anyway. Pitching his new tax reform plan Monday President Obama said that our tax code “says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York.” As the Wall Street Journal quipped: “That sounds like a great argument for lowering taxes on the guy creating jobs in Buffalo. Alas, that’s not what he has in mind.”

Instead, President Obama wants to raise taxes on U.S. companies by: 1) limiting the ability of American business to defer U.S. tax on their foreign income and 2) reducing the credit American businesses receive for foreign taxes paid. The President’s proposals demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of tax policy principles and the market forces that drive the global economy. Currently, most other countries do not tax their companies’ overseas profits. So, as the WSJ illustrates:

A German firm doing business in Ireland, say, pays no German income tax on its Irish profits, but it does pay Ireland’s corporate income tax at its 12.5% rate. The U.S. company competing with that German business in Ireland, by contrast, pays Ireland the same 12.5% on its profits — and it then pays Uncle Sam up to 35%, minus a credit for what it paid the Irish. And because almost everyone else’s corporate tax rates are lower than America’s, U.S. companies end up paying higher taxes than their international competitors.

And those higher taxes mean a big competitive disadvantage for American firms. Even business leaders that were highly supportive of Obama’s presidential campaign are livid over this latest revenue grab. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Silicon Valley executives made clear to all that Obama’s hunt for revenue to finance his ambitious agenda, from green energy to health care, should leave them alone. … The plan would “make very good companies very uncompetitive,” said Kevin Surace, chief executive of Serious Materials of Sunnyvale. As it is, he said, with the cost advantages that Chinese companies have already, “we’re almost uncompetitive now.”

Punishing U.S. companies for competing overseas will ultimately kill jobs here at home. For every worker employed by a U.S. subsidiary in a foreign country, 2.3 Americans are employed in the U.S. And a 10 percent increase in foreign investment by businesses has been associated with a 2.6 percent increase in investment in the businesses’ home countries. So, we were delighted to see the President begin to learn that high taxes kill jobs; unfortunately he still needs a couple more classes.

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What a feeling: how emotions may yet save the economy

What a feeling: how emotions may yet save the economy

By Chrystia Freeland

Published: May 7 2009 20:35 | Last updated: May 7 2009 20:35

An influential Democrat who was also one of the world’s top-ten, highest-paid hedge fund managers last year thinks he knows which book is at the top of the White House reading list this spring: Animal Spirits, the powerful new blast of behavioural economics from Nobel prize-winner George Akerlof and Yale economist Robert Shiller.

Judging by the upbeat economic message we have been hearing from the White House, the Treasury and even the Federal Reserve over the past six weeks, that is a shrewd guess. The authors argue that “we will never really understand important economic events unless we confront the fact that their causes are largely mental in nature”. Our “ideas and feelings” about the economy are not purely a rational reaction to data and experience; they themselves are an important driver of economic growth – and decline.

Since mid-March President Barack Obama and his team have mounted a sophisticated effort to brighten those “ideas and feelings”, reassuring the nation with “glimmers of hope across the economy” and the assertion that “we’re starting to see progress”. The much bally-hooed stress tests – whose comprehensively leaked results were fully unveiled after the markets closed on Thursday – are both an important example of this confidence-building campaign and its toughest challenge.

The sunnier rhetoric of recent weeks marked a sharp shift both from the bleak mood of the fin de regime administration of George W. Bush and from the first weeks of the Obama White House. The outgoing president’s political capital was so low in his final months in office that the mere fact of his public appearances seemed to have a depressing effect on the markets. His secretary of the Treasury, Hank Paulson, enjoyed greater confidence, but he needed to convince lawmakers the situation was dire enough to merit his $700bn Tarp programme.

Likewise, Mr Obama needed the nation to be worried enough about the economy to pass his nearly $800bn stimulus plan. And too much good cheer in the first days of his administration could have wasted one of his most powerful trump cards – the country’s belief that this recession is owned by president number 43, not number 44.

But once the stimulus bill was passed, the White House calculated that, as Mr Obama told the Financial Times, lawmakers and US voters had reached their limits. No new money to rev up the economy or revive the banks would be forthcoming until the president and his team could demonstrate concrete results from the first instalment.

Since then Americans have been hearing a decidedly more optimistic vibe from Washington. It has seemed to work. A Google search for the term “economic recovery” turned up 6,991 references to the term in January and 7,831 in February. In the first week of May the phrase occurred 24,443 times.

More traditional yardsticks show the same result. According to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, Americans’ belief that their country is heading in the right direction has soared from 19 per cent, just before Mr Obama’s inauguration, to 50 per cent, the highest in six years. In what could be a textbook example of behavioural economics, the stock market has followed the same curve, recovering from what rightwing commentators were calling “the Obama bear market” at the beginning of the year to a healthy rally.

Thursday night’s verdict on banks’ balance sheets will also be a stress test of the administration’s experiment in behavioural economics.

Washington has clearly learned the lesson of one of its rare, early failures. In contrast with the disastrous media management of Treasury secretary Tim Geithner’s maiden economic speech, the results of the stress tests have been so thoroughly previewed that by Thursday financial pundits and punters seemed almost bored with the exercise. Ennui is not the same thing as conviction – one of America’s biggest money managers on Thursday described the exercise to me as “the feather tests” and it is hard to find anyone who doesn’t work for the government, or one of the banks, who believes the tests have been rigorous.

But, like Washington, Wall Street really does want the scheme to work and the markets to recover. Over the next few weeks the administration will be hoping those feelings are powerful enough to drive the economic data.

A Nuclear Power Is About to Fall to Islamists

A Nuclear Power Is About to Fall to Islamists


The Trumpet; Pakistan is turning into the Iranian Revolution—plus nuclear weapons. Like Iran in 1979, Islamist radicals are taking a weakly governed country by the throat and preparing to shape it according to their twisted spiritual vision.

The immediate danger is heightened exponentially by Pakistan being one of the world’s eight nuclear powers, possessing between 60 and 100 nukes, scattered throughout the country. Amid escalating chaos, some of those bombs are sure to slip into extremist Muslim hands.

Though the United States and others talk about preventing this scenario, they simply aren’t willing to take measures forceful enough. Signs are, in fact, that the Obama administration is beginning to realize this is a losing cause.

Brace yourself for the consequences. This situation threatens to change the world.

The Pakistani government certainly lacks the will to stop it from happening. It is plagued by infighting and conflicting loyalties. In fact, it has a history of supporting and exploiting Islamic militancy for its own purposes. Its military and intelligence services, besides being increasingly rife with individuals sympathetic to the Islamists, have, according to Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., always had “a strategic commitment to jihadi ideology”—particularly in order to mobilize Pakistanis as a hedge against arch-rival India.

Hopes of Pakistan policing its own extremists are quickly being smothered by reality. Having already taken over the border region with Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban are now violently expanding their control inward toward Pakistan’s heartland. After two years of fighting in the Swat Valley region, the outgunned government found it had little choice but to concede the area, forming a peace agreement with the Taliban in February. The Taliban promised to end the insurgency at the time—but that quickly proved a sham. Within a week of Islamabad putting its stamp of approval on the deal last month, the Taliban broke its promise and sent its army into Buner, a strategic area just 60 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. It recruited local madrassa graduates to establish a new government there and began implementing its signature cruel sharia law system.

Pakistan’s army reacted by issuing a threat. The Taliban responded by announcing that it would soon sack Islamabad. “If a man or woman is working with the government, or they are supporters of the government or of the foreigners, we want to kill them,” the Globe and Mail quoted one Taliban organizer as saying. “And we want to dissolve the government.”

The Taliban’s ambitions and confidence are clearly growing along with the territory it governs.

The movement is gaining momentum among the populace. First it is tapping into the rich supply of young men who received free Islamic education at one of Pakistan’s 12,500 madrassas—men who view the Taliban as God’s army.

Second, it is intimidating others who are coming to recognize that the government can’t stop it. Since the insurgency is taking over, people don’t want to be seen as resisting it. The Taliban is notoriously brutal to its detractors. In this scenario, terrorism is a devastatingly effective tactic. When Islamists strike civilian targets, the people’s confidence in the government and in coalition forces drops.

Pakistan’s government launched an offensive in Buner that still continues. Observers expect it to dissolve into more deal-making soon. Critics contend—not without evidence—that Pakistan’s military strikes against the Taliban are meant more to preserve the flow of aid from America than to attain victory.

Thus, any hope for the situation to stabilize must come from outside. It’s not happening.

The Obama administration recently unveiled a new joint Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. The plan was misguided from the beginning: It seeks to solve Pakistan’s problems by throwing money at them—funding the nation’s hobbled economy and boosting its compromised military. But now to make matters worse, it is also out of date. The insurgency is expanding far faster than America’s planners are keeping up with.

President Obama would really like to bring Afghanistan under control. He’s about to send thousands more American troops to tamp down the uprising there. But they face long odds. With neighboring Pakistan descending into anarchy—providing safe haven to Afghanistan’s Taliban and endangering coalition supply lines—it turns an unmanageable war into an impossible one.

“The Obama administration is clearly alarmed about the developments in Pakistan, but also is beginning to understand its limits in the region,” wrote Stratfor yesterday. “Insurgencies have long lives, and this is a region that has seen countless occupiers. Most of the militants that U.S., nato, Pakistani and Afghan forces are battling today have the motivation and patience to fight to the end.”

That is not the case with the U.S., and the Islamists know it. As America plans a troop surge into Afghanistan, the Taliban are planning a bloody response. They are eager to send a hard message to the new American president, and to test his reputation for weakness. In the months ahead, expect ugly.

Another comparison with Iran in 1979 bears mentioning: America’s responsibility—not this president, but his predecessor. In 2007, U.S. officials inexplicably drove Pakistan’s military leader Pervez Musharraf from power, opening an enormous power void that radicals rushed to fill. Our own editor in chief warned this is just what would happen at the time. “American leaders are telling Musharraf to take off his military uniform and give real freedom to that country. However, the military is the only institution that gives stability to that extremely divided country! This is another example of how little our leaders know about Pakistan,” Gerald Flurry wrote. “America’s problem is even worse than a weak will. We even help push our allies into the hands of radical Islam. That is a dangerous kind of ignorance.

Watch Video: Gerald Flurry speaks to an audience in Washington, D.C., in early 2008 comparing the situation in Pakistan with the Iranian Revolution. “We helped get rid of Iran’s ‘corrupt’ shah in 1979. He was replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini, who began state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East. Are we about to see another ayatollah rise to power? This time in nuclear Pakistan? And will America be mostly to blame?” (Read the whole article here. Also, watch the video at right to see some comments Mr. Flurry made at the time on the subject.)

These questions ring loudly today. We’re hearing a lot of official assurances not to worry. Last week President Obama said he was “confident that the nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.” Considering Pakistan’s rickety government and the Taliban’s shocking gains, this is impossible to guarantee.

And these assurances are being drowned out by the chorus of intelligence, defense and diplomatic voices saying the devil has already slipped his leash.

Watch Islamabad. A coup is probable. Nuclear weapons escaping the government’s control is virtually assured. Where they go from there is the stuff of nightmares.

Cheney to GOP: “It would be a mistake for us to moderate”

Cheney to GOP: ‘It would be a mistake for us to moderate’


Dick Cheney did an interview today with Scott Hennen, a North Dakota radio host, whose staff sent over a transcript (after the jump), defending the Bush administration and advising the Republican Party to stay with its roots.

“I think it would be a mistake for us to moderate,” Cheney said. “This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas … what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and constitutional principles. You know, when you add all those things up, the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy. I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most of us aren’t. Most Republicans have a pretty good idea of values, and aren’t eager to have someone come along and say, ‘Well, the only way you can win is if you start to act more like a Democrat.'”

Cheney did, however, say it was probably time for his fellow Republicans to shove him off the stage.

“I think periodically we have to go through one these sessions. It helps clear away some of the underbrush … some of the older folks who’ve been around a long time — like yours truly — need to move on and make room for that young talent that’s coming along,” he said.

Cheney also defended the Bush administration’s national security policies, and advised President Obama to fight any effort to prosecute Bush officials.

He responded to a question about interrogation by saying harsh means were a last resort.

“That assumes that we didn’t try other ways, and in fact we did. We resorted, for example, to waterboarding, which is the source of much of the controversy … with only three individuals,” Cheney said. “In those cases, it was only after we’d gone through all the other steps of the process. The way the whole program was set up was very careful to use other methods and only to resort to the enhanced techniques in those special circumstances.”

Full transcript after the jump.



Hennen: Let’s talk a little bit about the state of the Republican Party these days. Arlen Specter obviously has created a big fuss with his defection over the last week. Does that surprise you?

Cheney: Not really. You know, we’d gone through the exercise here right after we got elected in 2000, and controlled the Senate just by virtue of my ability to cast a tie vote. It was 50-50, and then my vote gave us control of the Senate. They worked hard to switch Jeffords then — and they did — they promised him a committee chairmanship and so he went over to the other side and changed control of the Congress. I always had the feeling though that people looked at that and didn’t really like it. One of the things I thought it did was to build support for the Republican side in the next election in ’02, and we had an extraordinary outcome there where the Administration actually gained seats in the Senate in an off-year election (which almost never happens). So there are often times lasting consequences from these kinds of switches…and they’re not always positive from the side that receives the individual doing the switching.

Hennen: Some people are wringing their hands saying, “This is an example of why the party needs to change, to hear the message of Specter,” that, as Colin Powell said, the Republican Party needs to moderate. Do you think the Republican Party needs to moderate? Is that the message of the Specter defection, or the state of the party these days?

Cheney: No I don’t. I think it would be a mistake for us to moderate. This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas … what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and Constitutional principles. You know, when you add all those things up the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy. I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most us aren’t. Most Republicans have a pretty good idea of values, and aren’t eager to have someone come along and say, “Well, the only way you can win is if you start to act more like a Democrat.” I really think we go through these cycles periodically Scott, and I’ve been through them before. I remember campaigning across the country with Gerald Ford in 1974 when I was his Chief of Staff. This was the Watergate Election, the first one since Nixon had to resign. It was a train wreck; I mean, we got blown away in every part of the country. In 1976 we lost the presidency. By 1980 Ronald Reagan was president, we’d had a major resurgence in the party and we’d captured control of the Senate, and obviously embarked upon the Reagan Era in American politics. So I think periodically we have to go through one these sessions. It helps clear away some of the underbrush…some of the older folks who’ve been around a long time (like yours truly) need to move on, and make room for that young talent that’s coming along. But I think it’s basically healthy. I don’t spend a lot of time or lose a lot of sleep over it. I just think now is the time for people who are committed to get out there and find candidates they like and go to work for them.

Hennen: Is the Obama administration helping the resurgence or the “renaissance” of the conservative cause by overreaching very early on?

Cheney: I think it will. I watch what he is doing, especially in the National Security area which is sort of my first interest. This whole question of detainees and interrogation of detainees and the Terrorist Surveillance Program and so forth, closing Guantanamo…I don’t think the vast majority of Americans support what he wants to do. I think in fact most Americans are pleased — when they think about it — that we were able to go nearly eight years without another major attack on the United States. They think we handled that pretty well. We were not a perfect administration (none ever is), but I think what we did in the counter-terrorist area was extremely effective. I think Obama needs to be careful because he appears to want to cancel out some of those most important policies. Then you get into this whole thing of closing Guantanamo and of course the bottom line there is “What are you going to do with all these terrorists that are in Guantanamo?”

Hennen: Do you believe the President, the Vice President, this current administration — really believes those things did not work and have not worked, or this is all political? Is this basically pandering to the far left?

Cheney: Well, I think what’s motivated them from the outset has been — as you say — trying to appeal to the far-left in their party. I think that was an issue for them in the primaries on the Democratic side during the last election. I think the situation is that if anybody (who obviously has to have clearances) takes a look at the record, they’ll find that we had significant success as a result of these policies. One way to nail that down is that there are two documents in particular that I personally have read and know about that are still classified in that National Archives. I’d ask that they be de-classified, I made that request over a month ago on March 31st. What those documents show is the success, especially of the interrogation program in terms of what it produced by way of intelligence that let us track down members of Al-Qaeda and disrupt their plans and plots to strike the United States. It’s all there in black and white. It is work that was done by the Central Intelligence Agency after several years of experience with these programs. It demonstrates conclusively the worth of those programs. As I say, I’ve asked the Administration to de-classify them and so far they have not.

Hennen: Yeah, they have selectively have released these memos (which is very interesting, given their past criticisms as well about politicizing intelligence) because clearly, that is what they are doing here. Now they have said, “the President was asked about this during the 100 Day Press Conference the other day, and he said that basically he had read the memos, and basically that he believes we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values and ways that were consistent with who we are.” What is your response to that?

Cheney: Well, I don’t believe that’s true. That assumes that we didn’t try other ways, and in fact we did. We resorted, for example, to waterboarding, which is the source of much of the controversy … with only three individuals. In those cases, it was only after we’d gone through all the other steps of the process. The way the whole program was set up was very careful, to use other methods and only to resort to the enhanced techniques in those special circumstances.

Hennen: Three individuals, right?

Cheney: In the waterboarding in particular — which has been the most controversial — was a total of three individuals. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed being the number one. Of course he was the guy who planned and carried out the attacks on 9/11, which killed 3,000 Americans.

Hennen: I’m sure this is driving the media crazy today, but a CNN story today suggests half the public in a new poll approves of the Bush administration decision to use those techniques during the questioning of suspected terrorists. It also indicates that most Americans don’t want to see an investigation of Bush Administration officials who authorized the interrogation techniques on these suspected terrorists. That can’t be doing the Obama folks any good, because they seem to kind of want to perpetuate this.

Cheney: Well, and they are especially sensitive to polls, I think. Just think about it for a minute: the idea that one administration is going to come in and take power — and then they’re going to turn around and prosecute, (or if not prosecute sanction, lawyers who gave advice that they disagreed with) — to their predecessors. I’ve never heard of such a thing. And talk about putting a wet blanket on anybody in government’s willingness to be bold in their recommendations and so forth. Just forget that. Anybody who sees that kind of thing happen is going to pull their head in and they’ll be reluctant to take responsibility for anything. They’ll be reluctant to recommend the kind of actions that were necessary to defend the country over the last eight years. I hear this talk that there is going to be some kind of foreign prosecution of our guys, and I think they ought to do everything they can to fight that.

Hennen: Our guest, former Vice President Dick Cheney on the Scott Hennen Show and The Common Sense Club today. By the way, there is an incredible double standard here in the media coverage. Is that frustrating to you at all? I look at the recent flap over the photo opportunity for Air Force One above New York City, and I imagine had that happened — not that it ever would — in the Bush administration, how the media would have hyperventilated over that forever! And it’s been forgotten. We’re led to believe somehow the President was mad about it. Is it possible for the White House Military Office now under a political appointee, different from your administration when it was a military officer that held that post, that the White House or some high-level staff didn’t know about that?

Cheney: I would assume that some senior staffer signed off on that. Especially a mission with, with in effect what is the backup for Air Force One, there are two of those planes, big 747’s. Either one can function as Air Force One anytime the President is on it. I used them a couple of times during our administration for special trips. You know, they don’t turn a wheel without a lot of people knowing about it and signing off and approving it. A pilot can’t just go out there and get on board and take it for a spin.

Hennen: These are the kind of things that I think worry people, that essentially you have an ”amateur hour” going on at the White House. There is a lot of angst amongst our audience, amongst our listeners about all of these things … about the apology tour that’s happening all across the world … what’s happening politicizing intelligence … all the way down to Air Force One. Are you worried?

Cheney: Well I think people need to be engaged and making their points as you know them, and talking to their members of Congress. For a while there was this talk out there that we ought to cut these guys some slack and that they shouldn’t be criticized in the early days of their administration. I haven’t spent a lot of time operating according to that proposition. The fact is that I think these are very important issues and it’s vital they be debated and I think they need to be held to account just like any other administration.

Hennen: One example, we got this reach out effort to Iran and these rogue dictators — Ahmadinejad and these individuals like that. We’ve got Roxana Saberi — happens to be a Fargo North grad, a Concordia College graduate — so she’s a hometown gal who’s been a journalist over there, imprisoned right now. The Administration, after all their touchy-feely reach out effort has said, “no success” on getting her released. It doesn’t work to talk nice to these guys does it?

Cheney: It doesn’t seem to.

Hennen: I also wanted to ask you about the economic situation a little bit. Do you look back at all and regret the waning days of the administration and following Hank Paulson’s lead on some of the bailouts that, (now as we look at them) do not seem to be performing in the way we’d hoped?

Cheney: Well I think the jury is still out on where the economy is going to go over the next year or two, but clearly those were some tough decisions. As somebody who’s got a conservative record as I do, and for example worked in the wage price control program back in the ’70s, and not exactly a fan of expanding the size and role of government in our society. What we ended up with that last year of the Bush Administration was a situation in which the experts were telling us that the financial system is near collapse, and that was very worrisome, because the ultimate responsibility for our financial institutions resides with the federal government. It’s been the role of the Federal Reserve Board, the Treasury, the FDIC, all of those regulatory bodies. If the financial system is broken, the government’s got to fix it. There isn’t anybody else that can do that. So that’s why I think a lot of us with a more conservative bent were willing to support or go along with the proposition that set up the programs that were used during the last few months we were in office — in effect to try and shore up the financial system — to get the credit markets working again and so forth. The thing I worry about is when that rationale is used in other parts of the economy that aren’t central to the functioning of our economy. If you’re in agriculture, you need access to financial institutions that work. If you’ve got a car dealership or you’re a babysitter or a homeowner — whatever it is — all of us rely on that financial system for whatever we’re doing. When we get over, for example, into the industrial side and automobiles, and the debate about the future of General Motors and Chrysler in particular, then I think government’s role there is different, and that you don’t automatically think that somehow the government needs to step in or should step in. Maybe Chapter 11 Bankruptcy is exactly the right response to restructure the company and make the changes that are needed so it becomes a viable enterprise … but government doesn’t need to be on that stand set to bail them out.



By Ben Smith 05:17 PM