The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pay Back

Anyone who watches even a little U.S. television has seen the recent GM add. The CEO of the partially taxpayer-owned automotive company, Ed Whitacre, walks jauntily down an assembly line speaking directly to the camera. He tells the viewer that GM has paid back its loans to the government "in full, with interest, five years ahead of the original schedule."

Really? Let me pose a thought experiment. You owe money to a friend—a lot of money—that you borrowed to save a failing business. You promise to pay it back, but the business model is poor, overhead expenses are enormous, and you’re not even close to profitable. So you ask the same friend to loan you more money so you can pay back the original loan. Have you repaid the original loan?

I doubt the friend would think so.

That’s what GM has done, and they’re now misleading U.S. taxpayers with cheesy commercials that are outrageously misleading. The Denver Post comments:
The assertion is based on the fact that GM used funds from a line of credit offered to it under TARP to pay off a $5.8 billion loan from the U.S. and Canadian governments. In other words, GM paid off a fraction of the tens of billions of dollars taxpayers have invested in the company from another taxpayer-funded account.

Meanwhile, the company continues to lose money, though it has shown promising signs of late in increased sales.

Yes, Whitacre acknowledges in his op-ed [in the Wall Street Journal] that GM still needs to pay back the money invested in it by the U.S. and Canadian governments to help the company emerge from bankruptcy. But he fails to remind readers of the delicate fact that that investment is worth $50 billion.

Over the past 24 months, under Presidents Bush and Obama, the taxpayers have been asked to bail out the “too-big-to-fail” crowd. Interestingly, we take all the risk, and will not share in any of the profits, should they materialize. It’s bad policy and worse, it tells big business that it can act irresponsibly over many decades without any worry about paying the ultimate price—bankruptcy and/or dissolution. Not a problem—we’ve got their backs.

The least we might expect is honesty, but then again, that’s a commodity in very short supply among the Washingtom crowd and their “too-big-to-fail” buddies.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Trey and Matt

Do these names ring a bell—Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie, Geert Wilders, Kurt Westergaard and Lars Vilks? They’ve all been threatened with death by radical Islamists who have taken offense to something one of these people said, wrote, or published. Free speech? Not when “offense” is taken—there is no right to free speech. Criticize Islam? Offense. Write a book that questions Islamic religious doctrine? Offense. Make negative political comments about the Islamist ideology? Offense. Publish cartoons? Offense.

And now two American animators—Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of "South Park"—have caused “offense” and have been threatened with death by radical Islamists.

Why? For portraying the Prophet Mohammed, who never is shown directly, in a bear suit! The fact that it’s satirical, that their work is clearly protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and that they’re a mainstream voice in the entertainment industry, means nothing to the Islamist voices who threaten bodily harm.

And yet, following in the footsteps of European media and celebrities who did nothing to come to the defense of European artists who “offended” Islam and required police protection for years afterward, U.S media and entertainment industry are treading so lightly that you’d think that freedom of speech no longer mattered to them. Maybe it doesn’t when it conflicts with their warped sense of political correctness.

Members of the gliteratti shake their heads solemnly and cluck about the propriety of Parker’s and Stone’s commentary. But like the postmodern cowards they are, they do not condemn the Islamists who make the threats, rather, they dissect the animated cartoon and ask whether maybe South Park went too far. Pathetic.

And where is the President and US Justice Department in all of this? Barack Obama saw fit to comment nationally on a small police matter in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but apparently, he can’t bring himself to comment (and condemn) threats made against mainstream media personalities by terrorist sympathizers. Hmmm. The Justice Department rightfully goes after militant right wingers in the upper mid-West, but can’t bring itself to move against the radical Islamist organization based in New York City from which these threats emanated. Hmmm.

Diana West relates an interview with Trey Parker and Matt Stone who discuss the Mohammed cartoon travesty:
"It's so sad, the whole Muhammad, the whole Danish cartoon thing," said Stone, Parker seated beside him during a joint interview with the entertainment Web site Boing Boing.

Don't laugh. Boing Boing here goes where "elite" media fear to tiptoe, let alone tread.

The subject was the 200th episode of "South Park," which, in unusually clean if satirical fashion, focused on Islam's fanatical, and, to Western sensibilities, ridiculous prohibitions on depictions and criticism of Muhammad, who is at one point presented in a bear suit. (Now you can laugh.)

Stone continued: "It's like, if everyone would have just, like, normally they do in the news organizations, just printed the cartoons -"

"Everyone would have rallied together," interjected Parker.

"Now that guy [Westergaard] has to be hiding and all this [bleep] because everyone just kind of left him out to dry. It's a big problem when you have the New York Times and Comedy Central and Viacom basically just [wimping] out on it. It's just sad. I was, like, really sad about the whole thing."

Indeed, everyone—media outlets, media personalities, entertainers, politicians, the President, and the Justice Department—should “rally together." Instead, their cowardly behavior encourages further threats and serves as a warning to anyone who might have the temerity to criticize Islam. We’ll leave you out to dry, they imply by their passivity.

I found it amusing a few years ago when the Left suggested that the past president’s policies had a “chilling effect” on free speech. They seem to be much more sanguine about the “chilling effect” of this South Part drama. I guess its okay to express outrage when there is zero probability (except in your fevered imagination) that the party you criticize will harm you. But expressing outrage for real threats to free speech is another matter altogether. Diana West notes that when the media took one look at “a photo of the slain body of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, his head nearly cut off on an Amsterdam, Netherlands, street in 2004 by a jihadist assassin,” it cowered in fear, masked as concern and an unwillingness to offend.

Cowards—all of them.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Old News

Have you noticed how the conversation inside the beltway and within the MSM has shifted away from Obamacare. After characterizing it as an “historic achievement,” President Obama now never talks about the wonders of his newly enacted policy. Leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have scurried off to ram through Wall Street legislation that is hardly the true and necessary reform we need, and are actively planning for environmental legislation that will crush our fragile economy and “solve” problems that are scientifically dubious. But health care—that’s old news.

Unless … you’re paying a little bit of attention. The Associated Press (generally very friendly to this President) reports (h/t: Legal Insurrection):
President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law will increase the nation's health care tab instead of bringing costs down, government economic forecasters concluded Thursday in a sobering assessment of the sweeping legislation.

A report by economic experts [Medicare's Office of the Actuary] at the Health and Human Services Department said the health care remake will achieve Obama's aim of expanding health insurance — adding 34 million Americans to the coverage rolls.

But the analysis also found that the law falls short of the president's twin goal of controlling runaway costs, raising projected spending by about 1 percent over 10 years. That increase could get bigger, however, since the report also warned that Medicare cuts in the law may be unrealistic and unsustainable, forcing lawmakers to roll them back.

Of course, supporters of the President will harken back to the CBO finding that it will “save money.” What they won’t mention is that the CBO was forced by law to use ridiculously unrealistic assumptions that were crafted to make the bill deficit neutral. In reality, it is not. They’ll also argue that 1 percent (a percentage that, if history serves, is likely to grow dramatically) is a small price to pay for the 34 million who are uninsured. That’s until you realize that 1 percent of the trillions this bill will cost us is a very, very big number.

The Democratic congress’ successful attempt to ram through bad legislation in order to make history is one of the most egregious political acts in my lifetime. Most of us in the Center hope that over the next 7 months, they'll come to their senses and do things more deliberatively. Not likely.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Too Big

It is absolutely remarkable how the majority in Congress (the people who pose legislation and control its flow toward passage) can consistently get it so wrong. The proposed banking legislation is just another example.

Everyone wants to see serious, even punitive, legislation passed that will reign in irresponsible behavior on Wall Street. Everyone wants to ensure that the taxpayers will never again be asked to bail out the financial Masters of the Universe when they again make very bad decisions and behave more like Ponzi artists than a financiers. And yet, Chris Dodd (you know, the same guy who in early 2008 suggested that there were no problems with the banks or with Fannie and Freddie) now submits legislation that sounds good, but actually accomplishes almost nothing.

Jonathan Macey comments:
Chris Dodd and the other politicians working on financial reform claim that their proposed legislation will end the long-standing U.S. policy which posits that the biggest financial institutions are "too big to fail" and therefore must be bailed out every time they find themselves in financial distress. At the core of the "Dodd bill" is the premise that regulators need yet more discretion, more power, and more regulatory tools if they are to succeed at last in exorcizing long-entrenched too big to fail strategies from the heart of our regulatory canon. The Dodd bill is fundamentally flawed because it fails to address the basic fact that the "too big to fail" is a political problem, not an economic problem. The only way to eliminate too big to fail as the regulatory solution of choice is to break up any financial institution that is or becomes too big to fail. Unfortunately, the Dodd bill does not break up existing banks.

In a modest feint in the right direction, by proposing to cap banks' size, the Dodd bill does reflect an appreciation of the fact that the moment a bank becomes too big, it simultaneously becomes too big to fail. Specifically, the proposed law bars existing banks from acquiring or merging with competitors if the resulting entity's liabilities would exceed 10 percent of the total U.S. banking system (unless, of course, the regulators decide to make an exception).

On the one hand, this indicates that the gnomes in Washington finally realize that size has gotten to be a problem for bank regulators. But the bill ignores the painful but embarrassing fact that there are around a dozen financial institutions that are already way over the too-big-to-fail threshold.

The dirty dozen need to be broken up … now! Defenders of Wall Street will wail about government intervention (just as they did when the telecom monopoly of AT&T was dismantled), but Dodd’s bill must have more teeth and must include a down-sizing provision for existing huge banks.

If a financial institution is too big to fail, it’s too big to exist.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Whether you agree or disagree with them, the Tea Party Movement represents an important turning point in American politics. The Obama administration and its political and media supporters have done everything possible to delegitimize, and more recently, to demonize the millions of citizens (most of whom are everyday Americans with a very few lunatics thrown in) who support the Tea Party. Beginning with Nancy Pelosi’s inane “astroturf” comments, followed by the media’s quest for evidence of endemic racism, and now Bill Clinton’s surprising suggestion that “…these threats [alleged by Tea Party participants] against the president and the Congress. … I just think we all have to be careful. We ought to remember after Oklahoma City. We learned something about the difference in disagreement and demonization.” Although I like and respect Bill, I do find it odd that he didn’t express similar sentiments when his own party and their supporters vilified the past president.

Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club comments:
The point Bill Clinton is missing is that the danger doesn’t come from right wing ‘anger.’ The anger is just a byproduct. The voices he hears from the Tea Party crowds aren’t threats; they’re warnings. The real peril is coming from somewhere else: the demographic decline in industrial world working populations, the increasing cost of energy and the international movement in the factors of production. A whole generation of failed policy from both parties is coming to a head and it probably means that the welfare state, the European Union and by consequence the Chinese economy are heading for a cliff.

What’s driving the Tea Parties isn’t amorphous hate. It is concrete fear: worry that pensions have been devalued; medical care will become unaffordable; taxes are too high and jobs are gone, never to return. And a look around the world shows there’s no place to hide. When the wave hits it will be global. In the UK membership in political parties is at near historic lows. In America Congress’s popularity is lower than whales**t. The Eurozone is cracking up under its weight of debt. First Greece, now Portugal are being ripped off the cliff face like a zipper — and all the climbers are roped together. Japan is like a kamikaze sub heading for the depths and tapping out a sayonara. Russia was history long ago. And China, when it has used up its flowering moment, will face the consequences of its one-child policy. And Middle Eastern potentates, stuck in the same old, same old, are warning about a Summer War. The Tea Parties aren’t about putting some country club Republican in the White House, though Bill can’t help hearing it like that.

Those of us in the Center recognize all of these things. That’s why Independent voter support for Barack Obama has been in free-fall for almost a year. It will not recover.

The reason isn’t that all of us support the Teapartiers—although most of their central concerns make a lot of sense. Rather, it’s that we, like them, have chosen to face the reality of crushing debt, irresponsible spending in the name of social justice, and a government that, like a nightmarish fog that invades every crevasse of our existence, is spreading without bound or reason.

Hard decisions are coming, whether we like it or not. In the final analysis, the further we go into debt, the more those who need the social safety net—the poor, seniors, pensioners, the sick, among many—will suffer. Stopping the bleeding now is the most socially conscious thing this country could do, even if it takes relatively extreme and unpleasant fiscal measures. Too bad those who seem to thrive on moral preening can’t see that.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Human Modifiers

In a recent post, I suggested that our President fashions himself as a master of nuance. If you are to believe his supporters in the media, every decision that comes out of the White House is deliberative, with experts on all sides of a question offering advice, and the President (with blinding brilliance) coming to the right decision every time. Those of us who are somewhat less enamored of Barack Obama aren’t so sure. In fact, most of his decisions exhibit a troubling dose of naïveté.

After giving it some thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that the President’s recent triumphal announcement of a nuclear non-proliferation agreement (well, not so much an agreement as an “understanding”) is an example of well-intentioned naïveté. While the President bragged about Russian nuke cutbacks and Canadian efforts to reduce the number of their nukes, he remained strangely reticent to discuss Iran’s growing nuclear threat or North Korea’s present one. He seems to believe that if the U.S. sets a good example, the bad actors will somehow follow it. History indicates that doesn’t happen, but no matter, it’s a wonderful idea, isn’t it?

The problem isn’t with the nonproliferation “understanding,” it’s generally harmless. But it’s also completely and utterly ineffective in addressing the true threats that we face today. Mark Stein takes a more cynical view:
If you read in the paper that New Zealand had decided to go nuclear, would you lose a moment's sleep over it? Personally, I'd be rather heartened. It would be a sign that a pampered and somnolent developed world had woken up and concluded that betting your future on the kindness of strangers is a helluva gamble. What Obama and his empty showboaters failed even to acknowledge in their "security" summit is the reality of the Post-Big Five nuclear age: We're on the brink of a world in which the wealthiest nations, from Canada to Norway to Japan, can barely project meaningful force to their own borders while the nickel 'n' dime basket-cases go nuclear.

How long do you think that arrangement will last? Iran has already offered to share its nuclear technology with Sudan. Sudan? Ring a vague bell? Remember that "Save Darfur" interpretative-dance fundraiser you went to, where someone read out a press release from George Clooney, and you all had a simply marvelous time? Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed – with machetes. That's pretty labor-intensive. In the Congo, five and a half million have been slaughtered – and, again, in impressively primitive ways.

But a nuclear Sudan would be a model of self-restraint?

By the way, that's another example of the self-indulgent irrelevance of Obama. The mound of corpses being piled up around the world today is not from high-tech nuclear states but from low-tech psycho states. It's not that Britain has nukes, and poor old Sudan has to make do with machetes. It's that the machete crowd are willing to kill on an industrial scale, and the high-tech guys can't figure out a way to stop them. Perhaps for his next pointless yakfest the president might consider a machete nonproliferation initiative.

The sad reality is that bad actors don’t respond to good examples—never have, never will. As Steyn notes, while activists held fundraisers for Darfur, and expressed their solidarity with the population of the Congo, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were gruesomely slaughtered. To stop the slaughter, we needed force—you know, the kind of force that kills bad people (and sadly, a few good people) so that the mass-killing stops. But the activists don’t have the stomach for that, so instead they hold fundraisers and express solidarity, and the killing keeps rolling along.

In addition, you’d think that the President actually believes that the core problem is the nukes themselves. Wrong. It’s the people and/or countries that control the weapons. Richard Fernandez , a truly nuanced thinker, puts it this way:
Sometimes a gun isn’t just a gun. About 740,000 assault rifles and pistols are stored in Swiss homes or in private possession. Nobody knows the exactly how many firearms are in circulation, but there may be up to 1.3 million firearms in Switzerland. Despite this you are more likely to murdered by knife than by gun. “Police statistics for the year 2006 records 34 killings or attempted killings involving firearms, compared to 69 cases involving bladed weapons and 16 cases of unarmed assault. Cases of assault resulting in bodily harm numbered 89 (firearms) and 526 (bladed weapons)”

Sometimes a nuke isn’t just a nuke. The country with the largest known deposits of uranium, which tested 7 nuclear devices on its soil in the 50s and whose head of government isn’t even going to attend President Obama’s nonproliferation summit won’t keep statesmen up at night. It’s Australia. The first thing its scientists did after devising a way to enrich uranium with lasers (SILEX) was worry about keeping it out of the wrong hands.

The danger posed by weapons is crucially dependent on their human modifiers. Guns in the hands of the Swiss are not the same as guns in the hands of a Sudanese militia. Enriched uranium in Australia is no worry; but uranium in the hands of Kim Jong Il is. It is changes to the political environment that create or diminish the problem even when the hardware remains the same.

You’d think that a smart guy like President Obama would understand that and act accordingly, wouldn’t you?

To stop the bad actors who are developing nukes and will provide them to even worse actors, we’ll probably need to use force. But our President doesn’t have the stomach for that, so instead he holds a conference among “human modifiers” who pose little threat and has them commit to reduce their nuclear arsenal. As a backup he suggests a sanctions regime that history indicates will be ineffective. Problem is—the vehicle for future killing by the bad actors keeps rolling along.

Update (4/19/10):

Yesterday, The NYT reported:
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability …

Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.

There’s no surprise in this information. It’s been apparent for some time that the Obama administration has all but ruled out force as an option.

What is interesting is the reason for this leak and who did the leaking. Is it a not-so-subtle message to the Mullahs that we’re getting serious? If so, I’m afraid that our feckless approach to Iran over the past 15 months (continual threats of “harsh sanctions” with no action) will cause them to discount this leak as a bluff. But maybe that’s what we want.

On the other hand, this leak, if it does reflect a new direction provides the Iranians with plenty of time to distribute their nuclear materials widely and likely into heavily populated civilian locations, harden those facilities they can’t be moved, and plan for retaliation via Hamas and Hezballah and in the Gulf of Hormuz should our President actually decide that force is necessary. Either way, this leak tells us little and does a disservice to our Iran strategy (if we actually have one).

Saturday, April 17, 2010


The collapse of financial markets in 2008 was caused by many factors, but high on the list was the irresponsible behavior of Wall Street masters of the universe. Among the leaders of these Wall Street geniuses was Goldman Sachs.

In the 18 months since the economic meltdown, it has been astonishing that the federal government has not moved against any of the Wall Street elite. That changed this week when the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goldman Sachs with civil fraud. It's about time. My only criticism of the SEC action is that the charges brought were not directed at individual senior managers of Goldman Sachs and that those charges were civil as opposed to criminal. However, it's a start.

The editorial page of The New York Times gets this one exactly right when it states:
Goldman insists that what it was doing was prudent risk management. In a letter published in its annual report, it argued that “although Goldman Sachs held various positions in residential mortgage-related products in 2007, our short positions were not a ‘bet against our clients.’ ” The bank also insists that the investors who bought the structured vehicles were sophisticated professionals who knew what they were doing.

The S.E.C. is now charging just the opposite.

It accuses Goldman of intentionally designing a financial product that would have a high chance of falling in value, at the request of a client, and lying about it to the customers who bought it. It says that Goldman allowed that client — John Paulson, a hedge fund manager — to pick bonds he wanted to bet against, and then packaged those bonds into a new investment.

Goldman then sold this investment to its clients, telling them the bonds were chosen by an independent manager, and omitted that Mr. Paulson was on the other side of the trade, shorting it, in the industry vernacular.

Five months after Goldman sold the investments, 83 percent of the bonds contained in the packaged securities were downgraded by rating agencies.

This is a case worth watching. The question now is how vigorously it will be pursued by the SEC and whether Goldman’s significant contributions to power players in Washington (including Pres. Obama) will ultimately have any impact on the direction of the case. It's also worth watching whether the SEC and/or the Justice Department will bring similar charges against other investment banks that did exactly the same thing that Goldman did.

At the time of the collapse, I noted in this blog that the level of irresponsible behavior on Wall Street demanded heavy regulation and, where necessary, criminal prosecution. The Obama administration has moved far too slowly in implementing regulation, and until this week, hasn't moved at all in any judicial proceedings. We can only hope that this will change over the coming months.

The only way to dissuade Wall Street masters of the universe from doing similar things in the future is to put the most egregious violators in jail. That will not be easy because they’ll wrap themselves in plausible deniability. But that doesn't mean that the government should walk away from its responsibility to protect the tens of millions of investors who were significantly harmed by companies like Goldman — the only parties that in this debacle were "too big to fail." It would be quite satisfying to see them punished, but if past history serves, they will receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist and continue with business as usual. Too bad.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nuance and Naïveté

For the past year the Obama administration has made every effort to make nice with some of the most anti-democratic, thuggish regimes in the Middle East. For example, the President has dispatched envoys to visit Syria, all in a come-let-us-reason-together effort to help a major sponsor of terror in the region see the light. No more “Bush cowboy diplomacy” under the “smart power” of Obama foreign policy — no sir, it’s nuance, brow-furrowing discussions, and no small dose of mea culpas on behalf of the United States. The big question is really quite simple: Has it worked? Have regimes like Assad’s in Syria changed their behavior? Or, do they view the President’s deferential approach as a sign of weakness?

The Wall Street Journal [subscription required] reports:
JERUSALEM—Syria has transferred long-range Scud missiles to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, Israeli and U.S. officials alleged, in a move that threatens to alter the Middle East’s military balance and sets back a major diplomatic outreach effort to Damascus by the Obama administration. …

The Scuds are believed to have a range of more than 435 miles—placing Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s nuclear installations all within range of Hezbollah’s military forces. During a month-long war with Israel in 2006, Hezbollah used rockets with ranges of 20 to 60 miles.

Officials briefed on the intelligence said Israeli and American officials believe Syria transferred Scud missiles built with either North Korean or Russian technology.

Hmmm. It looks like President Assad has not been impressed by Barack Obama’s “smart power” diplomacy, and that this little act of mischief is the result. Like virtually everything that President Obama has done in the Middle East, his actions bring the region closer to war.

Why is it, I wonder, that the President expressed public outrage for the “insult” delivered when Israel (a long time ally) announced plans for apartment buildings in Jerusalem, but is now mute when scud missiles are delivered by Syria to Hezballah on the Israeli border. No public outrage—not a peep from the Whitehouse, or the Secretary of State, or even a low level state department functionary. Nothing. Most of the MSM, of course, chooses not to mention the matter (might make their anointed one look bad, after all).

There is little doubt that President Obama has a high opinion of his own communication skills. In fact, it can be argued that his meteoric rise has more to do with those skills that will any tangible personal accomplishments.

I’m beginning to believe that he feels he can charm thugs and tyrants using heartfelt speeches that isolate our allies and embrace our enemies. Someday, our inexperienced President may learn that nuance and naïveté will not solve the intractable problems in the Middle East. I just hope that the lesson is not accompanied by the deaths of tens of thousands on both sides of the conflict.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Over the past week President Obama and many of his spokespeople have made it a point to note the criticality of nuclear nonproliferation and the serious threat posed by a terrorist organization acquiring nuclear weapons. It is somewhat amusing that when then-President George Bush made the same point in 2007, the Democrats and their media allies suggested that his words of caution were nothing more than “neocon fantasies” and “fear-mongering.” I guess it's all in who delivers the message.

In any event, the President now appears to agree that the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists is significant for our country. The question is: what does he intend to do about it?

It is true that he has conducted a major conference on nuclear nonproliferation and has espoused many high-minded ideals that all of the attendees have committed to adopt. But the commitment is verbal. There is no signed treaty nor is there any guarantee that any country but the United States will follow through on its commitments.

And what about Iran -- soon to be the world's most likely source of nuclear material or nuclear weapons for terrorist organizations? The President's response to Iran has been tepid at best and laughable in the main. After 15 months in office, his bumbling attempts at detente with the Mullahs has been ridiculed by the Iranians repeatedly. And his promises of "hard" sanctions in September 2009 and December 2009 have gone by the board with no action at all. Now, in April 2010, it appears that President Obama is again making empty threats. Both the Russians and the Chinese have given lip service to sanctions, but will do nothing to injure their trade relations with Iran. Incredibly, major European countries have been more aggressive than the United States in their efforts to implement meaningful sanctions. It has been Barack Obama who has tried to slow them down in an effort to achieve "consensus" among all parties.

With regard to the Middle East in general, Barry Rubin accurately depicts the President's key strategy:
Obama has openly preferred engagement and concessions to America’s enemies—notably Iran and Syria in this case—rather than to support its friends. The Middle East is often presented as if this only applies to Israel, but when Arabs complain about Obama’s weakness and unreliability they are talking about a lack of backing for Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, the liberal forces in Lebanon, and others.

To cite only one example, when Iraq wanted U.S. help in pressing Syria to stop supporting terrorists who are killing hundreds of Iraqis, as well as U.S. troops, the Obama Administration refused. This is genuinely shocking. Many other cases could be cited.

And speaking about "shocking," the President's recent shoddy treatment of our middle eastern ally Israel over the past month is a foreign-policy travesty. Israel announces a permitting approval for apartment buildings in Jerusalem, and the President goes nuclear.

Does the president honestly believe that the construction of apartment buildings is a justifiable cause for such outrage on his part? Is he really so naïve as to think that this will somehow cause the many Palestinian factions to come together and sue for peace?

Is he so historically illiterate that he has failed to see the dozens of peace agreements that have been presented to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- all of them blown up by the Palestinians or their allies on the Arab side. As Daniel Pipes states: "Painful Israeli concessions, we now know, stimulate not reciprocal Palestinian goodwill but rather irredentism, ambition, fury, and violence."

Is he so self-absorbed that he cannot understand the Israeli’s existential concern about a nuclear Iran? Iranian leaders have stated explicitly that they will use such weapons against the Israelis as a first strike.

Barack Obama’s supporters continue to believe that he’s the smartest guy in the room. His foreign-policy, as executed over the last 15 months, indicates that he isn't very smart at all.