- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2009

NO APOLOGIES

“A toothbrush, TelePrompter and the nuclear football - they are the essentials for a traveling president. But as Barack Obama packs for this week’s historic trip to the Mideast and Europe, there is something he definitely ought to leave at home: grating apologies for America’s past,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“None is needed. Genuine pride in representing America will do just fine,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Our nation has no peer in liberating people from the grip of tyranny, especially in the regions Obama will visit. That’s a fact of history, and the president of the United States ought to take every opportunity to say so.

“He certainly could say it in Egypt, where he plans to give what he called a ‘message about how the United States can change for the better its relationship with the Muslim world.’

“That’s a worthy goal, as long as he includes that, thanks to America and Western allies, tens of millions of Muslims, from Bosnia to Kuwait and Iraq, are free from the rule of genocidal maniacs and dictators.”

A MERE SYMBOL

President Barack Obama is retaining many important Bush administration antiterror policies, including the detention without trial of jihadist captives as well as military commissions,” David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey write in the Wall Street Journal.

“He is determined, however, to close the Guantanamo detention facility because he believes doing so will not cause many problems in the U.S., and will improve our image abroad and bolster international support for U.S. antiterror policies. He will be disappointed on all counts,” said Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey, who both served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and have served as expert members of the U.N. subcommission on the promotion and protection of human rights..

“Guantanamo has always been a symbol, rather than the substance, of complaints against America’s ‘war on terror.’ It’s the military character of the U.S. response to 9/11 that foreign and domestic critics won’t accept.

“There are also long-standing ideological currents at work here. At least since the 1970s, ‘progressive’ international activists have sought to level the playing field between nation states (especially the U.S. and Israel) and nonstate actors such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas.

“Although international humanitarian law is supposed to apply neutrally to all belligerents, international opinion now gives nonstate actors far more leeway to ignore fundamental norms such as the rule against deliberately targeting civilians. The underlying implication is that terrorist tactics, however regrettable, are justified as the only means of achieving laudable goals like national liberation.

“This mind-set will not change if Guantanamo closes.”

UNPERSUASIVE

“Let’s stipulate that President Obama is a wonderful speaker, vigorous in promoting his policies and even eloquent at times,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“But there’s a problem: He’s not persuasive. Obama is effective at marketing himself. His 64 percent job approval (Gallup poll) is a reflection of this. But in building public support for his policies, Obama has been largely unsuccessful.” Mr. Barnes said.

“You’d never guess this from the laudatory press coverage of Obama. With every major speech or press conference, the media and a sizable chunk of the political community - including many Republicans - assume Obama has carried the day. Actually, he rarely has.

“The most striking example is Obama’s strenuous defense of his decision to close Guantanamo prison by next January 22 and to bar ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ such as waterboarding in questioning captured terrorists. He gave a highly publicized address on this policy last month. After the speech, support for closing Guantanamo fell.

“And this occurred despite Obama’s supposedly powerful argument that Guantanamo has ‘set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world,’ become ‘a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists,’ and ‘weakened American national security.’ As usual, the media praised the speech.

“The president’s remarks were followed (same day, different location) by a speech by former Vice President Dick Cheney in which he criticized the president on Guantanamo and interrogation tactics. ‘Clearly the president is a more popular figure,’ says pollster Scott Rasmussen. ‘The numbers still shifted a little away from Obama.’ ”

IN CONTEXT

“The chief blot on Sonia Sotomayor’s otherwise stellar professional record is a comment she made deprecating the capabilities of any judge lacking a Y chromosome and Iberian ancestry,” Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman writes.

” ‘I would hope,’ she said in a 2001 lecture on law and multicultural diversity, ‘that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.’

“The question for her supporters is: How do we spin that? It’s not sufficient grounds to reject her nomination, given her excellent credentials. But it’s still an embarrassment.

“One possible way to handle it is a mea culpa by the nominee. She could say, ‘Let me explain what I meant to say,’ or ‘I used to believe that, but I now realize I was mistaken,’ or ‘Oh, man - what was I thinking?’ Any of those tactics would defuse the controversy and allow the debate to proceed to a topic more advantageous to her.

“Maybe when she gets to her confirmation hearing, Sotomayor will disavow the remark. But her supporters are taking another tack. They say this criticism is unfair, because critics have taken the quotation out of context and grossly distorted her meaning.

“Sotomayor, they point out, also said judges ‘must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.’

“Her allies have a point. Anyone who reads the whole speech will indeed find that her comment wasn’t as bad as it sounds. It was worse.

“What is clear from the full text is that her claim to superior insight was not a casual aside or an exercise in devil’s advocacy. On the contrary, it fit neatly into her overall argument, which was that the law can only benefit from the experiences and biases that female and minority judges bring with them.

“She clearly thinks impartiality is overrated.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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