- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

POKE IN EYE?

”On April 9, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, announced that the Islamic Republic had installed 7,000 centrifuges in its Natanz uranium enrichment facility. The announcement came one day after the U.S. State Department announced it would engage Iran directly in multilateral nuclear talks,” Michael Rubin writes in the Wall Street Journal.

”Proponents of engagement with Tehran say dialogue provides the only way forward. Iran's progress over the past eight years, they say, is a testament to the failure of Bush administration strategy. President Barack Obama, for example, in his March 21 address to the Iranian government and people, declared that diplomacy 'will not be advanced by threats. We seek engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.'

“Thus our president fulfills a pattern in which new administrations place blame for the failure of diplomacy on predecessors rather than on adversaries,” says Mr. Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“The Islamic Republic is not a passive actor, however. Quite the opposite: While President Obama plays checkers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei plays chess. The enrichment milestone is a testament both to Tehran's pro-active strategy and to Washington's refusal to recognize it.”

OBAMA’S TEST

”At some point over the last few days, the hostage standoff with Somali pirates became a leadership test for President Obama. I'm not sure how or why, and I'm less sure this makes sense, but it apparently happened anyway,” Steve Benen writes in the Political Animal blog at www.washingtonmonthly.com.

”Oddly enough, it seems conservatives wanted it this way. Some on the right blamed the White House for the pirates attacking the Maersk Alabama in the first place, while many more blamed the White House for not resolving the matter immediately. The situation, conservatives told us, made the president and the country appear 'weak.' As Michael Tomasky noted [Monday] morning, the 'unhinged-o-sphere' had started calling this 'Obama's hostage crisis.'

“Given this, if Obama is held responsible when bad things happen, I suppose he necessarily deserves at least some credit when good things happen. In this case, the president authorized the use of military force to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips, and the result was a successful operation. …

“It's easy to get a little carried away with this. There's plenty of credit to go around, but I'm inclined to give most of it to Richard Phillips, a genuine American hero; the U.S. servicemen and women who responded to the standoff; and the Navy SEAL snipers who can do very impressive things under very difficult circumstances.

“But from a purely political perspective, as Daniel Politi put it, '[T]he truth is that it's hard to see how things could have gone better for the young president.' ”

TAX ATTITUDES

”If you had to make a choice, which of the following would you prefer: an audit by the IRS or root canal surgery?” Karlyn Bowman writes at www.forbes.com.

”It's easy to guess howTreasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, former Sen. Tom Daschle and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, whose tax returns garnered unwanted publicity during the presidential appointment process, would answer that question,” says the writer, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

“But what about the rest of us? How much do we dislike taxes?

“A handful of people (2 percent to 3 percent) actually tell pollsters they 'love' preparing their taxes, while around 30 percent say they hate doing them. The rest of us fall somewhere in between. But almost everyone - 85 percent in a new Harris Interactive/Tax Foundation survey - thinks the tax system is complex.

“Preparation is one thing, but what about what we pay? In 1980, 68 percent said the federal income taxes they paid were too high. In Gallup's latest question, a bare majority, 52 percent, gave that response, and around four in 10 said they were about right. Only 2 percent declared they were too low. …

“Today, since about 40 percent of Americans either pay no federal income taxes or have no tax liability, tax dissatisfaction isn't especially high. A new Fox News and Opinion Dynamics poll found that 36 percent of respondents would be willing to join a symbolic Tea Party on April 15 to protest excessive government spending, but 58 percent would not. Forty-seven percent of Republicans said they would join, but 48 percent said they would not. Just 29 percent of Democrats and, separately, independents, said they would.”

YO-HO-HO

At least some on the left apparently have mixed feelings about the rescue of from pirates Sunday. A blogger identified simply as KLM, writing Monday in a blog at www.dailykos.com, criticized the hostage.

”The pirates' modus operandi is that they hold the crew, ship and cargo harmlessly until a lot of money is paid to them,” KLM said.

“Phillips' 'heroic' actions put his crew and himself at risk. If he'd done nothing except acquiesce to the pirates' demands, there would have been no risk, just possible discomfort until the extortion money was paid. Instead he put himself and the SEALs at grave risk.

“I applaud the crew, the SEALs and the military chain of command for their actions. I think Phillips was in error - if not a grandstander, then greatly misguided. Does anyone know what Maersk's orders to Phillips and the other Maersk masters are in a piracy matter? Probably to do nothing to incite trouble and to notify the shipowner and the U.S. Navy. The captain works for the shipowner and must follow those orders. The master who fails to follow the shipowner's orders is guilty of the crime of barratry if a financial injury to the ship owner results.

“The actual result is that Maersk, the shipowner, saved a lot of money that would have been lost with the ship inactive and off charter while it sat idle in a pirate port. Is this worth the deadly risk to the crew and the SEALs? Not to me.”

New chief

Former Rep. Chris Chocola, Indiana Republican, is now the president of the anti-tax Club for Growth, which is known for funding conservative challengers to liberal Republicans.

Pat Toomey stepped down Monday after recruiting Mr. Chocola to take his place, according to a news release from the group, which said Mr. Toomey plans to “pursue other opportunities.” Mr. Toomey is expected to challenge PennsylvaniaSen. Arlen Specter in next year's Republican primary, as he did in 2004.

Mr. Chocola represented Indiana's 2nd Congressional District from 2003 to 2007. He was defeated for re-election by Joe Donnelly, whom Mr. Chocola had beaten in 2004.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or e-mail Greg Pierce


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