Obama annoys Europe.Dec 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 16 • By TOD LINDBERG
Apparently relations between the United States and Europe are actually maturing. How else to account for the singular absence of transatlantic crisis-mongering over the many, many ways in which the Obama administration has annoyed our allies in Europe?
Obama sycophancy, you say? The stenographic response to the official administration line among what Matthew Continetti has dubbed a “secretarial” (as opposed to adversarial) press corps? Well, maybe that too. Say George W. Bush were president. How big a deal would revelation of widespread National Security Agency data mining operations directed at our European allies be? How about the NSA listening in on the cell phone of an allied leader (one to whom Bush had unsuccessfully attempted to give a back rub, no less)? Such developments would be worthy of rhetoric about the biggest crisis in transatlantic relations since 2003. Yet Obama’s NSA scandal seems destined to pass from the scene without any such consequence.
Our German allies did indeed get worked up over the NSA story, not least for the reason that the German press corps in this instance chose to throw down a challenge to the press corps of the United Kingdom, the traditional cup-holder for sensationalized and ultimately erroneous reportage in support of scandal-mongering. If Germans thought that the NSA was reading all their email and routinely listening in on their cell phone calls, they could be forgiven, because such were the outraged early reports on the leaked documents renegade NSA contractor Edward Snowden disseminated.
Of course the actual NSA program was focused on metadata collection—not the content of calls and emails, but which numbers and IP addresses connect with each other and when. And of course nobody really cares what kind of consenting-adult pornography good German burghers choose or how often they whisper “mein Schatz” to their mistresses on their cell phones. But these were details that emerged only when the burden of sustaining the inaccuracy became unbearable for the German press.
As for listening in on Angela Merkel’s cell phone, well, we did that. And we shouldn’t have. True, her predecessor Gerhard Schröder did have a tendency to push initiatives favored by Moscow and, after leaving office, found highly remunerative employment with Russian energy interests thanks to his friend Vladimir Putin. But there simply wouldn’t be anything like that for the U.S. intelligence community to keep tabs on in the case of Merkel, whose actions have done nothing to call her integrity into question.
The United States has not been collecting data only in Germany. France and the United Kingdom were also among the surveilled, for example. Yet their official reactions were rather more muted, no doubt because of the extensive intelligence services they maintain and the activities those services undertake. So the German response was singularly intense.
Germany’s greatest contribution to the principles of global order over the past two generations has been its insistence on an international politics grounded in law and that nations conduct themselves in accordance with law. This insistence has allowed Germany to develop a consistent critique of others (including the United States) for acting extralegally or illegally, at least in the judgment of Germany. The detention center at Guantánamo Bay was one such American failing, and so was the 2003 Iraq war. The NSA activity falls into the same category.
Yet the German position in support of Kantian precepts on a global scale also comes at the occasional price of a perception of German naïveté when states fail to act in accordance with the law—especially states (again including the United States) that should know better. In this version of Casablanca, Captain Renault—make it Captain Reinhart—really is shocked that there is gambling going on in the back room of Rick’s Café Américain. It is the law, is it not, that gambling is illegal in Morocco?
There were rumblings in Germany and at the European Union about a need to punish the United States in some way for our lawlessness over intelligence collection. The problem, however, was that no one could really think of an effective means of doing so. Europe could cancel or delay negotiations on TTIP, the mega-deal for free trade between the United States and Europe. But that would be harmful to Europeans, indeed arguably more harmful to Europeans than to the United States, and most harmful to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy. So that isn’t a very good idea. Or Germany could withdraw from the SWIFT mechanism for tracking terrorist finances—except preventing terrorist activity is something Germany takes rather seriously at the level of senior government officials.
Dec 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 16 • By FRED BARNES
President Obama is more perceptive about the shortcomings of government than we thought. “We have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Wow!
Dec 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 15 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last month, the Oxford English Dictionary named “selfie” the word of the year. If you are blissfully unaware, a “selfie” is a photo taken of yourself by yourself, holding a smartphone at arm’s length pointed towards your face.
Dec 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 14 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Seduced and then disappointed by a hipster who turned out just to be another solipsistic boomer, now chastened yet still hopeful for change (if no longer swept away by the promise of Hope and Change), young Americans are ready to ditch Barack Obama. Things had been getting rocky for a while, but seeing the dawning of the Age of Obamacare in its full glory seems to have been the final indignity.
A mind is a terrible thing to change. Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By FRED BARNES
"There are some things I really believe in,” President Obama said last week. He was putting it mildly. Actually there are some things he really, really, really believes in—whether they work or not. Either way, he’s sticking with them. And Obama is one stubborn dude.
The Iranian bomb is all that matters.Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By LEE SMITH
Last week’s interim agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear weapons program offers the regime sanctions relief even as U.S. lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, are demanding more and stricter sanctions. The White House counters that more sanctions will only narrow diplomatic channels, drive the Iranians away from the negotiating table, and lead to war. Critics of the deal argue that by providing sanctions relief Obama is simply feeding an Iranian beast hungry for more concessions.
Hosted by Michael Graham.3:45 PM, Nov 27, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on the President, Obamacare, and his (shocking!) favorite Thanksgiving side dish.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:05 PM, Nov 18, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on the foibles of the Obama administration and whether the president can dig his administration out of its second-term hole.
Nov 25, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 11 • By FRED BARNES
When in trouble, presidents have ways to escape the hubbub, deflect attention from what’s causing the problem, and wait for the whole thing to pass. In 1974, as Watergate was engulfing his presidency, President Nixon traveled to Egypt. A million people lined the roads to see him. Nixon aides quipped that “a million Egyptians can’t be wrong.” But they were wrong, and Nixon resigned a few weeks later.
Nov 25, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 11 • By LEE SMITH
On November 20, negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program recommence in Geneva. The last round two weeks ago ended with egg on the Obama administration’s face after Secretary of State John Kerry failed to clear “bracketed text” with his own side in the talks. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius is rightly credited with saving the day and stopping the White House from making a deal that would have given the Iranians virtually everything they wanted for nothing but empty promises.
Bring the ‘clerkship’ back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By JAY COST
At the start of last month’s government shutdown, a mostly overlooked message emanated from the Twitter account of Michelle Obama, informing her followers: “Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, updates to this account will be limited.” The conventions of American governance typically exclude the first lady from the rough-and-tumble of politics, yet it does raise an important question: Why is America paying a staffer good money to publish Tweets under Michelle Obama’s name?
Advance Editorial From Our Forthcoming 10/21-10/28 IssueOct 21, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 07 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
“We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around.”
The conduct of the National Park Service over the last week might be the biggest scandal of the Obama administration. This is an expansive claim, of course. Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS, the NSA, the HHS mandate—this is an administration that has not lacked for appalling abuses of power. And we still have three years to go.
Oct 14, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 06 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
All politics is local, the late Tip O’Neill is alleged to have said. The Scrapbook isn’t quite sure if that’s true. But it has certainly been true during the “shutdown” of the federal government, in which President Obama has used metropolitan Washington, D.C., as a stage on which to dramatize his talking points.