Obama backpedals on Cordoba

When is an endorsement not an endorsement? When your loudest opponents whose respect you will never have give you grief for it.

One of the genuine moments of courage in Obama’s presidency has given way to one of his most cowardly.

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“This is America. Our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

Obama finally comments on the Cordoba House:

It strikes me as illiberal that not only does our culture need a discussion about the facility; but we also need our president to mediate it. It’s another illustration of the cult of the presidency, the elevation of what was conceived as a fairly humble office into an avatar of the Geist of the whole nation and unitary power onto himself (or, hypothetically, herself). But that’s where we are. And though some have criticized Obama for taking his time in commenting on the issue, one can at least say he chose an ideal venue–an iftar for DC Muslim leaders–and came down on the right side and did so gracefully, acknowledging the “hollowness” of Ground Zero, but also the hollowness of the first freedom.

Elena Kagan is going to make military recruiters gay-marry each other at gunpoint then take away their guns because she hates the military and guns too but loves softball

The Senate voted 63 to 37 to confirm Elena Kagan as the 112th Justice of the Supreme Court.

Radley Balko offered a civil libertarian critique of Kagan’s record here.

BP spill to be felt beyond the Gulf

Where? In the stomachs of British pensioneers:

Before the accident on April 20, BP was Britain’s biggest company, with a stock market value of £122 billion. Since then, £49 billion has been wiped off its value.

On Wednesday, BP’s share price fell a further 17.35p to 391.55p – representing a 40 per cent drop on the 655p price of a share two months ago.

Experts have said that the clean-up costs of the oil spill will run to between £10 billion and £20 billion but the biggest cost to the company is from investors dumping stock for fear of BP being further punished by the US Government.

Those fears have been heightened by Mr Obama’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric towards BP, which some investors see as an attempt to deflect criticism of his own handling of the crisis. Last month, a White House spokesman said the President’s job was to keep his “boot on the throat” of the company.

In the past week, Mr Obama, who insists on referring to BP by its former name British Petroleum, has suggested that its chief executive, Tony Hayward, would have been sacked if he worked for him.

BP’s position at the top of the London Stock Exchange and its previous reliability have made it a bedrock
of almost every pension fund in the country, meaning its value is crucial to millions of workers. The firm’s dividend payments, which amount to more than £7 billion a year, account for £1 in every £6 paid out in dividends to British pension pots.

BP is so concerned about Mr Obama’s power to affect share value that it has urged David Cameron to appeal to the White House on its behalf. Downing Street, however, has refused to get involved. “We need to ensure that BP is not unfairly treated – it is not some bloodless corporation,” said one of Britain’s top fund managers. “Hit BP and a lot of people get hit. UK pension money becomes a donation to the US government and the lawyers at the expense of Mrs Jones and other pension funds.”

Mark Dampier of the financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown said: “[Mr Obama] is playing to the gallery but is not bringing a solution any closer. Obama has his boot on the throat of British pensioners. There is no point in bashing BP all the time, it’s not helpful. It is a terrible situation, but having the American president on your back is not going to get it all cleared up any quicker.”

Maybe now Peggy Noonan and Maureen Dowd  will stop whining about Obama not being angry enough. The anger that he has shown is already costing billions of pounds. (Maybe.)

Obama pledges $400 million for Palestinian aid

Via the LA Times:

President Obama pledged an infusion of $400 million in aid for housing, school construction and business development in the Palestinian territories Wednesday, saying after a one-on-one meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that the situation in Gaza is “inherently unstable.”

Obama had planned the White House meeting to talk mainly about the Middle East peace process. But in the aftermath of a deadly May 31 Israeli assault on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, the two leaders ended up focusing instead on the blockade of Gaza and its effects on the people who live there.

“We agree that Israelis have the right to prevent arms from entering into Gaza that can be used to launch attacks into Israeli territory,” Obama told reporters after his meeting with Abbas in the White House. “But we also think that it is important for us to explore new mechanisms so that we can have goods and services, and economic development, and the ability of people to start their own businesses, and to grow the economy and provide opportunity within Gaza.” 

The meeting between Obama and Abbas was scheduled before the attempt by activists to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza ended in the deaths of nine of them during the takeover by Israeli commandos, provoking international outrage.

In response, Israeli officials announced Wednesday that they would relax some border restrictions on Gaza, allowing in some snack foods and spices that had previously been off limits for delivery. Palestinian leaders dismissed the change as inconsequential because it does not allow more urgently needed items, such as fabric, fishing equipment, spare parts and electronics.

The Obama administration’s promise of aid includes money to increase access to clean drinking water, create jobs and build schools and affordable housing. State Department officials called the projects “a down payment” on the U.S. commitment to improving life in Gaza.

Last year, U.S. officials pledged a total of $900 million for Gaza and the West Bank, but acknowledged the difficulty of distributing the funds, especially because Hamas controls Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization. The aid announced Wednesday may be distributed through organizations performing relief work, State Department officials said.

Does anyone know if the Obama administration’s infusion of US resources to Palestine have any precedent? Did they recieve any aid from us under Bush II, or any president before him?

Fear of a Palin planet

John B. Judis passes along a passage from John Heileman and Mark Halperin’s Game Change:

In late October [2008], Obama’s focus group maestro, David Binder, was conducting a session with a group of swing voters in a Cleveland suburb. A middle-aged woman let loose with a string of not-unfamiliar broadsides against Obama. He’s a Muslim. He’s soft on terrorism—because he’s a Muslim. He doesn’t put his hand on his heart during patriotic rituals. We’re not even sure he was born in this country. Binder was confused. This was supposed to be a group of undecided voters. If you think all these terrible things about Obama, he asked the woman, how can you possibly be undecided? Because if McCain dies, Palin would be president, she said.

UN Security Council votes unanymously to withdraw 2,000 peacekeepers from Congo

What this means for the nation with the highest incidence of rapes of women and of men…I can’t say. There are still 18,000 peacekeepers in place, but Marty Peretz of TNR says “observers” think they will be there “not for long.”

The vote, horrifically, was unanimous. Despite a pledge by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to confront the Congo rape crisis, the US emissary, too, voted for the withdrawal.