Morning Must Reads -- From Russia with dust 

Washington Post -- Four spies Russia freed have little in common with swap counterparts

Does it seem like the Russians got the better of the deal on the great spy swap that just took place in Vienna?

We are sending them 10 Russians accused of living under false identities and actively trying to get information about American defense, industry and government. We are getting in return Russian citizens who were found – some a generation ago – to have had contact with the CIA or suspected CIA front organizations.

The Obama administration is heralding the speedy spy swap as evidence of the “reset” in Russian relations. I suppose letting the Russians get the better of you on missile treaties, Georgia, Iran and now spies is a “reset.” Charles Krauthammer’s wicked piece on Obama’s personal versus national pride hits the president hard on the question of subduing American ambition in the name of the world’s self-esteem. Russia, for all its problems, needs no help in the self-esteem department.

Writers Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus tell us about the oldsters the Russians dusted off to make today’s swap, including the highest value prisoner coming our way.

“Alexander Zaporozhsky was a decorated officer whose KGB career began in the depths of the Cold War in 1975 and abruptly ended with his reported retirement in 1997. A year later, he appeared in the Washington area with his wife and two sons. He described himself as an immigrant; Russian news reports said he had defected, escaping with his family via Prague. They lived for a while in Northern Virginia, and moved in 1998 to Cockeysville, Md., where they bought a house for about $400,000.

Zaporozhsky told his neighbors that he ran an international consulting business from his home. They thought he was a Russian spy. According to subsequent news accounts in Russia and this country, he was a defector reaping his reward for spying for the United States.

In 2001, Zaporozhsky was lured to Moscow for what his wife said he thought was a KGB reunion. He was arrested at the airport. His tearful wife, in Maryland, told reporters that it was all a fabrication, asking why he would have openly traveled back to Russia, under his own name, if he had been a double agent.”

 

New York Times -- Blunt General Appointed to Lead Forces in Mideast

The Times likes its generals a bit more polite, I suppose.

Writer Thom Shanker gives us the brief introduction to Gen. James Mattis, whom Obama tapped to replace Gen. David Petraeus as head of Centcom – the military command that spans Iraq and Afghanistan.

He won’t be Petraeus’ boss (both Petraeus and Iraq commander Ray Odierno are four-star generals too) and Mattis’ efforts will mostly be related to logistics and running the shadow war against Muslim terrorists in places like Yemen, Somolia and other Afghanistans-in-waiting.

But the pick says that Obama is catering to the hawks. The Wall Street Journal called Mattis’ selection a “home run”, and folks in the military like the Marine general’s extensive battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile Petraeus is reviewing the 48-hour "pattern of life” evaluations that withhold air support or even permission to return mortar fire near structures until they have been observed for civilian activity for two days.

Petraeus doesn’t seem inclined to change the “courageous restraint” rules of engagement in Afghanistan but does want to streamline the authorization process.

But while the president is shoring up his Right flank with his personnel moves, the very things that thrill the hawks appall the doves and will have to be hashed out during Senate confirmation hearings as Democrats’ look for a way out of Obama’s war.

“For his part, General Mattis has gotten in trouble for past observations on a life of combat. In 2005, he received an official rebuke for comments that included ‘it’s a lot of fun to fight.’

‘You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,’ he said while speaking at a forum in San Diego. ‘You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.’

Mr. Gates noted that those comments were made five years ago, and that ‘appropriate action was taken at the time.’”

 

New York Times -- Obama Presses BP to Recover More Oil

The Obama administration has sent BP a letter telling the company to fix the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico fast and to start collecting more of the oil that has already spilled into the ocean. Well, I guess now that it’s in writing…

BP obviously wants to stop the leak and collect the oil every bit as much as the president, and their more optimistic announcement in Thursday’s Journal shows that the company is desperate to allay the investor and political concerns raised by the ongoing spill.

The White House letter is to put it on the record in the looming legal battle between the administration and the company.

And documentation counts for a lot in court, as the government learned Thursday when a panel of federal appellate judges swiftly swatted down demands that the president’s ban on deepwater offshore drilling be imposed despite a lower-court ruling. The judges said the administration lacked proof.

Now, the administration will have to go through a months-long appeals process before the six-month ban could be imposed. A question reemerges – Since the ban, imposed two months ago, was based on needing six months to reevaluate safety regulations, won’t it be moot after four months more legal wrangling?

Embattled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar may offer a new ban today, but it may be hard to show how this one is different than the last.

As Obama continues his administrative battle against Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s demands for more berm building, the Gulf disaster looks to become something of a legal standoff.

Writer John Broder illustrates how the White House letter to BP, aside from stating the obvious, is also evidence that the government is not really in charge down there. If you’re running the show, you don’t have to send threat letters.

As we move closer to final containment, it’s only going to get uglier.

“The more immediate plan is to replace the cap and bring in additional vessels to capture oil. When the Helix is on line and the new cap in place, the system will be able to collect as much as 50,000 barrels a day of a flow that is estimated to be as high as 60,000 barrels a day. Additional ships could capture another 30,000 barrels.

The new cap also gives additional flexibility in the case of extreme weather. The new system will allow collection vessels to move on and off station faster if storms blow up.”

 

New York Times -- Senate Panel Near Agreement on Bill to Roll Back NASA Changes

The president’s plan to make space exploration an international endeavor and a means for building Muslim self-esteem opened to bad reviews from the old guard at NASA, including the taciturn Neil Armstrong. The ongoing media bungling by new NASA boss Charles Bolden has only deepened suspicions about the idea of the U.S. intentionally giving up its leadership role in space.

Now comes word that a bipartisan group of senators is working up a bill during the recess that would essentially roll back the president’s aim-low strategy for the agency.

Writer Kenneth Chang tells us how the Obama has finally forged some bipartisan consensus in Washington through this issue. Both sides oppose him.

“The Senate bill resulted from negotiations between Senator John D. Rockefeller of West Virginia, a Democrat who is chairman of the commerce committee; Senator Kay Bailey of Hutchison, the committee’s ranking Republican; Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a Democrat who is chairman of the commerce committee’s space subcommittee, and Mr. Vitter.

The bill marks a sign that Congressional opponents can move beyond their dislike of what Mr. Obama has proposed and devise an alternative that can attract bipartisan support.”

 

Boston Globe -- Judge rejects gay marriage curb

A federal judge has struck down the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates states’ rights.

While the president technically opposes gay marriage, the defense of the measure was deemed “halfhearted” by court watchers in Massachusetts. The main reason that any defense was made at all is that the president take a broad view of federal powers when it comes to other issues – illegal immigration, health-care mandates, etc.

A federal judge in California may rule today on a state referendum banning gay marriage, which, will begin to tell us what a Federalist version of the culture wars may look like.

If the federal government can’t apply a national standard but states can ban the practice will we have gay states and straight states?

Writer Michael Levenson explains how the case – limited in application to Massachusetts’ permissive gay marriage laws – has national implications.

“But opponents as well as proponents of same-sex marriage predicted that the Obama administration will appeal the rulings to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston and that the constitutionality of the law will be decided by the US Supreme Court. During an appeal, it is likely that the law would remain in effect, lawyers said.”

About The Author

Chris Stirewalt

Bio:

Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and ExaminerPolitics.com in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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