Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 23, 2008

Picking His Shots

John McCain is walking a fine line. He and his campaign seem convinced that the “McCain brand” is their most valuable commodity. That brand is both ideological (maverick, independent) and personal (straight-talking, bound by a sense of honor). The latter poses a problem as he decides what aspects of his potential opponents to go after.

On one hand, he has no problem attacking Barack Obama’s “bitter” remarks. Today, as he has done before, he went after the “elitist” comments. But when it comes to Reverend Wright, he wants no part of any discussion or ad, even going so far as to try to shut down a North Carolina GOP ad featuring Reverend Wright.

For obvious political considerations–in particular for fear of being labeled a race-baiter–McCain is shying away from raising Reverend Wright. But to go a step further, as he seems to have gone, and declare the entire topic out of bounds seems like overkill. Worst still, it risks alienating his base (whom he otherwise has done a fair job of cultivating), as well as independent voters who are concerned about Wright.

Yes, McCain is an honorable guy, as even his opponents concede. However, the very topics which he wants voters to focus on (e.g. honor, patriotism, respect for fellow citizens) are inextricably tied to the Wright controversy. At some point, his holier-than-thou stance will cease making political sense.

John McCain is walking a fine line. He and his campaign seem convinced that the “McCain brand” is their most valuable commodity. That brand is both ideological (maverick, independent) and personal (straight-talking, bound by a sense of honor). The latter poses a problem as he decides what aspects of his potential opponents to go after.

On one hand, he has no problem attacking Barack Obama’s “bitter” remarks. Today, as he has done before, he went after the “elitist” comments. But when it comes to Reverend Wright, he wants no part of any discussion or ad, even going so far as to try to shut down a North Carolina GOP ad featuring Reverend Wright.

For obvious political considerations–in particular for fear of being labeled a race-baiter–McCain is shying away from raising Reverend Wright. But to go a step further, as he seems to have gone, and declare the entire topic out of bounds seems like overkill. Worst still, it risks alienating his base (whom he otherwise has done a fair job of cultivating), as well as independent voters who are concerned about Wright.

Yes, McCain is an honorable guy, as even his opponents concede. However, the very topics which he wants voters to focus on (e.g. honor, patriotism, respect for fellow citizens) are inextricably tied to the Wright controversy. At some point, his holier-than-thou stance will cease making political sense.

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A Nation of Psychotic Soldiers

It’s rare that Americans get to pore over a screed of up-to-date anti-U.S. hysteria as unapologetically caustic and lovingly detailed as this rant by Sir Simon Jenkins at Comment is Free. The distinguished British journalist has gone to the trouble of diagnosing America’s various ailments, their causes, and the overall prognosis, so we should give him our full attention:

Americans still do not travel abroad, and rely on television news for their knowledge of foreign places, which they continue to regard with bizarre suspicion. Hence a world view is lumped in with defence and security in a collective paranoia.

From Jenkins’ visits to the U.S., he’s arrived at this impression of our fair land: “A country in so many ways a kaleidoscope of the world is in many ways so different. Above all it is full of soldiers.” This is excellent news, as I’ve been hearing rumors the military was stretched thin, and as Sir Simon says, America is engaged in an “atavistic love affair with war.” There’s nothing atavistic about twenty-first Century knights like Jenkins, is there?

Here’s a charming wrap-up:

To visit America at present is to be reminded of the continuing trauma of post-9/11, of a nation that craves a cohering substitute psychosis for the lifting of the Soviet menace. It is seen in ubiquitous threat alerts, hysterical airport security, the continued acceptance of Guantánamo Bay and even jibes about public figures not wearing the American flag in their buttonhole.

But doesn’t the psychosis lie in denying the ramifications of post-9/11 existence? In reality, threat alerts are almost non-existent now. It’s the threat that’s remained ubiquitous. As for having to take off our shoes in airports, that maddening requirement comes courtesy of London’s own Richard Reid, who managed to sneak his shoe bomb past the decidedly non-hysterical airport security at Charles De Gaulle International. Prisoners being held at Guantánamo Bay live better than American soldiers, and have each gained an average of twenty pounds while there. So now we’re down to the flag lapel pin and “public figures.” For starters, the likely Democratic nominee for president isn’t just any public figure, and anyway, who can take seriously a scolding about nationalism from a journalist whose title establishes him as member of the English nobility?

And speaking of nobility, it should come as no surprise that this regal anti-American is gaga for Barack Obama: “His capacity to transform America‘s self-image and world image is colossal.” If only he can convince the soldiers from sea to shining sea.

It’s rare that Americans get to pore over a screed of up-to-date anti-U.S. hysteria as unapologetically caustic and lovingly detailed as this rant by Sir Simon Jenkins at Comment is Free. The distinguished British journalist has gone to the trouble of diagnosing America’s various ailments, their causes, and the overall prognosis, so we should give him our full attention:

Americans still do not travel abroad, and rely on television news for their knowledge of foreign places, which they continue to regard with bizarre suspicion. Hence a world view is lumped in with defence and security in a collective paranoia.

From Jenkins’ visits to the U.S., he’s arrived at this impression of our fair land: “A country in so many ways a kaleidoscope of the world is in many ways so different. Above all it is full of soldiers.” This is excellent news, as I’ve been hearing rumors the military was stretched thin, and as Sir Simon says, America is engaged in an “atavistic love affair with war.” There’s nothing atavistic about twenty-first Century knights like Jenkins, is there?

Here’s a charming wrap-up:

To visit America at present is to be reminded of the continuing trauma of post-9/11, of a nation that craves a cohering substitute psychosis for the lifting of the Soviet menace. It is seen in ubiquitous threat alerts, hysterical airport security, the continued acceptance of Guantánamo Bay and even jibes about public figures not wearing the American flag in their buttonhole.

But doesn’t the psychosis lie in denying the ramifications of post-9/11 existence? In reality, threat alerts are almost non-existent now. It’s the threat that’s remained ubiquitous. As for having to take off our shoes in airports, that maddening requirement comes courtesy of London’s own Richard Reid, who managed to sneak his shoe bomb past the decidedly non-hysterical airport security at Charles De Gaulle International. Prisoners being held at Guantánamo Bay live better than American soldiers, and have each gained an average of twenty pounds while there. So now we’re down to the flag lapel pin and “public figures.” For starters, the likely Democratic nominee for president isn’t just any public figure, and anyway, who can take seriously a scolding about nationalism from a journalist whose title establishes him as member of the English nobility?

And speaking of nobility, it should come as no surprise that this regal anti-American is gaga for Barack Obama: “His capacity to transform America‘s self-image and world image is colossal.” If only he can convince the soldiers from sea to shining sea.

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Getting in The Game

Barack Obama’s campaign chief David Axelrod says “We don’t win white males anyway.” But Democrats can, if they are successful, carry rural voters,women, seniors, Catholics and even gun owners. Bill Clinton famously remarked that Al Gore lost the 2000 race because of gun voters in key swing states.

So the Obama team is left to come up with a better explanation for why none of this matters–not Texas, not Ohio and especially not Pennsylvania. For now, Left punditocracy’s ringleader is beset with worries that Obama is trapped in Clinton’s “suffocating embrace” and, in essence, is being unmanned.

What to do, what to do? For starters, he might debate Clinton, proving he’s not afraid of her or the press. Then he might give some meaty policy speeches explaining why he really is the candidate of the working class voter. Finally, he could come up with another stump speech, one that doesn’t bore even MSNBC’s Eugene Robinson (as last night’s speech did.).

But that would mean switching up his game. And it’s an open question whether he has any game, at all, other than his Agent-of-Change routine. Which seems to have gotten a bit stale.

Barack Obama’s campaign chief David Axelrod says “We don’t win white males anyway.” But Democrats can, if they are successful, carry rural voters,women, seniors, Catholics and even gun owners. Bill Clinton famously remarked that Al Gore lost the 2000 race because of gun voters in key swing states.

So the Obama team is left to come up with a better explanation for why none of this matters–not Texas, not Ohio and especially not Pennsylvania. For now, Left punditocracy’s ringleader is beset with worries that Obama is trapped in Clinton’s “suffocating embrace” and, in essence, is being unmanned.

What to do, what to do? For starters, he might debate Clinton, proving he’s not afraid of her or the press. Then he might give some meaty policy speeches explaining why he really is the candidate of the working class voter. Finally, he could come up with another stump speech, one that doesn’t bore even MSNBC’s Eugene Robinson (as last night’s speech did.).

But that would mean switching up his game. And it’s an open question whether he has any game, at all, other than his Agent-of-Change routine. Which seems to have gotten a bit stale.

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Good News for the GOP

Last night was an almost perfect outcome for the GOP. Hillary Clinton won by a wide enough margin to keep her in the hunt, infuse her campaign with much-needed cash, and keep super-delegates from breaking en masse to Obama. But the results by themselves are not enough to change–at least not yet–the eventual outcome. Barack Obama will probably still win the nomination. But he is looking far less formidable than he did even six weeks ago.

Senator Obama outspent Clinton by around 3 to 1–and he was wiped out. He lost badly among women, Catholics, union households, working class voters, and those who didn’t attend college. Clinton carried both white voters 45 and older and weekly churchgoers by more than 60 percent. Only six in ten Democratic Catholic voters said they would vote for Obama in a general election; more than one in five said they would vote for McCain. Nearly one-third of Clinton voters said they wouldn’t vote for Obama if he’s the nominee. As Fred Barnes wrote, “After Pennsylvania, Clinton’s argument that she’s a stronger opponent against McCain will be impossible to ignore or dismiss.”

The Democratic contest, which is already heated and personal, is only going to get worse. The anger that supporters of Obama and Clinton feel for the other candidate is palpable. The Democrats appear headed for what Andrew Sullivan calls a “death struggle.”

Senator Obama is still the favorite–the math, the rules, and the calendar are all in his favor–but he’s now on the ropes, cut and bleeding, and even a bit wobbly. He could have put Hillary Clinton away with victories in New Hampshire, in Texas, and in Pennsylvania, but he let those opportunities slip away. And now he’s paying a high price for it.

One of the problems faced by Obama is that his appeal has been largely stylistic and aesthetic, based on his personality and character. The core of his campaign is not built on his ideas, as was the case with Ronald Reagan. It’s based on his assertion that he embodies unity and change, a new era in politics, a way past the deep divisions and polarization that have characterized so much of our politics. Which is why this paragraph in today’s Washington Post is worth noting:

Unable once again to score a knockout, Sen. Barack Obama is likely to make his new negative tone even more negative…. the candidate who rocketed to stardom as the embodiment of a new kind of politics — hopeful, positive and inspiring — saw his image tarnished in the bruising fight for Pennsylvania. Provoked by Clinton’s repeated references to his remarks about the state’s voters and her charges that he is an “elitist,” Obama struck back in the closing days of the campaign.

Obama has no choice but to fire back against Clinton–but in doing so, he badly undercuts the rationale for his candidacy. He is discovering what many other sincere and even high-minded candidates have found: changing the tone in Washington is a lot harder than it seems. Politics in America has been a contact sport since about 1800, when Jefferson and Adams went after one another viciously. If one’s political purpose is philosophical and policy-driven rather than tonal, then “negative campaigning,” while regrettable, is not fundamentally harmful. But if, like Obama, hope, change, and unity are your main appeal, it can be lethal.

Barack Obama has presented himself as a fundamentally different kind of political figure. But he now looks more and more conventional–in his liberal policy positions, in how he is conducting his campaign, and in his associations (including Reverend Wright, William Ayers, and Antoin “Tony” Rezko). All of this is building a narrative quite problematic for the junior senator from Illinois. People are beginning to wonder whether his candidacy of transcendence was merely an illusion.

Politics constantly teaches us not to draw too many sweeping conclusions from particular moments in time. It’s true that Obama offers a far more target-rich environment than he did earlier this year, and his appeal to key constituencies is (from his perspective) troublingly limited. But the GOP temptation to write him off as a fatally flawed or easily beatable candidate ought to be resisted.

The political environment still favors Democrats. And Obama is a money-making machine, his political operation is quite good, and he still possesses impressive skills. Every person who has run for the presidency goes through a period of trial and testing, when things seem bleak and sometimes even hopeless (like John McCain in the summer of ’07). But if and when Obama secures the nomination, he’ll receive a big boost. Democrats will begin to rally around him just as the GOP rallied around McCain and his poll ratings vis-à-vis McCain will get better. But what seemed improbable just three months ago now seems possible: a Republican victory in November.

Last night was an almost perfect outcome for the GOP. Hillary Clinton won by a wide enough margin to keep her in the hunt, infuse her campaign with much-needed cash, and keep super-delegates from breaking en masse to Obama. But the results by themselves are not enough to change–at least not yet–the eventual outcome. Barack Obama will probably still win the nomination. But he is looking far less formidable than he did even six weeks ago.

Senator Obama outspent Clinton by around 3 to 1–and he was wiped out. He lost badly among women, Catholics, union households, working class voters, and those who didn’t attend college. Clinton carried both white voters 45 and older and weekly churchgoers by more than 60 percent. Only six in ten Democratic Catholic voters said they would vote for Obama in a general election; more than one in five said they would vote for McCain. Nearly one-third of Clinton voters said they wouldn’t vote for Obama if he’s the nominee. As Fred Barnes wrote, “After Pennsylvania, Clinton’s argument that she’s a stronger opponent against McCain will be impossible to ignore or dismiss.”

The Democratic contest, which is already heated and personal, is only going to get worse. The anger that supporters of Obama and Clinton feel for the other candidate is palpable. The Democrats appear headed for what Andrew Sullivan calls a “death struggle.”

Senator Obama is still the favorite–the math, the rules, and the calendar are all in his favor–but he’s now on the ropes, cut and bleeding, and even a bit wobbly. He could have put Hillary Clinton away with victories in New Hampshire, in Texas, and in Pennsylvania, but he let those opportunities slip away. And now he’s paying a high price for it.

One of the problems faced by Obama is that his appeal has been largely stylistic and aesthetic, based on his personality and character. The core of his campaign is not built on his ideas, as was the case with Ronald Reagan. It’s based on his assertion that he embodies unity and change, a new era in politics, a way past the deep divisions and polarization that have characterized so much of our politics. Which is why this paragraph in today’s Washington Post is worth noting:

Unable once again to score a knockout, Sen. Barack Obama is likely to make his new negative tone even more negative…. the candidate who rocketed to stardom as the embodiment of a new kind of politics — hopeful, positive and inspiring — saw his image tarnished in the bruising fight for Pennsylvania. Provoked by Clinton’s repeated references to his remarks about the state’s voters and her charges that he is an “elitist,” Obama struck back in the closing days of the campaign.

Obama has no choice but to fire back against Clinton–but in doing so, he badly undercuts the rationale for his candidacy. He is discovering what many other sincere and even high-minded candidates have found: changing the tone in Washington is a lot harder than it seems. Politics in America has been a contact sport since about 1800, when Jefferson and Adams went after one another viciously. If one’s political purpose is philosophical and policy-driven rather than tonal, then “negative campaigning,” while regrettable, is not fundamentally harmful. But if, like Obama, hope, change, and unity are your main appeal, it can be lethal.

Barack Obama has presented himself as a fundamentally different kind of political figure. But he now looks more and more conventional–in his liberal policy positions, in how he is conducting his campaign, and in his associations (including Reverend Wright, William Ayers, and Antoin “Tony” Rezko). All of this is building a narrative quite problematic for the junior senator from Illinois. People are beginning to wonder whether his candidacy of transcendence was merely an illusion.

Politics constantly teaches us not to draw too many sweeping conclusions from particular moments in time. It’s true that Obama offers a far more target-rich environment than he did earlier this year, and his appeal to key constituencies is (from his perspective) troublingly limited. But the GOP temptation to write him off as a fatally flawed or easily beatable candidate ought to be resisted.

The political environment still favors Democrats. And Obama is a money-making machine, his political operation is quite good, and he still possesses impressive skills. Every person who has run for the presidency goes through a period of trial and testing, when things seem bleak and sometimes even hopeless (like John McCain in the summer of ’07). But if and when Obama secures the nomination, he’ll receive a big boost. Democrats will begin to rally around him just as the GOP rallied around McCain and his poll ratings vis-à-vis McCain will get better. But what seemed improbable just three months ago now seems possible: a Republican victory in November.

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Good News for Iraq

The Bush administration has had more than its share of disastrous personnel moves. You might call it “Brownie Syndrome,” after Michael Brown, the FEMA chief who had to resign after Hurricane Katrina. A number of these missteps–the short-lived appointment of Admiral Fox Fallon to head Central Command and the long-lived appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to head the Department of Defense–have concerned the armed forces. So it was with some surprise (and a big gulp of relief) that I read the news that General David Petraeus is being sent to Central Command and General Ray Odierno is heading to Baghdad as his replacement at the head of Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNFI).

Odierno spent the year from early 2007 to early 2008 working closely with Petraeus to supervise the implementation of the surge. They were by far the most successful team of commanders we have had in Iraq–potentially the Grant/Sherman or Eisenhower/Patton of this long conflict. Yet there was a strong impetus back in DC to break up the winning combination–as seen in Odierno’s rotation home earlier this year and in persistent rumors that Petraeus would be sent to NATO. That is something I warned against in a January post, in which I suggested that a better move would be to send Petraeus to Centcom and Odierno to MNFI. But, based on his track record, I knew I could not necessarily count on the President doing the right thing. Now he has. That gives us a chance to build on the initial success of the surge in the challenging months that lie ahead.

Of course, whether or not Petraeus and Odierno will have a free hand to implement their best military advice will depend on the outcome of the November election. The Democratic candidates seem determined to pull troops out of the country based more on domestic political considerations than on the long-term prospects of success in the war effort.

The Bush administration has had more than its share of disastrous personnel moves. You might call it “Brownie Syndrome,” after Michael Brown, the FEMA chief who had to resign after Hurricane Katrina. A number of these missteps–the short-lived appointment of Admiral Fox Fallon to head Central Command and the long-lived appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to head the Department of Defense–have concerned the armed forces. So it was with some surprise (and a big gulp of relief) that I read the news that General David Petraeus is being sent to Central Command and General Ray Odierno is heading to Baghdad as his replacement at the head of Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNFI).

Odierno spent the year from early 2007 to early 2008 working closely with Petraeus to supervise the implementation of the surge. They were by far the most successful team of commanders we have had in Iraq–potentially the Grant/Sherman or Eisenhower/Patton of this long conflict. Yet there was a strong impetus back in DC to break up the winning combination–as seen in Odierno’s rotation home earlier this year and in persistent rumors that Petraeus would be sent to NATO. That is something I warned against in a January post, in which I suggested that a better move would be to send Petraeus to Centcom and Odierno to MNFI. But, based on his track record, I knew I could not necessarily count on the President doing the right thing. Now he has. That gives us a chance to build on the initial success of the surge in the challenging months that lie ahead.

Of course, whether or not Petraeus and Odierno will have a free hand to implement their best military advice will depend on the outcome of the November election. The Democratic candidates seem determined to pull troops out of the country based more on domestic political considerations than on the long-term prospects of success in the war effort.

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A “Milestone” Agreement with Iran

A few hours ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a “milestone” agreement with Iran. According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran will cooperate “on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May.” The “alleged studies” are materials supplied by the United States and other Western nations showing that Iran had at one time conducted nuclear bomb research.

Iranian officials and the IAEA’s chief investigator, Olli Heinonen, negotiated the agreement during talks on Monday and Tuesday in the Iranian capital. Previously, Mohamed ElBaradei, the organization’s chief, had said that the world “needs to make sure Iran did not have a weapons program.”

For Tehran, the agreement with the IAEA is obviously another delaying tactic. Yet the deal also creates a deadline. If the Iranians cannot refute the alleged studies by next month and cannot admit that they had tried to weaponize the atom, then the international community faces another one of those moments of truth.

Deadlines do not enforce themselves. Great powers do that. By the end of next month we will know whether the United States is still a great power. Iran is not just about the Middle East, and it is not just about Syria and all the other nations that want the bomb. Iran is now about us.

A few hours ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a “milestone” agreement with Iran. According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran will cooperate “on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May.” The “alleged studies” are materials supplied by the United States and other Western nations showing that Iran had at one time conducted nuclear bomb research.

Iranian officials and the IAEA’s chief investigator, Olli Heinonen, negotiated the agreement during talks on Monday and Tuesday in the Iranian capital. Previously, Mohamed ElBaradei, the organization’s chief, had said that the world “needs to make sure Iran did not have a weapons program.”

For Tehran, the agreement with the IAEA is obviously another delaying tactic. Yet the deal also creates a deadline. If the Iranians cannot refute the alleged studies by next month and cannot admit that they had tried to weaponize the atom, then the international community faces another one of those moments of truth.

Deadlines do not enforce themselves. Great powers do that. By the end of next month we will know whether the United States is still a great power. Iran is not just about the Middle East, and it is not just about Syria and all the other nations that want the bomb. Iran is now about us.

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More on Barstow

Apparently John Podhoretz and I weren’t the only ones underwhelmed by David Barstow’s 7,600-word magnum opus in Sunday’s New York Times. (The piece detailed how the Pentagon tries to woo retired military officers to get out its side of the story in the Iraq War.) According to this Los Angeles Times online article, the article “made minimal ripples”:

The Sunday-morning talk shows ignored the piece. . . . the Pentagon caper likewise seemed a nonstarter in the blogosphere. . . . NBC’s Brian Williams, who’s been known to take a rooting interest in media-industry shopkeeping, didn’t even mention it on his “Daily Nightly” blog.

The LA Times blogger explains this lack of interest by claiming that Americans are used to having their government manipulate the media: “You don’t have to tell John Q. Public that the fix is in; he takes it for granted.” That may be true. But I think it’s also true that most Americans are aware that the MSM have their own spin on the news, and they don’t think it’s wrong for those with a different viewpoint–even if they work at the Department of Defense–to try to get out another side of the story.

For all the angst over “media manipulation,” the reality is that the public isn’t so easily manipulated. Public opinion of the war effort eroded when we were losing the war on the ground. Now that we’re making progress, public support has rebounded. There’s nothing wrong with the Pentagon trying to highlight what it sees as positive news–just as there is nothing wrong with the MSM reporting largely negative news. The body politic will gradually sort it all out.

Apparently John Podhoretz and I weren’t the only ones underwhelmed by David Barstow’s 7,600-word magnum opus in Sunday’s New York Times. (The piece detailed how the Pentagon tries to woo retired military officers to get out its side of the story in the Iraq War.) According to this Los Angeles Times online article, the article “made minimal ripples”:

The Sunday-morning talk shows ignored the piece. . . . the Pentagon caper likewise seemed a nonstarter in the blogosphere. . . . NBC’s Brian Williams, who’s been known to take a rooting interest in media-industry shopkeeping, didn’t even mention it on his “Daily Nightly” blog.

The LA Times blogger explains this lack of interest by claiming that Americans are used to having their government manipulate the media: “You don’t have to tell John Q. Public that the fix is in; he takes it for granted.” That may be true. But I think it’s also true that most Americans are aware that the MSM have their own spin on the news, and they don’t think it’s wrong for those with a different viewpoint–even if they work at the Department of Defense–to try to get out another side of the story.

For all the angst over “media manipulation,” the reality is that the public isn’t so easily manipulated. Public opinion of the war effort eroded when we were losing the war on the ground. Now that we’re making progress, public support has rebounded. There’s nothing wrong with the Pentagon trying to highlight what it sees as positive news–just as there is nothing wrong with the MSM reporting largely negative news. The body politic will gradually sort it all out.

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What’s Her Argument?

Hillary has her ten-point win. Pennsylvania is a big, important state, a testing ground for white, blue-collar support. And Hillary’s win entitles her to stay in the race, run ads, and ask supporters to log on and donate. But to what end?

Hillary’s most compelling–her only–superdelegate argument is that if Obama can’t take the big states now, he won’t be able to go up against the Republican machine in November. But if you compare Hillary’s win last night to her other big state victory in Ohio, you find that Barack Obama has gained a little ground in his most challenging areas. In Ohio he won 39 percent of the white male vote and 34 percent of the overall white vote; last night he took 44 percent of the white male vote and 38 percent of the white vote overall, gaining 5 and 4 points respectively. Compare this to Hillary’s measly 11 percent of Pennsylvania’s overall black vote.

Whatever played out in Pennsylvania last night was set to do so before Jeremiah Wright took center stage and Snobgate descended upon us. Those incidents, as lurid as they were, may have slowed Obama’ rise in white support, but they didn’t cause his white numbers to drop. His next test with the white working class comes on May 6, in Indiana, and polls show him holding a slight lead there.

This lead should hold. Hillary has an anti-talent for momentum. She (and Bill) are more than capable of taking last night’s win and somehow shoving it right back down the throats of those who made it happen. The Clintons’ routine lapses of taste, credibility, and calculation have cost Hillary more than Obama’s transgressions have cost him. What Obama has been unable to do in the big states, he’s made up for with diffuse, steady gains in support. Hillary has only showed she has the ability to survive. It’s impressive. But it doesn’t make her case.

Hillary has her ten-point win. Pennsylvania is a big, important state, a testing ground for white, blue-collar support. And Hillary’s win entitles her to stay in the race, run ads, and ask supporters to log on and donate. But to what end?

Hillary’s most compelling–her only–superdelegate argument is that if Obama can’t take the big states now, he won’t be able to go up against the Republican machine in November. But if you compare Hillary’s win last night to her other big state victory in Ohio, you find that Barack Obama has gained a little ground in his most challenging areas. In Ohio he won 39 percent of the white male vote and 34 percent of the overall white vote; last night he took 44 percent of the white male vote and 38 percent of the white vote overall, gaining 5 and 4 points respectively. Compare this to Hillary’s measly 11 percent of Pennsylvania’s overall black vote.

Whatever played out in Pennsylvania last night was set to do so before Jeremiah Wright took center stage and Snobgate descended upon us. Those incidents, as lurid as they were, may have slowed Obama’ rise in white support, but they didn’t cause his white numbers to drop. His next test with the white working class comes on May 6, in Indiana, and polls show him holding a slight lead there.

This lead should hold. Hillary has an anti-talent for momentum. She (and Bill) are more than capable of taking last night’s win and somehow shoving it right back down the throats of those who made it happen. The Clintons’ routine lapses of taste, credibility, and calculation have cost Hillary more than Obama’s transgressions have cost him. What Obama has been unable to do in the big states, he’s made up for with diffuse, steady gains in support. Hillary has only showed she has the ability to survive. It’s impressive. But it doesn’t make her case.

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The Jewish Vote In PA

According to exit polls, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama 55-45% among Pennsylvania’s Jewish voters. Now the Obamaphile spinners will rejoice, saying this proves that he doesn’t have a “Jewish problem”, and that Jews only dislike him to the same degree other voters do.

It is worth noting that, yes, Obama has bigger problems with women, seniors, rural voters, and white voters than with Jews. But many Democratic Jews–especially in Montgomery County, where Obama lost–fit the mold of otherwise Obama-receptive voters. They’re affluent, educated, and liberal. His loss there indicates that they are uniquely bothered by Obama, by his association with Reverend Wright or his Hamas endorsement or his stance on Iran. He may have larger concerns (working-class and rural voters) as he heads into Indiana and North Carolina. But Pennsylvania provided one more smidgen of evidence that, if Obama is the nominee, he may have difficulty retaining as many Jewish voters as other recent Democratic nominees.

According to exit polls, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama 55-45% among Pennsylvania’s Jewish voters. Now the Obamaphile spinners will rejoice, saying this proves that he doesn’t have a “Jewish problem”, and that Jews only dislike him to the same degree other voters do.

It is worth noting that, yes, Obama has bigger problems with women, seniors, rural voters, and white voters than with Jews. But many Democratic Jews–especially in Montgomery County, where Obama lost–fit the mold of otherwise Obama-receptive voters. They’re affluent, educated, and liberal. His loss there indicates that they are uniquely bothered by Obama, by his association with Reverend Wright or his Hamas endorsement or his stance on Iran. He may have larger concerns (working-class and rural voters) as he heads into Indiana and North Carolina. But Pennsylvania provided one more smidgen of evidence that, if Obama is the nominee, he may have difficulty retaining as many Jewish voters as other recent Democratic nominees.

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Bad News on North Korea

This has not been a good few weeks for the North Korean nuclear accord, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice apparently hopes will be one of her signature achievements. First came word that Pyongyang would not deliver the full and complete listing of its nuclear activities that had previously been agreed to. The State Department, desperate to clinch a deal, would not allow this blatant noncompliance to sink the agreement.

Now comes word, via this Wall Street Journal report, that the intelligence community will confirm for Congress what is already widely suspected–that the Syrian site bombed last September by Israel was a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor being built by North Korea. This helps to explain why North Korea is unwilling to provide a full rundown on its nuclear proliferation activities-and makes it harder for the State Department to defend its cherished treaty.

While these may seem like setbacks, they are actually an opportunity to press North Korea for full and complete, Libyan-style disarmament if it hopes to reap all of the promised goodies (such as shipments of fuel). The accession of a new, more conservative leader in South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, makes this a better bet since he eschews the appeasement of his predecessors (known as the “sunshine policy”) and favors a tougher approach to North Korean human-rights and nuclear-proliferation violations. The question is whether Lee’s more hawkish stance will clash with the dovish approach of the Bush administration’s second term.

This has not been a good few weeks for the North Korean nuclear accord, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice apparently hopes will be one of her signature achievements. First came word that Pyongyang would not deliver the full and complete listing of its nuclear activities that had previously been agreed to. The State Department, desperate to clinch a deal, would not allow this blatant noncompliance to sink the agreement.

Now comes word, via this Wall Street Journal report, that the intelligence community will confirm for Congress what is already widely suspected–that the Syrian site bombed last September by Israel was a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor being built by North Korea. This helps to explain why North Korea is unwilling to provide a full rundown on its nuclear proliferation activities-and makes it harder for the State Department to defend its cherished treaty.

While these may seem like setbacks, they are actually an opportunity to press North Korea for full and complete, Libyan-style disarmament if it hopes to reap all of the promised goodies (such as shipments of fuel). The accession of a new, more conservative leader in South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, makes this a better bet since he eschews the appeasement of his predecessors (known as the “sunshine policy”) and favors a tougher approach to North Korean human-rights and nuclear-proliferation violations. The question is whether Lee’s more hawkish stance will clash with the dovish approach of the Bush administration’s second term.

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Why the New Israeli Spy Case Now?

After the arrest and conviction of Jonathan Pollard in 1986, it became an article of faith within the FBI and some other portions of the U.S. intelligence community, that Pollard was not acting alone and that Israel had other spies operating in the U.S.. The hunt for the second Pollard has continued ever since. Has it finally hit pay-dirt? Is Ben-Ami Kadish, a former mechanical engineer at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, charged yesterday with passing dozens of secret documents to Israel in the 1980’s, a vindication of the spy hunters?

One interesting mystery concerns the timing of this episode. When Pollard was arrested, Israel publicly claimed that Pollard was its only U.S. spy. But according to Haaretz, in 2004 Israel reversed course and told the U.S. that there was a second agent. But it would be very strange if Israel did that without identifying the agent in question to the U.S. And if it did identify him, why did the U.S. wait four years until they pounced?

Already various explanations are being put forward to explain the timing. Eitan Haber, an assistant to the late Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s defense minister at the time Pollard was arrested, thinks the Kadish case is a way to assure that President Bush will not pardon Pollard at the end of his term. But this seems far-fetched. Especially since there is no indication that Bush is planning to pardon Pollard in the first place.

Other Israelis are speculating that the arrest is timed to tarnish Israel’s celebration next month of its 60th anniversary, which Bush is scheduled to attend. This also seems far-fetched. Kadish’s activities allegedly took placed in the 1980’s and his arrest not likely to do any sort of serious damage to U.S.-Israeli relations today.

Another possibility is that there is a link to the AIPAC case, in which two members of the pro-Israel lobbying organization have been charged with providing classified information to Israel. The trial had been scheduled for the end of this month, until it was delayed once again. Lately prosecutors in the AIPAC have experienced setback after setback, and are even appealing some of the judge’s rulings against them to a higher court. Does the timing of the Kadish arrest have anything to do with the possible impending collapse of the AIPAC case? This seems slightly more plausible, but also far-fetched. What exactly would be the point of such a maneuver?

“One would be a fool to believe that the timing is a coincidence,’ Haber told Haaretz. Thus far, however, I haven’t seen anything to suggest it is more than a coincidence.

Count me a fool.

After the arrest and conviction of Jonathan Pollard in 1986, it became an article of faith within the FBI and some other portions of the U.S. intelligence community, that Pollard was not acting alone and that Israel had other spies operating in the U.S.. The hunt for the second Pollard has continued ever since. Has it finally hit pay-dirt? Is Ben-Ami Kadish, a former mechanical engineer at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, charged yesterday with passing dozens of secret documents to Israel in the 1980’s, a vindication of the spy hunters?

One interesting mystery concerns the timing of this episode. When Pollard was arrested, Israel publicly claimed that Pollard was its only U.S. spy. But according to Haaretz, in 2004 Israel reversed course and told the U.S. that there was a second agent. But it would be very strange if Israel did that without identifying the agent in question to the U.S. And if it did identify him, why did the U.S. wait four years until they pounced?

Already various explanations are being put forward to explain the timing. Eitan Haber, an assistant to the late Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s defense minister at the time Pollard was arrested, thinks the Kadish case is a way to assure that President Bush will not pardon Pollard at the end of his term. But this seems far-fetched. Especially since there is no indication that Bush is planning to pardon Pollard in the first place.

Other Israelis are speculating that the arrest is timed to tarnish Israel’s celebration next month of its 60th anniversary, which Bush is scheduled to attend. This also seems far-fetched. Kadish’s activities allegedly took placed in the 1980’s and his arrest not likely to do any sort of serious damage to U.S.-Israeli relations today.

Another possibility is that there is a link to the AIPAC case, in which two members of the pro-Israel lobbying organization have been charged with providing classified information to Israel. The trial had been scheduled for the end of this month, until it was delayed once again. Lately prosecutors in the AIPAC have experienced setback after setback, and are even appealing some of the judge’s rulings against them to a higher court. Does the timing of the Kadish arrest have anything to do with the possible impending collapse of the AIPAC case? This seems slightly more plausible, but also far-fetched. What exactly would be the point of such a maneuver?

“One would be a fool to believe that the timing is a coincidence,’ Haber told Haaretz. Thus far, however, I haven’t seen anything to suggest it is more than a coincidence.

Count me a fool.

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A New Race?

The morning after her big win Hillary Clinton is making the case that the race has begun anew. Her e-mail blast includes this:

And with both candidates under the microscope at the same time for the first time, Hillary took more than a few punches and came out stronger while Sen. Obama emerged weaker as voters learned more about him. The exit polls clearly show that Sen. Clinton gained strength in the final days when the campaign was most engaged.

Essentially her case is this: Barack Obama is only now being scrutinized by the media and voters are deciding against him. Yes, Pennsylvania is only one state, but she has a point in there. Normally front runners get stronger with time. This one is not, and the collapse of outreach to whites, women, rural voters, seniors and non-college educated voters may give Democrats pause. At least that is what Clinton will be telling those superdelegates.

The morning after her big win Hillary Clinton is making the case that the race has begun anew. Her e-mail blast includes this:

And with both candidates under the microscope at the same time for the first time, Hillary took more than a few punches and came out stronger while Sen. Obama emerged weaker as voters learned more about him. The exit polls clearly show that Sen. Clinton gained strength in the final days when the campaign was most engaged.

Essentially her case is this: Barack Obama is only now being scrutinized by the media and voters are deciding against him. Yes, Pennsylvania is only one state, but she has a point in there. Normally front runners get stronger with time. This one is not, and the collapse of outreach to whites, women, rural voters, seniors and non-college educated voters may give Democrats pause. At least that is what Clinton will be telling those superdelegates.

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How McCain Gets His Groove Back

The normally astute Ross Douthat is mistaken when he argues that McCain may have already reached his peak.

His argument is that, at a moment of Democratic confusion, McCain’s poll numbers and fundraising aren’t particularly impressive.  What is he going to do, Douthat asks, when the Democrats finally get their act together and unite behind a single candidate?

The obvious answer — and the one Douthat never considers — is that McCain will go negative.  Not in the usual, Willie Horton way that the press usually interprets negative campaigning.  But McCain will do everything he
can to denigrate the accomplishments and ideas of his opponents and critics. That is essentially what he has done most of his political life — and it has usually worked quite well.  The nice McCain, the prisoner of war McCain,
the straight talk McCain, the “third-way” McCain was something the press fawned over in 2000. But that narrative has worn out its welcome.  That’s why his recent “biography tour” failed to move the needle.

What McCain needs is an enemy, in either the form of Obama or Hillary.  In all his recent Senate battles, he has positioned himself in opposition to someone or something.  He’ll do it again in the fall, even as he swears he
won’t run negative ads. He will also unleash the snarl, the caustic dismissals of his opponents experience, and an ad campaign that will directly question the Democratic nominee’s fitness for office.  This is how the race will get exciting — and how enthusiasm for McCain might return.

The normally astute Ross Douthat is mistaken when he argues that McCain may have already reached his peak.

His argument is that, at a moment of Democratic confusion, McCain’s poll numbers and fundraising aren’t particularly impressive.  What is he going to do, Douthat asks, when the Democrats finally get their act together and unite behind a single candidate?

The obvious answer — and the one Douthat never considers — is that McCain will go negative.  Not in the usual, Willie Horton way that the press usually interprets negative campaigning.  But McCain will do everything he
can to denigrate the accomplishments and ideas of his opponents and critics. That is essentially what he has done most of his political life — and it has usually worked quite well.  The nice McCain, the prisoner of war McCain,
the straight talk McCain, the “third-way” McCain was something the press fawned over in 2000. But that narrative has worn out its welcome.  That’s why his recent “biography tour” failed to move the needle.

What McCain needs is an enemy, in either the form of Obama or Hillary.  In all his recent Senate battles, he has positioned himself in opposition to someone or something.  He’ll do it again in the fall, even as he swears he
won’t run negative ads. He will also unleash the snarl, the caustic dismissals of his opponents experience, and an ad campaign that will directly question the Democratic nominee’s fitness for office.  This is how the race will get exciting — and how enthusiasm for McCain might return.

Read Less




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