Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 21, 2008

Thanks, Hillary

Hillary Clinton sends me an e-mail (well, a bzillion other people too) which begins:

Sixty is the magic number. If we reach 60 Democrats in the Senate, then the days of Republican obstruction are over. With Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the White House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

But we can’t reach 60 if these three Democrats don’t win their extraordinarily close races: Mark Begich up in Alaska, Jeff Merkley in Oregon, and Mark Udall in Colorado.

I need these three Democrats working side-by-side with me on the Senate floor to accomplish the goals you and I set out — rebuilding a strong middle class, health care for every American, and ending the war in Iraq. Barack Obama needs their help to reach a filibuster-proof majority that will end GOP obstruction once and for all.

Well there’s some motivation for you. She doesn’t underline the items on the Democratic wish list including abolishing secret ballot union elections, increasing taxes, repealing the Hyde Amendment, etc. But her heart’s in the right place.

That really does sum it up: once the Democrats hit 60 in the Senate there’s nothing Obama can’t accomplish. By the way, I’m waiting for all those thoughtful op-ed’s we saw in 2004 and 2000 on the benefits of divided government but I can’t find them.

Hillary Clinton sends me an e-mail (well, a bzillion other people too) which begins:

Sixty is the magic number. If we reach 60 Democrats in the Senate, then the days of Republican obstruction are over. With Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the White House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

But we can’t reach 60 if these three Democrats don’t win their extraordinarily close races: Mark Begich up in Alaska, Jeff Merkley in Oregon, and Mark Udall in Colorado.

I need these three Democrats working side-by-side with me on the Senate floor to accomplish the goals you and I set out — rebuilding a strong middle class, health care for every American, and ending the war in Iraq. Barack Obama needs their help to reach a filibuster-proof majority that will end GOP obstruction once and for all.

Well there’s some motivation for you. She doesn’t underline the items on the Democratic wish list including abolishing secret ballot union elections, increasing taxes, repealing the Hyde Amendment, etc. But her heart’s in the right place.

That really does sum it up: once the Democrats hit 60 in the Senate there’s nothing Obama can’t accomplish. By the way, I’m waiting for all those thoughtful op-ed’s we saw in 2004 and 2000 on the benefits of divided government but I can’t find them.

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A Gas OPEC?

Today, Iran’s oil minister announced that he had discussions with the head of Russia’s Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer, and his counterpart from Qatar about the formation of a cartel of gas exporters.  The dream of a “Gas OPEC” goes back to at least 2001 when these three countries tried to organize the Gas Exporting Countries Forum.  The effort failed then, but Moscow and Tehran tried to revive the idea last year.  Russia is the world’s largest supplier of natural gas, and Iran has the second largest reserves.  Together, the three nations-the “big gas troika”-sit on 60 percent of the world’s reserves of this precious commodity.

A strong gas cartel would be just what the Kremlin needs at this moment to offset its steep decline in oil revenues.  In just 15 weeks the price of oil has fallen by more than half-from a high of $147.27 a barrel on July 11 to today’s price, fluctuating under $72.00.  The dramatic decline looks set to continue as the global economy tumbles.  Unfortunately for Russia, gas prices are also coming down fast.

The global market for natural gas is fragmented, so it will be hard for producers to form a cartel at this moment and make it stick.  The odds say that the Kremlin will not be able to accomplish now what it was not able to do in more favorable market conditions earlier this decade.  Yet this is not just a question of economics, at least for the Russians.  For Prime Minister Putin, Russia’s exports of hydrocarbons has always been about achieving geopolitical goals-subjugating the “near abroad,” wooing Western Europe away from America, and modernizing the rusting military, to name just the most prominent ones-and he is not about to let sliding energy prices get in the way of his czar-like ambitions.

Ronald Reagan implemented a plan to depress commodity prices to kill off the Soviet Union.  Such a concept would not occur to President Bush, who, with the possible exception of Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder, was the best friend Russian authoritarianism had this decade.  Perhaps the next American leader will take our interests at heart and do all he can to lower the global prices of hydrocarbons.  This is not about trade deficits.  This is about protecting our nation from those who wish it ill.

Today, Iran’s oil minister announced that he had discussions with the head of Russia’s Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer, and his counterpart from Qatar about the formation of a cartel of gas exporters.  The dream of a “Gas OPEC” goes back to at least 2001 when these three countries tried to organize the Gas Exporting Countries Forum.  The effort failed then, but Moscow and Tehran tried to revive the idea last year.  Russia is the world’s largest supplier of natural gas, and Iran has the second largest reserves.  Together, the three nations-the “big gas troika”-sit on 60 percent of the world’s reserves of this precious commodity.

A strong gas cartel would be just what the Kremlin needs at this moment to offset its steep decline in oil revenues.  In just 15 weeks the price of oil has fallen by more than half-from a high of $147.27 a barrel on July 11 to today’s price, fluctuating under $72.00.  The dramatic decline looks set to continue as the global economy tumbles.  Unfortunately for Russia, gas prices are also coming down fast.

The global market for natural gas is fragmented, so it will be hard for producers to form a cartel at this moment and make it stick.  The odds say that the Kremlin will not be able to accomplish now what it was not able to do in more favorable market conditions earlier this decade.  Yet this is not just a question of economics, at least for the Russians.  For Prime Minister Putin, Russia’s exports of hydrocarbons has always been about achieving geopolitical goals-subjugating the “near abroad,” wooing Western Europe away from America, and modernizing the rusting military, to name just the most prominent ones-and he is not about to let sliding energy prices get in the way of his czar-like ambitions.

Ronald Reagan implemented a plan to depress commodity prices to kill off the Soviet Union.  Such a concept would not occur to President Bush, who, with the possible exception of Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder, was the best friend Russian authoritarianism had this decade.  Perhaps the next American leader will take our interests at heart and do all he can to lower the global prices of hydrocarbons.  This is not about trade deficits.  This is about protecting our nation from those who wish it ill.

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Patio Man Meets Joe The Plumber

David Brooks describes Patio Man — the average middle class suburbanite and concludes:

Patio Man wants change. But this is no time for more risk or more debt. Debt in the future is no solution to the debt racked up in the past. This is a back-to-basics moment, a return to safety and the fundamentals.

Well, perhaps Patio Man should have a conversation with Joe the Plumber. (By the way, will this cast of characters disappear after the election or do we have to make room for an never-ending stream of iconographic figures?) Joe has figured out that Obama intends to spread the wealth — meaning suck up a whole lot more money from the private sector and mush it around. And because one can’t possibly collect enough to mush it sufficiently, we will have to borrow and borrow more money. Debt? My word, we haven’t seen anything yet!

Then there are “safety and fundamentals.” Let’s put aside Joe the Blabbermouth VP  and the prospect of international challenges for a moment. Obama wants to give habeas corpus rights to terrorists, meet with Ahmadinejad and chat with Hugo Chavez. He seemed fine with abandoning any verification requirements for North Korea. Feeling safe? Me neither.

On the domestic scene, he signed on with Bill Ayers’ revolutionary dogma as the governing philosophy for school “reform.” He also kvelled over Ayers’ take on juvenile justice. Given the choice between stodgy old institutions like the secret ballot and pleasing his Big Labor supporters, he chooses the latter. He’s to the Left of Barney Frank on taxes. He declares he wants to change the world. What’s the theme here? It’s not “safety and fundamentals.”

It’s hard to fathom how Patio Man would perceive Obama as the right man for him. But maybe Patio Man is impressed with Obama’s grasp of Reinhold Niebuhr. In that case, he’s the perfect candidate.

David Brooks describes Patio Man — the average middle class suburbanite and concludes:

Patio Man wants change. But this is no time for more risk or more debt. Debt in the future is no solution to the debt racked up in the past. This is a back-to-basics moment, a return to safety and the fundamentals.

Well, perhaps Patio Man should have a conversation with Joe the Plumber. (By the way, will this cast of characters disappear after the election or do we have to make room for an never-ending stream of iconographic figures?) Joe has figured out that Obama intends to spread the wealth — meaning suck up a whole lot more money from the private sector and mush it around. And because one can’t possibly collect enough to mush it sufficiently, we will have to borrow and borrow more money. Debt? My word, we haven’t seen anything yet!

Then there are “safety and fundamentals.” Let’s put aside Joe the Blabbermouth VP  and the prospect of international challenges for a moment. Obama wants to give habeas corpus rights to terrorists, meet with Ahmadinejad and chat with Hugo Chavez. He seemed fine with abandoning any verification requirements for North Korea. Feeling safe? Me neither.

On the domestic scene, he signed on with Bill Ayers’ revolutionary dogma as the governing philosophy for school “reform.” He also kvelled over Ayers’ take on juvenile justice. Given the choice between stodgy old institutions like the secret ballot and pleasing his Big Labor supporters, he chooses the latter. He’s to the Left of Barney Frank on taxes. He declares he wants to change the world. What’s the theme here? It’s not “safety and fundamentals.”

It’s hard to fathom how Patio Man would perceive Obama as the right man for him. But maybe Patio Man is impressed with Obama’s grasp of Reinhold Niebuhr. In that case, he’s the perfect candidate.

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One Point

New polling realities seem to sneak up from out of nowhere. In the middle of conservative doom and gloom, Jim Geraghty discovers: Barack Obama up by a single percentage point in the most recent Battleground poll — 48 percent to 47 percent.

Obama should have known to start worrying when the ever-responsible Nancy Pelosi claimed his presidency an absolute lock. I wonder if her declaration of defeat in Iraq  didn’t turn the tide of the war.

New polling realities seem to sneak up from out of nowhere. In the middle of conservative doom and gloom, Jim Geraghty discovers: Barack Obama up by a single percentage point in the most recent Battleground poll — 48 percent to 47 percent.

Obama should have known to start worrying when the ever-responsible Nancy Pelosi claimed his presidency an absolute lock. I wonder if her declaration of defeat in Iraq  didn’t turn the tide of the war.

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Orson Bean on “The Art of the Joke”

Orson Bean, the actor-comedian-raconteur who became one of America’s most famous storytellers in the 1960s and 1970s when he made constant appearances on the Johnny Carson show, is now a terrifically spry 80 year old. He has just posted to YouTube a series called “The Art of the Joke,” and the series is pretty wonderful, a crash course in how to tell a joke. Though Bean is not Jewish, the jokes are all Jewish jokes, which testifies to his good taste in selecting the best jokes. Here’s one (there are ten in all, though I have to warn people a few are racy and some have bad language):

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUgXPpLh8L0&feature=related[/youtube]

Orson Bean, the actor-comedian-raconteur who became one of America’s most famous storytellers in the 1960s and 1970s when he made constant appearances on the Johnny Carson show, is now a terrifically spry 80 year old. He has just posted to YouTube a series called “The Art of the Joke,” and the series is pretty wonderful, a crash course in how to tell a joke. Though Bean is not Jewish, the jokes are all Jewish jokes, which testifies to his good taste in selecting the best jokes. Here’s one (there are ten in all, though I have to warn people a few are racy and some have bad language):

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUgXPpLh8L0&feature=related[/youtube]

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Palin Unleashed

She is turning out to be a rather effective advocate — both on the stump and in increasingly frequent interviews. In part this is because she gets good, punchy material, isn’t afraid to attack her opponent and speaks in down-to-earth language. In other words, she is a very good politician. Anyone who runs for office and gets elected multiple times has to have some basic political skills. She has more than her share.

So why did they stow her away for so long? One of the many mysteries of the campaign. But it goes to show that the things pundits  ooh and ahh over — debate performance, verbal acuity and TV finesse — are both talents and acquired skills that have little, if anything, to do with being a “serious” candidate or being qualified. Since she was villified before for a rocky performances, has she suddenly become an acceptable candidate in the eyes of political insiders? No. They don’t credit her adeptness now – any more than they recognized her record of reform and energy expertise then. She is and remains simply not one of  “them” –  one of the media vetted, Washington manicured set of politicians who sound and look a certain way and have a certain type of experience –in the right states of course.

There simply is no pleasing some.

She is turning out to be a rather effective advocate — both on the stump and in increasingly frequent interviews. In part this is because she gets good, punchy material, isn’t afraid to attack her opponent and speaks in down-to-earth language. In other words, she is a very good politician. Anyone who runs for office and gets elected multiple times has to have some basic political skills. She has more than her share.

So why did they stow her away for so long? One of the many mysteries of the campaign. But it goes to show that the things pundits  ooh and ahh over — debate performance, verbal acuity and TV finesse — are both talents and acquired skills that have little, if anything, to do with being a “serious” candidate or being qualified. Since she was villified before for a rocky performances, has she suddenly become an acceptable candidate in the eyes of political insiders? No. They don’t credit her adeptness now – any more than they recognized her record of reform and energy expertise then. She is and remains simply not one of  “them” –  one of the media vetted, Washington manicured set of politicians who sound and look a certain way and have a certain type of experience –in the right states of course.

There simply is no pleasing some.

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Ayers At The Table

The main reason that the McCain campaign has failed to get any traction on its “palling around with terrorists” line tying Obama to Bill Ayers is that it seems like ancient history to many voters.  Obama has repeatedly reminded everyone that he was only 8 years old when Ayers was blowing up buildings. More important, as Abe mentions, he convinced them that Ayers is now an upstanding citizen who also pals around with Republicans, whatever his past.  As readers of this blog surely know, Ayers is anything but.  And it is Professor Ayers the “education reformer” and his influence on Barack Obama that should frighten Americans now.  Stanley Kurtz and others have written about Ayers’ radical education policies–and Obama’s role in funding them–but this line of criticism has not been picked up by the McCain camp or by the general media.

Obama is now lining up his cabinet. Ron Radosh recalls that Bill Clinton’s first choice to head the Education Department was Johnetta Cole, former president of Spelman College, whose nomination was derailed only when the Forward exposed her ties to various communist front groups over the years. Cole nonetheless led Clinton’s education transition team.

Obama is too smart to put Ayers’ in a similar position, but that doesn’t mean Ayers won’t have influence. His education radicalism isn’t all that different from the multicultural agenda of groups like the National Education Association, which will play a major role in picking an Obama Secretary of Education. Make no mistake: Ayers ideas will have a place at Obama’s table.

The main reason that the McCain campaign has failed to get any traction on its “palling around with terrorists” line tying Obama to Bill Ayers is that it seems like ancient history to many voters.  Obama has repeatedly reminded everyone that he was only 8 years old when Ayers was blowing up buildings. More important, as Abe mentions, he convinced them that Ayers is now an upstanding citizen who also pals around with Republicans, whatever his past.  As readers of this blog surely know, Ayers is anything but.  And it is Professor Ayers the “education reformer” and his influence on Barack Obama that should frighten Americans now.  Stanley Kurtz and others have written about Ayers’ radical education policies–and Obama’s role in funding them–but this line of criticism has not been picked up by the McCain camp or by the general media.

Obama is now lining up his cabinet. Ron Radosh recalls that Bill Clinton’s first choice to head the Education Department was Johnetta Cole, former president of Spelman College, whose nomination was derailed only when the Forward exposed her ties to various communist front groups over the years. Cole nonetheless led Clinton’s education transition team.

Obama is too smart to put Ayers’ in a similar position, but that doesn’t mean Ayers won’t have influence. His education radicalism isn’t all that different from the multicultural agenda of groups like the National Education Association, which will play a major role in picking an Obama Secretary of Education. Make no mistake: Ayers ideas will have a place at Obama’s table.

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Can This Experiment Be Retired?

With two weeks to go before the election, it is startling to consider this fact: the first Republican and Democratic primary debates took place within a week of each other…seventeen months ago. And by the time those debates had taken place, at least six candidates — Obama, Hillary, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain — had already been conducting full-bore campaigns, complete with large staffs, for nearly five months.

Thus, by the time the final vote is cast on November 5, the campaign to win that vote will have gone on, at full gallop, for 22 months. I’m not talking about the old-time permanent campaign, when people had private meetings seeking to secure high-level state support and made frequent trips to New Hampshire and Iowa. I mean these were fully functioning, fully developed campaigns, spending millions of dollars a month. And for what?

That’s the key question. Obama felt the need to declare his candidacy in February 2007 so that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have the field entirely to herself. But his campaign’s key brilliant insight — to go after the delegate rich caucuses because Hillary, inexplicably, wasn’t — would have worked if he had started six months or more later, precisely because Hillary wasn’t focusing on them. How much money did he waste? Clearly, not enough to matter; but certainly the first nine months of 2007 were a wash for both of them.

And on the Republican side? Romney and Giuliani might just as well have lit a match to the combined $140 million they spent in 2007, for all the good it did them.

Why did it all start so early — when, for example, Bill Clinton didn’t have a single paid staffer until September 1991?

Simple. Everybody was feeding the beasts. There was the media beast, eager for an early race. There was the Washington beast, that astonishingly parochial creature, always ready to announce some candidate is dead in the water because that candidate didn’t do exactly what Washington Beast Leader #3 wanted him to do at exactly the moment Leader #3 thought it needed to be done.

There was the Ideologue Beast, which wanted to get everybody on record as early as possible on checklist issues — abortion, Iraq, Kelo (look it up), card check, NAFTA, CAFTA, and any other AFTA you could name.

There was the campaign-industry beast, which always insists it’s one minute before midnight and unless you line up that assistant chairman of the New Hampshire Maple Syrup Lincoln Day Dinner, someone else will take him and you’ll never get the prime position at the pancake breakfast two weeks before the vote.

The campaign-industry beast cannot be underestimated here. Fundraisers want to fundraise. Pollsters want to poll. Media people want to make commercials (and YouTubes). They want to play, and they want to be paid as early as possible, for obvious reasons.

I think it’s fair to say that the candidates got suckered, a little bit. Obviously, on the Democratic side, the unprecedented amounts of money and media attention and the sheer length of the two-person race ended up generating an astounding number of primary votes (38 million) and perhaps creating the momentum that will carry Obama over the threshold on November 5. But it’s also far from clear that he needed it, exactly; unless he receives a vastly greater number of votes than John Kerry’s 59 million, it will probably be fair to say that he got the Democratic votes he could have expected in any case and would have gotten them in any case.

On the Republican side, the year 2007 apparently existed primarily to create a crisis for John McCain that he was then able to resolve. Everything else we wrote about that year — Rudy’s popularity on the stump that faded to nothing, the potential meaning of a Fred Thompson run that came to mean nothing, Mitt Romney’s embrace of conservatism rather than technocratic centrism, Mike Huckabee’s Iowa straw poll surge, etc. etc. — was all sound and fury signifying nothing.

Perhaps candidates will be wiser in 2012 and 2016 and not allow themselves to play this game again. On the other hand, it’s very hard to resist it once it has happened.

With two weeks to go before the election, it is startling to consider this fact: the first Republican and Democratic primary debates took place within a week of each other…seventeen months ago. And by the time those debates had taken place, at least six candidates — Obama, Hillary, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain — had already been conducting full-bore campaigns, complete with large staffs, for nearly five months.

Thus, by the time the final vote is cast on November 5, the campaign to win that vote will have gone on, at full gallop, for 22 months. I’m not talking about the old-time permanent campaign, when people had private meetings seeking to secure high-level state support and made frequent trips to New Hampshire and Iowa. I mean these were fully functioning, fully developed campaigns, spending millions of dollars a month. And for what?

That’s the key question. Obama felt the need to declare his candidacy in February 2007 so that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have the field entirely to herself. But his campaign’s key brilliant insight — to go after the delegate rich caucuses because Hillary, inexplicably, wasn’t — would have worked if he had started six months or more later, precisely because Hillary wasn’t focusing on them. How much money did he waste? Clearly, not enough to matter; but certainly the first nine months of 2007 were a wash for both of them.

And on the Republican side? Romney and Giuliani might just as well have lit a match to the combined $140 million they spent in 2007, for all the good it did them.

Why did it all start so early — when, for example, Bill Clinton didn’t have a single paid staffer until September 1991?

Simple. Everybody was feeding the beasts. There was the media beast, eager for an early race. There was the Washington beast, that astonishingly parochial creature, always ready to announce some candidate is dead in the water because that candidate didn’t do exactly what Washington Beast Leader #3 wanted him to do at exactly the moment Leader #3 thought it needed to be done.

There was the Ideologue Beast, which wanted to get everybody on record as early as possible on checklist issues — abortion, Iraq, Kelo (look it up), card check, NAFTA, CAFTA, and any other AFTA you could name.

There was the campaign-industry beast, which always insists it’s one minute before midnight and unless you line up that assistant chairman of the New Hampshire Maple Syrup Lincoln Day Dinner, someone else will take him and you’ll never get the prime position at the pancake breakfast two weeks before the vote.

The campaign-industry beast cannot be underestimated here. Fundraisers want to fundraise. Pollsters want to poll. Media people want to make commercials (and YouTubes). They want to play, and they want to be paid as early as possible, for obvious reasons.

I think it’s fair to say that the candidates got suckered, a little bit. Obviously, on the Democratic side, the unprecedented amounts of money and media attention and the sheer length of the two-person race ended up generating an astounding number of primary votes (38 million) and perhaps creating the momentum that will carry Obama over the threshold on November 5. But it’s also far from clear that he needed it, exactly; unless he receives a vastly greater number of votes than John Kerry’s 59 million, it will probably be fair to say that he got the Democratic votes he could have expected in any case and would have gotten them in any case.

On the Republican side, the year 2007 apparently existed primarily to create a crisis for John McCain that he was then able to resolve. Everything else we wrote about that year — Rudy’s popularity on the stump that faded to nothing, the potential meaning of a Fred Thompson run that came to mean nothing, Mitt Romney’s embrace of conservatism rather than technocratic centrism, Mike Huckabee’s Iowa straw poll surge, etc. etc. — was all sound and fury signifying nothing.

Perhaps candidates will be wiser in 2012 and 2016 and not allow themselves to play this game again. On the other hand, it’s very hard to resist it once it has happened.

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Re: Re: Unforced Errors and Truth Tellers

Speaking of the Democrats’ case against Obama, last night a few hundred members of an organization called Democrats for McCain held a meeting in Manhattan. Here’s an excerpt from the speech given by the group’s New York State Chairman, Bartle Bull [all caps in the original]:

AMERICA CANNOT AFFORD CORRUPT WELFARE PROGRAMS LIKE FANNY MAY & THE OBAMA TAX PLAN.
-8 YEARS OF AN OBAMA-PELOSI-ACORN ADMINISTRATION WOULD GIVE AMERICA:
-8 YEARS OF SPREAD-THE-WEALTH SOCIALISM,
-8 YEARS OF CHICAGO-STYLE CORRUPTION, &
-8 YEARS OF UNITED NATIONS-STYLE FOREIGN POLCY
IT WOULD GIVE US A GOVERNMENT THAT IS TOO STRONG AT HOME AND TOO WEAK ABROAD. IT WOULD BE TOO EXPENSIVE & FAR TOO DANGEROUS.

Short, sweet, and to the point. These sound largely like the complaints of Scoop Jackson Democrats, but it’s the kind of cut-to-the-chase case McCain should be making to everyone. Part of the challenge in devoting so much energy to the William Ayers argument is articulating exactly what’s problematic about it. On its face, the relationship is not worrisome to a big portion of the electorate: the juxtaposition between a hippie bomber and the elegant expositor of American unity is too preposterous for many to make sense of. Voters don’t see the line connecting the Weatherman Underground’s agenda of forty years ago to Barack Obama’s present policies. So, the connection is more easily dismissed as the unfortunate price of political success.

The case that never gets made is that the consistent political philosophy of Ayers and his associates continued to warp the mission of the Democratic Party long after the Weather Underground has become nostalgia, and that Obama is the philosophical offspring of the movement birthed by radicals such as Ayers. Of course the Left sees Ayers as a “rehabilitated” member of the community — they’re making that assessment in accordance with rules that he helped to define. And ideas like prostration before the UN and “spread-the-wealth socialism” gained strength in the milieu of Ayers-style leftism. That’s the tangible link, but it involves more political history than can be neatly conveyed in a commercial.

Old-time Democrats such as Bull and Joe Lieberman know the story better than anyone, and they’re not eager to let the party slip away once-and-for-all with the election of Obama. McCain would be wise to hit on the clean, clear points listed above. They also have the benefit of timeliness.

Speaking of the Democrats’ case against Obama, last night a few hundred members of an organization called Democrats for McCain held a meeting in Manhattan. Here’s an excerpt from the speech given by the group’s New York State Chairman, Bartle Bull [all caps in the original]:

AMERICA CANNOT AFFORD CORRUPT WELFARE PROGRAMS LIKE FANNY MAY & THE OBAMA TAX PLAN.
-8 YEARS OF AN OBAMA-PELOSI-ACORN ADMINISTRATION WOULD GIVE AMERICA:
-8 YEARS OF SPREAD-THE-WEALTH SOCIALISM,
-8 YEARS OF CHICAGO-STYLE CORRUPTION, &
-8 YEARS OF UNITED NATIONS-STYLE FOREIGN POLCY
IT WOULD GIVE US A GOVERNMENT THAT IS TOO STRONG AT HOME AND TOO WEAK ABROAD. IT WOULD BE TOO EXPENSIVE & FAR TOO DANGEROUS.

Short, sweet, and to the point. These sound largely like the complaints of Scoop Jackson Democrats, but it’s the kind of cut-to-the-chase case McCain should be making to everyone. Part of the challenge in devoting so much energy to the William Ayers argument is articulating exactly what’s problematic about it. On its face, the relationship is not worrisome to a big portion of the electorate: the juxtaposition between a hippie bomber and the elegant expositor of American unity is too preposterous for many to make sense of. Voters don’t see the line connecting the Weatherman Underground’s agenda of forty years ago to Barack Obama’s present policies. So, the connection is more easily dismissed as the unfortunate price of political success.

The case that never gets made is that the consistent political philosophy of Ayers and his associates continued to warp the mission of the Democratic Party long after the Weather Underground has become nostalgia, and that Obama is the philosophical offspring of the movement birthed by radicals such as Ayers. Of course the Left sees Ayers as a “rehabilitated” member of the community — they’re making that assessment in accordance with rules that he helped to define. And ideas like prostration before the UN and “spread-the-wealth socialism” gained strength in the milieu of Ayers-style leftism. That’s the tangible link, but it involves more political history than can be neatly conveyed in a commercial.

Old-time Democrats such as Bull and Joe Lieberman know the story better than anyone, and they’re not eager to let the party slip away once-and-for-all with the election of Obama. McCain would be wise to hit on the clean, clear points listed above. They also have the benefit of timeliness.

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Re: Colin Powell’s Hypocrisy

Colin Powell thinks “that on the Republican side over the last seven weeks, the approach of the Republican Party and Mr. McCain has become narrower and narrower. Mr. Obama, at the same time, has given us a more inclusive, broader reach into
the needs and aspirations of our people. He’s crossing lines–ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines. ”

Is this another example of how inclusive Obama supporters are being?

A Sunday night episode of the Fox animated series “Family Guy” stirred up trouble by suggesting­ rather directly that Nazi officers would have supported the McCain-Palin ticket…. Stewie, the obnoxious baby character at the center of the series, and Brian, a talking dog, traveled back in time to Poland during the 1939 German invasion. The characters ambush Nazi soldiers in an alley and steal their uniforms so they can travel without drawing attention. Putting on an overcoat, Stewie notices a McCain-Palin campaign button affixed to the lapel. “Huh, that’s weird,” Stewie remarks…. The series’ creator, Seth MacFarlane, is a prominent supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid.

No one suggests that the Obama campaign per se had anything to do with this juvenile taunt. But surely the candidate bears as much responsibility for such outbursts as McCain does for some of the equally juvenile taunts against Obama that Powell cited as a reason to vote against McCain.

Colin Powell thinks “that on the Republican side over the last seven weeks, the approach of the Republican Party and Mr. McCain has become narrower and narrower. Mr. Obama, at the same time, has given us a more inclusive, broader reach into
the needs and aspirations of our people. He’s crossing lines–ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines. ”

Is this another example of how inclusive Obama supporters are being?

A Sunday night episode of the Fox animated series “Family Guy” stirred up trouble by suggesting­ rather directly that Nazi officers would have supported the McCain-Palin ticket…. Stewie, the obnoxious baby character at the center of the series, and Brian, a talking dog, traveled back in time to Poland during the 1939 German invasion. The characters ambush Nazi soldiers in an alley and steal their uniforms so they can travel without drawing attention. Putting on an overcoat, Stewie notices a McCain-Palin campaign button affixed to the lapel. “Huh, that’s weird,” Stewie remarks…. The series’ creator, Seth MacFarlane, is a prominent supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid.

No one suggests that the Obama campaign per se had anything to do with this juvenile taunt. But surely the candidate bears as much responsibility for such outbursts as McCain does for some of the equally juvenile taunts against Obama that Powell cited as a reason to vote against McCain.

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Re: Unforced Errors and Truth Tellers

John McCain has been blessed with many Joe’s — Lieberman, the Plumber and Biden. In his retooled stump speech he has nearly his entire message, finally distilled to two easily understood points provided in the waning weeks of the campaign by the latter two Joe’s:

Obama wants to raise taxes and redistribute voters’ hard earned money (“spread the wealth”) to, among other people, those already paying zero income tax.

Obama isn’t up to being commander-in-chief — indeed his mere election will incite conflict and his response will be inadequate.

(Sarah Palin is also making fine use of the material from Joe The VP.)

It might be helpful for McCain to weave in a reminder of the radical view of the judiciary that Barack Obama embraces and the extent to which his absolutist view on abortion departs even from many pro-choice Democrats. But in the case of McCain it is likely best to have fewer points rather than more.

It is ironic that the best lines and most cogent descriptions of the dangers of an Obama presidency came from the lips of the two Democratic candidates. But perhaps it is not so odd after all. McCain has always been best as a counter-puncher with his back is to the wall. He’s not particularly eloquent and has proven himself to be a mediocre debater, but he knows an opening when he sees it. In this case he sees two.

It’s late and it may not be enough to pull McCain even, but by Election Day everyone will know exactly what the key arguments against Obama are. Ironically, for a campaign that often predicted ruin if they ran on a “conservative vs. liberal” message and swore that they’d lose if they talked about the economy, they have come around to precisely those topics. We’ll see if voters are still listening.

John McCain has been blessed with many Joe’s — Lieberman, the Plumber and Biden. In his retooled stump speech he has nearly his entire message, finally distilled to two easily understood points provided in the waning weeks of the campaign by the latter two Joe’s:

Obama wants to raise taxes and redistribute voters’ hard earned money (“spread the wealth”) to, among other people, those already paying zero income tax.

Obama isn’t up to being commander-in-chief — indeed his mere election will incite conflict and his response will be inadequate.

(Sarah Palin is also making fine use of the material from Joe The VP.)

It might be helpful for McCain to weave in a reminder of the radical view of the judiciary that Barack Obama embraces and the extent to which his absolutist view on abortion departs even from many pro-choice Democrats. But in the case of McCain it is likely best to have fewer points rather than more.

It is ironic that the best lines and most cogent descriptions of the dangers of an Obama presidency came from the lips of the two Democratic candidates. But perhaps it is not so odd after all. McCain has always been best as a counter-puncher with his back is to the wall. He’s not particularly eloquent and has proven himself to be a mediocre debater, but he knows an opening when he sees it. In this case he sees two.

It’s late and it may not be enough to pull McCain even, but by Election Day everyone will know exactly what the key arguments against Obama are. Ironically, for a campaign that often predicted ruin if they ran on a “conservative vs. liberal” message and swore that they’d lose if they talked about the economy, they have come around to precisely those topics. We’ll see if voters are still listening.

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Unforced Errors and Truth Tellers

The two surprising openings the McCain campaign has gotten from the Obama campaign — Obama’s “spread the wealth around” comment to Joe the Plumber and Joe Biden’s mind-boggling “we’re gonna be hit and Obama’s going to do something unpopular in response” statement over the weekend — are prime examples of the way human beings can muck up theoretical certitude. Arguments are linear; people aren’t. Any matter in which people involve themselves will therefore follow not a mathematical course but a unique path that sets and resets itself daily.

On the one hand, these Obama and Biden remarks seem to fall into the category of “unforced error” — things they said they should not have said, and which they said when they were not under any kind of pressure. They improvised, and out of their mouths came a kind of reverse gold, a sudden strategy for their rivals to use to run at them.

But maybe these aren’t unforced errors. Maybe, in fact, what happened here was that when the words came out of Obama’s mouth, he had no idea at all he had made a mistake — because Obama is so deeply embedded ideologically into the notion that it is the role of government to redistribute income, he couldn’t even read the clues in Joe the Plumber’s question that answering as he did was just throwing fuel on the fire.

As for Biden, he was just filling the role Obama had set for him: The foreign-policy expert. And what does a foreign-policy expert do but talk about the dangers posed by the world beyond our borders?

The two surprising openings the McCain campaign has gotten from the Obama campaign — Obama’s “spread the wealth around” comment to Joe the Plumber and Joe Biden’s mind-boggling “we’re gonna be hit and Obama’s going to do something unpopular in response” statement over the weekend — are prime examples of the way human beings can muck up theoretical certitude. Arguments are linear; people aren’t. Any matter in which people involve themselves will therefore follow not a mathematical course but a unique path that sets and resets itself daily.

On the one hand, these Obama and Biden remarks seem to fall into the category of “unforced error” — things they said they should not have said, and which they said when they were not under any kind of pressure. They improvised, and out of their mouths came a kind of reverse gold, a sudden strategy for their rivals to use to run at them.

But maybe these aren’t unforced errors. Maybe, in fact, what happened here was that when the words came out of Obama’s mouth, he had no idea at all he had made a mistake — because Obama is so deeply embedded ideologically into the notion that it is the role of government to redistribute income, he couldn’t even read the clues in Joe the Plumber’s question that answering as he did was just throwing fuel on the fire.

As for Biden, he was just filling the role Obama had set for him: The foreign-policy expert. And what does a foreign-policy expert do but talk about the dangers posed by the world beyond our borders?

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Minimizing the Iranian Threat

The art of spin doctoring must be a prerequisite for high office in the UN mandarinate. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr Mohammad ElBaradei is overqualified. Yesterday, ElBaradei gave an interview to Israel’s Channel 10 during which he said that Iran does not have “even the nuclear material, the raw unenriched uranium to develop one nuclear weapon if they decide to do so.” He therefore concluded that Iran is still far from acquiring nuclear weapons.

This is remarkable, given the string of ElBaradei’s past declarations. In December 2005, for example, ElBaradei estimated that Iran was “months away from a bomb.” He repeated this assessment last June, during an interview with the Arab satellite channel, al-Arabiya. And less than a month ago, he had stated that Iran “has the cookbook… but right now they don’t yet have the ingredients – enough nuclear material to make a bomb overnight.”

Now, these are just news reports, and one could even say that there is no inconsistency in all of the above statements. After all, a nuclear program is a dynamic process with many unknowns – and if one thread consistently runs through all the above statements, it is the following: Iran has the knowledge to build a bomb, but not the toolkit – not yet at least. This means that left unhindered, Iran will eventually produce its bomb. It is a relief, of course, to know that Dr El Baradei thinks this is not happening yet. But look how many news outlets have extrapolated from one sentence that Iran’s program should not concern us that much. The notion that there is suddenly no urgency is a well spun argument, but it does not change the underlying reality: unless actively opposed, Iran’s quest for a nuclear capability, eventually, will bear fruit.

The art of spin doctoring must be a prerequisite for high office in the UN mandarinate. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr Mohammad ElBaradei is overqualified. Yesterday, ElBaradei gave an interview to Israel’s Channel 10 during which he said that Iran does not have “even the nuclear material, the raw unenriched uranium to develop one nuclear weapon if they decide to do so.” He therefore concluded that Iran is still far from acquiring nuclear weapons.

This is remarkable, given the string of ElBaradei’s past declarations. In December 2005, for example, ElBaradei estimated that Iran was “months away from a bomb.” He repeated this assessment last June, during an interview with the Arab satellite channel, al-Arabiya. And less than a month ago, he had stated that Iran “has the cookbook… but right now they don’t yet have the ingredients – enough nuclear material to make a bomb overnight.”

Now, these are just news reports, and one could even say that there is no inconsistency in all of the above statements. After all, a nuclear program is a dynamic process with many unknowns – and if one thread consistently runs through all the above statements, it is the following: Iran has the knowledge to build a bomb, but not the toolkit – not yet at least. This means that left unhindered, Iran will eventually produce its bomb. It is a relief, of course, to know that Dr El Baradei thinks this is not happening yet. But look how many news outlets have extrapolated from one sentence that Iran’s program should not concern us that much. The notion that there is suddenly no urgency is a well spun argument, but it does not change the underlying reality: unless actively opposed, Iran’s quest for a nuclear capability, eventually, will bear fruit.

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Colin Powell’s Hypocrisy

A lot has already been said about Colin Powell’s endorsement. What struck me is how incoherent his case against McCain was, and nowhere more so than in the disgust he expressed at McCain’s campaign tactics. He decried the suggestion that “because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow, Mr. Obama is tainted.” He claimed that by raising the Ayers issue the McCain campaign “goes too far.” Yet in the very next breath, literally, he engaged in exactly the type of innuendo that was just denouncing:

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” …. I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”

Note that he never claimed that McCain himself has engaged in such nasty insinuations about Obama. In fact McCain has always disavowed anyone who has even dared to publicly mention Obama’s middle name (“Hussein”). So punctilious is McCain about avoiding any hint of racial animus that he has ignored the perfectly legitimate issue of Obama’s long-time association with the odious Rev. Wright. Powell admitted, “John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know.” Nevertheless he tarred him by association because a few yahoos who don’t represent McCain or his campaign have engaged in smear tactics against Obama. Talk about accusations that “go too far.”

A lot has already been said about Colin Powell’s endorsement. What struck me is how incoherent his case against McCain was, and nowhere more so than in the disgust he expressed at McCain’s campaign tactics. He decried the suggestion that “because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow, Mr. Obama is tainted.” He claimed that by raising the Ayers issue the McCain campaign “goes too far.” Yet in the very next breath, literally, he engaged in exactly the type of innuendo that was just denouncing:

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” …. I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”

Note that he never claimed that McCain himself has engaged in such nasty insinuations about Obama. In fact McCain has always disavowed anyone who has even dared to publicly mention Obama’s middle name (“Hussein”). So punctilious is McCain about avoiding any hint of racial animus that he has ignored the perfectly legitimate issue of Obama’s long-time association with the odious Rev. Wright. Powell admitted, “John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know.” Nevertheless he tarred him by association because a few yahoos who don’t represent McCain or his campaign have engaged in smear tactics against Obama. Talk about accusations that “go too far.”

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Obama’s Greatest Threat?

Michael Medved says it’s “the creation of vast new groups of dependent Americans who will comprise an unassailable new coalition that will enjoy iron control of our politics for a generation or more.”

Actually, that’s heartening. At least Medved expects coming generations of American politics. My vote goes to the inevitable vitiation of American power worldwide.

At the last debate, Barack Obama was asked if he believes in American exceptionalism. That a presidential candidate needs to be asked this is the most shocking “historic first” of this election. He answered in the affirmative, but in typical Obama fashion, this was the “rein in the radical roots” answer that came far too late. In February, Obama said he’d meet with America’s enemies because not to do so, “reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.” I’ll take Sarah Palin’s Afghani word-salad over that line any day of the week. You can memorize the ethnic make-up of South Waziristan at any age, but if you’re a 47-year-old American senator who hasn’t yet learned that the U.S. does stand above the rest of the world, your time’s up.

So is it possible to believe in American exceptionalism while denouncing American exceptionalism? In Obamaland it is. Depending on what page you open your world atlas to, Obama is viewed as a fashion trend, a pushover, or an agent of American contrition. And depending on what day you catch Obama, he’s Jimmy Carter, McCain-come-lately, or some incoherent amalgam of both. First he’d talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, then he wouldn’t, then he deconstructed the word preconditions into unintelligible oblivion. First he denounced the troop surge in Iraq, then he praised it, then he said he didn’t regret opposing the successful measure. First he said he’d immediately “end” the war in Iraq, then he said he’d take the advice of commanders on the ground, now he says he’ll end it while taking the advice of commanders on the ground. First he was against the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, then he was for it, now on his official website, he promises to “prudently explore” the “possibility of deploying” a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

There is Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, North Korea and more. And then there’s the disturbing instincts and rudderless foreign policy of Barack Obama. Joe Biden talks about Obama being “tested” by foreign regimes. The problem here is that it’s your first response that counts — not your best one. The world, unlike the American media, will not give Obama open-book do-overs.

Michael Medved says it’s “the creation of vast new groups of dependent Americans who will comprise an unassailable new coalition that will enjoy iron control of our politics for a generation or more.”

Actually, that’s heartening. At least Medved expects coming generations of American politics. My vote goes to the inevitable vitiation of American power worldwide.

At the last debate, Barack Obama was asked if he believes in American exceptionalism. That a presidential candidate needs to be asked this is the most shocking “historic first” of this election. He answered in the affirmative, but in typical Obama fashion, this was the “rein in the radical roots” answer that came far too late. In February, Obama said he’d meet with America’s enemies because not to do so, “reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.” I’ll take Sarah Palin’s Afghani word-salad over that line any day of the week. You can memorize the ethnic make-up of South Waziristan at any age, but if you’re a 47-year-old American senator who hasn’t yet learned that the U.S. does stand above the rest of the world, your time’s up.

So is it possible to believe in American exceptionalism while denouncing American exceptionalism? In Obamaland it is. Depending on what page you open your world atlas to, Obama is viewed as a fashion trend, a pushover, or an agent of American contrition. And depending on what day you catch Obama, he’s Jimmy Carter, McCain-come-lately, or some incoherent amalgam of both. First he’d talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, then he wouldn’t, then he deconstructed the word preconditions into unintelligible oblivion. First he denounced the troop surge in Iraq, then he praised it, then he said he didn’t regret opposing the successful measure. First he said he’d immediately “end” the war in Iraq, then he said he’d take the advice of commanders on the ground, now he says he’ll end it while taking the advice of commanders on the ground. First he was against the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, then he was for it, now on his official website, he promises to “prudently explore” the “possibility of deploying” a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

There is Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, North Korea and more. And then there’s the disturbing instincts and rudderless foreign policy of Barack Obama. Joe Biden talks about Obama being “tested” by foreign regimes. The problem here is that it’s your first response that counts — not your best one. The world, unlike the American media, will not give Obama open-book do-overs.

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Funny Numbers, Not So Funny Media Silence

The Wall Street Journal’s Bill McGurn unpacks Barack Obama’s “tax cut for 95% of the people” hooey. The short version:

Now, if you have been following this so far, you have learned that people who pay no income tax will get an income tax refund. You have also learned that this check will represent relief for the payroll taxes these people do pay. And you have been assured that this rebate check won’t actually come out of payroll taxes, lest we harm Social Security.

You have to admire the audacity. With one touch of the Obama magic, what otherwise would be described as taking money from Peter to pay Paul is now transformed into Paul’s tax relief. Where a tax cut for payroll taxes paid will not in fact come from payroll taxes. And where all these plans come together under the rhetorical umbrella of “Making Work Pay.”

All of this is breathtakingly dishonest. (As Al Gore would say I think we need a lock box.)

Obama must understand this, right? Well, we don’t really know. We don’t because in the dozens of interviews and multiple presidential debates he’s never been asked to explain this. How can this be, that a presidential nominee concocts a Ponzi scheme involving both income and social security taxes and never is called on it?

Welcome to the world of MSM-lapdog-ism. We get no Obama medical records. We get no explanation of his fraudulent tax plan. He is never pinned down on the particulars of his associations with bizarre characters or his state senate voting record on everything from guns to abortion. Virtually all of the reporting on these topics has been done by conservative media.

What we don’t know is whether this is the new standard for all Democratic contenders or whether The One got special dispensation. I suppose we’ll have to wait for the next presumptive Democratic nominee to come around to discover whether the MSM has permanently subcontracted out their reporting on Democrats — at least the investigative part.

In the meantime, if Obama is elected don’t be surprised if the number of people who get tax cuts is a lot smaller and the number who get a tax hike is greater than advertised. And don’t be shocked when the number of people getting checks from the government increases. After all, that crack investigative reporter Joe the Plumber told you so.

The Wall Street Journal’s Bill McGurn unpacks Barack Obama’s “tax cut for 95% of the people” hooey. The short version:

Now, if you have been following this so far, you have learned that people who pay no income tax will get an income tax refund. You have also learned that this check will represent relief for the payroll taxes these people do pay. And you have been assured that this rebate check won’t actually come out of payroll taxes, lest we harm Social Security.

You have to admire the audacity. With one touch of the Obama magic, what otherwise would be described as taking money from Peter to pay Paul is now transformed into Paul’s tax relief. Where a tax cut for payroll taxes paid will not in fact come from payroll taxes. And where all these plans come together under the rhetorical umbrella of “Making Work Pay.”

All of this is breathtakingly dishonest. (As Al Gore would say I think we need a lock box.)

Obama must understand this, right? Well, we don’t really know. We don’t because in the dozens of interviews and multiple presidential debates he’s never been asked to explain this. How can this be, that a presidential nominee concocts a Ponzi scheme involving both income and social security taxes and never is called on it?

Welcome to the world of MSM-lapdog-ism. We get no Obama medical records. We get no explanation of his fraudulent tax plan. He is never pinned down on the particulars of his associations with bizarre characters or his state senate voting record on everything from guns to abortion. Virtually all of the reporting on these topics has been done by conservative media.

What we don’t know is whether this is the new standard for all Democratic contenders or whether The One got special dispensation. I suppose we’ll have to wait for the next presumptive Democratic nominee to come around to discover whether the MSM has permanently subcontracted out their reporting on Democrats — at least the investigative part.

In the meantime, if Obama is elected don’t be surprised if the number of people who get tax cuts is a lot smaller and the number who get a tax hike is greater than advertised. And don’t be shocked when the number of people getting checks from the government increases. After all, that crack investigative reporter Joe the Plumber told you so.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Hillary Clinton stars in another anti-Obama ad.

The Democrats were right: the Bush Justice Department is so hopelessly politicized that they are neglecting their law enforcement duties. But not exactly in the way you might imagine.

The Bill Ayers story lives because Barack Obama can never quite bring himself to get all the facts out. All in all I think John McCain would rather be talking about Joe the Plumber than about Bill the Terrorist. But Barack the Liar is omnipresent.

Amazing what reporters find when they stop arguing with the crowd about press bias and just cover what happens. In this case it’s McCain supporters and staffers confronting whackos. It’s sort of . . . well. . . like news!

Mickey Kaus is sniffing out more abject Obama-fawning by the MSM and more sour grapes by Mike Murphy. (Anyone paying close attention would notice that Murphy’s been saying bad things about people who got the job he didn’t –running the McCain campaign — for some time now).

Sarah Palin – from Caribou Barbie to Media Star in a month. She either learns really fast or her handlers were really bad (or maybe both).

James Antle cuts to the heart of the matter of Republicans endorsing Obama based on the hope that he doesn’t really believe anything he’s said or any of his past voting positions: “it’s kind of rich to hear people who use such subjective, evidence-free criteria for their presidential choices lecture about the importance of reasoned judgment.” Which is more far-fetched — the hope that they’ll earn themselves jobs in an Obama administration ahead of devoted liberals or that voters will be influenced by people unknown outside the beltway?

John McCain slyly suggests Colin Powell was rude to his friend and didn’t bother to gather all the facts before reaching a conclusion about Sarah Palin. As for the latter, it is not the most egregious case in Powell’s career of making pronouncements with incomplete evidence. This one, however, will be oh so much more popular with the opinion makers.

But really with all these dastardly foreign policy barons jumping on the Obama bandwagon maybe McCain should run against the foreign policy apparatus that mismanaged the war, miscalculated the cost (human and financial) and misrepresented intelligence. Isn’t Obama now offering to consult the very same people?

Bret Stephens reminds us of Powell’s abysmal ethical lapse with regard to the Valerie Plame leak. In some sense Powell is a perfect match for Obama: “he is a man with an unfailing sense of the political breeze, like a kite. His endorsement of Mr. Obama sends his reputation aloft again, floating high above a record that stands for nothing.”

A Palin story from the MSM you usually don’t see. (h/t RedState) Pundits forget how much of politics has nothing to do with policy.

Glib vs. smart. After a few months of watching the two campaigns, I am convinced Biden is neither and Palin is the latter.

One for the “least surprising headlines” file.

Hillary Clinton stars in another anti-Obama ad.

The Democrats were right: the Bush Justice Department is so hopelessly politicized that they are neglecting their law enforcement duties. But not exactly in the way you might imagine.

The Bill Ayers story lives because Barack Obama can never quite bring himself to get all the facts out. All in all I think John McCain would rather be talking about Joe the Plumber than about Bill the Terrorist. But Barack the Liar is omnipresent.

Amazing what reporters find when they stop arguing with the crowd about press bias and just cover what happens. In this case it’s McCain supporters and staffers confronting whackos. It’s sort of . . . well. . . like news!

Mickey Kaus is sniffing out more abject Obama-fawning by the MSM and more sour grapes by Mike Murphy. (Anyone paying close attention would notice that Murphy’s been saying bad things about people who got the job he didn’t –running the McCain campaign — for some time now).

Sarah Palin – from Caribou Barbie to Media Star in a month. She either learns really fast or her handlers were really bad (or maybe both).

James Antle cuts to the heart of the matter of Republicans endorsing Obama based on the hope that he doesn’t really believe anything he’s said or any of his past voting positions: “it’s kind of rich to hear people who use such subjective, evidence-free criteria for their presidential choices lecture about the importance of reasoned judgment.” Which is more far-fetched — the hope that they’ll earn themselves jobs in an Obama administration ahead of devoted liberals or that voters will be influenced by people unknown outside the beltway?

John McCain slyly suggests Colin Powell was rude to his friend and didn’t bother to gather all the facts before reaching a conclusion about Sarah Palin. As for the latter, it is not the most egregious case in Powell’s career of making pronouncements with incomplete evidence. This one, however, will be oh so much more popular with the opinion makers.

But really with all these dastardly foreign policy barons jumping on the Obama bandwagon maybe McCain should run against the foreign policy apparatus that mismanaged the war, miscalculated the cost (human and financial) and misrepresented intelligence. Isn’t Obama now offering to consult the very same people?

Bret Stephens reminds us of Powell’s abysmal ethical lapse with regard to the Valerie Plame leak. In some sense Powell is a perfect match for Obama: “he is a man with an unfailing sense of the political breeze, like a kite. His endorsement of Mr. Obama sends his reputation aloft again, floating high above a record that stands for nothing.”

A Palin story from the MSM you usually don’t see. (h/t RedState) Pundits forget how much of politics has nothing to do with policy.

Glib vs. smart. After a few months of watching the two campaigns, I am convinced Biden is neither and Palin is the latter.

One for the “least surprising headlines” file.

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Class

Was this what Colin Powell hoped to embrace by escaping the nasty and divisive insinuations of the GOP?

“These are the exciting last two week moments of the presidential campaign,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., today in Cambridge, Mass. “So it’s a very special time. I can’t wait for it to be over. I am so tired of the press’ silly questions that they ask along the way. And cable television which reduces everything to stupidity – the lowest common denominator of conflict.”

“I don’t know if any of you know what it’s like. I do, obviously,” Kerry told the crowd. “I’ve been asked all of those brilliant questions that were repeated this year…Barack got asked the famous boxers or briefs question. I was tempted to say commando…

“Then they asked McCain and McCain said, ‘Depends,’” Kerry said.

Was this what Colin Powell hoped to embrace by escaping the nasty and divisive insinuations of the GOP?

“These are the exciting last two week moments of the presidential campaign,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., today in Cambridge, Mass. “So it’s a very special time. I can’t wait for it to be over. I am so tired of the press’ silly questions that they ask along the way. And cable television which reduces everything to stupidity – the lowest common denominator of conflict.”

“I don’t know if any of you know what it’s like. I do, obviously,” Kerry told the crowd. “I’ve been asked all of those brilliant questions that were repeated this year…Barack got asked the famous boxers or briefs question. I was tempted to say commando…

“Then they asked McCain and McCain said, ‘Depends,’” Kerry said.

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National Security Returns

Joe Biden may have the inside track on the real “Obama doctrine.” His mega-gaffe may actually have revealed something more than his own inability to keep his lips sealed. Aside from predicting that the world’s “evil doers” will take advantage of the young President (not a bad prediction), he also tells us to be prepared for a poor reaction. In his words, “it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.” What does that mean?

Bill Kristol suggests:

In other words, Biden is forecasting inaction by Obama in the face of testing by a dictator. I suspect he’s right in this forecast. McCain might want to clarify this point. It’s not just that Obama’s own running mate expects an international crisis early in his presidency. It’s not just that Obama has a weak foreign policy record. It’s that Biden himself expects what will appear to be a weak response from Obama to testing by a dictator.

Biden after all is watching Obama in action — receiving briefings with him and presumably discussing both national security policy and personnel. Biden, famously unable to keep to himself any thought that pops into his head, has now let slip out what’s troubling him. But we don’t know what prompted this spasm of honesty. Was it mulling over the Obama non-reaction to Georgia? Was it some reaction to developments in Iraq? Has he heard about Obama’s intentions on Iran or North Korea? It would be nice to know.

Biden might have been accurate on the “have his mettle tested” forecast, but it is beyond bizarre that he would not have followed up with a robust defense of his running mate’s ability to rise to the challenge. Why doesn’t he have the confidence in his running mate that one would expect? Early on in the primary he expressed skepticism that Obama had the experience to be President. It may be that he just can’t shake that initial assessment. And if he can’t, image what our enemies must be thinking.

It has been a long time since national security was front and center in the campaign. By simply appearing smooth and calm in the debates, Obama went a long way toward assuring voters he was up for the task of commander-in-chief. But of course debates do not have anything to do with the skills, judgment, reaction time or — to use an apt term — the “mettle” of a candidate that will be needed in a national security crisis. All debates test are verbal acuity and the ability to master a set of limited talking points. Perhaps it is a good time to return to the most fundamental issue of this or any campaign: which candidate has the judgment, will and strength to keep us safe, maintain our alliances and keep our foes at bay. Biden is telling us that person is not Obama . Maybe we should pay attention.

Joe Biden may have the inside track on the real “Obama doctrine.” His mega-gaffe may actually have revealed something more than his own inability to keep his lips sealed. Aside from predicting that the world’s “evil doers” will take advantage of the young President (not a bad prediction), he also tells us to be prepared for a poor reaction. In his words, “it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.” What does that mean?

Bill Kristol suggests:

In other words, Biden is forecasting inaction by Obama in the face of testing by a dictator. I suspect he’s right in this forecast. McCain might want to clarify this point. It’s not just that Obama’s own running mate expects an international crisis early in his presidency. It’s not just that Obama has a weak foreign policy record. It’s that Biden himself expects what will appear to be a weak response from Obama to testing by a dictator.

Biden after all is watching Obama in action — receiving briefings with him and presumably discussing both national security policy and personnel. Biden, famously unable to keep to himself any thought that pops into his head, has now let slip out what’s troubling him. But we don’t know what prompted this spasm of honesty. Was it mulling over the Obama non-reaction to Georgia? Was it some reaction to developments in Iraq? Has he heard about Obama’s intentions on Iran or North Korea? It would be nice to know.

Biden might have been accurate on the “have his mettle tested” forecast, but it is beyond bizarre that he would not have followed up with a robust defense of his running mate’s ability to rise to the challenge. Why doesn’t he have the confidence in his running mate that one would expect? Early on in the primary he expressed skepticism that Obama had the experience to be President. It may be that he just can’t shake that initial assessment. And if he can’t, image what our enemies must be thinking.

It has been a long time since national security was front and center in the campaign. By simply appearing smooth and calm in the debates, Obama went a long way toward assuring voters he was up for the task of commander-in-chief. But of course debates do not have anything to do with the skills, judgment, reaction time or — to use an apt term — the “mettle” of a candidate that will be needed in a national security crisis. All debates test are verbal acuity and the ability to master a set of limited talking points. Perhaps it is a good time to return to the most fundamental issue of this or any campaign: which candidate has the judgment, will and strength to keep us safe, maintain our alliances and keep our foes at bay. Biden is telling us that person is not Obama . Maybe we should pay attention.

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So Much for Azerbaijani Democracy

Last week Azerbaijan conducted another rigged election just a few short months after several government officials said to my face that this time things would be different.

Advisors to President Ilham Aliyev insisted that observers from the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe would fan out all over the country to monitor the election and even stop the process entirely if they detected fraudulent activity. All this was confirmed by the Israeli ambassador. Yet Aliyev was just “re-elected” with 89 percent of the vote in an election boycotted by the opposition.

Aliyev’s opponents say it was impossible for them to compete, which sounds about right. “The choice of candidates was skimpy,” Sabrina Tavernise wrote last week in the New York Times. “There were six, aside from Mr. Aliyev, but they were political nobodies, and few voters interviewed in Baku on Wednesday could identify any of them.” Imagine how free and fair our own presidential election would be if only Senator Barack Obama or Senator John McCain had name recognition.

It’s no wonder the president’s political opponents are almost completely invisible. Azerbaijan’s television stations are controlled by his government. Eight journalists were arrested for “libel” in the past year. Three are still in jail. Several citizens told me privately that they’re afraid to say anything critical of the government in public. It may make little difference if European election observers ensure ballots are processed and counted fairly in this kind of environment, but the OSCE and the U.S. State Department did see some improvement compared with the last election.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited me and seven of my colleagues – including Abe Greenwald and James Kirchick from this very magazine – to spend a week there in August. We had a chance to meet and interview some of the most powerful people in the country. Several ministry officials, advisors, and members of parliament said they sincerely want to democratize, but that they need more time. Some complained about the constant pressure from Western governments and seemed to expect me to sympathize. I did not. Western governments need to pressure them more in the future, not less.

When they said they sincerely wanted to reform the system, I wanted to believe them. Azerbaijan has enormous potential and seems more than ready enough for democracy. It is not Iraq, and it is not Syria. It has a booming economy, a vibrant and tolerant culture, a well-educated population, and a thoroughly modern outlook.

Azeris are pro-Western and would like to join NATO. They sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. They help the United States, and they could use help from us. They’re bordered to the north by Russia and to the south by Iran. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline that begins in Azerbaijan and cuts across the South Caucasus to the Mediterranean is the only route from the resource-rich Caspian Sea to Europe that bypasses Russia. Azeris are feeling more pressure than ever now that Russian troops have dug into carved-up Georgia next door. I wish the country well, and I think you should, too.

Azerbaijan’s leaders could be a whole lot worse than they are. They aren’t tyrants; they’re autocratic technocrats. They seem to be able to balance their own appetite for power with a genuine concern for the well-being of their country. Overall, they’ve done a pretty good job since they bolted from the Soviet Union in 1991. I’ve only visited once myself, but those I know who can compare Azerbaijan today with Azerbaijan even a few years ago say the progress is so extraordinary they hardly recognize the place. Aliyev could easily win a real election on his record simply by asking average citizens if they are better or worse off today than they were eight years ago. But that’s not what happened. His government rigged it again.

“We want to be part of the Euro-Atlantic community,” said former Ambassador to the United States Hafiz Pashayev.

I think that’s terrific, and that may be where they end up. Azerbaijan is an Eastern country, but the northern portion is actually inside Europe. Many Western cultural values were imported through Russia after Moscow acquired it from the Persian Empire in 1828. I’d be happy to see Azerbaijan become an integrated member of the Euro-Atlantic community whether or not NATO membership is in the cards. But that is never going to happen if its leaders don’t scrap the autocratic system of government inherited from the Persian, Russian, and Soviet empires. The Azeris may not want to hear it, but they need to because it’s true.

Last week Azerbaijan conducted another rigged election just a few short months after several government officials said to my face that this time things would be different.

Advisors to President Ilham Aliyev insisted that observers from the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe would fan out all over the country to monitor the election and even stop the process entirely if they detected fraudulent activity. All this was confirmed by the Israeli ambassador. Yet Aliyev was just “re-elected” with 89 percent of the vote in an election boycotted by the opposition.

Aliyev’s opponents say it was impossible for them to compete, which sounds about right. “The choice of candidates was skimpy,” Sabrina Tavernise wrote last week in the New York Times. “There were six, aside from Mr. Aliyev, but they were political nobodies, and few voters interviewed in Baku on Wednesday could identify any of them.” Imagine how free and fair our own presidential election would be if only Senator Barack Obama or Senator John McCain had name recognition.

It’s no wonder the president’s political opponents are almost completely invisible. Azerbaijan’s television stations are controlled by his government. Eight journalists were arrested for “libel” in the past year. Three are still in jail. Several citizens told me privately that they’re afraid to say anything critical of the government in public. It may make little difference if European election observers ensure ballots are processed and counted fairly in this kind of environment, but the OSCE and the U.S. State Department did see some improvement compared with the last election.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited me and seven of my colleagues – including Abe Greenwald and James Kirchick from this very magazine – to spend a week there in August. We had a chance to meet and interview some of the most powerful people in the country. Several ministry officials, advisors, and members of parliament said they sincerely want to democratize, but that they need more time. Some complained about the constant pressure from Western governments and seemed to expect me to sympathize. I did not. Western governments need to pressure them more in the future, not less.

When they said they sincerely wanted to reform the system, I wanted to believe them. Azerbaijan has enormous potential and seems more than ready enough for democracy. It is not Iraq, and it is not Syria. It has a booming economy, a vibrant and tolerant culture, a well-educated population, and a thoroughly modern outlook.

Azeris are pro-Western and would like to join NATO. They sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. They help the United States, and they could use help from us. They’re bordered to the north by Russia and to the south by Iran. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline that begins in Azerbaijan and cuts across the South Caucasus to the Mediterranean is the only route from the resource-rich Caspian Sea to Europe that bypasses Russia. Azeris are feeling more pressure than ever now that Russian troops have dug into carved-up Georgia next door. I wish the country well, and I think you should, too.

Azerbaijan’s leaders could be a whole lot worse than they are. They aren’t tyrants; they’re autocratic technocrats. They seem to be able to balance their own appetite for power with a genuine concern for the well-being of their country. Overall, they’ve done a pretty good job since they bolted from the Soviet Union in 1991. I’ve only visited once myself, but those I know who can compare Azerbaijan today with Azerbaijan even a few years ago say the progress is so extraordinary they hardly recognize the place. Aliyev could easily win a real election on his record simply by asking average citizens if they are better or worse off today than they were eight years ago. But that’s not what happened. His government rigged it again.

“We want to be part of the Euro-Atlantic community,” said former Ambassador to the United States Hafiz Pashayev.

I think that’s terrific, and that may be where they end up. Azerbaijan is an Eastern country, but the northern portion is actually inside Europe. Many Western cultural values were imported through Russia after Moscow acquired it from the Persian Empire in 1828. I’d be happy to see Azerbaijan become an integrated member of the Euro-Atlantic community whether or not NATO membership is in the cards. But that is never going to happen if its leaders don’t scrap the autocratic system of government inherited from the Persian, Russian, and Soviet empires. The Azeris may not want to hear it, but they need to because it’s true.

Read Less




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