Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 4, 2008

Pennsylvania Goes For Obama

MSNBC calls it. Lots of time and effort spent by McCain-Palin but the inside straight won’t be be gotten there. An early call suggests it wasn’t close.

MSNBC calls it. Lots of time and effort spent by McCain-Palin but the inside straight won’t be be gotten there. An early call suggests it wasn’t close.

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Susan Collins Survives

In Maine she held her seat, making the 60-seat fillibuster mark hard for Democrats to reach.

In Maine she held her seat, making the 60-seat fillibuster mark hard for Democrats to reach.

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Vermont goes to Obama

I can’t believe they’ve called my home state already, with zero percent of the votes counted. They’re going to be surprised by the surge of the Kucinich-Moore ticket when the votes from the organic rhubarb farm collectives are counted, not to mention the predicted strong showing of Ben & Jerry’s and yoga voters.

I can’t believe they’ve called my home state already, with zero percent of the votes counted. They’re going to be surprised by the surge of the Kucinich-Moore ticket when the votes from the organic rhubarb farm collectives are counted, not to mention the predicted strong showing of Ben & Jerry’s and yoga voters.

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Indiana

McCain is slightly up now. But only slightly and nothing yet has come in from Lake County. Usually Republicans run up big leads in the rest of the state and see it dwindle once returns from Lake County come in. To the extent Obama is running well elsewhere that is a good sign for the Democrats.

McCain is slightly up now. But only slightly and nothing yet has come in from Lake County. Usually Republicans run up big leads in the rest of the state and see it dwindle once returns from Lake County come in. To the extent Obama is running well elsewhere that is a good sign for the Democrats.

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This Is Insane

Jessica Yellin, right now on CNN, is appearing AS A HOLOGRAM on Wolf Blitzer’s set. She does look creepily like Princess Leia in Star Wars. This is a horrifying glimpse of an entirely virtual future. I’m too old for this, and I’m only 47.

Jessica Yellin, right now on CNN, is appearing AS A HOLOGRAM on Wolf Blitzer’s set. She does look creepily like Princess Leia in Star Wars. This is a horrifying glimpse of an entirely virtual future. I’m too old for this, and I’m only 47.

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The Pennsylvania Ground Game

During the final month of his presidential campaign, John McCain bet heavily on shoring up Pennsylvania – a state that hasn’t voted Republican since 1988, but came relatively close during the last election. The thinking went that if he could win enough working-class votes in the central and western parts of the state, demographically similar states such as Ohio and Indiana would follow. Moreover, with Virginia potentially cast off as a blue state by late September, the McCain campaign believed that it needed to win Pennsylvania’s 21 electoral votes to offset the potential loss of Virginia’s 13.

For this strategy to work, the campaign had to satisfy two essential requirements. First, it had to schedule regular campaign events throughout Pennsylvania. In this it succeeded: McCain and Sarah Palin spent a tremendous amount of time in Pennsylvania, holding rallies throughout the state almost daily. (At one point, Palin spent four straight days in Philadelphia, hitting up local bars and cheese steak joints while studying for the vice-presidential debate during her down time.)

Yet, as far as I can tell, the campaign failed in fulfilling the second essential requirement of its Pennsylvania-centric strategy: producing a top-notch “ground game,” i.e., a well-organized volunteer effort for getting voters to the polls. In Philadelphia, the Obama campaign is absolutely dominating: on every couple of blocks, groups of volunteers are going from door-to-door, clipboards in hand, making sure that registered Democrats have voted. It’s been going on since Saturday – Obama folks have rung the doorbell of my politically mixed household at least five times (!), twice leaving colorful door-hangings containing polling site information. Meanwhile, the McCain campaign reminded its local supporters of their polling sites via e-mail – the type that is typically directed to your spam folder.

Granted, this could just be the case in Philadelphia, which is basically a one-party city (80% of Philadelphians voted for John Kerry in 2004). Still, to the extent that the McCain campaign is counting on every vote it can get to win Pennsylvania, the lack of coordination between the McCain campaign and local Republican volunteers in the state’s most populous city is surprising. If McCain loses a close statewide race, look to turnout differentials between Philadelphia Republicans and Democrats for a possible explanation.

UPDATE: Loudspeaker-equipped cars, with music blaring, are now circling my neighborhood asking people to put up their hands if they’ve voted. Guess which campaign sent them.

During the final month of his presidential campaign, John McCain bet heavily on shoring up Pennsylvania – a state that hasn’t voted Republican since 1988, but came relatively close during the last election. The thinking went that if he could win enough working-class votes in the central and western parts of the state, demographically similar states such as Ohio and Indiana would follow. Moreover, with Virginia potentially cast off as a blue state by late September, the McCain campaign believed that it needed to win Pennsylvania’s 21 electoral votes to offset the potential loss of Virginia’s 13.

For this strategy to work, the campaign had to satisfy two essential requirements. First, it had to schedule regular campaign events throughout Pennsylvania. In this it succeeded: McCain and Sarah Palin spent a tremendous amount of time in Pennsylvania, holding rallies throughout the state almost daily. (At one point, Palin spent four straight days in Philadelphia, hitting up local bars and cheese steak joints while studying for the vice-presidential debate during her down time.)

Yet, as far as I can tell, the campaign failed in fulfilling the second essential requirement of its Pennsylvania-centric strategy: producing a top-notch “ground game,” i.e., a well-organized volunteer effort for getting voters to the polls. In Philadelphia, the Obama campaign is absolutely dominating: on every couple of blocks, groups of volunteers are going from door-to-door, clipboards in hand, making sure that registered Democrats have voted. It’s been going on since Saturday – Obama folks have rung the doorbell of my politically mixed household at least five times (!), twice leaving colorful door-hangings containing polling site information. Meanwhile, the McCain campaign reminded its local supporters of their polling sites via e-mail – the type that is typically directed to your spam folder.

Granted, this could just be the case in Philadelphia, which is basically a one-party city (80% of Philadelphians voted for John Kerry in 2004). Still, to the extent that the McCain campaign is counting on every vote it can get to win Pennsylvania, the lack of coordination between the McCain campaign and local Republican volunteers in the state’s most populous city is surprising. If McCain loses a close statewide race, look to turnout differentials between Philadelphia Republicans and Democrats for a possible explanation.

UPDATE: Loudspeaker-equipped cars, with music blaring, are now circling my neighborhood asking people to put up their hands if they’ve voted. Guess which campaign sent them.

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More Credit to Obama

If he wins without picking Hillary, his signal contribution to bringing an end to the Clinton national melodrama should be widely noted and deeply praised.

If he wins without picking Hillary, his signal contribution to bringing an end to the Clinton national melodrama should be widely noted and deeply praised.

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Enjoy It While It Lasts

McCain leads the electoral college 8-3. So at least he has a lead.

McCain leads the electoral college 8-3. So at least he has a lead.

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North Carolina

The Obama camp is reported less optimistic about this Red state, according to Fox, due to a big GOP turnout. Not a must win state for him by any means. So McCain fans breathe a sigh of relief. And it might be good news for Libby Dole.

The Obama camp is reported less optimistic about this Red state, according to Fox, due to a big GOP turnout. Not a must win state for him by any means. So McCain fans breathe a sigh of relief. And it might be good news for Libby Dole.

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Too Close To Call

In Indiana and Virginia is the best news of the day for McCain.

In Indiana and Virginia is the best news of the day for McCain.

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A Personal Note About This Election

I have been writing about the 2008 election since December 2006 — two or three columns a week for the New York Post until November 2007, daily posts on National Review Online’s The Corner until November 2007, and here at Contentions almost daily since then. I watched 20 Democratic primary debates and 15 Republican primary debates. I watched as Hillary Clinton’s primary defeat made a book I wrote in 2005 and published in 2006 null and void. I watched YouTubes galore, campaign commercials and campaign parodies, four days of Democratic conventioneering and three days of Republican conventioneering, three presidential debates, two presidential forums, three vice-presidential debates, and appearances on “The View.” I was dazzled by Sarah Palin’s two speeches, dismayed by her Katie Couric performance, and delighted not only by her SNL appearance but by word from my wife Ayala, who works on the show, that she was absolutely lovely and universally liked during her day there. I watched polls go up and polls go down, McCain suspend his campaign and unsuspend it, and Obama never break a sweat. I fielded thousands of emails, comments, phone calls, about it. Anxiety, excitement, overwhelming boredom, conspiracy theories, idiotic fantasies about missing birth certificates and imputations about the paternity of a small child that are nothing less than evil have been my constant companions.

Tonight, whatever happens, it will end. And I am, as I write those words, the happiest man on the face of the earth.

I have been writing about the 2008 election since December 2006 — two or three columns a week for the New York Post until November 2007, daily posts on National Review Online’s The Corner until November 2007, and here at Contentions almost daily since then. I watched 20 Democratic primary debates and 15 Republican primary debates. I watched as Hillary Clinton’s primary defeat made a book I wrote in 2005 and published in 2006 null and void. I watched YouTubes galore, campaign commercials and campaign parodies, four days of Democratic conventioneering and three days of Republican conventioneering, three presidential debates, two presidential forums, three vice-presidential debates, and appearances on “The View.” I was dazzled by Sarah Palin’s two speeches, dismayed by her Katie Couric performance, and delighted not only by her SNL appearance but by word from my wife Ayala, who works on the show, that she was absolutely lovely and universally liked during her day there. I watched polls go up and polls go down, McCain suspend his campaign and unsuspend it, and Obama never break a sweat. I fielded thousands of emails, comments, phone calls, about it. Anxiety, excitement, overwhelming boredom, conspiracy theories, idiotic fantasies about missing birth certificates and imputations about the paternity of a small child that are nothing less than evil have been my constant companions.

Tonight, whatever happens, it will end. And I am, as I write those words, the happiest man on the face of the earth.

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Dismissing the American Dream

Matt Yglesias thinks Joe the Plumber is nothing more than an ill-advised pander to the GOP base:

The idea behind the Joe the Plumber saga is that Barack Obama would be bad for people like Joe, a small business owner who is (putatively) prosperous enough to be hit by Obama’s tax hikes on people with over $250,000 in annual income. Of course Joe doesn’t actually earn that much. But if he had, Joe would just be the very model of a hard-core Republican. Whites are more Republican than non-whites. Men are more Republican than women. Small business owners are more Republican than any other occupational group. High-income people are more Republican than are middle-class and poor people. And among white people, those with no college degree are more Republican than those with college degrees.

Thus, a white male small-business owner practicing a blue collar trade and earning enough money to be hit by Obama’s tax hikes is nothing other than the Platonic Ideal of a Republican (think Tom DeLay when he owned a successful bug-killing business). Republican crowds go wild for Joe because they can identify with him. But by the same token, the people who identify with Joe are the Republican base. They can’t turn this thing around. And they’re certainly not the people you’re supposed to be talking to in October. It’d be as if Barack Obama were criss-crossing the country with a young, hip lesbian acting as his main surrogate to attack McCain’s health care plan.

This would be true but for one important detail. The factor Yglesias derides, then dismisses, is the key to Joe’s broader appeal and the actual “idea behind the Joe the Plumber saga”: Financially, Joe isn’t there yet — that’s the point. Aspiration is a fundamental American trait, one that reaches far beyond the GOP base. Every last one of Barack Obama’s unemployed, out-of-gas, debt-crippled sob stories shares with Joe the desire to make it — whatever “it” is for them. Joe the Septic Tank Mogul wouldn’t have the same effect.

In Joe, McCain has hit on Obama’s message of hope, but with a novel twist: he takes American voters to be self-sufficient adults. While Obama whets your appetite with the trinkets he plans to dole out, Joe ignites your hopes for personal achievement. This isn’t a contrast between conservative and liberal philosophy. It’s a contest between rejecting the American dream and embracing it. If people like Yglesias have come to consider the latter the sole domain of Republicans, it tells you a frightening lot about today’s Democrats.

Matt Yglesias thinks Joe the Plumber is nothing more than an ill-advised pander to the GOP base:

The idea behind the Joe the Plumber saga is that Barack Obama would be bad for people like Joe, a small business owner who is (putatively) prosperous enough to be hit by Obama’s tax hikes on people with over $250,000 in annual income. Of course Joe doesn’t actually earn that much. But if he had, Joe would just be the very model of a hard-core Republican. Whites are more Republican than non-whites. Men are more Republican than women. Small business owners are more Republican than any other occupational group. High-income people are more Republican than are middle-class and poor people. And among white people, those with no college degree are more Republican than those with college degrees.

Thus, a white male small-business owner practicing a blue collar trade and earning enough money to be hit by Obama’s tax hikes is nothing other than the Platonic Ideal of a Republican (think Tom DeLay when he owned a successful bug-killing business). Republican crowds go wild for Joe because they can identify with him. But by the same token, the people who identify with Joe are the Republican base. They can’t turn this thing around. And they’re certainly not the people you’re supposed to be talking to in October. It’d be as if Barack Obama were criss-crossing the country with a young, hip lesbian acting as his main surrogate to attack McCain’s health care plan.

This would be true but for one important detail. The factor Yglesias derides, then dismisses, is the key to Joe’s broader appeal and the actual “idea behind the Joe the Plumber saga”: Financially, Joe isn’t there yet — that’s the point. Aspiration is a fundamental American trait, one that reaches far beyond the GOP base. Every last one of Barack Obama’s unemployed, out-of-gas, debt-crippled sob stories shares with Joe the desire to make it — whatever “it” is for them. Joe the Septic Tank Mogul wouldn’t have the same effect.

In Joe, McCain has hit on Obama’s message of hope, but with a novel twist: he takes American voters to be self-sufficient adults. While Obama whets your appetite with the trinkets he plans to dole out, Joe ignites your hopes for personal achievement. This isn’t a contrast between conservative and liberal philosophy. It’s a contest between rejecting the American dream and embracing it. If people like Yglesias have come to consider the latter the sole domain of Republicans, it tells you a frightening lot about today’s Democrats.

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McCain: Sane on Spain

In September, John McCain gave a cagey answer when asked if he’d welcome Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the White House:

Honestly, I have to analyze our relationships, situations and priorities, but I can assure you that I will establish closer relationships with our friends, and I will stand up to those who want to harm the United States.

The press jumped on this as evidence of McCain’s pugnacious international stance, and an indication that, under his administration, U.S.-Spain relations would retain the chill that’s been in place since Spain voted in the socialist Zapatero and pulled out of the Iraq War in 2004.

Was McCain’s cautious answer so crazy? We’ll soon find out. Omar bin Laden, son of Osama, has just asked for asylum in Spain and is being detained in the Madrid Airport until Spanish authorities say yea or nay. Don’t bet on the latter.

Spain’s withdrawal from the War on Terror is the clearest example of a country overwhelmingly motivated by fear. Spain voted in the anti-Iraq-War Zapatero days after al Qaeda exploded 10 bombs on four commuter trains in Madrid’s Atocha Station. Zapatero immediately withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq, and the Spanish have restricted their bravery to the theatrical confines of the bullfighting arena ever since.

Not that this has prevented further Qaeda plots against Spain or France-like riots in Spain’s Muslim resort towns. Omar bin Ladin was denied British residency for refusing to bluntly renounce his father or his father’s ideology. Zapatero was reelected in March with a mandate to keep Spain humble. Spain currently hosts the largest number of immigrants out of any European country, and the largest portion of them are unassimilated North African Muslims. Turning down bin Laden, who claims to be an “ambassador of peace” might ignite Muslim immigrant communities. Bin Laden chose Spain for a reason, after all — the same reason John McCain chose his words carefully.

In September, John McCain gave a cagey answer when asked if he’d welcome Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the White House:

Honestly, I have to analyze our relationships, situations and priorities, but I can assure you that I will establish closer relationships with our friends, and I will stand up to those who want to harm the United States.

The press jumped on this as evidence of McCain’s pugnacious international stance, and an indication that, under his administration, U.S.-Spain relations would retain the chill that’s been in place since Spain voted in the socialist Zapatero and pulled out of the Iraq War in 2004.

Was McCain’s cautious answer so crazy? We’ll soon find out. Omar bin Laden, son of Osama, has just asked for asylum in Spain and is being detained in the Madrid Airport until Spanish authorities say yea or nay. Don’t bet on the latter.

Spain’s withdrawal from the War on Terror is the clearest example of a country overwhelmingly motivated by fear. Spain voted in the anti-Iraq-War Zapatero days after al Qaeda exploded 10 bombs on four commuter trains in Madrid’s Atocha Station. Zapatero immediately withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq, and the Spanish have restricted their bravery to the theatrical confines of the bullfighting arena ever since.

Not that this has prevented further Qaeda plots against Spain or France-like riots in Spain’s Muslim resort towns. Omar bin Ladin was denied British residency for refusing to bluntly renounce his father or his father’s ideology. Zapatero was reelected in March with a mandate to keep Spain humble. Spain currently hosts the largest number of immigrants out of any European country, and the largest portion of them are unassimilated North African Muslims. Turning down bin Laden, who claims to be an “ambassador of peace” might ignite Muslim immigrant communities. Bin Laden chose Spain for a reason, after all — the same reason John McCain chose his words carefully.

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Twilight Zone

We are now in the time period of exit polls, winks and nods, rumors and gossip. Everyone is starved for scraps of information, but, as John noted, what we are likely to get is junk food. What we learned in 2004 is that not only are the exit polls often wrong, but that voters go about their business and vote however they like.

We are now in the time period of exit polls, winks and nods, rumors and gossip. Everyone is starved for scraps of information, but, as John noted, what we are likely to get is junk food. What we learned in 2004 is that not only are the exit polls often wrong, but that voters go about their business and vote however they like.

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Commentary of the Day

Mike K, on Jennifer Rubin:

I haven’t conceded that they will lose. Second, she has the quality that Reagan had of being able to communicate over the heads of the press to the people. That is rare and needs to be cultivated by the party. McCain has it too but is an older generation.

The Republican party is changing or has already changed. The rich and the trust fund babies and the corporate executives are voting for Democrats and have been doing so for a while. They disdain religion and consider the religious to be dull witted and not worth cultivating. They care nothing about the decline of education and are more concerned with PC and diversity. The Republicans are the people who work for themselves and own small businesses, even very small. Lots of small contractors and shop owners. Sarah Palin speaks their language.

Tim Pawlenty coined the term “Sam’s Club Republicans” and that is accurate. There still needs to be the talent for think tanks and to staff administrations and run for office but the voters are self reliant, patriotic and pro-military. What issues matter to those voters ? Taxes and spending. Health care, which Republicans need to solve, and litigation.

I was on a jury pool in Newport Beach, CA a couple of years ago when there was a mistrial in voir dire. The plaintiff lawyer asked the jury how many had been sued. Everyone raised their hands ! The jury pool was full of contractors.

It ain’t over until it’s over. McCain Palin with 274 electoral votes. He’ll win FL, Penn and VA. The coal story will do to Obama what the DUI story did to Bush.

Mike K, on Jennifer Rubin:

I haven’t conceded that they will lose. Second, she has the quality that Reagan had of being able to communicate over the heads of the press to the people. That is rare and needs to be cultivated by the party. McCain has it too but is an older generation.

The Republican party is changing or has already changed. The rich and the trust fund babies and the corporate executives are voting for Democrats and have been doing so for a while. They disdain religion and consider the religious to be dull witted and not worth cultivating. They care nothing about the decline of education and are more concerned with PC and diversity. The Republicans are the people who work for themselves and own small businesses, even very small. Lots of small contractors and shop owners. Sarah Palin speaks their language.

Tim Pawlenty coined the term “Sam’s Club Republicans” and that is accurate. There still needs to be the talent for think tanks and to staff administrations and run for office but the voters are self reliant, patriotic and pro-military. What issues matter to those voters ? Taxes and spending. Health care, which Republicans need to solve, and litigation.

I was on a jury pool in Newport Beach, CA a couple of years ago when there was a mistrial in voir dire. The plaintiff lawyer asked the jury how many had been sued. Everyone raised their hands ! The jury pool was full of contractors.

It ain’t over until it’s over. McCain Palin with 274 electoral votes. He’ll win FL, Penn and VA. The coal story will do to Obama what the DUI story did to Bush.

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Bill Schneider, You Did Not Just Say That

CNN’s chief political analyst just said, with a straight face, that exit polls have historically proven “pretty accurate.” Those are the same exit polls that in 2004 saw a 5 point Kerry victory, including a 10-point Kerry triumph in Virginia (which Bush won by 8) and a 19-point Kerry advantage in Pennsylvania (which Kerry won by 2).

CNN’s chief political analyst just said, with a straight face, that exit polls have historically proven “pretty accurate.” Those are the same exit polls that in 2004 saw a 5 point Kerry victory, including a 10-point Kerry triumph in Virginia (which Bush won by 8) and a 19-point Kerry advantage in Pennsylvania (which Kerry won by 2).

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Here In Virginia

I voted in Northern Virginia this morning, after the initial rush. I had virtually no line at my polling place, but driving around I could spot several polling spots, including one in downtown Fairfax City, with lines out the door. According to a staffer in a statewide office, by 10:00 a.m. 50% of registered voters had cast ballots, an extraordinary turnout. What if 80-90% of voters turn out? It is hard to say, since Virginians don’t register by party. But keep in mind: there were several hundred thousand new voters this year, which many suspect tilt in Barack Obama’s favor.

I happened to be on campus at George Mason University, a large, mostly commuter school in Fairfax. I chatted with a volunteer for the College Republicans, Josh St. Louis, who with several friends was manning a table in the student commons building. His guess is that the student population breaks down 70-30% in Barack Obama’s favor. He and his colleagues were also dispatched to the adjoining neighborhood to canvas and run the phone bank. And the Democratic students? Lots of activity at their table. (But they smartly brought baked goods.)

I voted in Northern Virginia this morning, after the initial rush. I had virtually no line at my polling place, but driving around I could spot several polling spots, including one in downtown Fairfax City, with lines out the door. According to a staffer in a statewide office, by 10:00 a.m. 50% of registered voters had cast ballots, an extraordinary turnout. What if 80-90% of voters turn out? It is hard to say, since Virginians don’t register by party. But keep in mind: there were several hundred thousand new voters this year, which many suspect tilt in Barack Obama’s favor.

I happened to be on campus at George Mason University, a large, mostly commuter school in Fairfax. I chatted with a volunteer for the College Republicans, Josh St. Louis, who with several friends was manning a table in the student commons building. His guess is that the student population breaks down 70-30% in Barack Obama’s favor. He and his colleagues were also dispatched to the adjoining neighborhood to canvas and run the phone bank. And the Democratic students? Lots of activity at their table. (But they smartly brought baked goods.)

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Par for the Course

Thoughtful Democrats have perfected the art of rationalizing votes for Barack Obama, although they concede that some of his central themes (e.g. opposition to the surge) are tragically flawed. Mickey Kaus demonstrates:

My main hangup in voting for Obama today is his support of “card check” legislation that would eliminate the secret ballot in union recognition elections. That would be both a violation of democratic principles and a practical drag on the economy, threatening to spread Detroit/UAW-like inefficiencies while reviving the wage-price spiral of the ’70s. If Obama wins, and Democrats gain the expected majorities in Congress, “card check” will be hard to stop. I’ll even concede that it will be harder to stop “card check” under Obama than “comprehensive immigration reform” under McCain. But there’s a chance–even a good chance. It’s not easy to defend “card check” in public. Will Democrats want the public to know that carrying Big Labor’s water was their first priority upon gaining unified control of the government? Press coverage won’t help their cause. Some moderate Democratic Senators–Mark Warner?–might balk at cloture-time.

But suppose “card check” passes, and unions mount their expected organizing campaigns. If the new law has the expected semi-disastrous consequences, its impact will be partially self-limiting (unionized firms will lose business). And Democrats won’t be able to avoid accountability for any economic deterioriation. It will certainly be a lot easier to reverse “card check” than reverse the impact of a failed immigration semi-amnesty. Misguided labor laws can be repealed (think Taft-Hartley).

So, a significant piece of legislation which Obama supports would be dangerous for the country. But that’s okay, because it won’t become law. Or it’s so awful that it can’t pass. Or if it does pass, we’ll get rid of it. (As to the latter, when was the last time the GOP had 60 seats in the Senate? That is what it would take to break the inevitable filibuster Democrats would mount at the behest of Big Labor to preserve their crowning achievement.)

But why take the risk ? And doesn’t it say something about Obama that he would back a piece of legislation so extreme that his supporters have to bank on its being unacceptable to the vast majority of the public? The card check bill, like the opposition to the surge, should shed doubt on the conviction that Obama possesses brilliance and bipartisan inclinations heretofore unseen in politics. But no, it can’t be. He’s really, really smart. He understands this stuff. He just has to.

Thoughtful Democrats have perfected the art of rationalizing votes for Barack Obama, although they concede that some of his central themes (e.g. opposition to the surge) are tragically flawed. Mickey Kaus demonstrates:

My main hangup in voting for Obama today is his support of “card check” legislation that would eliminate the secret ballot in union recognition elections. That would be both a violation of democratic principles and a practical drag on the economy, threatening to spread Detroit/UAW-like inefficiencies while reviving the wage-price spiral of the ’70s. If Obama wins, and Democrats gain the expected majorities in Congress, “card check” will be hard to stop. I’ll even concede that it will be harder to stop “card check” under Obama than “comprehensive immigration reform” under McCain. But there’s a chance–even a good chance. It’s not easy to defend “card check” in public. Will Democrats want the public to know that carrying Big Labor’s water was their first priority upon gaining unified control of the government? Press coverage won’t help their cause. Some moderate Democratic Senators–Mark Warner?–might balk at cloture-time.

But suppose “card check” passes, and unions mount their expected organizing campaigns. If the new law has the expected semi-disastrous consequences, its impact will be partially self-limiting (unionized firms will lose business). And Democrats won’t be able to avoid accountability for any economic deterioriation. It will certainly be a lot easier to reverse “card check” than reverse the impact of a failed immigration semi-amnesty. Misguided labor laws can be repealed (think Taft-Hartley).

So, a significant piece of legislation which Obama supports would be dangerous for the country. But that’s okay, because it won’t become law. Or it’s so awful that it can’t pass. Or if it does pass, we’ll get rid of it. (As to the latter, when was the last time the GOP had 60 seats in the Senate? That is what it would take to break the inevitable filibuster Democrats would mount at the behest of Big Labor to preserve their crowning achievement.)

But why take the risk ? And doesn’t it say something about Obama that he would back a piece of legislation so extreme that his supporters have to bank on its being unacceptable to the vast majority of the public? The card check bill, like the opposition to the surge, should shed doubt on the conviction that Obama possesses brilliance and bipartisan inclinations heretofore unseen in politics. But no, it can’t be. He’s really, really smart. He understands this stuff. He just has to.

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Bush And Israel: Credit Where Due

Whatever else can be said about George W. Bush and his legacy on this day that his successor is being chosen, it is a near certainty that we shall not see a president quite as instinctively pro-Israel as he for a very long time to come–a president who entered office determined to pursue a policy that unambiguously favored Israel over its enemies.

In their anti-Bush book The Price of Loyalty, author Ron Suskind and his collaborator and protagonist Paul O’Neill, the treasury secretary who left the Bush administration on less than friendly terms, provided a revealing glimpse into Bush’s thinking on Israel.

On January 30, 2001, just ten days after his inauguration, Bush met with his senior national security team and, according to O’Neill as transcribed by Suskind, startled those in the room when the discussion turned to Middle East policy.

“We’re going to correct the imbalances of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict,” Bush announced. “We’re going to tilt it back toward Israel. And we’re going to be consistent. Clinton overreached, and it all fell apart. That’s why we’re in trouble.”

Bush reminisced about meeting Ariel Sharon when they shared a helicopter flight during Bush’s visit to Israel in December 1998.

“We flew over the Palestinian camps,” Bush said. “Looked real bad down there. I don’t see much we can do over there at this point. I think it’s time to pull out of that situation.”

Colin Powell protested that “such a move might be hasty” and spoke of the “roots” of the violence in the Palestinian areas. “He stressed,” wrote Suskind, “that a pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and the Israeli army. “The consequences of that could be dire,” he said, “especially for the Palestinians.”

Bush, according to Suskind and O’Neill, shrugged. “Maybe that’s the best way to get things back in balance,” he said. “Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things.”

So here was Bush, the media-caricatured simpleton allegedly in thrall to a coterie of Machiavellian advisers, a week and a half into his presidency and some nine months before Sept. 11, making it clear that he was “going to tilt” U.S. policy “back toward Israel.”

Bush has been pilloried by his critics for supposedly neglecting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for most of his presidency. Of course, what those critics usually mean but don’t say is that Bush refused to push Israel in the manner they would have preferred, that he wasn’t even-handed enough, that he saw through Yasir Arafat’s pretensions and lies, that he actually carried through on the promise he made in that first NSC meeting “to tilt it back to Israel.”

Whatever else can be said about George W. Bush and his legacy on this day that his successor is being chosen, it is a near certainty that we shall not see a president quite as instinctively pro-Israel as he for a very long time to come–a president who entered office determined to pursue a policy that unambiguously favored Israel over its enemies.

In their anti-Bush book The Price of Loyalty, author Ron Suskind and his collaborator and protagonist Paul O’Neill, the treasury secretary who left the Bush administration on less than friendly terms, provided a revealing glimpse into Bush’s thinking on Israel.

On January 30, 2001, just ten days after his inauguration, Bush met with his senior national security team and, according to O’Neill as transcribed by Suskind, startled those in the room when the discussion turned to Middle East policy.

“We’re going to correct the imbalances of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict,” Bush announced. “We’re going to tilt it back toward Israel. And we’re going to be consistent. Clinton overreached, and it all fell apart. That’s why we’re in trouble.”

Bush reminisced about meeting Ariel Sharon when they shared a helicopter flight during Bush’s visit to Israel in December 1998.

“We flew over the Palestinian camps,” Bush said. “Looked real bad down there. I don’t see much we can do over there at this point. I think it’s time to pull out of that situation.”

Colin Powell protested that “such a move might be hasty” and spoke of the “roots” of the violence in the Palestinian areas. “He stressed,” wrote Suskind, “that a pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and the Israeli army. “The consequences of that could be dire,” he said, “especially for the Palestinians.”

Bush, according to Suskind and O’Neill, shrugged. “Maybe that’s the best way to get things back in balance,” he said. “Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things.”

So here was Bush, the media-caricatured simpleton allegedly in thrall to a coterie of Machiavellian advisers, a week and a half into his presidency and some nine months before Sept. 11, making it clear that he was “going to tilt” U.S. policy “back toward Israel.”

Bush has been pilloried by his critics for supposedly neglecting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for most of his presidency. Of course, what those critics usually mean but don’t say is that Bush refused to push Israel in the manner they would have preferred, that he wasn’t even-handed enough, that he saw through Yasir Arafat’s pretensions and lies, that he actually carried through on the promise he made in that first NSC meeting “to tilt it back to Israel.”

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Bordering on the Insane

Something I’ve always found sporting about Islamic terrorist groups is their ability to make absolutely crazy, self-contradictory demands with a tone of total self-seriousness. A sense of irony is not a common trait with these folks.

Here is Hezbollah’s latest tirade:

A senior Hezbollah official on Monday said the Lebanese militant organization believes that large swaths of northern Israel belong to Lebanon, far beyond the line Israel pulled back to in 2000.

“The Zionist terror organizations moved the border from that of 1920 to that of 1923, and Lebanon lost seven villages and twenty farms. One must be cautious before moving the border to the Blue Line, because then Lebanon will lose millions of square meters,” said Nawaf Musawi, head of international relations for Hezbollah. …

He branded Blue Line [the UN-approved border between Israel and Lebanon], which runs very close to the 1949 Israel-Lebanon border known as the Green Line, as merely a “withdrawal line.”

What’s fun about all of this is that Hezbollah doesn’t endorse any Israeli borders, not even new ones that swallow up swaths of northern Israel. As Sheikh Fadlallah, Hezbollah’s ideological godfather pointed out, “our struggle will end only when this entity [Israel] is obliterated.” What’s less fun, I suppose, is all the westerners who will use this proclamation to insist that Hezbollah is a reasonable group with limited ambitions and a flexible political agenda.

Something I’ve always found sporting about Islamic terrorist groups is their ability to make absolutely crazy, self-contradictory demands with a tone of total self-seriousness. A sense of irony is not a common trait with these folks.

Here is Hezbollah’s latest tirade:

A senior Hezbollah official on Monday said the Lebanese militant organization believes that large swaths of northern Israel belong to Lebanon, far beyond the line Israel pulled back to in 2000.

“The Zionist terror organizations moved the border from that of 1920 to that of 1923, and Lebanon lost seven villages and twenty farms. One must be cautious before moving the border to the Blue Line, because then Lebanon will lose millions of square meters,” said Nawaf Musawi, head of international relations for Hezbollah. …

He branded Blue Line [the UN-approved border between Israel and Lebanon], which runs very close to the 1949 Israel-Lebanon border known as the Green Line, as merely a “withdrawal line.”

What’s fun about all of this is that Hezbollah doesn’t endorse any Israeli borders, not even new ones that swallow up swaths of northern Israel. As Sheikh Fadlallah, Hezbollah’s ideological godfather pointed out, “our struggle will end only when this entity [Israel] is obliterated.” What’s less fun, I suppose, is all the westerners who will use this proclamation to insist that Hezbollah is a reasonable group with limited ambitions and a flexible political agenda.

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