Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 27, 2008

Could It Get Any Worse?

The headline declares: “Ideology steers RNC chairman race.” Except there aren’t any ideological differences between the candidates. They are all pro-life and all appalled at President Bush’s fiscal laxity. Rather, the race seems to be an argument about who has the worst history in regard to their respective organizations and who might be the most harmful to the party’s prospects for a rebound. So far there are a few contenders.

In that vein, the current RNC Chair pronounces himself “shocked and appalled” by competitor Chip Saltsman’s racial “joke” (a CD containing  “Barack The Magic Negro” and the “Star Spanglish Banner”). Saltsman contends it is no big deal and Republicans have “good humor and common sense.” So far Saltsman isn’t getting much support or sympathy.

And really, it’s one thing to lose an election, be relegated to minority status, and  fall behind in technology and party organization. But it’s quite another to become reviled, teetering on the brink of public ostracism. If RNC leaders can’t determine what is appealing to minority voters, they should at least determine what is hurtful and hateful. Frequenting whites-only clubs and indulging in adolescent racial jokes fall into the latter category. We’ll see if the RNC can steer clear of a public relations train wreck when they vote for their new chairman in January.

The headline declares: “Ideology steers RNC chairman race.” Except there aren’t any ideological differences between the candidates. They are all pro-life and all appalled at President Bush’s fiscal laxity. Rather, the race seems to be an argument about who has the worst history in regard to their respective organizations and who might be the most harmful to the party’s prospects for a rebound. So far there are a few contenders.

In that vein, the current RNC Chair pronounces himself “shocked and appalled” by competitor Chip Saltsman’s racial “joke” (a CD containing  “Barack The Magic Negro” and the “Star Spanglish Banner”). Saltsman contends it is no big deal and Republicans have “good humor and common sense.” So far Saltsman isn’t getting much support or sympathy.

And really, it’s one thing to lose an election, be relegated to minority status, and  fall behind in technology and party organization. But it’s quite another to become reviled, teetering on the brink of public ostracism. If RNC leaders can’t determine what is appealing to minority voters, they should at least determine what is hurtful and hateful. Frequenting whites-only clubs and indulging in adolescent racial jokes fall into the latter category. We’ll see if the RNC can steer clear of a public relations train wreck when they vote for their new chairman in January.

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What’s Arabic for “Mess With the Bull, Deal with the Horns?”

Well, Hamas is learning the old lesson: “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.”

They declared an end to the cease-fire with Israel, announced a resumption of hostilities, and ratcheted up the attacks on Israel. And Israel did what Hamas never expected: they hit back, and they hit back hard.

Hamas thought they had it all figured out. They heard that Israel was going to hold a cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss a possible counteroffensive, but today is also the Jewish Sabbath. So they thought they’d have a day or two of “free” attacks before Israel would retaliate.

That turned out not only to be not only an error, but a very revealing one — it showed just how incredibly arrogant and ignorant Hamas is. Had they bothered to look at history, they would have known that not only does Israel have no problems fighting on holy days when the cause is sufficient,  Israel also tends to respond to declarations and acts of war with devastating counteroffensives.

And now that Israel is finally hitting back, there will be (as Emanuele Ottolenghi has pointed out, there already are) all sorts of hues and cries about how Israel overreacted, and responded far out of proportion to the provocation. The offenses of Hamas will be minimized or swept under the rug.

That must not happen. Fortunately, in this day and age, there is sufficient technology to get the word out.

Bookmark that site.  Keep it handy should you find yourself discussing the current fighting in the Gaza Strip. And always remember that the disproportionate numbers of casualties are not because the Israelis are more bloodthirsty, but because they have a greater respect for civilians (both protecting their own and minimizing those they injure) and Hamas is so utterly incompetent. The latter party rejoices in civilian casualties — dead and injured Israelis are signs of victory, dead and injured Palestinians are martyrs they can avenge.

Hamas is getting a very harsh lesson — Israel doesn’t bluff. And it is getting it in the only language it has ever truly understood — blood and violence.

Will they actually learn from this lesson? I hope so, but sincerely doubt it. The best we can hope for is that they will be weakened to the point where they can’t attack Israel again for at least a little while.

Well, Hamas is learning the old lesson: “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.”

They declared an end to the cease-fire with Israel, announced a resumption of hostilities, and ratcheted up the attacks on Israel. And Israel did what Hamas never expected: they hit back, and they hit back hard.

Hamas thought they had it all figured out. They heard that Israel was going to hold a cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss a possible counteroffensive, but today is also the Jewish Sabbath. So they thought they’d have a day or two of “free” attacks before Israel would retaliate.

That turned out not only to be not only an error, but a very revealing one — it showed just how incredibly arrogant and ignorant Hamas is. Had they bothered to look at history, they would have known that not only does Israel have no problems fighting on holy days when the cause is sufficient,  Israel also tends to respond to declarations and acts of war with devastating counteroffensives.

And now that Israel is finally hitting back, there will be (as Emanuele Ottolenghi has pointed out, there already are) all sorts of hues and cries about how Israel overreacted, and responded far out of proportion to the provocation. The offenses of Hamas will be minimized or swept under the rug.

That must not happen. Fortunately, in this day and age, there is sufficient technology to get the word out.

Bookmark that site.  Keep it handy should you find yourself discussing the current fighting in the Gaza Strip. And always remember that the disproportionate numbers of casualties are not because the Israelis are more bloodthirsty, but because they have a greater respect for civilians (both protecting their own and minimizing those they injure) and Hamas is so utterly incompetent. The latter party rejoices in civilian casualties — dead and injured Israelis are signs of victory, dead and injured Palestinians are martyrs they can avenge.

Hamas is getting a very harsh lesson — Israel doesn’t bluff. And it is getting it in the only language it has ever truly understood — blood and violence.

Will they actually learn from this lesson? I hope so, but sincerely doubt it. The best we can hope for is that they will be weakened to the point where they can’t attack Israel again for at least a little while.

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Re: Re: The Princess’ Diary

Abe, the cringe factor increases daily.  Even the Gray Lady isn’t impressed. In an interview with Caroline Kennedy the reporters observe:

After weeks of criticism that she had not opened up to the public or the press, Ms. Kennedy has embarked on a series of print and television interviews. But in an extensive sit-down discussion Saturday morning with The New York Times, she still seemed less like a candidate than an idea of one: eloquent but vague, largely undefined and seemingly determined to remain that way.

It is heartening to see that the New York Times is curious about how Caroline might “depart from Democratic Party orthodoxy.” Lo and behold, we find out:

Ms. Kennedy seemed to have trouble identifying one. “If we’re not comparing it to anybody specifically, it’s hard to say where I disagree,” she said. But when asked how she might differ with Governor Paterson, she refused. “I’m not going to talk about my disagreements with him,” she said. “You’ll find out over time.” Ms. Kennedy similarly declined to say how she might differ with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, though she reaffirmed that she would vote for the Democratic candidate in the mayoral contest.

So: she desperately desires to serve, after a lifetime out of politics, because she has discovered her inner identity as a plain-wrap, conventional Democrat?

To review: she has no experience, no consistent voting record, and no views of her own. I suspect Governor Paterson is wondering how he’s going to wriggle out of selecting someone so embarrassingly unsuited for office. It doesn’t really sound so great to declare, “Well she’s rich and nice and has powerful relatives.” But the sad truth is, this is all she has going for her.

Abe, the cringe factor increases daily.  Even the Gray Lady isn’t impressed. In an interview with Caroline Kennedy the reporters observe:

After weeks of criticism that she had not opened up to the public or the press, Ms. Kennedy has embarked on a series of print and television interviews. But in an extensive sit-down discussion Saturday morning with The New York Times, she still seemed less like a candidate than an idea of one: eloquent but vague, largely undefined and seemingly determined to remain that way.

It is heartening to see that the New York Times is curious about how Caroline might “depart from Democratic Party orthodoxy.” Lo and behold, we find out:

Ms. Kennedy seemed to have trouble identifying one. “If we’re not comparing it to anybody specifically, it’s hard to say where I disagree,” she said. But when asked how she might differ with Governor Paterson, she refused. “I’m not going to talk about my disagreements with him,” she said. “You’ll find out over time.” Ms. Kennedy similarly declined to say how she might differ with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, though she reaffirmed that she would vote for the Democratic candidate in the mayoral contest.

So: she desperately desires to serve, after a lifetime out of politics, because she has discovered her inner identity as a plain-wrap, conventional Democrat?

To review: she has no experience, no consistent voting record, and no views of her own. I suspect Governor Paterson is wondering how he’s going to wriggle out of selecting someone so embarrassingly unsuited for office. It doesn’t really sound so great to declare, “Well she’s rich and nice and has powerful relatives.” But the sad truth is, this is all she has going for her.

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True Justice

Yesterday, before Israel launched its counterattack against Hamas, a Hamas rocket fired from the Gaza Strip fell short of its target and killed two Palestinian sisters, ages five and thirteen. Strange, we never heard the following post-attack statement:

Once again, the cowardly, craven anti-Zionists have shown that they will stoop to any depths in their genocidal goals. The brutal deaths of these two martyrs is an atrocity and a crime committed before the whole world, and their souls cry out for vengeance. And we, the warriors of Hamas, will see that justice is brought to their murderers.

We will not rest until their killers have been identified and punished. It is incumbent on the leaders of Hamas to identify those who fired the rocket that killed the children, and to turn them over for justice. If they insist on protecting these foul, cowardly murderers,  then we will bring the justice to those who protect them.

In furtherance of that goal, we have already dispatched Justice Squads to track down and interrogate the senior leadership of Hamas. And if they fail, then we will dispatch special Martyrdom Operations, shaheeds armed with explosive devices who will sacrifice themselves to take these cowardly criminals to face Allah’s justice.

I am sorry that there will be no questions, but I now see that the Noble Warriors I personally dispatched to take me into custody and interrogate me about the godless savages who fired that rocket. And if I do not cooperate, then they have clear and specific orders to execute me for collaborating with this horrible crime.

Yesterday, before Israel launched its counterattack against Hamas, a Hamas rocket fired from the Gaza Strip fell short of its target and killed two Palestinian sisters, ages five and thirteen. Strange, we never heard the following post-attack statement:

Once again, the cowardly, craven anti-Zionists have shown that they will stoop to any depths in their genocidal goals. The brutal deaths of these two martyrs is an atrocity and a crime committed before the whole world, and their souls cry out for vengeance. And we, the warriors of Hamas, will see that justice is brought to their murderers.

We will not rest until their killers have been identified and punished. It is incumbent on the leaders of Hamas to identify those who fired the rocket that killed the children, and to turn them over for justice. If they insist on protecting these foul, cowardly murderers,  then we will bring the justice to those who protect them.

In furtherance of that goal, we have already dispatched Justice Squads to track down and interrogate the senior leadership of Hamas. And if they fail, then we will dispatch special Martyrdom Operations, shaheeds armed with explosive devices who will sacrifice themselves to take these cowardly criminals to face Allah’s justice.

I am sorry that there will be no questions, but I now see that the Noble Warriors I personally dispatched to take me into custody and interrogate me about the godless savages who fired that rocket. And if I do not cooperate, then they have clear and specific orders to execute me for collaborating with this horrible crime.

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The Criticism Begins

Less than a day after Israel began its long overdue operation against Gaza, European journalists are already dispensing their predictable wisdom on why Israel can’t win and why its actions will inevitably – and always – boomerang. Ian Black, writing in the Guardian, warns of the likelihood that support for Hamas among Palestinians will increase. Now, there are many ways one could criticize Israel’s operation and be thoughtful (for example, by saying that Israel might have acted earlier); Black’s attempt is not one of them.

First, Israel’s operation is not a PR exercise to win the hearts and minds of Palestinians. Second, Hamas already has plenty of Palestinian support – it won an election, remember? And it was a fair one, believe it or not. Third, who cares about public support? A party that has just announced it will chop off thieves’ hands, and strictly enforce all other manner of Islamic punishment is not exactly concerned about “hearts and minds.”

Repressive regimes don’t need support if they are willing and capable of terrorizing their own populations, and defeating them is not best done by convincing their frightened citizens to rebel. If in doubt, ask Iraqis how easy it was to do so under Saddam Hussein . They can now give you an honest answer.

Less than a day after Israel began its long overdue operation against Gaza, European journalists are already dispensing their predictable wisdom on why Israel can’t win and why its actions will inevitably – and always – boomerang. Ian Black, writing in the Guardian, warns of the likelihood that support for Hamas among Palestinians will increase. Now, there are many ways one could criticize Israel’s operation and be thoughtful (for example, by saying that Israel might have acted earlier); Black’s attempt is not one of them.

First, Israel’s operation is not a PR exercise to win the hearts and minds of Palestinians. Second, Hamas already has plenty of Palestinian support – it won an election, remember? And it was a fair one, believe it or not. Third, who cares about public support? A party that has just announced it will chop off thieves’ hands, and strictly enforce all other manner of Islamic punishment is not exactly concerned about “hearts and minds.”

Repressive regimes don’t need support if they are willing and capable of terrorizing their own populations, and defeating them is not best done by convincing their frightened citizens to rebel. If in doubt, ask Iraqis how easy it was to do so under Saddam Hussein . They can now give you an honest answer.

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Re: What’s at Stake in Gaza

One should listen carefully to the words uttered just minutes ago by Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the wake of the military operation in Gaza. He was not talking about toppling Hamas’s rule – as both his Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu have advocated  just days ago. Olmert, burned by his painful 2006 Lebanon experience, rejected the ambitious goals that these two contenders for Prime Ministership have made parts of their campaign.

Olmert sides with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, leader of the Labor Party and less likely contender for prime minister, who last Sunday cautioned against confusing rhetoric with policies the government is likely to pursue:

I am aware of the fact that we are living in a period that is naturally sensitive and that there are many people who think that if one makes aggressive and daring statements, then these statements solve all problems.  I have no intention to compete with any of those who issue such statements.

Today, appearing in a short press conference, the Prime Minister conveyed a similarly cautious message: The operation has a very specific goal – to give the Israeli civilians living in the southern part of the country their life back. When Hamas will agree to commit itself to “understandings” – according to which rockets can’t be launched into Israel – the goal of this operation will be achieved. Until the next round.

One should listen carefully to the words uttered just minutes ago by Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the wake of the military operation in Gaza. He was not talking about toppling Hamas’s rule – as both his Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu have advocated  just days ago. Olmert, burned by his painful 2006 Lebanon experience, rejected the ambitious goals that these two contenders for Prime Ministership have made parts of their campaign.

Olmert sides with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, leader of the Labor Party and less likely contender for prime minister, who last Sunday cautioned against confusing rhetoric with policies the government is likely to pursue:

I am aware of the fact that we are living in a period that is naturally sensitive and that there are many people who think that if one makes aggressive and daring statements, then these statements solve all problems.  I have no intention to compete with any of those who issue such statements.

Today, appearing in a short press conference, the Prime Minister conveyed a similarly cautious message: The operation has a very specific goal – to give the Israeli civilians living in the southern part of the country their life back. When Hamas will agree to commit itself to “understandings” – according to which rockets can’t be launched into Israel – the goal of this operation will be achieved. Until the next round.

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No Such Thing As A Pain-Free Recession

Peter Schiff notes:

With faith in the free markets now taking a back seat to fear and expediency, nearly the entire political spectrum agrees that the federal government must spend whatever amount is necessary to stabilize the housing market, bail out financial firms, liquefy the credit markets, create jobs and make the recession as shallow and brief as possible.

But is this a sane approach? Schiff argues that it is deeply flawed and the “cure” is far worse than the disease:

Governments cannot create but merely redirect. When the government spends, the money has to come from somewhere. If the government doesn’t have a surplus, then it must come from taxes. If taxes don’t go up, then it must come from increased borrowing. If lenders won’t lend, then it must come from the printing press, which is where all these bailouts are headed. But each additional dollar printed diminishes the value those already in circulation. Something cannot be effortlessly created from nothing.

Similarly, any jobs or other economic activity created by public-sector expansion merely comes at the expense of jobs lost in the private sector. And if the government chooses to save inefficient jobs in select private industries, more efficient jobs will be lost in others. As more factors of production come under government control, the more inefficient our entire economy becomes. Inefficiency lowers productivity, stifles competitiveness and lowers living standards.

If we look at government market interventions through this pragmatic lens, what can we expect from the coming avalanche of federal activism?

By borrowing more than it can ever pay back, the government will guarantee higher inflation for years to come, thereby diminishing the value of all that Americans have saved and acquired. For now the inflationary tide is being held back by the countervailing pressures of bursting asset bubbles in real estate and stocks, forced liquidations in commodities, and troubled retailers slashing prices to unload excess inventory. But when the dust settles, trillions of new dollars will remain, chasing a diminished supply of goods. We will be left with 1970s-style stagflation, only with a much sharper contraction and significantly higher inflation.

The reasons why politicians pursue this course, regardless of the historical record of failure, are not hard to discern. It is more than mere economic illiteracy.

First, there is the “not on my watch” phenomenon we saw so clearly in President Bush’s foolhardy capitulation on the car bailout. The surest way to  renewed economic growth and a robust recovery is to allow failing businesses to fail (or, more accurately, to reorganize), so capital and labor can be redirected to the most productive uses, which in turn will generate wealth and produce more long-term employment. But the short term pain and the political price inherent in a headline like “U.S. Car Industry Dies In Bush Presidency” is simply intolerable for most politicians. We shouldn’t expect any different result from President Obama.

Second, Democrats like big government regardless of its utility in “creating” jobs. Their allies and political supporters — academics, civil service workers and labor unions, to name a few — enjoy the benefits of big government and the employment and power its expansion bestows upon them. Expansion of government from their perspective is a worthy goal in itself. The notion that we should instead help revive the private sector  is anathema to those who have comparatively little to gain by growth in non-governmental, non-unionized firms.

Fred Barnes notes that the private sector doesn’t figure in the plans or the rhetoric of President-elect Obama:

He rarely mentions the private sector. And investment incentives would involve tax cuts for the wealthy, a no-no in the ideology of liberal Democrats like Obama. As president-elect, Obama has talked frequently about the economy but practically never in the language of free markets. Incentives? He’s mentioned “incentives for fuel-efficient cars” and “economic incentives that would be helpful” to Iran to improve relations, but not for capital investment. “Across-the-board tax cuts” or “corporate tax cuts” or “tax cuts to increase investment”? Those phrases haven’t crossed Obama’s lips.

How does this end? If the recession persists, the Democrats may suffer losses in 2010 and we may see a course correction. If the economy picks up despite the Keynesian folly, Democrats will claim credit — as the mound of debt and inflationary pressures build, driving us further along the road to a 1970s economic debacle. But Schiff is right: sooner or later losses must be felt. It’s simply a question of when and how extreme the problems will become before voters begin to  realize that “if we put our faith in the power of government to make the pain go away, we will live with the consequences for generations.”

Peter Schiff notes:

With faith in the free markets now taking a back seat to fear and expediency, nearly the entire political spectrum agrees that the federal government must spend whatever amount is necessary to stabilize the housing market, bail out financial firms, liquefy the credit markets, create jobs and make the recession as shallow and brief as possible.

But is this a sane approach? Schiff argues that it is deeply flawed and the “cure” is far worse than the disease:

Governments cannot create but merely redirect. When the government spends, the money has to come from somewhere. If the government doesn’t have a surplus, then it must come from taxes. If taxes don’t go up, then it must come from increased borrowing. If lenders won’t lend, then it must come from the printing press, which is where all these bailouts are headed. But each additional dollar printed diminishes the value those already in circulation. Something cannot be effortlessly created from nothing.

Similarly, any jobs or other economic activity created by public-sector expansion merely comes at the expense of jobs lost in the private sector. And if the government chooses to save inefficient jobs in select private industries, more efficient jobs will be lost in others. As more factors of production come under government control, the more inefficient our entire economy becomes. Inefficiency lowers productivity, stifles competitiveness and lowers living standards.

If we look at government market interventions through this pragmatic lens, what can we expect from the coming avalanche of federal activism?

By borrowing more than it can ever pay back, the government will guarantee higher inflation for years to come, thereby diminishing the value of all that Americans have saved and acquired. For now the inflationary tide is being held back by the countervailing pressures of bursting asset bubbles in real estate and stocks, forced liquidations in commodities, and troubled retailers slashing prices to unload excess inventory. But when the dust settles, trillions of new dollars will remain, chasing a diminished supply of goods. We will be left with 1970s-style stagflation, only with a much sharper contraction and significantly higher inflation.

The reasons why politicians pursue this course, regardless of the historical record of failure, are not hard to discern. It is more than mere economic illiteracy.

First, there is the “not on my watch” phenomenon we saw so clearly in President Bush’s foolhardy capitulation on the car bailout. The surest way to  renewed economic growth and a robust recovery is to allow failing businesses to fail (or, more accurately, to reorganize), so capital and labor can be redirected to the most productive uses, which in turn will generate wealth and produce more long-term employment. But the short term pain and the political price inherent in a headline like “U.S. Car Industry Dies In Bush Presidency” is simply intolerable for most politicians. We shouldn’t expect any different result from President Obama.

Second, Democrats like big government regardless of its utility in “creating” jobs. Their allies and political supporters — academics, civil service workers and labor unions, to name a few — enjoy the benefits of big government and the employment and power its expansion bestows upon them. Expansion of government from their perspective is a worthy goal in itself. The notion that we should instead help revive the private sector  is anathema to those who have comparatively little to gain by growth in non-governmental, non-unionized firms.

Fred Barnes notes that the private sector doesn’t figure in the plans or the rhetoric of President-elect Obama:

He rarely mentions the private sector. And investment incentives would involve tax cuts for the wealthy, a no-no in the ideology of liberal Democrats like Obama. As president-elect, Obama has talked frequently about the economy but practically never in the language of free markets. Incentives? He’s mentioned “incentives for fuel-efficient cars” and “economic incentives that would be helpful” to Iran to improve relations, but not for capital investment. “Across-the-board tax cuts” or “corporate tax cuts” or “tax cuts to increase investment”? Those phrases haven’t crossed Obama’s lips.

How does this end? If the recession persists, the Democrats may suffer losses in 2010 and we may see a course correction. If the economy picks up despite the Keynesian folly, Democrats will claim credit — as the mound of debt and inflationary pressures build, driving us further along the road to a 1970s economic debacle. But Schiff is right: sooner or later losses must be felt. It’s simply a question of when and how extreme the problems will become before voters begin to  realize that “if we put our faith in the power of government to make the pain go away, we will live with the consequences for generations.”

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You Can’t Trust The People

As the continual backlash from California’s Proposition 8 continues to unfold, the issue of gay marriage is being argued in other states across the nation. And New Hampshire is no different.

Back in 2006, the Democrats had their greatest successes ever in the Granite State. Democrats not only held on to the governorship, but also took majorities in the State House of Representatives, the State Senate, the Governor’s Council, and both U.S. House seats.  The Republicans held on to the two U.S. Senate seats, but only because neither was up for election. (John E. Sununu lost his seat last month, and Judd Gregg is considered to be in serious trouble for 2010, when his term is up.)

The Democrats wasted no time in pushing through their agenda. Oddly enough, though, their priorities were completely divorced from the issues they ran on. In one particular case, they passed almost immediately a Civil Unions law that not a single candidate had defended before the election, and it became effective last January.

Less than a year into the civil unions, though, there’s another push to expand that into gay marriage. State Representative Jim Splaine  (a leading Democrat) has filed a bill to change the wording of the civil union law to use the “m-word.” 

On the surface, it’s radically different from the California case, where the courts decided that bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. In New Hampshire, it was done more properly — with a vote by the state’s elected representatives, and signed by the governor.

But below the surface, there is a common theme here — and it is a troubling one. In both cases, the pro-gay marriage forces acted in a way to minimize public participation.

In California, the advocates tried to win at the ballots, and lost — repeatedly. So they did an end run around the democratic process, shut the general public out of the whole affair, and try to win by fiat — at which point they hoped to present the matter as a fait accompli to the people.

In New Hampshire, they didn’t quite have the chutzpah to go that route. They passed the law immediately after the elections, so they would have the most time to get the public used to the concept before they could be held accountable by the voters. And now, not even two months after the election (and 22 months before the next one), they’re going for the next step — going beyond civil unions and granting gay couples the right to call themselves “married.” If they follow the same pattern, the bill will be signed into law within a few months, become effective January 1, 2010, and be brushed off as “old news” the next time the people of New Hampshire get to vote in November of 2012.

When the general public is asked its opinion on gay marriage, they usually say no — and in decisive numbers. So the advocates appear to have given up on the whole democratic process and  dedicated themselves to achieving their goals without going anywhere near the ballot box — instead of trying to convince the general populace that their cause is the right one, they want to shut the people out of the decision process.

There are some very good arguments to be made in favor of gay marriage. (Personally, I’ve made a lot of them.) But the cause of gay marriage is not so essential that it needs to be brought about by scrapping the fundamental precepts of a democracy.

And it speaks volumes about the nature of the most vocal advocates of gay marriage that they consider the issue too important to allow the people to have their say.

As the continual backlash from California’s Proposition 8 continues to unfold, the issue of gay marriage is being argued in other states across the nation. And New Hampshire is no different.

Back in 2006, the Democrats had their greatest successes ever in the Granite State. Democrats not only held on to the governorship, but also took majorities in the State House of Representatives, the State Senate, the Governor’s Council, and both U.S. House seats.  The Republicans held on to the two U.S. Senate seats, but only because neither was up for election. (John E. Sununu lost his seat last month, and Judd Gregg is considered to be in serious trouble for 2010, when his term is up.)

The Democrats wasted no time in pushing through their agenda. Oddly enough, though, their priorities were completely divorced from the issues they ran on. In one particular case, they passed almost immediately a Civil Unions law that not a single candidate had defended before the election, and it became effective last January.

Less than a year into the civil unions, though, there’s another push to expand that into gay marriage. State Representative Jim Splaine  (a leading Democrat) has filed a bill to change the wording of the civil union law to use the “m-word.” 

On the surface, it’s radically different from the California case, where the courts decided that bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. In New Hampshire, it was done more properly — with a vote by the state’s elected representatives, and signed by the governor.

But below the surface, there is a common theme here — and it is a troubling one. In both cases, the pro-gay marriage forces acted in a way to minimize public participation.

In California, the advocates tried to win at the ballots, and lost — repeatedly. So they did an end run around the democratic process, shut the general public out of the whole affair, and try to win by fiat — at which point they hoped to present the matter as a fait accompli to the people.

In New Hampshire, they didn’t quite have the chutzpah to go that route. They passed the law immediately after the elections, so they would have the most time to get the public used to the concept before they could be held accountable by the voters. And now, not even two months after the election (and 22 months before the next one), they’re going for the next step — going beyond civil unions and granting gay couples the right to call themselves “married.” If they follow the same pattern, the bill will be signed into law within a few months, become effective January 1, 2010, and be brushed off as “old news” the next time the people of New Hampshire get to vote in November of 2012.

When the general public is asked its opinion on gay marriage, they usually say no — and in decisive numbers. So the advocates appear to have given up on the whole democratic process and  dedicated themselves to achieving their goals without going anywhere near the ballot box — instead of trying to convince the general populace that their cause is the right one, they want to shut the people out of the decision process.

There are some very good arguments to be made in favor of gay marriage. (Personally, I’ve made a lot of them.) But the cause of gay marriage is not so essential that it needs to be brought about by scrapping the fundamental precepts of a democracy.

And it speaks volumes about the nature of the most vocal advocates of gay marriage that they consider the issue too important to allow the people to have their say.

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TR, Still a Conservative

Ronald Pestrito, a professor at Hillsdale College, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal making the umpteenth argument for why “Theodore Roosevelt Was No Conservative.” His case rests almost entirely on Roosevelt’s 1910 New Nationalism speech in which he laid out the benefits of a modest welfare state. As it happens, in the fall issue of World Affairs Journal, I made the case for why TR was very much a conservative.

One of the  major points I tried to make was that, while at times his rhetoric was incendiary (and the New Nationalism speech is evidence of that), Roosevelt’s actions when in office were actually pretty restrained. And even his post-presidential proposals for the growth of government were pretty limited by comparison with what we have today. In many ways, TR anticipated his cousin’s New Deal. Given that all but the most extreme libertarians have come to terms with the New Deal and considerable post-New Deal expansion of government (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid), it hardly makes sense to denounce TR as some kind of lefty for anticipating the kind of reforms that would make our capitalist system more stable and durable.

Pestrito doesn’t mention at all Roosevelt’s record in foreign and military affairs but this is one of the main areas where he was undeniably a conservative and his record should provide inspiration for today’s generation of conservatives.

My piece in World Affairs Journal provides a much fuller argument along those lines. You might even say it provides a “pre-buttal” of Pestrito’s article.

Ronald Pestrito, a professor at Hillsdale College, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal making the umpteenth argument for why “Theodore Roosevelt Was No Conservative.” His case rests almost entirely on Roosevelt’s 1910 New Nationalism speech in which he laid out the benefits of a modest welfare state. As it happens, in the fall issue of World Affairs Journal, I made the case for why TR was very much a conservative.

One of the  major points I tried to make was that, while at times his rhetoric was incendiary (and the New Nationalism speech is evidence of that), Roosevelt’s actions when in office were actually pretty restrained. And even his post-presidential proposals for the growth of government were pretty limited by comparison with what we have today. In many ways, TR anticipated his cousin’s New Deal. Given that all but the most extreme libertarians have come to terms with the New Deal and considerable post-New Deal expansion of government (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid), it hardly makes sense to denounce TR as some kind of lefty for anticipating the kind of reforms that would make our capitalist system more stable and durable.

Pestrito doesn’t mention at all Roosevelt’s record in foreign and military affairs but this is one of the main areas where he was undeniably a conservative and his record should provide inspiration for today’s generation of conservatives.

My piece in World Affairs Journal provides a much fuller argument along those lines. You might even say it provides a “pre-buttal” of Pestrito’s article.

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What’s at Stake in Gaza

The war that Israel joined today is superficially concerned with stopping Hamas’ rocket fire, but substantially it is much more important than that. It is Israel’s biggest military engagement since the 2006 Hezbollah war, and therefore it will be a retroactive judgment on that engagement.

The 2006 war re-defined the concept of Arab victory against Israel. Hezbollah is perceived as having won not because it displayed military superiority over Israel, killed more IDF soldiers than the IDF killed Hezbollah, or drove the IDF out of Lebanon through force of arms. The perception is due to a more modest metric: Hezbollah’s ability to thwart Israel from accomplishing the objectives the government announced at the beginning of the war, and Hezbollah’s ability to maintain a consistent level of rocket fire throughout the war.

Hamas, like Hezbollah, is a member of the Iranian-allied resistance bloc of the Middle East, and is an adherent to this new definition of Arab victory. Hamas believes that, like Hezbollah, it will be victorious if it can sustain its attacks on Israel despite the Israeli campaign to stop them. And like Hezbollah, Hamas will seek a cessation of hostilities that will be called victory so long the cessation is accomplished in the context of Israel’s inability to stop Hamas’ rockets. Such a cease-fire is possible, Hamas believes, because Israel is a superpower with feet of clay, technologically powerful but spiritually weak and quickly cowed by international condemnation.

Israel’s job is not necessarily to topple Hamas rule — that would be a tall order, being that there is no competent Fatah force to replace Hamas in Gaza — but to humiliate the swaggering resistance, to kill as many of its leaders and militants as possible, and to demonstrate to Hamas’ allies that the IDF and Israeli government learned the right lessons from the 2006 war. This will require more strikes like those of this morning, and it will require the IDF to stop Hamas’ rocket fire — either through military dominance, or by forcing Hamas to conclude that it must cease its attacks lest its rule be terminated. The former is much more likely than the latter.

The war that Israel joined today is superficially concerned with stopping Hamas’ rocket fire, but substantially it is much more important than that. It is Israel’s biggest military engagement since the 2006 Hezbollah war, and therefore it will be a retroactive judgment on that engagement.

The 2006 war re-defined the concept of Arab victory against Israel. Hezbollah is perceived as having won not because it displayed military superiority over Israel, killed more IDF soldiers than the IDF killed Hezbollah, or drove the IDF out of Lebanon through force of arms. The perception is due to a more modest metric: Hezbollah’s ability to thwart Israel from accomplishing the objectives the government announced at the beginning of the war, and Hezbollah’s ability to maintain a consistent level of rocket fire throughout the war.

Hamas, like Hezbollah, is a member of the Iranian-allied resistance bloc of the Middle East, and is an adherent to this new definition of Arab victory. Hamas believes that, like Hezbollah, it will be victorious if it can sustain its attacks on Israel despite the Israeli campaign to stop them. And like Hezbollah, Hamas will seek a cessation of hostilities that will be called victory so long the cessation is accomplished in the context of Israel’s inability to stop Hamas’ rockets. Such a cease-fire is possible, Hamas believes, because Israel is a superpower with feet of clay, technologically powerful but spiritually weak and quickly cowed by international condemnation.

Israel’s job is not necessarily to topple Hamas rule — that would be a tall order, being that there is no competent Fatah force to replace Hamas in Gaza — but to humiliate the swaggering resistance, to kill as many of its leaders and militants as possible, and to demonstrate to Hamas’ allies that the IDF and Israeli government learned the right lessons from the 2006 war. This will require more strikes like those of this morning, and it will require the IDF to stop Hamas’ rocket fire — either through military dominance, or by forcing Hamas to conclude that it must cease its attacks lest its rule be terminated. The former is much more likely than the latter.

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Counterattack on Gaza

Israel launched a massive air campaign against the infrastructure of Hamas terror in Gaza — which is what it actually means when you read in the media that Israel’s strike was on “Palestinian security forces.” It will be a day or two until it becomes clear what happened and how successful the mission was. But there are three things to say about it immediately. First, when you hear people call on Israel to show “restraint,” remember that “restraint” is precisely what Israel has been showing for the past three and a half years as Hamas has launched thousands of Kassam rockets at Sderot and other locations inside Israel. Second, this was not an attack but a counter-attack, almost purely an act of self-defense that featured extensive warnings in the days before it was launched in an effort to minimize civilian casualties. Third, the Hamas terror bases were evidently located in civilian neighborhoods. According to international law, the responsibility for any civilian casualties in such a situation rests entirely with those who a) failed to wear uniforms and b) interwove themselves with non-combatants. The fault is Hamas’s, not Israel’s.

Israel launched a massive air campaign against the infrastructure of Hamas terror in Gaza — which is what it actually means when you read in the media that Israel’s strike was on “Palestinian security forces.” It will be a day or two until it becomes clear what happened and how successful the mission was. But there are three things to say about it immediately. First, when you hear people call on Israel to show “restraint,” remember that “restraint” is precisely what Israel has been showing for the past three and a half years as Hamas has launched thousands of Kassam rockets at Sderot and other locations inside Israel. Second, this was not an attack but a counter-attack, almost purely an act of self-defense that featured extensive warnings in the days before it was launched in an effort to minimize civilian casualties. Third, the Hamas terror bases were evidently located in civilian neighborhoods. According to international law, the responsibility for any civilian casualties in such a situation rests entirely with those who a) failed to wear uniforms and b) interwove themselves with non-combatants. The fault is Hamas’s, not Israel’s.

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Re: The Princess’ Diary

Jennifer, this is the best part:

Records show Kennedy did not pull the lever for any of her fellow Democrats in city primary races for mayor in 1989, 1993 and 1997 and 2005, which Republicans went on to win three out of four times in the general election.

She was also AWOL for the primary and general elections in 1994, when Sen. Daniel Moynihan was running for reelection to the seat Kennedy hopes to hold.

[…]

Records show she also took a pass on the 2002 gubernatorial primary as well as the general election, when Democrat Carl McCall took on incumbent Republican George Pataki.

Caroline Kenndy claims that 9/11 inspired her to get involved in government, yet she just couldn’t manage to make it to the polls in 2002 and 2005. Which leads me to believe she comes closer to the truth in citing her other big inspiration: Barack Obama. Although, I don’t know that he provided inspiration, so much as opportunity. During an interview with the Associated Press, in Manhattan’s Gee Whiz diner, she said,

I am an unconventional choice. I understand that. I haven’t pursued the traditional path. But I think that in our public life today, we’re starting to see there are many ways into public life and public service.

There sure are. You can write a couple of books and run against the exiting president; you can do a stint as the president’s spouse and purchase a home in a state of your choice; you can change a city’s laws to give yourself one more term to change the city’s laws; and you can try to outbid the next guy for an upcoming senate seat. So, you can probably say, my name is Kennedy and I’m in the mood.

The Obama age has already ushered in fundamental changes to the Republic and the President-elect hasn’t even been sworn in. Industries no longer have to compete, politicians no longer have to run, and voters no longer have to care. Historic firsts, as they say. Gee whiz.

Jennifer, this is the best part:

Records show Kennedy did not pull the lever for any of her fellow Democrats in city primary races for mayor in 1989, 1993 and 1997 and 2005, which Republicans went on to win three out of four times in the general election.

She was also AWOL for the primary and general elections in 1994, when Sen. Daniel Moynihan was running for reelection to the seat Kennedy hopes to hold.

[…]

Records show she also took a pass on the 2002 gubernatorial primary as well as the general election, when Democrat Carl McCall took on incumbent Republican George Pataki.

Caroline Kenndy claims that 9/11 inspired her to get involved in government, yet she just couldn’t manage to make it to the polls in 2002 and 2005. Which leads me to believe she comes closer to the truth in citing her other big inspiration: Barack Obama. Although, I don’t know that he provided inspiration, so much as opportunity. During an interview with the Associated Press, in Manhattan’s Gee Whiz diner, she said,

I am an unconventional choice. I understand that. I haven’t pursued the traditional path. But I think that in our public life today, we’re starting to see there are many ways into public life and public service.

There sure are. You can write a couple of books and run against the exiting president; you can do a stint as the president’s spouse and purchase a home in a state of your choice; you can change a city’s laws to give yourself one more term to change the city’s laws; and you can try to outbid the next guy for an upcoming senate seat. So, you can probably say, my name is Kennedy and I’m in the mood.

The Obama age has already ushered in fundamental changes to the Republic and the President-elect hasn’t even been sworn in. Industries no longer have to compete, politicians no longer have to run, and voters no longer have to care. Historic firsts, as they say. Gee whiz.

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The Princess’ Diary: It Was a Bad Week

Caroline Kennedy’s coronation for the U.S. Senate has been disrupted by, well, by Caroline Kennedy. The media is shocked, shocked to learn she’s a political dilettante and a bit foolish. We learn that she was cheap, or rather disinterested I think, when it came to financially supporting New York Democrats. Then, she channels a bit of Queen Victoria and Bob Dole in explaining her infrequent voting record:  “I was dismayed by my voting record.” (Will she be dismayed by her voting record if she gets to the Senate? It boggles the mind, really.)

Her list of errors is growing — from ducking the press to refusing to reveal her finances (hint: she’s really, really rich) to seeming unawareness that it is poor form to sound iffy on support for the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City. (Her handlers have since told her as much and she’s now reversed course, making clear her devotion to all things and people Democratic.)

But these individual missteps stem from a central problem: she is an unserious candidate running at a serious time for a real office. New York, perhaps more acutely and immediately than the rest of the country, is feeling the impact of the financial meltdown. Upstate New York, as it had throughout Hillary Clinton’s tenure, has more than its share of economic problems. And the country as a whole has some fairly daunting challenges. Given all this do the media elites expect Princess Caroline to be welcomed by the little people — and real pols — with open arms? Not so much, it seems.

Governor Paterson has every reason to spare his party and state from the mockery that is sure to follow should he elevate Caroline to the Senate. I’m sure he or President-elect Obama could come up with some suitably untaxing position in which she can fulfill her lifelong dream (a sort of repressed memory which recently surfaced) to serve in political office. Or, she could spend some time learning about her state and the nation’s issues, supporting other politicians and learning how to campaign for office. That might be best for all concerned, especially Governor Paterson who might be the most “dismayed” by the inequitable query that would follow Kennedy’s selection: This is the best New York can do?

Caroline Kennedy’s coronation for the U.S. Senate has been disrupted by, well, by Caroline Kennedy. The media is shocked, shocked to learn she’s a political dilettante and a bit foolish. We learn that she was cheap, or rather disinterested I think, when it came to financially supporting New York Democrats. Then, she channels a bit of Queen Victoria and Bob Dole in explaining her infrequent voting record:  “I was dismayed by my voting record.” (Will she be dismayed by her voting record if she gets to the Senate? It boggles the mind, really.)

Her list of errors is growing — from ducking the press to refusing to reveal her finances (hint: she’s really, really rich) to seeming unawareness that it is poor form to sound iffy on support for the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City. (Her handlers have since told her as much and she’s now reversed course, making clear her devotion to all things and people Democratic.)

But these individual missteps stem from a central problem: she is an unserious candidate running at a serious time for a real office. New York, perhaps more acutely and immediately than the rest of the country, is feeling the impact of the financial meltdown. Upstate New York, as it had throughout Hillary Clinton’s tenure, has more than its share of economic problems. And the country as a whole has some fairly daunting challenges. Given all this do the media elites expect Princess Caroline to be welcomed by the little people — and real pols — with open arms? Not so much, it seems.

Governor Paterson has every reason to spare his party and state from the mockery that is sure to follow should he elevate Caroline to the Senate. I’m sure he or President-elect Obama could come up with some suitably untaxing position in which she can fulfill her lifelong dream (a sort of repressed memory which recently surfaced) to serve in political office. Or, she could spend some time learning about her state and the nation’s issues, supporting other politicians and learning how to campaign for office. That might be best for all concerned, especially Governor Paterson who might be the most “dismayed” by the inequitable query that would follow Kennedy’s selection: This is the best New York can do?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

We have a new frontrunner in the “haven’t got a clue” division of the RNC Chairmanship contest: “A candidate for the Republican National Committee chairmanship said Friday the CD he sent committee members for Christmas — which included a song titled ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ — was clearly intended as a joke.The title of the song about President-elect Barack Obama was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column.’I think most people recognize political satire when they see it,’ Tennessee Republican Chip Saltsman told CNN. ‘I think RNC members understand that.'” Not sure about the RNC members, but I think some conservatives are wondering just how low the GOP’s percentage of the minority vote will go if Republicans keep up this sort of thing.

And the Washington Post remarks: “Another candidate to lead the GOP, South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson, drew headlines this fall by resigning his membership of 12 years in a whites-only country club, weeks before launching his run for the national job. The incidents for both men come as Republicans are reeling from losing the presidency and dozens of House and Senate seats, and as many in the party are trying to improve relations with African Americans, who voted in record numbers for Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates last month.” Hmm. You think it would help if their leadership stopped making racially charged jokes and attending whites-only clubs?

A kernel of news in this interview: Bill Simon may run for California Governor in 2010.

Norm Coleman’s plight might not be quite as dire as the MSM portrayed it, in part because he can still bring, at a later time, his claim that some ballots were double counted. But there’s no doubt that Al Franken has a clearer path to victory.

Mitt Romney’s personal New Year’s resolution? “Stop wearing a suit and tie to bed.” (“Show some self-deprecating sense of humor so people won’t think I’m robotic” might be closer to the truth.)

Bob Herbert tells us all to stop being “stupid” about the economy and declares: “Somehow, over the past few decades, that has become the American way: to pay for things — from wars to Wall Street bonuses to flat-screen TVs to video games — with money that wasn’t there.” So, now we’re going to pay for a trillion dollars in “shovel-ready” projects and  billions more on items like nationalized healthcare with money that isn’t there. But that’s perfectly okay. Got it?

George Will sums up: “Forty years ago, Vietnam was a disaster and the Great Society a disappointment as Johnson limped back to Texas. Today, there is more Johnsonian confidence in government’s competence than at any time since Johnson’s policies shattered such confidence.”

I think this take on Blago-gate is essentially correct: “The governor of Illinois is not going down without a fight. He is now seeking subpoena’s for Emanuel and other members of Obama’s staff with regard to his Impeachment Proceedings. Emanuel and Obama should publicly ask Fitzgerald to make all tapes and transcripts of Obama staff public asap. I suspect they won’t because the tapes may not prove criminal conduct by them, but, I suspect would not hold up in the court of public opinion. Unless they get this behind them, Blago is going to haunt them daily.” By getting into  a back-and-forth with Blago  the Senate seat and his own Congressional seat, Rahm Emanuel showed none of his famed political sophistication. He must have know the feds could be listening, yet he waded into Blago’s ethical goo anyway. Not smart at all.

Amidst all the mumbo-jumbo about government “creating jobs,” Larry Summers promises that the stimulus plan will include “both government spending and tax cuts to raise incomes and promote recovery.” Well, if he’s serious about meanginful tax cuts to spur private sector growth and job creation he’s going to find a lot of Republican support.

Meanwhile, we learn that the President-elect spent two hours talking to FBI agents and the U.S. attorneys. Seems like an awful lot of time for someone who didn’t have any idea “what was happening.”

We have a new frontrunner in the “haven’t got a clue” division of the RNC Chairmanship contest: “A candidate for the Republican National Committee chairmanship said Friday the CD he sent committee members for Christmas — which included a song titled ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ — was clearly intended as a joke.The title of the song about President-elect Barack Obama was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column.’I think most people recognize political satire when they see it,’ Tennessee Republican Chip Saltsman told CNN. ‘I think RNC members understand that.'” Not sure about the RNC members, but I think some conservatives are wondering just how low the GOP’s percentage of the minority vote will go if Republicans keep up this sort of thing.

And the Washington Post remarks: “Another candidate to lead the GOP, South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson, drew headlines this fall by resigning his membership of 12 years in a whites-only country club, weeks before launching his run for the national job. The incidents for both men come as Republicans are reeling from losing the presidency and dozens of House and Senate seats, and as many in the party are trying to improve relations with African Americans, who voted in record numbers for Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates last month.” Hmm. You think it would help if their leadership stopped making racially charged jokes and attending whites-only clubs?

A kernel of news in this interview: Bill Simon may run for California Governor in 2010.

Norm Coleman’s plight might not be quite as dire as the MSM portrayed it, in part because he can still bring, at a later time, his claim that some ballots were double counted. But there’s no doubt that Al Franken has a clearer path to victory.

Mitt Romney’s personal New Year’s resolution? “Stop wearing a suit and tie to bed.” (“Show some self-deprecating sense of humor so people won’t think I’m robotic” might be closer to the truth.)

Bob Herbert tells us all to stop being “stupid” about the economy and declares: “Somehow, over the past few decades, that has become the American way: to pay for things — from wars to Wall Street bonuses to flat-screen TVs to video games — with money that wasn’t there.” So, now we’re going to pay for a trillion dollars in “shovel-ready” projects and  billions more on items like nationalized healthcare with money that isn’t there. But that’s perfectly okay. Got it?

George Will sums up: “Forty years ago, Vietnam was a disaster and the Great Society a disappointment as Johnson limped back to Texas. Today, there is more Johnsonian confidence in government’s competence than at any time since Johnson’s policies shattered such confidence.”

I think this take on Blago-gate is essentially correct: “The governor of Illinois is not going down without a fight. He is now seeking subpoena’s for Emanuel and other members of Obama’s staff with regard to his Impeachment Proceedings. Emanuel and Obama should publicly ask Fitzgerald to make all tapes and transcripts of Obama staff public asap. I suspect they won’t because the tapes may not prove criminal conduct by them, but, I suspect would not hold up in the court of public opinion. Unless they get this behind them, Blago is going to haunt them daily.” By getting into  a back-and-forth with Blago  the Senate seat and his own Congressional seat, Rahm Emanuel showed none of his famed political sophistication. He must have know the feds could be listening, yet he waded into Blago’s ethical goo anyway. Not smart at all.

Amidst all the mumbo-jumbo about government “creating jobs,” Larry Summers promises that the stimulus plan will include “both government spending and tax cuts to raise incomes and promote recovery.” Well, if he’s serious about meanginful tax cuts to spur private sector growth and job creation he’s going to find a lot of Republican support.

Meanwhile, we learn that the President-elect spent two hours talking to FBI agents and the U.S. attorneys. Seems like an awful lot of time for someone who didn’t have any idea “what was happening.”

Read Less




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