Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 2009

Promising Elections In Iraq

Successful elections were held today in many Iraqi provinces. Instead of succumbing to the pressures of radical Islamist forces, all signs indicate that today’s voters swarmed the polls despite the known threat of terrorist attacks on polling stations and on voters. The outcomes are not yet known, but I am cautiously optimistic that today signals a strong step in the right direction.

The British Telegraph reports:

The last time Iraqis voted the city was an al-Qaeda stronghold and its mosques issued bloodcurdling warnings to stay away from the polls. On Saturday clerics were using the loudspeakers once again, but this time urging the town’s population to vote.

As a result, turnout seemed as high in Fallujah as elsewhere in the country as many of Iraq’s 15 million voters took part in local elections held in 14 of the country’s 18 provinces – everywhere except Kurdistan and the city of Kirkuk. More than 14,000 candidates stood for 440 seats in what could prove to be a turning point in Iraq’s recent bloody history.

The Campaigning was peaceful by recent Iraqi standards, and the Iraqi police and army forces provided all the security without calling on Coalition backup.

The election, then, appears not only to have been a sign of democratic success, but also a signal that Iraqi security forces are able to maintain peace. All this is preliminary, since the election ended only a few hours ago, but it is surely worth noting.

The Telegraph article, however, buries the lede in the penultimate paragraph: “Jobs and housing were the main issues in the election.”

A turn to domestic politics, away from the dominant focus on security, is without a doubt the best news of all.

Successful elections were held today in many Iraqi provinces. Instead of succumbing to the pressures of radical Islamist forces, all signs indicate that today’s voters swarmed the polls despite the known threat of terrorist attacks on polling stations and on voters. The outcomes are not yet known, but I am cautiously optimistic that today signals a strong step in the right direction.

The British Telegraph reports:

The last time Iraqis voted the city was an al-Qaeda stronghold and its mosques issued bloodcurdling warnings to stay away from the polls. On Saturday clerics were using the loudspeakers once again, but this time urging the town’s population to vote.

As a result, turnout seemed as high in Fallujah as elsewhere in the country as many of Iraq’s 15 million voters took part in local elections held in 14 of the country’s 18 provinces – everywhere except Kurdistan and the city of Kirkuk. More than 14,000 candidates stood for 440 seats in what could prove to be a turning point in Iraq’s recent bloody history.

The Campaigning was peaceful by recent Iraqi standards, and the Iraqi police and army forces provided all the security without calling on Coalition backup.

The election, then, appears not only to have been a sign of democratic success, but also a signal that Iraqi security forces are able to maintain peace. All this is preliminary, since the election ended only a few hours ago, but it is surely worth noting.

The Telegraph article, however, buries the lede in the penultimate paragraph: “Jobs and housing were the main issues in the election.”

A turn to domestic politics, away from the dominant focus on security, is without a doubt the best news of all.

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Enough?

ABC News tells us about the Senate Finance Committee report on Tom Daschle’s nomination:

The report indicates that Daschle’s failure to pay more than $101,000 taxes on the car and driver a wealthy friend let him use from 2005 through 2007 is not the only tax issue the former Senate Majority Leader has been dealing with since his December nomination prompted a more thorough examination of his income tax returns.

Mr. Daschle also didn’t report $83,333 in consulting income in 2007.

The Senate Finance Committee Report also notes that during the vetting process, President Obama’s Transition Team “identified certain donations that did not qualify as charitable deductions because they were not paid to qualifying organizations.  Daschle adjusted his contribution deductions on his amended returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007 to remove these amounts and add additional contributions.” This adjustment meant a reduction in the amount he contributed to charitable foundations of $14,963 from 2005 through 2007.

And the President tells us that Wall Street bonuses are “shameful”? At some point, the hypocrisy level must rise high enough for even the most squishy Senators to say “enough.” There just aren’t any excuses for this.  The number of tax cheats and the dollar value of their “errors” is becoming intolerable — at least one would hope.

But, of course, the Senators played dumb with Tim Geithner, accepting the lamest “I forgot” excuse for his tax “errors,” and passing him along to oversee the IRS and the U.S. Treasury. Perhaps this latest example of greed and mendacity is finally enough to stop the parade of tax cheats in their tracks. Tom Daschle isn’t essential to any pending economic emergency and his tax problems are really beyond the pale.

If the President doesn’t have the good sense and good graces to pull the nomination, the Republicans in the Senate might show they have a spine by mounting their first filibuster. Will the Democrats vote cloture and confirm Daschle? Let’s see which party embodies the values of ordinary Americans and believes in equal treatment for the powerful and the ordinary taxpayer.

In short, this would be a fine time to test just how new the New Politics are. We’ll see if the Senate can manage to figure that out.

ABC News tells us about the Senate Finance Committee report on Tom Daschle’s nomination:

The report indicates that Daschle’s failure to pay more than $101,000 taxes on the car and driver a wealthy friend let him use from 2005 through 2007 is not the only tax issue the former Senate Majority Leader has been dealing with since his December nomination prompted a more thorough examination of his income tax returns.

Mr. Daschle also didn’t report $83,333 in consulting income in 2007.

The Senate Finance Committee Report also notes that during the vetting process, President Obama’s Transition Team “identified certain donations that did not qualify as charitable deductions because they were not paid to qualifying organizations.  Daschle adjusted his contribution deductions on his amended returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007 to remove these amounts and add additional contributions.” This adjustment meant a reduction in the amount he contributed to charitable foundations of $14,963 from 2005 through 2007.

And the President tells us that Wall Street bonuses are “shameful”? At some point, the hypocrisy level must rise high enough for even the most squishy Senators to say “enough.” There just aren’t any excuses for this.  The number of tax cheats and the dollar value of their “errors” is becoming intolerable — at least one would hope.

But, of course, the Senators played dumb with Tim Geithner, accepting the lamest “I forgot” excuse for his tax “errors,” and passing him along to oversee the IRS and the U.S. Treasury. Perhaps this latest example of greed and mendacity is finally enough to stop the parade of tax cheats in their tracks. Tom Daschle isn’t essential to any pending economic emergency and his tax problems are really beyond the pale.

If the President doesn’t have the good sense and good graces to pull the nomination, the Republicans in the Senate might show they have a spine by mounting their first filibuster. Will the Democrats vote cloture and confirm Daschle? Let’s see which party embodies the values of ordinary Americans and believes in equal treatment for the powerful and the ordinary taxpayer.

In short, this would be a fine time to test just how new the New Politics are. We’ll see if the Senate can manage to figure that out.

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The Madoff Scandal and the Future of American Jewry

Before December 11, 2008, few Americans had ever heard of Bernard L. Madoff. Yet after his arrest for running what authorities allege was the largest Ponzi scheme in history, Madoff not only achieved the sort of notoriety that is reserved for arch-criminals; he also became, in an instant, one of the most famous Jews in the world.

Madoff had been managing billions of dollars for investors who thought they were beating the market with the steady gains he reported. The profits were illusory. There was only a decades-long scam in which the “returns” of early clients were paid by the contributions of those who came later.

In the days following the revelation of the alleged $50 billion scam, the willingness of the press to refer to Madoff’s Jewishness set off alarms in a community uniquely sensitive about the way in which its members have historically been  singled out for opprobrium. The theme of Jewish financial skullduggery is, after all, a familiar one in the canon of anti-Semitic invective. Madoff’s religion and his nefarious business practices were quickly intertwined by many hate-inspired Internet posters, which in turn aroused concerns at the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee that the Madoff moment might mark the beginning of a new and uniquely dangerous wave of anti-Semitism.

Click here to read the rest of this article from the February issue of COMMENTARY.

Before December 11, 2008, few Americans had ever heard of Bernard L. Madoff. Yet after his arrest for running what authorities allege was the largest Ponzi scheme in history, Madoff not only achieved the sort of notoriety that is reserved for arch-criminals; he also became, in an instant, one of the most famous Jews in the world.

Madoff had been managing billions of dollars for investors who thought they were beating the market with the steady gains he reported. The profits were illusory. There was only a decades-long scam in which the “returns” of early clients were paid by the contributions of those who came later.

In the days following the revelation of the alleged $50 billion scam, the willingness of the press to refer to Madoff’s Jewishness set off alarms in a community uniquely sensitive about the way in which its members have historically been  singled out for opprobrium. The theme of Jewish financial skullduggery is, after all, a familiar one in the canon of anti-Semitic invective. Madoff’s religion and his nefarious business practices were quickly intertwined by many hate-inspired Internet posters, which in turn aroused concerns at the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee that the Madoff moment might mark the beginning of a new and uniquely dangerous wave of anti-Semitism.

Click here to read the rest of this article from the February issue of COMMENTARY.

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Not as Crazy as It Used to Be

Two weeks into the Obama administration it is, in some very real sense, a pleasure to  be done with the daily dose of Bush Derangement Syndrome which permeated not just the Left blogosphere, but most MSM coverage and even casual political discourse. It often seemed that pundits as well as ordinary voters were conducting a national contest to accumulate the most reasons to hate the President. Even those who agreed with some of the objections to the Bush administration found the whole tone unfair and tiresome. (Yes, yes, of course we all can’t wait for the new President.)

But the Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz contends that we’re not really out of the woods yet:

Bush hatred and Obama euphoria — which tend to reveal more about those who feel them than the men at which they are directed — are opposite sides of the same coin. Both represent the triumph of passion over reason. Both are intolerant of dissent. Those wallowing in Bush hatred and those reveling in Obama euphoria frequently regard those who do not share their passion as contemptible and beyond the reach of civilized discussion. Bush hatred and Obama euphoria typically coexist in the same soul. And it is disproportionately members of the intellectual and political class in whose souls they flourish.

I think things are not all that bad and indeed have improved. There is, I would argue, hope for a break from political absolutism and Presidential Derangement Syndrome.

The President’s job approval ratings are high, but not astronomically so for the first couple of weeks, suggesting that at least some of the populace is evaluating his actual performance. And the media coverage of his stimulus plan has begun to make clear just how larded up it is. It is not as if the entire country is in a trance. Reality is indeed permeating.

Sure the President’s liberal defenders, including the mainstream media, are quick to rebuff any hint of criticism. But at least the arguments going back and forth generally concern the merits of the President’s plans, not his psychological make up or familial relations. We quickly forget how bizarre the political dialogue became in the Bush years, when foreign policy was thought to be a function of the President’s relationship with his father, and poor syntax was ascribed to a learning disability or drinking relapse. We are, in short, at least back on the planet earth when it comes to political debate. (And yes, conservatives deserve much of the credit for sticking to the  subject matter at hand.)

So, certainly Obama fans could be more circumspect. But progress in political culture, as in all things, is incremental. And I think it’s safe to say that the tone of political debate has taken a turn for the better. So far, at least.

Two weeks into the Obama administration it is, in some very real sense, a pleasure to  be done with the daily dose of Bush Derangement Syndrome which permeated not just the Left blogosphere, but most MSM coverage and even casual political discourse. It often seemed that pundits as well as ordinary voters were conducting a national contest to accumulate the most reasons to hate the President. Even those who agreed with some of the objections to the Bush administration found the whole tone unfair and tiresome. (Yes, yes, of course we all can’t wait for the new President.)

But the Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz contends that we’re not really out of the woods yet:

Bush hatred and Obama euphoria — which tend to reveal more about those who feel them than the men at which they are directed — are opposite sides of the same coin. Both represent the triumph of passion over reason. Both are intolerant of dissent. Those wallowing in Bush hatred and those reveling in Obama euphoria frequently regard those who do not share their passion as contemptible and beyond the reach of civilized discussion. Bush hatred and Obama euphoria typically coexist in the same soul. And it is disproportionately members of the intellectual and political class in whose souls they flourish.

I think things are not all that bad and indeed have improved. There is, I would argue, hope for a break from political absolutism and Presidential Derangement Syndrome.

The President’s job approval ratings are high, but not astronomically so for the first couple of weeks, suggesting that at least some of the populace is evaluating his actual performance. And the media coverage of his stimulus plan has begun to make clear just how larded up it is. It is not as if the entire country is in a trance. Reality is indeed permeating.

Sure the President’s liberal defenders, including the mainstream media, are quick to rebuff any hint of criticism. But at least the arguments going back and forth generally concern the merits of the President’s plans, not his psychological make up or familial relations. We quickly forget how bizarre the political dialogue became in the Bush years, when foreign policy was thought to be a function of the President’s relationship with his father, and poor syntax was ascribed to a learning disability or drinking relapse. We are, in short, at least back on the planet earth when it comes to political debate. (And yes, conservatives deserve much of the credit for sticking to the  subject matter at hand.)

So, certainly Obama fans could be more circumspect. But progress in political culture, as in all things, is incremental. And I think it’s safe to say that the tone of political debate has taken a turn for the better. So far, at least.

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Re-Dropping the Ball?

The myth about George W. Bush having traded a successful campaign in Afghanistan for a neoconservative fantasy in Iraq is exploding. Despite his campaign promise to redirect the American military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, President Obama is unlikely to do anything of the sort. As the A.P. reports, “Obama said he wants to add troops to turn back a resurgent Taliban, but he has not gone beyond the approximately 30,000 additional forces already under consideration by the previous administration.”

At the same time, the President has been receptive to Pentagon officials wary of the 16-month Iraq-withdrawal timetable outlined by Obama the candidate. On Wednesday, Obama made his first presidential visit to the Pentagon and met with Gen. Ray Odierno, who recommends a significantly slower drawdown. The New York Times reports, “The White House indicated that Mr. Obama was open to alternatives to his 16-month time frame and emphasized that security was an important factor in his decision.” Today in Iraq — land of the supposed quagmire, the fiasco, and the new Vietnam — Iraqis voted in extraordinarily peaceful provincial elections.

Where does this leave the question — demagogued by Democrats in two U.S. presidential elections – of the Bush administration’s fatal shift in focus from Afghanistan to Iraq?

The American operation in Afghanistan accomplished some of its immediate goals – deposing the Taliban regime and destroying al Qaeda’s save haven — within the first weeks of its prosecution. The hunting down of al Qaeda members continues to this day. The long-term goal of establishing a reasonably stable — governable — Afghanistan was always bound to be the work of decades.

Three years into the job, Afghans voted for their first ever democratically elected president. Five years in, they had their first elected parliament. Seven years in, signs of budding democracy continue to appear – even as the threats of tribal warfare, narco-terrorism and jihad grow.

As in Iraq, it seems the U.S. will end up fighting more than one war in Afghanistan. George W. Bush did not “drop the ball.” The most immediate American interest was served by the quick toppling of the Taliban government and by putting al Qaeda on the run. As was done in Iraq, the U.S. must devise a workable strategy for the next phase of fighting in Afghanistan. This means a recalibration of expectations on the part of the war’s proponents, but also some reconciliation among skeptics. A few propositions must be taken in combination: Perseverance in Iraq lead to victory; a radical change in strategy was the key; Afghanistan, for all its chaos, is a more hopeful country today than it was in 2001; Afghanistan must not become a terrorist safe haven again; and a simple shift in focus from one country to another was never the answer. This remains the long war.

The myth about George W. Bush having traded a successful campaign in Afghanistan for a neoconservative fantasy in Iraq is exploding. Despite his campaign promise to redirect the American military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, President Obama is unlikely to do anything of the sort. As the A.P. reports, “Obama said he wants to add troops to turn back a resurgent Taliban, but he has not gone beyond the approximately 30,000 additional forces already under consideration by the previous administration.”

At the same time, the President has been receptive to Pentagon officials wary of the 16-month Iraq-withdrawal timetable outlined by Obama the candidate. On Wednesday, Obama made his first presidential visit to the Pentagon and met with Gen. Ray Odierno, who recommends a significantly slower drawdown. The New York Times reports, “The White House indicated that Mr. Obama was open to alternatives to his 16-month time frame and emphasized that security was an important factor in his decision.” Today in Iraq — land of the supposed quagmire, the fiasco, and the new Vietnam — Iraqis voted in extraordinarily peaceful provincial elections.

Where does this leave the question — demagogued by Democrats in two U.S. presidential elections – of the Bush administration’s fatal shift in focus from Afghanistan to Iraq?

The American operation in Afghanistan accomplished some of its immediate goals – deposing the Taliban regime and destroying al Qaeda’s save haven — within the first weeks of its prosecution. The hunting down of al Qaeda members continues to this day. The long-term goal of establishing a reasonably stable — governable — Afghanistan was always bound to be the work of decades.

Three years into the job, Afghans voted for their first ever democratically elected president. Five years in, they had their first elected parliament. Seven years in, signs of budding democracy continue to appear – even as the threats of tribal warfare, narco-terrorism and jihad grow.

As in Iraq, it seems the U.S. will end up fighting more than one war in Afghanistan. George W. Bush did not “drop the ball.” The most immediate American interest was served by the quick toppling of the Taliban government and by putting al Qaeda on the run. As was done in Iraq, the U.S. must devise a workable strategy for the next phase of fighting in Afghanistan. This means a recalibration of expectations on the part of the war’s proponents, but also some reconciliation among skeptics. A few propositions must be taken in combination: Perseverance in Iraq lead to victory; a radical change in strategy was the key; Afghanistan, for all its chaos, is a more hopeful country today than it was in 2001; Afghanistan must not become a terrorist safe haven again; and a simple shift in focus from one country to another was never the answer. This remains the long war.

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In Less Than Two Weeks

It is rather amazing that less than two weeks after he was triumphantly sworn in, the President is getting bad reviews. Yuval Levin surveys the scene:

When they manage to unify the entire House Republican caucus with David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, you know the Democrats have seriously botched something up. And boy, they really have. The more you look at the stimulus bill the clearer it becomes that it is the Congressional Democrats, not the opponents of this bill, who have failed to see that we are in a genuine and exceptional crisis. They’re working to use the moment as an opportunity to advance the same agenda they haven’t been able to move (with good reason) for a decade and more, and in the process are showing that agenda to be what we always knew it was: a massively wasteful, reckless, profligate, slovenly, higgledy-piggledy mess of interest group troughs and technocratic fantasies devoid of any economic thinking or sense of proportion.

[. . .]

The Democrats on the Hill have somehow managed to begin the age of Obama by putting forward their ugliest side first and in a big way. It can’t be what Obama wanted, and it sure isn’t what the country needs. But it looks like it’s what we are going to get.

And its not just center-right, sympathetic pundits who are crying foul. When the A.P. and the President’s close Senate ally Claire McCaskill pan the stimulus bill you know things aren’t going as planned. (Hmm. Does E.J. Dionne think they are just placing “bets on the prospect that Obama’s policies will fail”?)

We could, I suppose, see only minor modifications of the bill and then a straight party-line vote, with perhaps some nervous vote-counting to get to the magic filibuster-proof  sixty in the Senate. Republicans would be riding high as public disgust with the measure rises and the potential for a bipartisan, new governing majority slips from the President’s grasp. Or we could have a reworking of the bill which recognizes that the House Democrats badly overstepped.

Time will tell, but the brisk turn of events and the remarkable shift in perception only emphasizes how much of the political prognostication forgets a cardinal fact: governing is hard and the party in power bears a heavy responsibility when things go wrong.

It is rather amazing that less than two weeks after he was triumphantly sworn in, the President is getting bad reviews. Yuval Levin surveys the scene:

When they manage to unify the entire House Republican caucus with David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, you know the Democrats have seriously botched something up. And boy, they really have. The more you look at the stimulus bill the clearer it becomes that it is the Congressional Democrats, not the opponents of this bill, who have failed to see that we are in a genuine and exceptional crisis. They’re working to use the moment as an opportunity to advance the same agenda they haven’t been able to move (with good reason) for a decade and more, and in the process are showing that agenda to be what we always knew it was: a massively wasteful, reckless, profligate, slovenly, higgledy-piggledy mess of interest group troughs and technocratic fantasies devoid of any economic thinking or sense of proportion.

[. . .]

The Democrats on the Hill have somehow managed to begin the age of Obama by putting forward their ugliest side first and in a big way. It can’t be what Obama wanted, and it sure isn’t what the country needs. But it looks like it’s what we are going to get.

And its not just center-right, sympathetic pundits who are crying foul. When the A.P. and the President’s close Senate ally Claire McCaskill pan the stimulus bill you know things aren’t going as planned. (Hmm. Does E.J. Dionne think they are just placing “bets on the prospect that Obama’s policies will fail”?)

We could, I suppose, see only minor modifications of the bill and then a straight party-line vote, with perhaps some nervous vote-counting to get to the magic filibuster-proof  sixty in the Senate. Republicans would be riding high as public disgust with the measure rises and the potential for a bipartisan, new governing majority slips from the President’s grasp. Or we could have a reworking of the bill which recognizes that the House Democrats badly overstepped.

Time will tell, but the brisk turn of events and the remarkable shift in perception only emphasizes how much of the political prognostication forgets a cardinal fact: governing is hard and the party in power bears a heavy responsibility when things go wrong.

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Gregg’s Choice

New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg is being considered for the post of President Obama’s Commerce Secretary. And the implications and potential ramifications of such an appointment are that of political legend.

Gregg has been a staunch Republican for most of his career. The privileged son of a Republican dynasty (his father, Hugh Gregg, was governor and a leader of the New Hampshire GOP), Gregg was a tax lawyer when he first got on the public payroll with his 1979 election to the Governor’s Council. He then moved up through the U.S. House of Representatives (1981), Governorship (1989), and U.S Senate (1993). He’s been frequently denounced as insufficiently conservative, and has shown an occasionally abrasive personality (he once bitterly stated that Democratic opponent John Hoar was “appropriately named”). He’s also been a reliable Republican insider, a key advisor and ally of both Presidents Bush.

Now he’s being offered the only promotion from the Senate he’s likely to get: a cabinet position.

If Gregg accepts the position, the consequences could be severe for the Republicans. The Democrats hold 58 Senate seats, and appear to have a better-than-even chance of picking up a 59th in Michigan Minnesota. If Gregg were to resign, his seat would be filled by New Hampshire’s governor — Democrat John Lynch. That could mean the Democrats would then have the 60 seats they need to end filibusters. So Gregg’s departure could really hurt the Republicans.

On the other hand, Gregg could see this as his escape hatch. New Hampshire has grown increasingly Democratic over the past few years. In 2006, the Democrats not only picked up both U.S. House seats, they took the governorship and a majority in each House of the state legislature. In 2008, they kept the U.S. House and governorship, increased their majority in both state Houses, and took down Gregg’s colleague, John H. Sununu. Gregg remains the only Republican holding major office in New Hampshire, and that’s largely by default — he wasn’t up for re-election in 2006 or 2008.

But he will be in 2010, and the Democrats are already fighting over who will get to redecorate his office.

Gregg might very well see the writing on the wall. He could be coldly assessing his own situation (Gregg is famous for his cold-blooded analysis) and weighing his choice: two more years in the Senate as part of an embattled minority, or a turn in the Cabinet of President Obama for up to four years. To be one of a hundred Senators (and, even more relevant, one of the minority party), or one of fifteen Cabinet Secretaries and in the presidential line of succession (albeit in 10th place).

There are considerable machinations going on behind the scenes. There are rumors of talks with Governor Lynch to appoint a Republican to serve out the remaining two years of Gregg’s office, when it is likely that a Democrat will win anyway — while Gregg is definitely endangered, he is still a strong campaigner, and no potential Republican successor is seen as as much of a threat. Gregg is also being pressured by his fellow Senators to decline the position.

In the end, it all comes down to Gregg’s decision: which will benefit both him and his legacy? To bolt now, or risk ignominious defeat next year?

With Gregg, it’s almost impossible to predict.

New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg is being considered for the post of President Obama’s Commerce Secretary. And the implications and potential ramifications of such an appointment are that of political legend.

Gregg has been a staunch Republican for most of his career. The privileged son of a Republican dynasty (his father, Hugh Gregg, was governor and a leader of the New Hampshire GOP), Gregg was a tax lawyer when he first got on the public payroll with his 1979 election to the Governor’s Council. He then moved up through the U.S. House of Representatives (1981), Governorship (1989), and U.S Senate (1993). He’s been frequently denounced as insufficiently conservative, and has shown an occasionally abrasive personality (he once bitterly stated that Democratic opponent John Hoar was “appropriately named”). He’s also been a reliable Republican insider, a key advisor and ally of both Presidents Bush.

Now he’s being offered the only promotion from the Senate he’s likely to get: a cabinet position.

If Gregg accepts the position, the consequences could be severe for the Republicans. The Democrats hold 58 Senate seats, and appear to have a better-than-even chance of picking up a 59th in Michigan Minnesota. If Gregg were to resign, his seat would be filled by New Hampshire’s governor — Democrat John Lynch. That could mean the Democrats would then have the 60 seats they need to end filibusters. So Gregg’s departure could really hurt the Republicans.

On the other hand, Gregg could see this as his escape hatch. New Hampshire has grown increasingly Democratic over the past few years. In 2006, the Democrats not only picked up both U.S. House seats, they took the governorship and a majority in each House of the state legislature. In 2008, they kept the U.S. House and governorship, increased their majority in both state Houses, and took down Gregg’s colleague, John H. Sununu. Gregg remains the only Republican holding major office in New Hampshire, and that’s largely by default — he wasn’t up for re-election in 2006 or 2008.

But he will be in 2010, and the Democrats are already fighting over who will get to redecorate his office.

Gregg might very well see the writing on the wall. He could be coldly assessing his own situation (Gregg is famous for his cold-blooded analysis) and weighing his choice: two more years in the Senate as part of an embattled minority, or a turn in the Cabinet of President Obama for up to four years. To be one of a hundred Senators (and, even more relevant, one of the minority party), or one of fifteen Cabinet Secretaries and in the presidential line of succession (albeit in 10th place).

There are considerable machinations going on behind the scenes. There are rumors of talks with Governor Lynch to appoint a Republican to serve out the remaining two years of Gregg’s office, when it is likely that a Democrat will win anyway — while Gregg is definitely endangered, he is still a strong campaigner, and no potential Republican successor is seen as as much of a threat. Gregg is also being pressured by his fellow Senators to decline the position.

In the end, it all comes down to Gregg’s decision: which will benefit both him and his legacy? To bolt now, or risk ignominious defeat next year?

With Gregg, it’s almost impossible to predict.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

President Obama publicly decried “shameful” bonuses for Wall Street execs. But in private with the execs he remained mum. (He was trolling for support for his stimulus.) Whatever happened to speaking truth to power?

Gerald Selb describes the choice for President Obama as one between the Reagan (big bipartisan majorities) and Clinton (narrow party-line victories) models. The bigger problem is that Obama has lost control over the contents and the narrative surrounding the stimulus, which is now “being defined more as spending on new sod for the National Mall and cars for government agencies.”

Matt Continetti explains: “What the Democrats have done is write down every single item on their liberal wish list, append dollar amounts next to the items seemingly at random, and call it ‘stimulus.’ The president wanted the bill to be free of pet projects and include business tax cuts. But no one told Pelosi’s appopriators. They are using the current troubles to push through a decades-old domestic policy agenda. The spending–$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $400 million for global warming studies–demonstrates that the bill has no overarching logic.”

Joe Biden is trying not to be irrelevant. But get a look at that creepy body-language with Hillary. He’s literally all over her back — and she’s in full cackle (“Joe, you expect me to listen to this all day long!?”)

With the advantage of experience, John McCain says it’s silly for the President to take on Rush Limbaugh.

Another Obama administration tax problem — this one for Tom Daschle. This is the problem with letting a Tim Geithner slide through. What’s to keep the next guy — with a $128,000 tax bill – from being confirmed? Once you start lowering standards, is there any way to reverse the trend?

J. Peter Freire thinks in electing Michael Steele over Ken Blackwell and Mike Duncan, the GOP rejected the “conservative movement.” Actually, the Republican committeemen demonstrated that certain self-appointed representatives of the conservative movement – who had their heyday twenty years ago – carry very little weight, even with party regulars. But Freire is right that the party dodged a PR bullet.

As Jim Geraghty noted, at the end of the RNC chairman race “it was no longer a contest between two men; it was a contest between an African-American, who had been endorsed by the other African-American in the contest, calling for the GOP to remain ‘the party of Lincoln,’ against the guy whose membership in a country club ensured that his name would always appear in the same sentence as ‘whites-only charter.’”

Politico says its reporter didn’t mean to imply that George Stephanopoulos abandoned his professional demeanor in daily conference calls with his former Clintonite pals. Sounds like everyone wishes the story would just go away.

The Los Angeles Times cuts 70 newsroom jobs. Given the paucity of actual reporting from the Times it surprised me there were more than 70 people working there.

Josh Gerstein reports: “President Obama’s first major White House event aimed at wooing organized labor came and went Friday without any mention of the union’s movement’s top priority: so-called card check legislation pending on Capitol Hill.” In a separate interview, Joe Biden sounded wishy-washy on the timing of bringing up card check. Perhaps the “I won” attitude only gets the Obama team and its liberal wish list so far.

TNR’s attempt to paint a lovable portrait of Terry McAuliffe in his Virginian gubernatorial race winds up making him out to be a lunatic with tidbits like this: “In the style of Julius Caesar, who bequeathed his private arbors and 75 drachmas each to the people, McAuliffe spontaneously offered last week to donate his gubernatorial salary to build the economically depressed town of Martinsville a high school gym.” If this were Hardball or a presidential year race all of this might excite the base, but the sort of voters who turn out for an off year gubernatorial election will likely view all this  as, well, downright embarrassing.

Forget the pundits’ reviews, the markets are giving a thumbs down on the stimulus plan: “After an end of year rally, stocks have slid again in January, despite a rush of hope and goodwill for the new Obama Administration. To the extent equities are a vote of confidence in future policy, this is discouraging. The Dow is down nearly 9% since the New Year began, the S&P 500 about 8.6%. One problem is that the ‘stimulus’ bill has devolved into a political spending free-for-all that has little to do with incentives for growth. President Obama is missing an opportunity to use his 70% job approval to prod Capitol Hill to focus the $819 billion on growth rather than social-welfare policy. He is abdicating to his party’s Congressional wing, and investors can see the main result will be more debt and higher taxes down the road.”

President Obama publicly decried “shameful” bonuses for Wall Street execs. But in private with the execs he remained mum. (He was trolling for support for his stimulus.) Whatever happened to speaking truth to power?

Gerald Selb describes the choice for President Obama as one between the Reagan (big bipartisan majorities) and Clinton (narrow party-line victories) models. The bigger problem is that Obama has lost control over the contents and the narrative surrounding the stimulus, which is now “being defined more as spending on new sod for the National Mall and cars for government agencies.”

Matt Continetti explains: “What the Democrats have done is write down every single item on their liberal wish list, append dollar amounts next to the items seemingly at random, and call it ‘stimulus.’ The president wanted the bill to be free of pet projects and include business tax cuts. But no one told Pelosi’s appopriators. They are using the current troubles to push through a decades-old domestic policy agenda. The spending–$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $400 million for global warming studies–demonstrates that the bill has no overarching logic.”

Joe Biden is trying not to be irrelevant. But get a look at that creepy body-language with Hillary. He’s literally all over her back — and she’s in full cackle (“Joe, you expect me to listen to this all day long!?”)

With the advantage of experience, John McCain says it’s silly for the President to take on Rush Limbaugh.

Another Obama administration tax problem — this one for Tom Daschle. This is the problem with letting a Tim Geithner slide through. What’s to keep the next guy — with a $128,000 tax bill – from being confirmed? Once you start lowering standards, is there any way to reverse the trend?

J. Peter Freire thinks in electing Michael Steele over Ken Blackwell and Mike Duncan, the GOP rejected the “conservative movement.” Actually, the Republican committeemen demonstrated that certain self-appointed representatives of the conservative movement – who had their heyday twenty years ago – carry very little weight, even with party regulars. But Freire is right that the party dodged a PR bullet.

As Jim Geraghty noted, at the end of the RNC chairman race “it was no longer a contest between two men; it was a contest between an African-American, who had been endorsed by the other African-American in the contest, calling for the GOP to remain ‘the party of Lincoln,’ against the guy whose membership in a country club ensured that his name would always appear in the same sentence as ‘whites-only charter.’”

Politico says its reporter didn’t mean to imply that George Stephanopoulos abandoned his professional demeanor in daily conference calls with his former Clintonite pals. Sounds like everyone wishes the story would just go away.

The Los Angeles Times cuts 70 newsroom jobs. Given the paucity of actual reporting from the Times it surprised me there were more than 70 people working there.

Josh Gerstein reports: “President Obama’s first major White House event aimed at wooing organized labor came and went Friday without any mention of the union’s movement’s top priority: so-called card check legislation pending on Capitol Hill.” In a separate interview, Joe Biden sounded wishy-washy on the timing of bringing up card check. Perhaps the “I won” attitude only gets the Obama team and its liberal wish list so far.

TNR’s attempt to paint a lovable portrait of Terry McAuliffe in his Virginian gubernatorial race winds up making him out to be a lunatic with tidbits like this: “In the style of Julius Caesar, who bequeathed his private arbors and 75 drachmas each to the people, McAuliffe spontaneously offered last week to donate his gubernatorial salary to build the economically depressed town of Martinsville a high school gym.” If this were Hardball or a presidential year race all of this might excite the base, but the sort of voters who turn out for an off year gubernatorial election will likely view all this  as, well, downright embarrassing.

Forget the pundits’ reviews, the markets are giving a thumbs down on the stimulus plan: “After an end of year rally, stocks have slid again in January, despite a rush of hope and goodwill for the new Obama Administration. To the extent equities are a vote of confidence in future policy, this is discouraging. The Dow is down nearly 9% since the New Year began, the S&P 500 about 8.6%. One problem is that the ‘stimulus’ bill has devolved into a political spending free-for-all that has little to do with incentives for growth. President Obama is missing an opportunity to use his 70% job approval to prod Capitol Hill to focus the $819 billion on growth rather than social-welfare policy. He is abdicating to his party’s Congressional wing, and investors can see the main result will be more debt and higher taxes down the road.”

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Commentary of the Day

Ahithophel, on Jennifer Rubin:

It does seem as though we’re seeing, in this Obama’s first major test as a President, several of the weaknesses of which conservatives warned. First, Obama has no experience dealing in an executive manner with a massive organization with multiple, competing power structures. Perhaps it was his intention all along to deliver a reasonably balanced outline of a bill (and thus make himself look good to Americans generally) with the understanding that Pelosi would lard it up into a hyper-partisan monstrosity (giving payback to Democrat special interests and solidifying their base). But I don’t think so, because I think Obama genuinely wanted to deliver a broadly popular product here. Which means he should not have entrusted the legislation to Pelosi, and that in turn means that he was wrong to trust her so wholeheartedly. He’s not used to dealing with major players whose personal interests may not be his own.

Second, Obama seems fascinated by the omnipotence of his personality and his spoken word. The adulation of the masses has gotten to him; he believes in his own hype. Notice how, in interviews, he begins half of his answers with “As I said before, and I’ll say it again…” Obama defines himself by his words, and he believes his words have transformative power. Obama seems to believe that his very presence will dispel “the old hatreds” and “the lines of tribe.” Obama does not really believe that conservatives are conservative because they have fundamentally different, and fully rational, beliefs and values. He believes they’re conservative because they’ve been deceived by talk radio, by Rush Limbaugh, and by “stale old arguments” and biases. So all he has to do is explain to them the liberal position, in his charming smile and pellucid voice, and the right will be moved leftward.

Ahithophel, on Jennifer Rubin:

It does seem as though we’re seeing, in this Obama’s first major test as a President, several of the weaknesses of which conservatives warned. First, Obama has no experience dealing in an executive manner with a massive organization with multiple, competing power structures. Perhaps it was his intention all along to deliver a reasonably balanced outline of a bill (and thus make himself look good to Americans generally) with the understanding that Pelosi would lard it up into a hyper-partisan monstrosity (giving payback to Democrat special interests and solidifying their base). But I don’t think so, because I think Obama genuinely wanted to deliver a broadly popular product here. Which means he should not have entrusted the legislation to Pelosi, and that in turn means that he was wrong to trust her so wholeheartedly. He’s not used to dealing with major players whose personal interests may not be his own.

Second, Obama seems fascinated by the omnipotence of his personality and his spoken word. The adulation of the masses has gotten to him; he believes in his own hype. Notice how, in interviews, he begins half of his answers with “As I said before, and I’ll say it again…” Obama defines himself by his words, and he believes his words have transformative power. Obama seems to believe that his very presence will dispel “the old hatreds” and “the lines of tribe.” Obama does not really believe that conservatives are conservative because they have fundamentally different, and fully rational, beliefs and values. He believes they’re conservative because they’ve been deceived by talk radio, by Rush Limbaugh, and by “stale old arguments” and biases. So all he has to do is explain to them the liberal position, in his charming smile and pellucid voice, and the right will be moved leftward.

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Nothing To Apologize For

We learn today:

The Obama administration on Friday made an emergency contribution of more than $20 million for urgent relief efforts in the Gazaa Strip, a day after the United Nations launched a flash appeal for $613 million to help Palestinians recover from Israel’s three-week military operation there.

This only emphasizes how misplaced and unwise were President Obama’s comments on Al Arabyia. Rather than apologizing for America, how much better it would have been for him to explain America’s ongoing efforts on behalf of Muslims, including its humanitarian support for the Palestinian people. Rather than harken back twenty or thirty years — to the nadir of American power — how much better it would have been to emphasize the dollars and lives expended to  rescue Muslims from tyranny (e.g. Iraq, Bosnia) and poverty. And of course, the President’s comments lacked even a cursory appreciation for human rights. As Mark Steyn commented:

Well, you don’t have to be gay, an oppressed homosexual about to be executed. You don’t have to be a woman who’s being sold to an arranged child marriage. You just have to be a moderate, centrist Arab intellectual in, say, Cairo or Amman, and you listen to Obama sucking up to these creeps, and there’s nothing for you in it. What he’s doing is he says, he’s saying to hell with the Bush freedom agenda. We just want to get back to schmoozing the feted Arab dictatorships and the mullahs in Tehran all over again. And so if you’re a gay or a woman, you’re out of there. And as I said, if you’re a moderate Arab who just would like to have a free society in Cairo or Amman or wherever, you’re out of it, too. You’re on the Obama horizon. It was a pathetic, disgraceful Jimmy Carter speech.

Perhaps the swift rebuff from Ahmadinejad will be taken to heart. Groveling is unwise and counterproductive. America has a compelling case to present and the President should start presenting it.

We learn today:

The Obama administration on Friday made an emergency contribution of more than $20 million for urgent relief efforts in the Gazaa Strip, a day after the United Nations launched a flash appeal for $613 million to help Palestinians recover from Israel’s three-week military operation there.

This only emphasizes how misplaced and unwise were President Obama’s comments on Al Arabyia. Rather than apologizing for America, how much better it would have been for him to explain America’s ongoing efforts on behalf of Muslims, including its humanitarian support for the Palestinian people. Rather than harken back twenty or thirty years — to the nadir of American power — how much better it would have been to emphasize the dollars and lives expended to  rescue Muslims from tyranny (e.g. Iraq, Bosnia) and poverty. And of course, the President’s comments lacked even a cursory appreciation for human rights. As Mark Steyn commented:

Well, you don’t have to be gay, an oppressed homosexual about to be executed. You don’t have to be a woman who’s being sold to an arranged child marriage. You just have to be a moderate, centrist Arab intellectual in, say, Cairo or Amman, and you listen to Obama sucking up to these creeps, and there’s nothing for you in it. What he’s doing is he says, he’s saying to hell with the Bush freedom agenda. We just want to get back to schmoozing the feted Arab dictatorships and the mullahs in Tehran all over again. And so if you’re a gay or a woman, you’re out of there. And as I said, if you’re a moderate Arab who just would like to have a free society in Cairo or Amman or wherever, you’re out of it, too. You’re on the Obama horizon. It was a pathetic, disgraceful Jimmy Carter speech.

Perhaps the swift rebuff from Ahmadinejad will be taken to heart. Groveling is unwise and counterproductive. America has a compelling case to present and the President should start presenting it.

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Thanks for the Loan

President Obama wasted no time paying back his labor union supporters. He signed three executive orders today that he claims will level the playing field for organized labor. One of Obama’s executive orders will ensure that federal contractors be prohibited from doing anything to discourage unionization among their workers. Another is ostensibly aimed at informing workers of their rights to join a union. Both of these orders will encourage unionization in the private sector, which could be costly in this flailing economy.  But their real intent is to reward unions for their help in getting him and his fellow Democrats in Congress elected.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, unions donated $68 million directly in the 2008 election cycle, 91 percent of which went to Democrats.  But they also provided campaign volunteers (often paid union staff), printed campaign literature, and mobilized voters to get to the polls.  It’s difficult to know exactly how much unions spent on these activities, but some estimates put the number at 10 times or more than what they give directly.

For all the professed interest in protecting workers’ right to choose, the Obama administration is not likely to care much about protecting the rights of workers who don’t want to be forced into a union.  It is simply not in the Democrats’ self-interest to enforce the 1988 Beck decision, which gave workers covered by union contracts the right not to have to pay for the political activities of the union.

President Obama wasted no time paying back his labor union supporters. He signed three executive orders today that he claims will level the playing field for organized labor. One of Obama’s executive orders will ensure that federal contractors be prohibited from doing anything to discourage unionization among their workers. Another is ostensibly aimed at informing workers of their rights to join a union. Both of these orders will encourage unionization in the private sector, which could be costly in this flailing economy.  But their real intent is to reward unions for their help in getting him and his fellow Democrats in Congress elected.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, unions donated $68 million directly in the 2008 election cycle, 91 percent of which went to Democrats.  But they also provided campaign volunteers (often paid union staff), printed campaign literature, and mobilized voters to get to the polls.  It’s difficult to know exactly how much unions spent on these activities, but some estimates put the number at 10 times or more than what they give directly.

For all the professed interest in protecting workers’ right to choose, the Obama administration is not likely to care much about protecting the rights of workers who don’t want to be forced into a union.  It is simply not in the Democrats’ self-interest to enforce the 1988 Beck decision, which gave workers covered by union contracts the right not to have to pay for the political activities of the union.

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Scrambling For the High Ground

The Wall Street Journal editors chide President Obama for allowing Nancy Pelosi to draft the stimulus bill, thereby forfeiting his claim to a new era of bipartisanship:

House Democrats proceeded to ignore all GOP suggestions as they wrote the bill, shedding tax cuts while piling on spending for every imaginable interest group. The bipartisan opposition reflects how much the Pelosi bill became a vehicle for partisan social policy rather than economic stimulus.

Genuine bipartisanship means compromises on policy, not photo-ops and hand shakes. The last two Democratic Presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, also came to power with big Democratic majorities in Congress, veered far to the left on policy, and quickly came undone. To adapt White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s now famous line, a 70% approval rating is a terrible thing to waste on the ideas of Henry Waxman and Pete Stark.

There was, it seems, a good deal of miscalculation involved. The White House team bet Nancy Pelosi would come up with a bill that passed the smell test. They bet the Republicans, after a shellacking on Election Day, wouldn’t have the nerve to stand up to the President no matter what was in it. And they bet the public would support anything the President did. As it turned out, they were wrong on all three counts.

As to the first, the White House should have seen that Pelosi owes the President very little. She came to power before him and is secure for years to come. Her bigger concern is the Old Bulls of the House who want the interest groups repaid and their own power expanded. So she crafted a bill to satisfy the political needs of her Democratic caucus, not the President. After all, what’s he going to do — veto his own stimulus plan?

Then the President assumed that, like the media and country at large, the Republicans would swoon at his very appearance. He could go up to Capitol Hill, peel off some votes and claim the bill was bipartisan. Well, that didn’t work. House Republicans aren’t easily charmed, and even if they were, they aren’t going to forfeit an opportunity to re-establish their political identity and stand up against a bill this bad. (It’s rare that good politics and policy overlap this completely.)

And finally, the public likes this bill less and less, the more it learns about it. Rasmussen shows the public only narrowly supporting the bill ( 42-39%). That is, in large part, due to the rather fair media coverage of what’s in the bill. Sure the media is ga-ga over the President, but they have been telling the public about all the junk in the bill.

We can see by the accommodating language employed by Joe Biden (who has the worst poker face in politics) that the White House is scrambling to improve the bill and recover the high ground. That’s a very positive development. And then word comes that the Senate’s “Gang of 14″ may be back to rework the bill. It seems Democrat Ben Nelson doesn’t know how many Democrats would support the bill as it currently stands.

If the White House can admit error and work with the Senate to refashion the bill we’ll all be better off. And the Republicans can claim a good measure of the credit.

The Wall Street Journal editors chide President Obama for allowing Nancy Pelosi to draft the stimulus bill, thereby forfeiting his claim to a new era of bipartisanship:

House Democrats proceeded to ignore all GOP suggestions as they wrote the bill, shedding tax cuts while piling on spending for every imaginable interest group. The bipartisan opposition reflects how much the Pelosi bill became a vehicle for partisan social policy rather than economic stimulus.

Genuine bipartisanship means compromises on policy, not photo-ops and hand shakes. The last two Democratic Presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, also came to power with big Democratic majorities in Congress, veered far to the left on policy, and quickly came undone. To adapt White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s now famous line, a 70% approval rating is a terrible thing to waste on the ideas of Henry Waxman and Pete Stark.

There was, it seems, a good deal of miscalculation involved. The White House team bet Nancy Pelosi would come up with a bill that passed the smell test. They bet the Republicans, after a shellacking on Election Day, wouldn’t have the nerve to stand up to the President no matter what was in it. And they bet the public would support anything the President did. As it turned out, they were wrong on all three counts.

As to the first, the White House should have seen that Pelosi owes the President very little. She came to power before him and is secure for years to come. Her bigger concern is the Old Bulls of the House who want the interest groups repaid and their own power expanded. So she crafted a bill to satisfy the political needs of her Democratic caucus, not the President. After all, what’s he going to do — veto his own stimulus plan?

Then the President assumed that, like the media and country at large, the Republicans would swoon at his very appearance. He could go up to Capitol Hill, peel off some votes and claim the bill was bipartisan. Well, that didn’t work. House Republicans aren’t easily charmed, and even if they were, they aren’t going to forfeit an opportunity to re-establish their political identity and stand up against a bill this bad. (It’s rare that good politics and policy overlap this completely.)

And finally, the public likes this bill less and less, the more it learns about it. Rasmussen shows the public only narrowly supporting the bill ( 42-39%). That is, in large part, due to the rather fair media coverage of what’s in the bill. Sure the media is ga-ga over the President, but they have been telling the public about all the junk in the bill.

We can see by the accommodating language employed by Joe Biden (who has the worst poker face in politics) that the White House is scrambling to improve the bill and recover the high ground. That’s a very positive development. And then word comes that the Senate’s “Gang of 14″ may be back to rework the bill. It seems Democrat Ben Nelson doesn’t know how many Democrats would support the bill as it currently stands.

If the White House can admit error and work with the Senate to refashion the bill we’ll all be better off. And the Republicans can claim a good measure of the credit.

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If You Were Skeptical…

…that foreign aid to Gaza helps Hamas, just listen to one of Hamas’s senior leaders:

Khalil al-Hayya, one of three survivors of the five best known Hamas leaders, told supporters the group had achieved victory in the war and was now engaged in a political battle.

“We promised to come out to you either as martyrs or as victors,” Hayya told supporters. “Today I come out to you and you are victors.” …

Hayya tried to reassure Palestinians whose houses had been destroyed by Israel. “The reconstruction is coming, do not be worried about that,” he said, adding the Hamas government intended to pay the salaries of its employees.

“I tell the resistance fighters, I tell the Qassam fighters, do not drop your weapons, do not put your weapons aside and do not abandon your trenches,” Hayya said.

Hamas understands the purpose of foreign aid much better than do those who are handing out the money. Foreign aid allows Hamas to mollify public anger over the wars it starts, making the consequences of its militancy less acute. Europe and America are supporting both sides of a war while professing their hope that only one side wins. It’s head-spinning to realize that my tax money is helping to pay both for the Israeli bombs that destroy buildings in Gaza, and the reconstruction that follows. It’s one thing to fund both sides of a war between your enemies, say, between Iran and Iraq, hoping they both lose (to paraphrase Kissinger). But when one side is your ally and the other is your enemy, and you are funding both, you are engaged in a demented exercise.

…that foreign aid to Gaza helps Hamas, just listen to one of Hamas’s senior leaders:

Khalil al-Hayya, one of three survivors of the five best known Hamas leaders, told supporters the group had achieved victory in the war and was now engaged in a political battle.

“We promised to come out to you either as martyrs or as victors,” Hayya told supporters. “Today I come out to you and you are victors.” …

Hayya tried to reassure Palestinians whose houses had been destroyed by Israel. “The reconstruction is coming, do not be worried about that,” he said, adding the Hamas government intended to pay the salaries of its employees.

“I tell the resistance fighters, I tell the Qassam fighters, do not drop your weapons, do not put your weapons aside and do not abandon your trenches,” Hayya said.

Hamas understands the purpose of foreign aid much better than do those who are handing out the money. Foreign aid allows Hamas to mollify public anger over the wars it starts, making the consequences of its militancy less acute. Europe and America are supporting both sides of a war while professing their hope that only one side wins. It’s head-spinning to realize that my tax money is helping to pay both for the Israeli bombs that destroy buildings in Gaza, and the reconstruction that follows. It’s one thing to fund both sides of a war between your enemies, say, between Iran and Iraq, hoping they both lose (to paraphrase Kissinger). But when one side is your ally and the other is your enemy, and you are funding both, you are engaged in a demented exercise.

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Korean War Back On?

Today, North Korea declared it was repudiating agreements with South Korea, including the landmark 1991 reconciliation accord.  “Relations between the north and south have worsened to the point where there is no way or hope of correcting them,” stated Pyongyang’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.  “They have reached the extreme point where the clash of fire against fire, steel against steel, has become inevitable.”

South Korea never signed the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, so that document could not have been covered by the North’s announcement.  Today, Pyongyang called the armistice a “useless peace of paper.”  Yet it need not have bothered: in August 2006 North Korea issued a statement declaring it “null and void.”

Analysts assume that today’s statement is just a bid to get President Obama’s attention. But that may not be the case because Kim Jong Il looks as if he is getting a bit desperate.  He is in bad health, the concept of a succession to a younger-generation Kim is in doubt, his economy has been shrinking since 2006, and there is another severe food shortage.

Mr. Kim and his father have a history of using violence to upset status quos they thought to be unacceptable, so continually ignoring Pyongyang may not be the best strategy for us, especially at this crucial moment.  We have always let the Kim family pick the time and place for its next provocation, and that is what the current Kim could be doing now.

So if we want to keep the peace on the Korean peninsula, some nation needs to explain to Mr. Kim that his inflammatory words are unacceptable.  Of course, there is no better party to do that than the guarantor of the geopolitical order, the United States of America.

Today, North Korea declared it was repudiating agreements with South Korea, including the landmark 1991 reconciliation accord.  “Relations between the north and south have worsened to the point where there is no way or hope of correcting them,” stated Pyongyang’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.  “They have reached the extreme point where the clash of fire against fire, steel against steel, has become inevitable.”

South Korea never signed the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, so that document could not have been covered by the North’s announcement.  Today, Pyongyang called the armistice a “useless peace of paper.”  Yet it need not have bothered: in August 2006 North Korea issued a statement declaring it “null and void.”

Analysts assume that today’s statement is just a bid to get President Obama’s attention. But that may not be the case because Kim Jong Il looks as if he is getting a bit desperate.  He is in bad health, the concept of a succession to a younger-generation Kim is in doubt, his economy has been shrinking since 2006, and there is another severe food shortage.

Mr. Kim and his father have a history of using violence to upset status quos they thought to be unacceptable, so continually ignoring Pyongyang may not be the best strategy for us, especially at this crucial moment.  We have always let the Kim family pick the time and place for its next provocation, and that is what the current Kim could be doing now.

So if we want to keep the peace on the Korean peninsula, some nation needs to explain to Mr. Kim that his inflammatory words are unacceptable.  Of course, there is no better party to do that than the guarantor of the geopolitical order, the United States of America.

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Lessons Learned?

Michael Gerson contends that the Gaza war didn’t solve all of Israel’s problems but it made things better. Quoting a research fellow at Haifa University, he writes:

“It is a fairy tale,” he says, “to say there are no answers through coercive force. The only things in life that have solutions are crossword puzzles. We have not solutions, but answers — operational answers that reduce terror to a tolerable level. It is what we do with crime. It is what we do with terrorism.”

[. . .]

It is amazing that this argument remains an argument, especially after America’s experience with the surge in Iraq. For years, military and diplomatic experts have argued that the ultimate solution is Iraqi political reconciliation rather than military force. Which was true, eventually. But the achievement of security through force, it turns out, was a precondition for the process of reconciliation to move forward.

The question remains whether the Obama administration grasps this salient point. Certainly, Obama and his then team of advisers failed to comprehend this prospectively when the surge was being considered. But many people got that wrong, or lost nerve. So we move on. The issue now is whether they have taken the lesson of Iraq to heart — and will perceive the Gaza war as a similar opportunity to change the dynamics in another asymmetrical battleground.

We’ll leave for another day the concern about how they will react when the next opportunity to affect political conflict through the judicious use of military force comes along. For now, the Obama team can be the lucky beneficiary of military actions it did not support. We’ll see soon enough whether George Mitchell can walk through the door opened by the IDF to isolate Hamas, bolster alternative Palestinian social and political organizations, increase Israel’s security, and close down the flow of weapons to Gaza. That would constitute a modest success. It would signal some recognition that rather than begetting an “endless cycle of violence,” Israel’s military success can in fact advance its security and make possible a period of quietude, if not peace.

And if they do that successfully, they might even persuade Hamas’s patrons in Tehran that America and its allies can exert influence and reap the benefits of successful military action. (But not if the President keeps genuflecting and apologizing for the imagined sins of the U.S.) For now, however, it would be enough not to fritter away the opportunity which Israeli military action has made possible.

Michael Gerson contends that the Gaza war didn’t solve all of Israel’s problems but it made things better. Quoting a research fellow at Haifa University, he writes:

“It is a fairy tale,” he says, “to say there are no answers through coercive force. The only things in life that have solutions are crossword puzzles. We have not solutions, but answers — operational answers that reduce terror to a tolerable level. It is what we do with crime. It is what we do with terrorism.”

[. . .]

It is amazing that this argument remains an argument, especially after America’s experience with the surge in Iraq. For years, military and diplomatic experts have argued that the ultimate solution is Iraqi political reconciliation rather than military force. Which was true, eventually. But the achievement of security through force, it turns out, was a precondition for the process of reconciliation to move forward.

The question remains whether the Obama administration grasps this salient point. Certainly, Obama and his then team of advisers failed to comprehend this prospectively when the surge was being considered. But many people got that wrong, or lost nerve. So we move on. The issue now is whether they have taken the lesson of Iraq to heart — and will perceive the Gaza war as a similar opportunity to change the dynamics in another asymmetrical battleground.

We’ll leave for another day the concern about how they will react when the next opportunity to affect political conflict through the judicious use of military force comes along. For now, the Obama team can be the lucky beneficiary of military actions it did not support. We’ll see soon enough whether George Mitchell can walk through the door opened by the IDF to isolate Hamas, bolster alternative Palestinian social and political organizations, increase Israel’s security, and close down the flow of weapons to Gaza. That would constitute a modest success. It would signal some recognition that rather than begetting an “endless cycle of violence,” Israel’s military success can in fact advance its security and make possible a period of quietude, if not peace.

And if they do that successfully, they might even persuade Hamas’s patrons in Tehran that America and its allies can exert influence and reap the benefits of successful military action. (But not if the President keeps genuflecting and apologizing for the imagined sins of the U.S.) For now, however, it would be enough not to fritter away the opportunity which Israeli military action has made possible.

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Who Really Won the Second Lebanon War

Israel’s recent war in Gaza was waged for the simplest of reasons: to deter Hamas from firing Qassam and Grad rockets. Whether or not the Israelis succeeded is an open question. An Israeli soldier – who, by the way, was an Arab – was killed by a roadside bomb next to the border with Gaza a few days ago. But if the aftermath of the less successful Second Lebanon War against Hezbollah in 2006 suggests anything, Hamas is likely to cool its guns for a while. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah declared a “divine victory” in August of 2006, and most Israelis agreed. Bombastic boasts to the contrary, however, Hezbollah lost, and Hezbollah knows it.

I’m hardly the first to point out that Hezbollah sat out the Gaza war. Somebody fired a salvo of rockets into Israel from South Lebanon on January 8, and Hezbollah couldn’t distance itself from the attack fast enough. If the 2006 war was such a success, why wouldn’t Nasrallah want to rack up another divine victory? He could hardly ask for a more auspicious time to launch the next round if that’s what he was planning. The Israel Defense Forces were busy and preoccupied in Gaza, and much of world opinion had already turned sharply against the Israelis. If Nasrallah’s passivity doesn’t prove he feels more reluctant to pick a fight than he did in 2006, it certainly strongly suggests it.

There’s something else, though, that only a handful of analysts have remarked on. Very few people in Lebanon sincerely think Hezbollah won the 2006 war. It’s mostly Arabs outside Lebanon who take Nasrallah’s declaration of “divine victory” seriously.

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Israel’s recent war in Gaza was waged for the simplest of reasons: to deter Hamas from firing Qassam and Grad rockets. Whether or not the Israelis succeeded is an open question. An Israeli soldier – who, by the way, was an Arab – was killed by a roadside bomb next to the border with Gaza a few days ago. But if the aftermath of the less successful Second Lebanon War against Hezbollah in 2006 suggests anything, Hamas is likely to cool its guns for a while. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah declared a “divine victory” in August of 2006, and most Israelis agreed. Bombastic boasts to the contrary, however, Hezbollah lost, and Hezbollah knows it.

I’m hardly the first to point out that Hezbollah sat out the Gaza war. Somebody fired a salvo of rockets into Israel from South Lebanon on January 8, and Hezbollah couldn’t distance itself from the attack fast enough. If the 2006 war was such a success, why wouldn’t Nasrallah want to rack up another divine victory? He could hardly ask for a more auspicious time to launch the next round if that’s what he was planning. The Israel Defense Forces were busy and preoccupied in Gaza, and much of world opinion had already turned sharply against the Israelis. If Nasrallah’s passivity doesn’t prove he feels more reluctant to pick a fight than he did in 2006, it certainly strongly suggests it.

There’s something else, though, that only a handful of analysts have remarked on. Very few people in Lebanon sincerely think Hezbollah won the 2006 war. It’s mostly Arabs outside Lebanon who take Nasrallah’s declaration of “divine victory” seriously.

Leave aside the fact that ten times more Lebanese than Israelis were killed in that war, and that the centers of entire towns in South Lebanon were destroyed from the skies. It’s theoretically possible that the Lebanese could delude themselves into thinking they won. Most Egyptians, after all, think they beat Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, though they most certainly did not. And denial is a river that flows through other lands besides Egypt.

Nasrallah, though, was all but forced to apologize to Lebanese for the death and destruction he brought down on their heads. “We did not believe,” he said on Lebanon’s New TV station, “even by one percent, that the captive operation would result in such a wide-scale war, as such a war did not take place in the history of wars. Had we known that the captive operation would result in such a war we would not have carried it out at all.”

These are not the words of a man who thinks of himself as a victor. Nor are these the words of a man speaking to those who think they have won. He did not issue his apology because he hoped to appease his Christian, Sunni, and Druze opponents in Lebanon. He routinely, and absurdly, dismisses their March 14 coalition as the “Zionist hand.” No. Nasrallah apologized because his Israeli adventure devastated his own Shia community.

It’s not easy finding Lebanese who are interested in a repeat. I drove from Beirut to South Lebanon shortly after the war to survey the destruction with a couple of Hezbollah’s political enemies. My guide Said succinctly summed up the reaction I heard from most when we parked amid the rubble of downtown of Bint Jbail. “So this is our victory,” he sarcastically said. “This is how Hezbollah wins. Israel destroys our country while they sleep safely and soundly in theirs.”

Don’t assume only March-14 Lebanese feel this way. The Shias of South Lebanon feel it more acutely than most since they suffered the brunt of the damage. But even many of Nasrallah’s allies elsewhere in Lebanon aren’t interested in more of the same. “Both sides lost and don’t want to do it again,” a supporter of Hezbollah’s ally Michel Aoun said to me in Beirut. “The situation in the South is finished. If it happens again, Nasrallah will lose his case.”

Predicting the future in a bottomlessly complicated society like Lebanon’s is a risky business, to be sure, but a clear majority have no interest in yet another bloody conflict. Most Lebanese, like most Israelis, prefer to be left alone. And most of Nasrallah’s supporters will tell you they want Hezbollah to deter Israeli invasions, not to invite Israeli invasions.

Lebanon feels different now from how it did before the 2006 war. Its politics have been poisoned. The smell of impending civil war sometimes wafts in the air. War even broke out briefly last year when Hezbollah seized Sunni West Beirut before letting it go for fear of having to fight, of all things, their very own counterinsurgency. Hezbollah’s leaders know very well they may face an internal war if they push too hard inside their own country or if they bring down the wrath of Israelis on everyone’s head yet again. And if they won’t face civil war, then perhaps at least a change in the balance of power.

The Christian, Sunni, and Druze parties opposed to Hezbollah are too weak to win a war of disarmament, but only their own reluctance stops them from reconstituting their own civil-war-era militias and neutralizing Nasrallah’s advantage. The overwhelming majority, bless them, are sick of war with each other and with the Israelis. Few want to return to the bad old days of sectarian strife, but that’s where the country may be headed if Nasrallah insists on treating Lebanon as though it were Gaza.

Hezbollah has a larger arsenal of rockets today than before the war in 2006, and Nasrallah has cleverly used resentment against the most recent Israeli invasion to his domestic advantage. At the end of the day, though, it may not matter that much since Hezbollah is demonstrably more restrained than before.

Either way, Nasrallah is considerably more paranoid than he used to be, and his life is much more cramped than it was. I stood within 100 feet of him in 2005 when Hezbollah invited me to an iftar (fast-breaking) during Ramadan. Today, though, he moves clandestinely from one undisclosed location to the next as though he were Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. Cave hideouts aren’t Lebanon’s style, so he makes do in various basements while promising Israelis he wasn’t the one who shot at them a few weeks ago.

Nasrallah’s boasts play well in much of the Arab world beyond Lebanon. He even convinces Israelis – or at least he used to. But his “victory” seems empty at home where he has limited himself, in the meantime, to picking on Lebanon’s Sunnis and Druze who are his own size. Perhaps, after Hezbollah’s no-show during Gaza, Israelis should leave the bolstering of Nasrallah’s stature to the Egyptian street and the Syrians.

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It’s Harder Than It Looks

Everyone who loves politics fancies that he or she could do a better job than whatever White House press secretary happens to be serving. It would be fun to fence with the snide press corps. And how hard can it be? You defer to State on foreign policy, don’t speculate on unannounced personnel appointmenst and throw in some lighthearted personal anecdotes. Right?

Well, Robert Gibbs is having a rocky start.

First, he gets caught fibbing that good government groups don’t oppose the administration’s spate of ethics waivers for ex-lobbyists:

“He can’t be talking about us,”said CREW’s executive director Melanie Sloan. “We don’t believe in a never-ending list of waivers. The waivers indicate the administration cannot live with its own policy. Ergo, they should revise the policy and stop pretending they are not hiring lobbyists.”

As Sloan sees it, the Obama administration is trying to have its cake and eat it too, claiming the ethics high road except on occasions when it doesn’t suit their interests.

Whoops.

Then he brought untold grief upon the President by explaining the sloppy dress code in the White House. You see they take off their jackets in the Oval Office because the President keeps it so darn hot in there. Uh oh. Doesn’t mesh with the global warming hectoring and his campaign rhetoric about keeping the thermostat at 72 degrees. All this the day after he lectured his fellow Washingtonians about lacking  “flinty Chicago toughness.”

Well, it isn’t easy getting up there every day, especially when you have come to expect softball questions and fawning press coverage. Gibbs isn’t on the campaign trail against a hapless opponent. Now, with hundreds of cooped up reporters looking for news, he really can’t play fast and loose with the facts. Even in the cushiest of media environments it is pretty easy to trip up.

Everyone who loves politics fancies that he or she could do a better job than whatever White House press secretary happens to be serving. It would be fun to fence with the snide press corps. And how hard can it be? You defer to State on foreign policy, don’t speculate on unannounced personnel appointmenst and throw in some lighthearted personal anecdotes. Right?

Well, Robert Gibbs is having a rocky start.

First, he gets caught fibbing that good government groups don’t oppose the administration’s spate of ethics waivers for ex-lobbyists:

“He can’t be talking about us,”said CREW’s executive director Melanie Sloan. “We don’t believe in a never-ending list of waivers. The waivers indicate the administration cannot live with its own policy. Ergo, they should revise the policy and stop pretending they are not hiring lobbyists.”

As Sloan sees it, the Obama administration is trying to have its cake and eat it too, claiming the ethics high road except on occasions when it doesn’t suit their interests.

Whoops.

Then he brought untold grief upon the President by explaining the sloppy dress code in the White House. You see they take off their jackets in the Oval Office because the President keeps it so darn hot in there. Uh oh. Doesn’t mesh with the global warming hectoring and his campaign rhetoric about keeping the thermostat at 72 degrees. All this the day after he lectured his fellow Washingtonians about lacking  “flinty Chicago toughness.”

Well, it isn’t easy getting up there every day, especially when you have come to expect softball questions and fawning press coverage. Gibbs isn’t on the campaign trail against a hapless opponent. Now, with hundreds of cooped up reporters looking for news, he really can’t play fast and loose with the facts. Even in the cushiest of media environments it is pretty easy to trip up.

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Four Safe Bets about Obama

At the dawn of the Age of Obama, here are four predictions you can count on.

The first is that while Obama is riding high, race relations will be excellent. But once Obama goes down in the polls and he does things that elicit criticism, be prepared for the “race card” to be played. If it is, then race relations could be set back, because the charges will be so transparently false. If race was used by Obamacons against Bill Clinton, it will certainly be used against Republicans.

Second, we will hear more and more from Obama and his supporters about the severe difficulty of the situation they face. The days of healing the planet and reversing the ocean tide are gone. Indeed, the notion that we can expect any progress in 2009, we will be told, is utterly fanciful; just write it off. In fact, have you noticed how everything seems harder now that Obama is president? The situation in Guantanamo Bay turns out to be rather more complicated than candidate Obama said. Peace in the Middle East won’t happen with a snap of Obama’s finger – or even because he names some new envoys. Iran really wants a nuclear weapon, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be immune to the charms of Obama and his epistles. We find out that ethics bills need exceptions. Obama can talk up the “stimulus” package all day long, but the markets don’t seem impressed. Creating jobs has now turned into “saving” them. It turns out even “the word made flesh” (to quote Harold Meyerson) needs time – lots and lots of time – to perform his miracle. And columnists who were deranged in their criticisms of George W. Bush will declare that any criticism of Obama is “grousing.”

Third, Obama’s good manners will by synonymous with authentic bi-partisanship. For example, Republicans were frozen out of writing the “stimulus” bill. To have a pleasant conversation with Republican over lunch to discuss legislation they consider an anathema does not qualify as bi-partisanship. And if commentators do lament the lack of bi-partisanship, it will be the fault of… Republicans in Congress. For the MSM, it is conservatives and Republicans who must always give ground. If they don’t, regardless of which branch of government they occupy, they are to blame.

Fourth, as Obama continues to insist his policies should be followed because “I won,” it will be applauded as an impressive sign of strength and a recognition of political reality. Of course, when Bush said anything close to this, it was said to be an example of his “my way or the highway” arrogance.

There aren’t many sure bets in this life; these are four of them.

At the dawn of the Age of Obama, here are four predictions you can count on.

The first is that while Obama is riding high, race relations will be excellent. But once Obama goes down in the polls and he does things that elicit criticism, be prepared for the “race card” to be played. If it is, then race relations could be set back, because the charges will be so transparently false. If race was used by Obamacons against Bill Clinton, it will certainly be used against Republicans.

Second, we will hear more and more from Obama and his supporters about the severe difficulty of the situation they face. The days of healing the planet and reversing the ocean tide are gone. Indeed, the notion that we can expect any progress in 2009, we will be told, is utterly fanciful; just write it off. In fact, have you noticed how everything seems harder now that Obama is president? The situation in Guantanamo Bay turns out to be rather more complicated than candidate Obama said. Peace in the Middle East won’t happen with a snap of Obama’s finger – or even because he names some new envoys. Iran really wants a nuclear weapon, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be immune to the charms of Obama and his epistles. We find out that ethics bills need exceptions. Obama can talk up the “stimulus” package all day long, but the markets don’t seem impressed. Creating jobs has now turned into “saving” them. It turns out even “the word made flesh” (to quote Harold Meyerson) needs time – lots and lots of time – to perform his miracle. And columnists who were deranged in their criticisms of George W. Bush will declare that any criticism of Obama is “grousing.”

Third, Obama’s good manners will by synonymous with authentic bi-partisanship. For example, Republicans were frozen out of writing the “stimulus” bill. To have a pleasant conversation with Republican over lunch to discuss legislation they consider an anathema does not qualify as bi-partisanship. And if commentators do lament the lack of bi-partisanship, it will be the fault of… Republicans in Congress. For the MSM, it is conservatives and Republicans who must always give ground. If they don’t, regardless of which branch of government they occupy, they are to blame.

Fourth, as Obama continues to insist his policies should be followed because “I won,” it will be applauded as an impressive sign of strength and a recognition of political reality. Of course, when Bush said anything close to this, it was said to be an example of his “my way or the highway” arrogance.

There aren’t many sure bets in this life; these are four of them.

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How To Save It

There are a couple schools of thought as to how to save the President’s stimulus package. One maintains that it doesn’t need saving. The President most likely has the votes to ram the current bill — or a very close variation of it – through the Senate, just as he did for the House. He then can get his sprawling $825B bag of junky liberal programs. But that leaves him with a problem: he will have a $825B bag of junky liberal programs. It won’t be bipartisan, it will worsen his budgetary problems, and it will not do much about real long-term needs – or short-term ones either.

David Brooks suggests a re-do, picking up on the advice of Clinton-era budget director Alice Rivlin (apparently the only ex-Clintonite not in the current administration):

Strip out the permanent government programs. Many of them are worthy, but we can have that debate another day. Make the short-term stimulus bigger. Many liberal economists have been complaining it is too small, so replace the permanent programs with something like a big payroll tax cut, which would help the working class.
Add in a fiscal exit strategy so the whole thing is budget neutral over the medium term. Finally, coordinate the stimulus package with plans to shore up the housing and financial markets. Until those come to life, no amount of stimulus will do any good.

Republicans would still push for significant business tax rate cuts to spur investment and more defense spending in lieu of domestic programs, but it would be a start. At least the bill would get past the biggest problem: the President, who everyone assumes knows better, won’t sacrifice his credibility defending a bill that everyone knows to be very bad. As things presently stand, he looks a bit foolish defending the handiwork of Pelosi. He is, quite frankly, on the verge of losing not just the patina of bipartisanship but the respect of the chattering class. And it’s only the first two weeks of his presidency.

It’s not to late to make a u-turn. And it would benefit the President and the entire country if he did.

There are a couple schools of thought as to how to save the President’s stimulus package. One maintains that it doesn’t need saving. The President most likely has the votes to ram the current bill — or a very close variation of it – through the Senate, just as he did for the House. He then can get his sprawling $825B bag of junky liberal programs. But that leaves him with a problem: he will have a $825B bag of junky liberal programs. It won’t be bipartisan, it will worsen his budgetary problems, and it will not do much about real long-term needs – or short-term ones either.

David Brooks suggests a re-do, picking up on the advice of Clinton-era budget director Alice Rivlin (apparently the only ex-Clintonite not in the current administration):

Strip out the permanent government programs. Many of them are worthy, but we can have that debate another day. Make the short-term stimulus bigger. Many liberal economists have been complaining it is too small, so replace the permanent programs with something like a big payroll tax cut, which would help the working class.
Add in a fiscal exit strategy so the whole thing is budget neutral over the medium term. Finally, coordinate the stimulus package with plans to shore up the housing and financial markets. Until those come to life, no amount of stimulus will do any good.

Republicans would still push for significant business tax rate cuts to spur investment and more defense spending in lieu of domestic programs, but it would be a start. At least the bill would get past the biggest problem: the President, who everyone assumes knows better, won’t sacrifice his credibility defending a bill that everyone knows to be very bad. As things presently stand, he looks a bit foolish defending the handiwork of Pelosi. He is, quite frankly, on the verge of losing not just the patina of bipartisanship but the respect of the chattering class. And it’s only the first two weeks of his presidency.

It’s not to late to make a u-turn. And it would benefit the President and the entire country if he did.

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J Street Proven Wrong

During the Gaza War, James Kirchick  argued (correctly) that J Street — “the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement” — can’t claim to represent a silent American Jewish majority:

 . . . during the first major Israeli military operation since the 2006 Hezbollah War, at a time when the vast majority of Israelis and American Jews support what Israel is doing, J Street steps out of the shadows as the voice of communal dissent, joined by the likes of the United Nations and the Guardian editorial board (even the Arab League tacitly supports what Israel is doing, seeing that Hamas is an Iranian front). J Street has the right to its extreme leftist, capitulationist opinions, but it does not have the right to claim, as Ben-Ami once did, that it represents the “broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews.” J Street doesn’t even represent the views of left-wing Israelis.

James later proved that there’s no basis to J Street’s alleged “broadness.” But for those who are not yet convinced, a poll was published yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League (The Marttila Communications Group, margin of error +/-4.9%) on “Jewish American Attitudes on the Gaza Crisis.”

The results: 81% of Jewish Americans believe that Hamas was responsible for the crisis (J Street was trying to lay the blame on both Israel and Hamas. As they put it, there were “elements of truth on both sides of this gaping divide”). 94% sympathize more with Israel (J Street: “there is nothing to be gained from debating which injustice is greater or came first”). And most important: 79% believe that Israel’s use of force was appropriate (J Street: “there is nothing ‘right’ in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them”). Case closed.

During the Gaza War, James Kirchick  argued (correctly) that J Street — “the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement” — can’t claim to represent a silent American Jewish majority:

 . . . during the first major Israeli military operation since the 2006 Hezbollah War, at a time when the vast majority of Israelis and American Jews support what Israel is doing, J Street steps out of the shadows as the voice of communal dissent, joined by the likes of the United Nations and the Guardian editorial board (even the Arab League tacitly supports what Israel is doing, seeing that Hamas is an Iranian front). J Street has the right to its extreme leftist, capitulationist opinions, but it does not have the right to claim, as Ben-Ami once did, that it represents the “broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews.” J Street doesn’t even represent the views of left-wing Israelis.

James later proved that there’s no basis to J Street’s alleged “broadness.” But for those who are not yet convinced, a poll was published yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League (The Marttila Communications Group, margin of error +/-4.9%) on “Jewish American Attitudes on the Gaza Crisis.”

The results: 81% of Jewish Americans believe that Hamas was responsible for the crisis (J Street was trying to lay the blame on both Israel and Hamas. As they put it, there were “elements of truth on both sides of this gaping divide”). 94% sympathize more with Israel (J Street: “there is nothing to be gained from debating which injustice is greater or came first”). And most important: 79% believe that Israel’s use of force was appropriate (J Street: “there is nothing ‘right’ in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them”). Case closed.

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