Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 31, 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.

Read Less

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.

Read Less

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.

Read Less

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.

Read Less

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.

Read Less

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.

Read Less

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.

Read Less

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.”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.