Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 2009

Psst: Work on the Recession

Disconnected? That’s the New York Times take on the Obama administration, but there is a silver lining:

The economy is spiraling down at an accelerating pace, threatening to undermine the Obama administration’s spending plans, which anticipate vigorous rates of growth in years to come. A sense of disconnect between the projections by the White House and the grim realities of everyday American life was enhanced on Friday, as the Commerce Department gave a harsher assessment for the last three months of 2008. In place of an initial estimate that the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent — already abysmal — the government said that the pace of decline was actually 6.2 percent, making it the worst quarter since 1982.

The silver lining is that this might head off the ludicrous plans to hike taxes, nationalize industries and vastly expand regulation and anti-business measures (e.g. cap and trade) in a recession. Now it’s true that the Obama team’s supposedly honest budget has been revealed in less than a week as pure fantasy:

If, as is widely anticipated, the economy grows more slowly than the White House assumes, revenue will be lower, forcing the government to cut spending, raise taxes or run larger deficits. Economists also criticized as unrealistically hopeful the assumptions by the Federal Reserve as it began so-called stress tests to gauge the health of the nation’s largest banks. In testimony, Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, said that the nation’s unemployment rate would most likely reach 8.8 percent next year.

Well, yes it would be insane to raise taxes even higher when the recession proves to be worse than expected, but this is all a matter of degrees. Why raise taxes at all or threaten to raise them while the economy is in free-fall? Why concoct a cap and trade policy that aims to suck another $645B more out of the economy in “carbon revenues”?

The Grand Design to remodel the U.S. economy is running head long into the worsening recession. The Obama administration may need to slow down the massive redesign of our tax, energy, and healthcare policies (and indeed the entire relationship between individuals and their government) in order to give the economy a chance to recover. A viable bank recovery plan and corporate or payroll tax relief aren’t as sexy as nationalized healthcare, but the president’s supposedly brilliant advisors might want to consider a whole lot less of the latter — unless they really do desire a replay of the 1930s.

Disconnected? That’s the New York Times take on the Obama administration, but there is a silver lining:

The economy is spiraling down at an accelerating pace, threatening to undermine the Obama administration’s spending plans, which anticipate vigorous rates of growth in years to come. A sense of disconnect between the projections by the White House and the grim realities of everyday American life was enhanced on Friday, as the Commerce Department gave a harsher assessment for the last three months of 2008. In place of an initial estimate that the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent — already abysmal — the government said that the pace of decline was actually 6.2 percent, making it the worst quarter since 1982.

The silver lining is that this might head off the ludicrous plans to hike taxes, nationalize industries and vastly expand regulation and anti-business measures (e.g. cap and trade) in a recession. Now it’s true that the Obama team’s supposedly honest budget has been revealed in less than a week as pure fantasy:

If, as is widely anticipated, the economy grows more slowly than the White House assumes, revenue will be lower, forcing the government to cut spending, raise taxes or run larger deficits. Economists also criticized as unrealistically hopeful the assumptions by the Federal Reserve as it began so-called stress tests to gauge the health of the nation’s largest banks. In testimony, Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, said that the nation’s unemployment rate would most likely reach 8.8 percent next year.

Well, yes it would be insane to raise taxes even higher when the recession proves to be worse than expected, but this is all a matter of degrees. Why raise taxes at all or threaten to raise them while the economy is in free-fall? Why concoct a cap and trade policy that aims to suck another $645B more out of the economy in “carbon revenues”?

The Grand Design to remodel the U.S. economy is running head long into the worsening recession. The Obama administration may need to slow down the massive redesign of our tax, energy, and healthcare policies (and indeed the entire relationship between individuals and their government) in order to give the economy a chance to recover. A viable bank recovery plan and corporate or payroll tax relief aren’t as sexy as nationalized healthcare, but the president’s supposedly brilliant advisors might want to consider a whole lot less of the latter — unless they really do desire a replay of the 1930s.

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Done with Human Rights

As a foreign policy issue, human rights has historically been a no-brainer for both Democrats and Republicans. Conservatives pushed Stalinist regimes on their records of mistreatment all through the Cold War and liberal leaders have usually been comfortable at least talking the talk when it comes to far right nationalist tyrannies. Not so these days. Michael Barone is not overstating the case when he writes:

One arrow in the quiver of American foreign policy has been our pressing — sometimes sotto voce (as in the Helsinki Accords), sometimes in opera buffa (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”) — tyrannical regimes to honor human rights. Hillary Clinton has put that arrow over her knee, broken it in two and thrown it away.

Barone is referring to Clinton’s blunt announcement to the Chinese that the U.S. is not in the Human Rights business at the moment.

What’s most repugnant about the Obama administration’s indifference to human rights abuses is the way this posture was achieved. Obama created a rights-abusing bogeyman in the person of George W. Bush and then, with full executive bravado, slew the monster by way of inaugural rhetoric and a few high-profile (but technically watery) presidential orders. So Barack Obama has supposedly done his share for human rights.

He’s closing (but really just relocating) the Guantanamo facility, so he doesn’t have to mention the wrongfully imprisoned thousands throughout China. He’s ending (but really just discussing the ramifications of ending) tough interrogations, so he doesn’t have to bring up Syrian torture when reaching out to the Assad regime. He’s closed down temporary CIA detention facilities, so when he goes on Arabian TV he’s free to praise the “courage” of a Saudi king whose domestic anti-terrorism program amounts to a secret network of sheer brutality.

We are seeing the real-world impact of equating three cases of American waterboarding with institutionalized international torture. Obama set up Bush’s America as a human rights wasteland in order to play to the netroots and taint his Republican challenger. It worked, as a campaign strategy. But his years-long mission to convince the entire world that America has lost its moral standing worked too. In histrionically declaring America a newly torture-free nation during his congressional address last week, Obama may think he’s let himself off the international hook. But with his administration’s decision to scrap human rights, the period of our nation’s real moral degradation may only just be getting started.

Last summer, when he was still a candidate, Barack Obama promised: “I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, ‘You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.’” Our moment just passed.

As a foreign policy issue, human rights has historically been a no-brainer for both Democrats and Republicans. Conservatives pushed Stalinist regimes on their records of mistreatment all through the Cold War and liberal leaders have usually been comfortable at least talking the talk when it comes to far right nationalist tyrannies. Not so these days. Michael Barone is not overstating the case when he writes:

One arrow in the quiver of American foreign policy has been our pressing — sometimes sotto voce (as in the Helsinki Accords), sometimes in opera buffa (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”) — tyrannical regimes to honor human rights. Hillary Clinton has put that arrow over her knee, broken it in two and thrown it away.

Barone is referring to Clinton’s blunt announcement to the Chinese that the U.S. is not in the Human Rights business at the moment.

What’s most repugnant about the Obama administration’s indifference to human rights abuses is the way this posture was achieved. Obama created a rights-abusing bogeyman in the person of George W. Bush and then, with full executive bravado, slew the monster by way of inaugural rhetoric and a few high-profile (but technically watery) presidential orders. So Barack Obama has supposedly done his share for human rights.

He’s closing (but really just relocating) the Guantanamo facility, so he doesn’t have to mention the wrongfully imprisoned thousands throughout China. He’s ending (but really just discussing the ramifications of ending) tough interrogations, so he doesn’t have to bring up Syrian torture when reaching out to the Assad regime. He’s closed down temporary CIA detention facilities, so when he goes on Arabian TV he’s free to praise the “courage” of a Saudi king whose domestic anti-terrorism program amounts to a secret network of sheer brutality.

We are seeing the real-world impact of equating three cases of American waterboarding with institutionalized international torture. Obama set up Bush’s America as a human rights wasteland in order to play to the netroots and taint his Republican challenger. It worked, as a campaign strategy. But his years-long mission to convince the entire world that America has lost its moral standing worked too. In histrionically declaring America a newly torture-free nation during his congressional address last week, Obama may think he’s let himself off the international hook. But with his administration’s decision to scrap human rights, the period of our nation’s real moral degradation may only just be getting started.

Last summer, when he was still a candidate, Barack Obama promised: “I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, ‘You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.’” Our moment just passed.

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Incoherence

Marty Peretz writes of the decision not to attend Durban II and of the appointment of Chas Freeman:

I have an instinct that the finale for Geneva was hastened by the Freeman disaster about which I wrote thrice yesterday. No one can explain what the president sees in him that would allow such a crude propagandist and bigot to be judge of what intelligence information the president sees and what he does not. The intelligence machinery of the country has been under suspicion for years  because of ignorance or bureaucratic conflicts. Add now the fact that Freeman loves the Chinese dictatorship and that he is a shill for the king of Saudi Arabia. Oh yes, and he clearly despises friends of Israel, Jewish or not.

Perhaps this is so, but then there is no rhyme or reason to our national security apparatus. We have a president who ricochets from one set of critics to the next without regard for the merits of the issue before him. Is this is what we are to expect — the toady of the House of Saud in a key role “balanced” by a “boycott” of Durban II? This is a peculiar compromise indeed: to be just a little bit in the thrall of the Israel-bashers. And it raises the troubling question as to who really is in charge of decision making: everyone or no one or a very confused president?

Coming out of the election, one theory on Barack Obama was that he was a “moderate” on national security who simply played to the netroots in the primary.  That’s the “bet” Colin Powell and others placed. Another explanation, particularly after the appointments of solid establishment types, was that he really didn’t care that much about foreign policy and wanted to devote himself to domestic policy.

Perhaps re-inventing American society and dismantling the free market system have taken most of his time of late. But if that is the case, he better start paying attention and stop leaving national security to others. National security is not self-executing. Without a strong hand at the rudder and a clear chain of command we will have incoherence.

Marty Peretz writes of the decision not to attend Durban II and of the appointment of Chas Freeman:

I have an instinct that the finale for Geneva was hastened by the Freeman disaster about which I wrote thrice yesterday. No one can explain what the president sees in him that would allow such a crude propagandist and bigot to be judge of what intelligence information the president sees and what he does not. The intelligence machinery of the country has been under suspicion for years  because of ignorance or bureaucratic conflicts. Add now the fact that Freeman loves the Chinese dictatorship and that he is a shill for the king of Saudi Arabia. Oh yes, and he clearly despises friends of Israel, Jewish or not.

Perhaps this is so, but then there is no rhyme or reason to our national security apparatus. We have a president who ricochets from one set of critics to the next without regard for the merits of the issue before him. Is this is what we are to expect — the toady of the House of Saud in a key role “balanced” by a “boycott” of Durban II? This is a peculiar compromise indeed: to be just a little bit in the thrall of the Israel-bashers. And it raises the troubling question as to who really is in charge of decision making: everyone or no one or a very confused president?

Coming out of the election, one theory on Barack Obama was that he was a “moderate” on national security who simply played to the netroots in the primary.  That’s the “bet” Colin Powell and others placed. Another explanation, particularly after the appointments of solid establishment types, was that he really didn’t care that much about foreign policy and wanted to devote himself to domestic policy.

Perhaps re-inventing American society and dismantling the free market system have taken most of his time of late. But if that is the case, he better start paying attention and stop leaving national security to others. National security is not self-executing. Without a strong hand at the rudder and a clear chain of command we will have incoherence.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

David Brooks remains torn.  The president is not governing as the candidate he promised to be, but instead as a far left pol. Brooks declares Obama’s budget is “far more honest” than the ones that preceded it, but then proceeds to tell us how it really isn’t. (It is less honest than even Brooks concedes, actually.) It must be grating to those with such high hopes  to see “a weird passivity emanating from the White House, a deference to the Washington establishment.”

Larry Kudlow isn’t mincing words in his evaluation: “Let me be very clear on the economics of President Obama’s address to Congress and budget. He is declaring war on investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, large corporations, and private-equity and venture-capital funds. That is the meaning of his anti-growth tax-hike proposals, which make absolutely no sense at all — either for this recession or from the standpoint of expanding our economy’s long-run potential to grow.”

Obama does have a way with words, Rich Lowry concedes. “Obama is a talented, but a wily and dishonest, salesman. Nineteenth-century pol Martin Van Buren earned the sobriquet ‘the little magician’ for his skillful manipulation of New York’s political machine. Obama is the rhetorical magician, depending — as all magicians do — on deft sleight of hand. In his speech, Obama didn’t want his listeners to think he’s a big-government heir to Lyndon Johnson, so he talked of slashing waste. He said his team had begun going ‘line by line’ through the budget, and ‘we have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade.’” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Fred Barnes thinks Obama is in campaign mode, avoiding hard choices and playing the role of “quick change artist.” He concludes, ”Financial markets have already registered a vote of no confidence in Obama’s economic plan. But the political community and the public are reserving judgment. At some point, reality will intrude, followed by accountability. But not yet.”

Perhaps Obama, for all his eloquence, was insufficiently clear on Iraq during the campaign. He snipes at Pelosi-Reid generated criticism: “They, maybe, weren’t paying attention to what I said during the campaign.” Well I guess it depends what part of the campaign.

Fiscal conservatives were duped says the Beagle Blogger.

Voters were also conned about that post-racial business.

The oppo-researcher, non-lawyer hired by the White House counsel office (imagine if the Bush administration had done this) leaves to go back to the DNC.

Charles Hurt writes: “This year alone, deficit spending will be $1.8 trillion. But even among Democrats, there remain some deficit hawks who will choke, and that will lead to only one solution: even bigger tax hikes than the president already has proposed. This may be the ‘change’ Obama was dreaming about, but it won’t be what people were hoping for.”

How irrelevant is a poll on the GOP 2012 contenders in February 2009? Very.

Megan McArdle writes: “I think it is decidedly iffy whether congress actually passes any cap and trade system with teeth.  For a cap and trade system to work, it will have to make energy more expensive at a time when incomes are declining.  This will be very, very, very unpopular.  I imagine the Democrats will try to get the Republicans to kill it for them, but they don’t have much margin–one flipping Republican in the Senate and a few in the house should let them pass it.  If the Republicans are smart, they will provide three moderate Republicans in the Senate,  a few Republicans from safe seats in the House, and make the Democrats suffer the consequences of raising the price of gas and electricity.  But I doubt they’ll be smart; they’ll do Pelosi’s dirty work for her.” No, generally a minority party doesn’t recover unless it opposes asinine policies and sets itself up as the alternative. Moreover, it never pays to harm the country.

Is the administration’s design for nationalized healthcare sinking healthcare stocks? Looks that way.  But it’s not just healthcare. Don Luskin says, “The mask is off. He is trying to socialize this country.” Watch the whole thing.

It does seem that the entire market is imploding.

You can see why people might be nervous.

Jon Chait slams Chas Freeman in the Washington Post, but uses up much of the precious platform slamming “neocons” who believe “good guys” should fight “bad guys.” (Were Truman, FDR and JFK neocons? Churchill too, I suppose.) Mislabeling Freeman a “realist” doesn’t help matters and Chait oddly avoids quoting in detail exactly what Freeman has said or explaining Freeman’s monetary dependence on the House of Saud. (Was this thrown together in an hour using recycled lines from other columns?) The entire theme that Obama’s picks are as bad as Bush’s is not only unsubstantiated, but poor form for a supporter of the candidate who was supposed to be better than all who preceded him.

David Brooks remains torn.  The president is not governing as the candidate he promised to be, but instead as a far left pol. Brooks declares Obama’s budget is “far more honest” than the ones that preceded it, but then proceeds to tell us how it really isn’t. (It is less honest than even Brooks concedes, actually.) It must be grating to those with such high hopes  to see “a weird passivity emanating from the White House, a deference to the Washington establishment.”

Larry Kudlow isn’t mincing words in his evaluation: “Let me be very clear on the economics of President Obama’s address to Congress and budget. He is declaring war on investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, large corporations, and private-equity and venture-capital funds. That is the meaning of his anti-growth tax-hike proposals, which make absolutely no sense at all — either for this recession or from the standpoint of expanding our economy’s long-run potential to grow.”

Obama does have a way with words, Rich Lowry concedes. “Obama is a talented, but a wily and dishonest, salesman. Nineteenth-century pol Martin Van Buren earned the sobriquet ‘the little magician’ for his skillful manipulation of New York’s political machine. Obama is the rhetorical magician, depending — as all magicians do — on deft sleight of hand. In his speech, Obama didn’t want his listeners to think he’s a big-government heir to Lyndon Johnson, so he talked of slashing waste. He said his team had begun going ‘line by line’ through the budget, and ‘we have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade.’” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Fred Barnes thinks Obama is in campaign mode, avoiding hard choices and playing the role of “quick change artist.” He concludes, ”Financial markets have already registered a vote of no confidence in Obama’s economic plan. But the political community and the public are reserving judgment. At some point, reality will intrude, followed by accountability. But not yet.”

Perhaps Obama, for all his eloquence, was insufficiently clear on Iraq during the campaign. He snipes at Pelosi-Reid generated criticism: “They, maybe, weren’t paying attention to what I said during the campaign.” Well I guess it depends what part of the campaign.

Fiscal conservatives were duped says the Beagle Blogger.

Voters were also conned about that post-racial business.

The oppo-researcher, non-lawyer hired by the White House counsel office (imagine if the Bush administration had done this) leaves to go back to the DNC.

Charles Hurt writes: “This year alone, deficit spending will be $1.8 trillion. But even among Democrats, there remain some deficit hawks who will choke, and that will lead to only one solution: even bigger tax hikes than the president already has proposed. This may be the ‘change’ Obama was dreaming about, but it won’t be what people were hoping for.”

How irrelevant is a poll on the GOP 2012 contenders in February 2009? Very.

Megan McArdle writes: “I think it is decidedly iffy whether congress actually passes any cap and trade system with teeth.  For a cap and trade system to work, it will have to make energy more expensive at a time when incomes are declining.  This will be very, very, very unpopular.  I imagine the Democrats will try to get the Republicans to kill it for them, but they don’t have much margin–one flipping Republican in the Senate and a few in the house should let them pass it.  If the Republicans are smart, they will provide three moderate Republicans in the Senate,  a few Republicans from safe seats in the House, and make the Democrats suffer the consequences of raising the price of gas and electricity.  But I doubt they’ll be smart; they’ll do Pelosi’s dirty work for her.” No, generally a minority party doesn’t recover unless it opposes asinine policies and sets itself up as the alternative. Moreover, it never pays to harm the country.

Is the administration’s design for nationalized healthcare sinking healthcare stocks? Looks that way.  But it’s not just healthcare. Don Luskin says, “The mask is off. He is trying to socialize this country.” Watch the whole thing.

It does seem that the entire market is imploding.

You can see why people might be nervous.

Jon Chait slams Chas Freeman in the Washington Post, but uses up much of the precious platform slamming “neocons” who believe “good guys” should fight “bad guys.” (Were Truman, FDR and JFK neocons? Churchill too, I suppose.) Mislabeling Freeman a “realist” doesn’t help matters and Chait oddly avoids quoting in detail exactly what Freeman has said or explaining Freeman’s monetary dependence on the House of Saud. (Was this thrown together in an hour using recycled lines from other columns?) The entire theme that Obama’s picks are as bad as Bush’s is not only unsubstantiated, but poor form for a supporter of the candidate who was supposed to be better than all who preceded him.

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Durban II — Finally Getting to “No”

We learn from this report that the U.S. will not be attending Durban II:

White House aides told Jewish leaders on a conference call today that the United States will boycott the United Nations’ World Conference on Racism over hostility to Israel in draft documents prepared for the April conference.

The aides, including an advisor to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Jennifer Simon, and longtime Obama advisor Samantha Power, said the administration will not participate in further negotiations on the current text or participate in a conference based on the text, sources on the call said.

They left open the option of re-engaging on a “much shorter, much different text,” a source said.

This is good news, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of the U.S. avoiding Durban II. But even when it gets it “right,” this administration seems disinclined to be definitive (well, if the text is a bit less anti-Israel, they will reconsider?).

Moreover, this was not a tough call. The feigned participation in the planning conference, the “gosh we tried” attitude suggests that moral preening and pretense is central to the administration’s modus operandi. As we saw on rendition and even the executive order (with a wide back door) on extraordinary interrogation techniques, the practical result often is not much of a change from the Bush administration policy. But that would be too much of an embarrassment, I suppose, for the  Change Administration. Hence, the need to dress up “we’ll do what Bush was doing” with grand pronouncements and self-serving rhetoric.

Does this help in the long run? Perhaps it soothes Obama’s netroot critics. But on the international scene I wonder if we lose credibility with friends and foes, and whether the artifice leaves both more confused about our policies and level of commitment.

So in the future, perhaps when the Obama administration is inclined to do the right thing, they can just do it. And leave out the self-serving set dressing.

We learn from this report that the U.S. will not be attending Durban II:

White House aides told Jewish leaders on a conference call today that the United States will boycott the United Nations’ World Conference on Racism over hostility to Israel in draft documents prepared for the April conference.

The aides, including an advisor to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Jennifer Simon, and longtime Obama advisor Samantha Power, said the administration will not participate in further negotiations on the current text or participate in a conference based on the text, sources on the call said.

They left open the option of re-engaging on a “much shorter, much different text,” a source said.

This is good news, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of the U.S. avoiding Durban II. But even when it gets it “right,” this administration seems disinclined to be definitive (well, if the text is a bit less anti-Israel, they will reconsider?).

Moreover, this was not a tough call. The feigned participation in the planning conference, the “gosh we tried” attitude suggests that moral preening and pretense is central to the administration’s modus operandi. As we saw on rendition and even the executive order (with a wide back door) on extraordinary interrogation techniques, the practical result often is not much of a change from the Bush administration policy. But that would be too much of an embarrassment, I suppose, for the  Change Administration. Hence, the need to dress up “we’ll do what Bush was doing” with grand pronouncements and self-serving rhetoric.

Does this help in the long run? Perhaps it soothes Obama’s netroot critics. But on the international scene I wonder if we lose credibility with friends and foes, and whether the artifice leaves both more confused about our policies and level of commitment.

So in the future, perhaps when the Obama administration is inclined to do the right thing, they can just do it. And leave out the self-serving set dressing.

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Iraq Withdrawal

The president’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq with a sort-of firm deadline is meeting with generally favorable reviews. It could have been worse — more abrupt and lacking the promise of a significant residual force. But it could have been better.

First, there simply is no need other than the care and feeding of the netroot-left to declare a certain withdrawal date, even one nineteen rather than sixteen months out. Why give adversaries a target, quite literally to shoot at?  Tom Donnelly has, I think, raised another critical point, about the president’s language. The president went on at length about the Iraq war veterans’ burdens and hardships and the social services the president will extend to them and their families. Donnelly explains:

This is a very subtle form of the soldier-as-victim trope that is fast becoming an Iraq legacy. For soldiers throughout history–those who have endured physical and emotional sufferings of an essential similar quality, if less clinically expressed–the trials of war were at least partially ameliorated by the salve of personal honor and, if the battle went well, the celebration of a victory. The troops who have served and serve still in Iraq should be singled out not just for the burdens of the fight but because they emerge from it, as Bing West’s book puts it, as the “strongest tribe.”

Perhaps had the president said more — about the remarkable victory and about the prospects for democracy and stability in a country decimated by tyranny it would have been a more balanced portrayal of the armed services. He comes closer than he has in the past:

You have endured tour after tour after tour of duty. You have known the dangers of combat and the lonely distance of loved ones. You have fought against tyranny and disorder. You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor, and succeeded beyond any expectation.

Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.

To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process.

Still, his subordinates are left to confirm the obvious — the surge made our success possible. But the president does not come out and say what we virtually all know to be true: we are on the precipice of a remarkable accomplishment. The members of the armed services didn’t just suffer or carry a burden — they did so to achieve a great victory. That’s what was, and has been missing, from the president’s rhetoric from the get go. To love and care for the troops is to recognize and honor them for what they have done. The commander-in-chief should know better.

The president’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq with a sort-of firm deadline is meeting with generally favorable reviews. It could have been worse — more abrupt and lacking the promise of a significant residual force. But it could have been better.

First, there simply is no need other than the care and feeding of the netroot-left to declare a certain withdrawal date, even one nineteen rather than sixteen months out. Why give adversaries a target, quite literally to shoot at?  Tom Donnelly has, I think, raised another critical point, about the president’s language. The president went on at length about the Iraq war veterans’ burdens and hardships and the social services the president will extend to them and their families. Donnelly explains:

This is a very subtle form of the soldier-as-victim trope that is fast becoming an Iraq legacy. For soldiers throughout history–those who have endured physical and emotional sufferings of an essential similar quality, if less clinically expressed–the trials of war were at least partially ameliorated by the salve of personal honor and, if the battle went well, the celebration of a victory. The troops who have served and serve still in Iraq should be singled out not just for the burdens of the fight but because they emerge from it, as Bing West’s book puts it, as the “strongest tribe.”

Perhaps had the president said more — about the remarkable victory and about the prospects for democracy and stability in a country decimated by tyranny it would have been a more balanced portrayal of the armed services. He comes closer than he has in the past:

You have endured tour after tour after tour of duty. You have known the dangers of combat and the lonely distance of loved ones. You have fought against tyranny and disorder. You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor, and succeeded beyond any expectation.

Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.

To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process.

Still, his subordinates are left to confirm the obvious — the surge made our success possible. But the president does not come out and say what we virtually all know to be true: we are on the precipice of a remarkable accomplishment. The members of the armed services didn’t just suffer or carry a burden — they did so to achieve a great victory. That’s what was, and has been missing, from the president’s rhetoric from the get go. To love and care for the troops is to recognize and honor them for what they have done. The commander-in-chief should know better.

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New Orleans, Unguarded

In discussing Hurricane Katrina, people never tire of maintaining there was “enough blame to go around.” Every sensitive American knows to cite “the failure of local, state, and federal governments to respond more effectively.” Which means, in real terms, that New Orleans’ mayor, Ray Nagin, should have gotten citizens out of the city and kept police in; Louisiana’s governor, Kathleen Blanco should have immediately asked for National Guard troops; and President Bush should have . . . not been photographed looking out of an airplane window?

There’s a story today highlighting that the federal government not only saved the day three and a half years ago, but also continued to outshine Louisiana’s local and state entities ever since. The last members of the patrolling National Guard are pulling out of New Orleans by the end of this weekend, and residents are petrified at the prospect of not having federal troops around to aid and protect them:

Residents long distrustful of the city’s police force are worried they will have to fend for themselves. “I don’t know if crime will go up after these guys leave. But I know a lot more of us will be packing our own pieces now to make sure we’re protected,” said Calvin Stewart, owner of a restaurant and store.

Residents of an American city don’t want to “have to fend for themselves” in the absence of federal troops. This is an astounding comment on the enduring failure of Louisiana’s local and state government.

In their camouflage uniforms and Humvees, the troops were often a welcome sight.

“We don’t have enough cops. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that there’s not enough of them. These guys are Johnny-on-the-spot when you need them,” said 57-year-old Tom Hightower, who is still trying to get the mold out of his house. He added: “This is still a spooky place after dark.”

The troops had full arrest powers but were required to call New Orleans police on serious matters. In their time on the streets, Guard troops were involved in only one shooting, and the district attorney ruled it justified.

The Guardsmen answered lots of calls involving domestic violence, reported to be up in New Orleans since the hurricane, and handled car wrecks, house and business alarms and other problems.

Critics have cited Hurricane Katrina as a domestic debacle for George W. Bush with a PR effect comparable to that of the Iraq War. What a funny day for reflection it is that finds President Barack Obama extending his withdrawal timetable in Iraq and complying with the Bush plan to keep a significant number of troops there through 2011, while the residents of New Orleans express heartsickness over being abandoned to local authorities by the federal government. Here’s the kicker:

“I don’t think the city is ready for us to leave,” said Lt. Ronald Brown, who has been part of Task Force Gator since April 2007. “I’d like to see us stay. I think we make a difference, but I guess it’s a money thing.”

Funny, I could swear I remember hearing Barack Obama talk about spending too much on a misguided war and too little at home. But, then, I must be hearing things. Because I also thought I heard something about billions of tax payer dollars being allocated for domestic infrastructure.

I mean the following in all sincerity: good luck, New Orleans.

In discussing Hurricane Katrina, people never tire of maintaining there was “enough blame to go around.” Every sensitive American knows to cite “the failure of local, state, and federal governments to respond more effectively.” Which means, in real terms, that New Orleans’ mayor, Ray Nagin, should have gotten citizens out of the city and kept police in; Louisiana’s governor, Kathleen Blanco should have immediately asked for National Guard troops; and President Bush should have . . . not been photographed looking out of an airplane window?

There’s a story today highlighting that the federal government not only saved the day three and a half years ago, but also continued to outshine Louisiana’s local and state entities ever since. The last members of the patrolling National Guard are pulling out of New Orleans by the end of this weekend, and residents are petrified at the prospect of not having federal troops around to aid and protect them:

Residents long distrustful of the city’s police force are worried they will have to fend for themselves. “I don’t know if crime will go up after these guys leave. But I know a lot more of us will be packing our own pieces now to make sure we’re protected,” said Calvin Stewart, owner of a restaurant and store.

Residents of an American city don’t want to “have to fend for themselves” in the absence of federal troops. This is an astounding comment on the enduring failure of Louisiana’s local and state government.

In their camouflage uniforms and Humvees, the troops were often a welcome sight.

“We don’t have enough cops. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that there’s not enough of them. These guys are Johnny-on-the-spot when you need them,” said 57-year-old Tom Hightower, who is still trying to get the mold out of his house. He added: “This is still a spooky place after dark.”

The troops had full arrest powers but were required to call New Orleans police on serious matters. In their time on the streets, Guard troops were involved in only one shooting, and the district attorney ruled it justified.

The Guardsmen answered lots of calls involving domestic violence, reported to be up in New Orleans since the hurricane, and handled car wrecks, house and business alarms and other problems.

Critics have cited Hurricane Katrina as a domestic debacle for George W. Bush with a PR effect comparable to that of the Iraq War. What a funny day for reflection it is that finds President Barack Obama extending his withdrawal timetable in Iraq and complying with the Bush plan to keep a significant number of troops there through 2011, while the residents of New Orleans express heartsickness over being abandoned to local authorities by the federal government. Here’s the kicker:

“I don’t think the city is ready for us to leave,” said Lt. Ronald Brown, who has been part of Task Force Gator since April 2007. “I’d like to see us stay. I think we make a difference, but I guess it’s a money thing.”

Funny, I could swear I remember hearing Barack Obama talk about spending too much on a misguided war and too little at home. But, then, I must be hearing things. Because I also thought I heard something about billions of tax payer dollars being allocated for domestic infrastructure.

I mean the following in all sincerity: good luck, New Orleans.

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Re: The Jewish Left Celebrates

Jonathan, the extent of Chas Freeman’s extremism and the degree to which the left has embraced anti-American quackery should not be shocking. But it is troubling. This exchange from The Washington Institute’s Soref Symposium in  2002 is telling:

Satloff: Ambassador Freeman, is it legitimate for Americans to focus on internal cultural affairs, including tolerance and education, in a place like Saudi Arabia? Have Saudis done any serious introspection on this set of issues since September 11?

Freeman: I urge anyone who has not done so to read the most profoundly self-reflective speech by a political leader that I have seen in the last quarter-century: Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah’s December 2001 address to the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Muscat. In that speech he calls for Arabs and Muslims to examine their own consciences and practices and to accept part of the blame for the sad state of affairs between them and the rest of the world. More to the point, concrete steps have been taken to implement his vision. Let me outline a few of these steps.

It seems to be a basic law of human knowledge that the less time people spend in Saudi Arabia, the more they know about its educational curriculum and social practices. I am not impressed by the conventional wisdom in the United States, even among so-called experts on this issue.

First, the Saudis have quietly conducted a high-level review of their curriculum under the chairmanship of Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister. The Saudis have eliminated about 5 percent of the material and placed another 15 percent under continuing review. The government has even suspended some teachers who were overstepping the bounds.

Second, Saudis and other Gulf Arabs were shocked by the level of ignorance and antipathy displayed by Americans toward them and toward Islam after September 11. The connection between Islam and suicide bombing is a false connection. Kamikaze pilots were not Muslims. And in the Palestinian arena, it is an issue of nationalism, not religion. Secular Palestinians are increasingly adopting this tactic.

Islam completely condemns the idea of suicide. Indeed, the ulama throughout the region, the Grand Mufti in Saudi Arabia, and other religious leaders throughout the Gulf condemned suicide carried out for this purpose and issued statements of sympathy to the United States and the American people within days of September 11. None of this was reported in the U.S. press.

Saudi Arabia, which has historically been much more difficult for journalists to get to than Tibet, has recently been quite open to journalists. Western journalists have turned from criticizing Saudi Arabia for imaginary faults to criticizing it for real faults. That is progress. We should not criticize people we know nothing about.

Crown Prince Abdullah’s peace initiative — which would not only normalize Saudi relations with Israel but would lead an Arab-wide effort to bring about full normalization in the Arab world toward Israel — is also a result of this introspection.

And what of America’s lack of introspection about September 11? Instead of asking what might have caused the attack, or questioning the propriety of the national response to it, there is an ugly mood of chauvinism. Before Americans call on others to examine themselves, we should examine ourselves.

Satloff: I find it difficult to accept that the people who were on the receiving end of the September 11 attacks should begin by focusing on what they did to deserve it.

Freeman: My point is that cause and effect work both ways. They exist in both directions, whatever the moral consequences might be.

So you see, the responsibility for 9-11 flows both ways. This is the man now heading the National Intelligence Council.

Jonathan, the extent of Chas Freeman’s extremism and the degree to which the left has embraced anti-American quackery should not be shocking. But it is troubling. This exchange from The Washington Institute’s Soref Symposium in  2002 is telling:

Satloff: Ambassador Freeman, is it legitimate for Americans to focus on internal cultural affairs, including tolerance and education, in a place like Saudi Arabia? Have Saudis done any serious introspection on this set of issues since September 11?

Freeman: I urge anyone who has not done so to read the most profoundly self-reflective speech by a political leader that I have seen in the last quarter-century: Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah’s December 2001 address to the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Muscat. In that speech he calls for Arabs and Muslims to examine their own consciences and practices and to accept part of the blame for the sad state of affairs between them and the rest of the world. More to the point, concrete steps have been taken to implement his vision. Let me outline a few of these steps.

It seems to be a basic law of human knowledge that the less time people spend in Saudi Arabia, the more they know about its educational curriculum and social practices. I am not impressed by the conventional wisdom in the United States, even among so-called experts on this issue.

First, the Saudis have quietly conducted a high-level review of their curriculum under the chairmanship of Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister. The Saudis have eliminated about 5 percent of the material and placed another 15 percent under continuing review. The government has even suspended some teachers who were overstepping the bounds.

Second, Saudis and other Gulf Arabs were shocked by the level of ignorance and antipathy displayed by Americans toward them and toward Islam after September 11. The connection between Islam and suicide bombing is a false connection. Kamikaze pilots were not Muslims. And in the Palestinian arena, it is an issue of nationalism, not religion. Secular Palestinians are increasingly adopting this tactic.

Islam completely condemns the idea of suicide. Indeed, the ulama throughout the region, the Grand Mufti in Saudi Arabia, and other religious leaders throughout the Gulf condemned suicide carried out for this purpose and issued statements of sympathy to the United States and the American people within days of September 11. None of this was reported in the U.S. press.

Saudi Arabia, which has historically been much more difficult for journalists to get to than Tibet, has recently been quite open to journalists. Western journalists have turned from criticizing Saudi Arabia for imaginary faults to criticizing it for real faults. That is progress. We should not criticize people we know nothing about.

Crown Prince Abdullah’s peace initiative — which would not only normalize Saudi relations with Israel but would lead an Arab-wide effort to bring about full normalization in the Arab world toward Israel — is also a result of this introspection.

And what of America’s lack of introspection about September 11? Instead of asking what might have caused the attack, or questioning the propriety of the national response to it, there is an ugly mood of chauvinism. Before Americans call on others to examine themselves, we should examine ourselves.

Satloff: I find it difficult to accept that the people who were on the receiving end of the September 11 attacks should begin by focusing on what they did to deserve it.

Freeman: My point is that cause and effect work both ways. They exist in both directions, whatever the moral consequences might be.

So you see, the responsibility for 9-11 flows both ways. This is the man now heading the National Intelligence Council.

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What Is He Up To?

Perhaps the most intriguing and least easy to categorize speech at CPAC came from Newt Gingrich. It was the most partisan of assaults and the least pro-Republican in advocacy. It was the most raucous and the most sober. And it was not clear whether it was the opening of a presidential campaign, a political movement, or just a graduate course on political science.

First a word about tone and presentation. It is an art to give a speech to a large room packed with supporters and not talk in “speech” voice with awkward phrasing, trite lines and predictable timing. Gingrich has a well-modulated voice and the ability to deliver biting scarcasm without a sneer. He spoke in conversational language and in quiet tones and held the room in the palm of his hand.

But he didn’t start that way — entering from the back of a jammed room like a candidate, or perhaps the president entering the House of Representatives. Ah, I thought, this is the presidential campaign starter. But maybe not.

He was relentless in attacking the president, Nancy Pelosi (whom he teased mercilessly about popping up to applaud the president’s speech before he completed the applause lines) and the Obama administration. He began by excoriating Eric Holder for his comments that Americans were “cowards” and declared that he “welcomed the opportunity to have a dialogue with you about cowardice anytime and any place.” He then suggested Detroit where they could chat about failed government, failed bureaucracy and failed schools.  He declared that we “should be committed to liberating the people of Detroit.

But his sharpest criticism was reserved for liberals and the president. Reading from the New York Times, which declared that the new budget “sweeps away Reagan’s ideas,” he mused that the Times certainly hoped so and had suffered great disappointments –the Soviet Union disappears, private industry thrives, big government fails and they lost readership. He deadpanned :”It was great 25 years.”

His ire was mostly directed at the Obama budget, which he says is an effort to “create a European model.” And his language was harsh. ”The administration thinks we’re just plain dumb,” he said. ”A bill with 8,ooo earmarks doesn’t count? I was looking for change I can believe in. I wonder how dumb they think we are, that they think we wouldn’t notice 8,000 earmarks.” And on tax policy he noted that Obama is “not going to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250, 000–unless they use electricity.” Or other fuels.

But the heart of a speech was call to make the  2010 and 2012 elections “the most consequential in U.S. history. ” He declared, “Every person who didn’t read the stimulus —  everyone of them deserves to be defeated.” But this was not a Republican call to arms per se — indeed, this is where it got interesting. In his vision, Obama is part of the “failed Bush-Obama” policies of big government, lots of bureuacracy and high taxes. That’s the political or intellectual exercise he is engaging in and asking others to engage in — Obama is the past ( already!) and part of the failure of big government.  Gingrich’s movement, by contrast, is the low tax, anti-bureaucracy, pro-jobs “American party.”

Unlike Ronald Reagan, Gingrich isn’t per se calling Democrats and Independents to join the Republican party. No, he’s is calling for a “tripartite” movement to oppose the failed Obama/Bush regime. A true third party? Or a stealth presidential campaign? It wasn’t clear.

Gingrich was in top form today. However, it is not altogether clear, other than throwing out the Democratic Congressional majority, what he is up to. And perhaps he hasn’t quite decided himself.

Perhaps the most intriguing and least easy to categorize speech at CPAC came from Newt Gingrich. It was the most partisan of assaults and the least pro-Republican in advocacy. It was the most raucous and the most sober. And it was not clear whether it was the opening of a presidential campaign, a political movement, or just a graduate course on political science.

First a word about tone and presentation. It is an art to give a speech to a large room packed with supporters and not talk in “speech” voice with awkward phrasing, trite lines and predictable timing. Gingrich has a well-modulated voice and the ability to deliver biting scarcasm without a sneer. He spoke in conversational language and in quiet tones and held the room in the palm of his hand.

But he didn’t start that way — entering from the back of a jammed room like a candidate, or perhaps the president entering the House of Representatives. Ah, I thought, this is the presidential campaign starter. But maybe not.

He was relentless in attacking the president, Nancy Pelosi (whom he teased mercilessly about popping up to applaud the president’s speech before he completed the applause lines) and the Obama administration. He began by excoriating Eric Holder for his comments that Americans were “cowards” and declared that he “welcomed the opportunity to have a dialogue with you about cowardice anytime and any place.” He then suggested Detroit where they could chat about failed government, failed bureaucracy and failed schools.  He declared that we “should be committed to liberating the people of Detroit.

But his sharpest criticism was reserved for liberals and the president. Reading from the New York Times, which declared that the new budget “sweeps away Reagan’s ideas,” he mused that the Times certainly hoped so and had suffered great disappointments –the Soviet Union disappears, private industry thrives, big government fails and they lost readership. He deadpanned :”It was great 25 years.”

His ire was mostly directed at the Obama budget, which he says is an effort to “create a European model.” And his language was harsh. ”The administration thinks we’re just plain dumb,” he said. ”A bill with 8,ooo earmarks doesn’t count? I was looking for change I can believe in. I wonder how dumb they think we are, that they think we wouldn’t notice 8,000 earmarks.” And on tax policy he noted that Obama is “not going to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250, 000–unless they use electricity.” Or other fuels.

But the heart of a speech was call to make the  2010 and 2012 elections “the most consequential in U.S. history. ” He declared, “Every person who didn’t read the stimulus —  everyone of them deserves to be defeated.” But this was not a Republican call to arms per se — indeed, this is where it got interesting. In his vision, Obama is part of the “failed Bush-Obama” policies of big government, lots of bureuacracy and high taxes. That’s the political or intellectual exercise he is engaging in and asking others to engage in — Obama is the past ( already!) and part of the failure of big government.  Gingrich’s movement, by contrast, is the low tax, anti-bureaucracy, pro-jobs “American party.”

Unlike Ronald Reagan, Gingrich isn’t per se calling Democrats and Independents to join the Republican party. No, he’s is calling for a “tripartite” movement to oppose the failed Obama/Bush regime. A true third party? Or a stealth presidential campaign? It wasn’t clear.

Gingrich was in top form today. However, it is not altogether clear, other than throwing out the Democratic Congressional majority, what he is up to. And perhaps he hasn’t quite decided himself.

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Commentary of the Day

soccer dad, on Jonathan Tobin:

What’s surprising about this? Given the support J-Street has from the likes of Lincoln Chafee, one can only conclude that to J-Street the new pro-Israel, is the old anti-Israel.

Freeman, of course, is no leftist. He is cozy with the communist Chinese and the Saudi royal family. So why do these folks like him so much? It can only be due to his strident anti-Israel stands.

But why has the MSM been silent on this appointment? Here we have a guy who’s taken at least $1 million from the Saudis to keep his organization solvent and not one MSM reporter is looking into this apparently huge potential conflict of interest. The favorite epithet the MSM would hurl at George W. Bush was that he was incurious. Regarding Bush’s successor it’s the media that’s incurious.

soccer dad, on Jonathan Tobin:

What’s surprising about this? Given the support J-Street has from the likes of Lincoln Chafee, one can only conclude that to J-Street the new pro-Israel, is the old anti-Israel.

Freeman, of course, is no leftist. He is cozy with the communist Chinese and the Saudi royal family. So why do these folks like him so much? It can only be due to his strident anti-Israel stands.

But why has the MSM been silent on this appointment? Here we have a guy who’s taken at least $1 million from the Saudis to keep his organization solvent and not one MSM reporter is looking into this apparently huge potential conflict of interest. The favorite epithet the MSM would hurl at George W. Bush was that he was incurious. Regarding Bush’s successor it’s the media that’s incurious.

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Still Playing Sgt. Schultz

Today’s New York Times “Escapes” section features the antics of grown-up kids who gather in Annville, Pa. to play soldiers and re-enact the Battle of the Bulge. All those involved like talking about honoring history, but every time I see one of these pieces about re-enactors I wonder how people decide what side they’re going to have to pretend to be on.

As the father of an elementary school child I’m under the impression that kids don’t play war the way we did when I was a kid in the 1960s. But, as far as I can remember, the only kids who wanted to pretend to be Germans in the war in which my dad and many other fathers actually did participate were more than a little strange.

I mean, what is the guy pictured in a Wehrmacht uniform on the cover of the “Escapes” section thinking? Yes, I know the picture depicts the dance that all the pretend GIs, pretend Tommies, and their gal friends are attending after the pretend smoke has cleared. But being a pretend Nazi soldier is not quite the same thing as being, say, a pretend Redcoat in Revolutionary War gatherings.

It is true that Confederate re-enactors tend to have a rather distorted view of the history of the Civil War. None of them seem to support slavery and they are all under the misapprehension that the war was only about states’ rights, not the vile “peculiar institution.” Some of them also reflect the strange half-life of Southern revisionism that sees Lincoln as the bad guy of the story. That’s incredibly creepy, but at least they’re portraying fellow Americans and some of them are actually descended from Confederates whose misguided heroism they seek to justify.

But what, other than the fun of dressing up and playing war, motivates Jeremy Burmeister, described in the article as “a young man dressed in a leather trench-coat. After some persistent nudging, he finally flashed his badge, Gestapo.” Isn’t that cute? Dave Sisler, “a 45-year-old Gebirgsjager, re-enactor from Medina, Ohio,” reassured the Times he was actually a loyal American who is glad the U.S. won the war and is at pains to point out that he’s depicting a German, not a Nazi. As if there was much of a distinction at that time.

When the “Hogan’s Heroes” TV show debuted in 1965, its vast popularity outweighed any qualms anyone might have about a series depicting the humorous experiences of American POWs during World War Two. And any objections to it were generally answered by the presence of German Jewish actor Werner Klemperer as the German Col. Klink, and Robert Clary, a French Jew who survived Buchenwald, in the cast as the adorable Cpl. Le Beau who always managed to sweet talk Sgt. Schultz, the German guard whose refrain of “I see nothing … I hear nothing” was one of the show’s standing jokes.

“Hogan’s Heroes” was the product of a time in which service comedies and war shows were a staple. The series probably would never have been produced even a decade later, when jokes about Nazis tended to be no longer seen as funny and no one cared about the war. Perhaps the only people who still do are either Holocaust survivors or those perpetual adolescents who still like to play soldier. That war ended almost 64 years ago, but there’s still something very strange about anyone who wants play one of Hitler’s soldiers.   

Today’s New York Times “Escapes” section features the antics of grown-up kids who gather in Annville, Pa. to play soldiers and re-enact the Battle of the Bulge. All those involved like talking about honoring history, but every time I see one of these pieces about re-enactors I wonder how people decide what side they’re going to have to pretend to be on.

As the father of an elementary school child I’m under the impression that kids don’t play war the way we did when I was a kid in the 1960s. But, as far as I can remember, the only kids who wanted to pretend to be Germans in the war in which my dad and many other fathers actually did participate were more than a little strange.

I mean, what is the guy pictured in a Wehrmacht uniform on the cover of the “Escapes” section thinking? Yes, I know the picture depicts the dance that all the pretend GIs, pretend Tommies, and their gal friends are attending after the pretend smoke has cleared. But being a pretend Nazi soldier is not quite the same thing as being, say, a pretend Redcoat in Revolutionary War gatherings.

It is true that Confederate re-enactors tend to have a rather distorted view of the history of the Civil War. None of them seem to support slavery and they are all under the misapprehension that the war was only about states’ rights, not the vile “peculiar institution.” Some of them also reflect the strange half-life of Southern revisionism that sees Lincoln as the bad guy of the story. That’s incredibly creepy, but at least they’re portraying fellow Americans and some of them are actually descended from Confederates whose misguided heroism they seek to justify.

But what, other than the fun of dressing up and playing war, motivates Jeremy Burmeister, described in the article as “a young man dressed in a leather trench-coat. After some persistent nudging, he finally flashed his badge, Gestapo.” Isn’t that cute? Dave Sisler, “a 45-year-old Gebirgsjager, re-enactor from Medina, Ohio,” reassured the Times he was actually a loyal American who is glad the U.S. won the war and is at pains to point out that he’s depicting a German, not a Nazi. As if there was much of a distinction at that time.

When the “Hogan’s Heroes” TV show debuted in 1965, its vast popularity outweighed any qualms anyone might have about a series depicting the humorous experiences of American POWs during World War Two. And any objections to it were generally answered by the presence of German Jewish actor Werner Klemperer as the German Col. Klink, and Robert Clary, a French Jew who survived Buchenwald, in the cast as the adorable Cpl. Le Beau who always managed to sweet talk Sgt. Schultz, the German guard whose refrain of “I see nothing … I hear nothing” was one of the show’s standing jokes.

“Hogan’s Heroes” was the product of a time in which service comedies and war shows were a staple. The series probably would never have been produced even a decade later, when jokes about Nazis tended to be no longer seen as funny and no one cared about the war. Perhaps the only people who still do are either Holocaust survivors or those perpetual adolescents who still like to play soldier. That war ended almost 64 years ago, but there’s still something very strange about anyone who wants play one of Hitler’s soldiers.   

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Time Is Not on His Side

Mickey Kaus asks a good question: “Why do I get the impression that if Bernanke is right, and we avoid a redemptive New Dealish ordeal, Obama will on some level be disappointed?” Well, a quick recovery would alleviate the pretext for the Grand Design. That’s the one in which labor relations become industrial policy by government mandated interest arbitration. That’s the one in which government’s share of GDP grows and grows. That’s the one in which government-directed healthcare, government-directed cap and trade, and government directed birth-to-employment education replaces the myriad private sector arrangements that have heretofore operated in American society. As Charles Krauthammer explained:

Obama sees the current economic crisis as an opportunity. He has said so openly. And now we know what opportunity he wants to seize. Just as the Depression created the political and psychological conditions for Franklin Roosevelt’s transformation of America from laissez-faireism to the beginnings of the welfare state, the current crisis gives Obama the political space to move the still (relatively) modest American welfare state toward European-style social democracy.

Without the Great Depression II there is no New Deal II. But there’s a catch. If the Great Depression II proceeds, will the American people be patient and return a large Democratic majority to perpetuate the unproved policies? Or will people react as they did in 1980, realizing that a period of economic turmoil is threatening the fabric of American society and our standing in the world? (Or one may recall the 1938 Congressional elections, in which Republicans made a startling comeback.) I suspect the American public’s willingness to put up with economic chaos has decreased significantly over the last 70 years.

So, prolonged crisis may not be Obama’s political ally — no matter how inviting an atmosphere of crisis may be. And thus far, none of the policies he has proposed will enhance our prospects for a quick turnaround. That’s a problem, even for a president as audacious as Obama.

Mickey Kaus asks a good question: “Why do I get the impression that if Bernanke is right, and we avoid a redemptive New Dealish ordeal, Obama will on some level be disappointed?” Well, a quick recovery would alleviate the pretext for the Grand Design. That’s the one in which labor relations become industrial policy by government mandated interest arbitration. That’s the one in which government’s share of GDP grows and grows. That’s the one in which government-directed healthcare, government-directed cap and trade, and government directed birth-to-employment education replaces the myriad private sector arrangements that have heretofore operated in American society. As Charles Krauthammer explained:

Obama sees the current economic crisis as an opportunity. He has said so openly. And now we know what opportunity he wants to seize. Just as the Depression created the political and psychological conditions for Franklin Roosevelt’s transformation of America from laissez-faireism to the beginnings of the welfare state, the current crisis gives Obama the political space to move the still (relatively) modest American welfare state toward European-style social democracy.

Without the Great Depression II there is no New Deal II. But there’s a catch. If the Great Depression II proceeds, will the American people be patient and return a large Democratic majority to perpetuate the unproved policies? Or will people react as they did in 1980, realizing that a period of economic turmoil is threatening the fabric of American society and our standing in the world? (Or one may recall the 1938 Congressional elections, in which Republicans made a startling comeback.) I suspect the American public’s willingness to put up with economic chaos has decreased significantly over the last 70 years.

So, prolonged crisis may not be Obama’s political ally — no matter how inviting an atmosphere of crisis may be. And thus far, none of the policies he has proposed will enhance our prospects for a quick turnaround. That’s a problem, even for a president as audacious as Obama.

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Where’s the Outrage about Saudi Arabia?

Whew, what a relief to no longer have a president so intimately tied to the Saudi royal family. Thanks to a whole cottage industry of New York Times bestsellers like Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud and hit movies like Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, the nefarious relationship between “the world’s two most powerful dynasties” was exposed.

All Americans had to do was trace the simple line that went from Riyadh to the Carlyle Group to Harken Energy to Halliburton to Dick Cheney to the Texas Commerce Bank to James Baker’s law firm to Chevron to Condoleezza Rice to Prince Bandar to George H. W. Bush to George W. Bush. And, boy, did the Saudis get their money’s worth! What with the U.S. invading Saudi Arabia’s neighbor against the royal family’s wishes and with George W. Bush pulling closer to Israel than any previous American president, we were practically a territory of the Kingdom itself during the Bush years.

Surely, now that we’re empowered to recognize a Saudi-controlled White House, people like Craig Unger and Michael Moore will have no problem rallying their fans, through more books and films, to reject President Obama’s suspicious obsequiousness toward the Saudis: Obama gave his first official interview as president to the partially Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network. During that interview, he singled out Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah for his “great courage.” Obama has since selected as head of the National Intelligence Council a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia named Chas Freeman. Freeman has acknowledged the “generosity of Crown Prince Abdullah” in helping him in such endeavors as peddling a Saudi textbook full of nasty lies about Israel.

It will be interesting to see intrepid journalists and media mavens hot on the case of  the Obama-Saudi connection.

Whew, what a relief to no longer have a president so intimately tied to the Saudi royal family. Thanks to a whole cottage industry of New York Times bestsellers like Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud and hit movies like Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, the nefarious relationship between “the world’s two most powerful dynasties” was exposed.

All Americans had to do was trace the simple line that went from Riyadh to the Carlyle Group to Harken Energy to Halliburton to Dick Cheney to the Texas Commerce Bank to James Baker’s law firm to Chevron to Condoleezza Rice to Prince Bandar to George H. W. Bush to George W. Bush. And, boy, did the Saudis get their money’s worth! What with the U.S. invading Saudi Arabia’s neighbor against the royal family’s wishes and with George W. Bush pulling closer to Israel than any previous American president, we were practically a territory of the Kingdom itself during the Bush years.

Surely, now that we’re empowered to recognize a Saudi-controlled White House, people like Craig Unger and Michael Moore will have no problem rallying their fans, through more books and films, to reject President Obama’s suspicious obsequiousness toward the Saudis: Obama gave his first official interview as president to the partially Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network. During that interview, he singled out Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah for his “great courage.” Obama has since selected as head of the National Intelligence Council a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia named Chas Freeman. Freeman has acknowledged the “generosity of Crown Prince Abdullah” in helping him in such endeavors as peddling a Saudi textbook full of nasty lies about Israel.

It will be interesting to see intrepid journalists and media mavens hot on the case of  the Obama-Saudi connection.

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The Jewish Left Celebrates Israel-hater’s Triumph

Well, the appointment of Charles “Chas” Freeman as head of the National Intelligence Council is now official. That a longtime shill for the Saudis and virulent hater of Israel would be put in such a post is an amazing and troubling development.

This piece by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency gives some of the background on him. But as many others have written during the last week as Freeman’s appointment was mooted, he is more than just your standard Saudi-financed Israel-basher. This is a guy who has promoted the purchase of Saudi-financed textbooks about Islam for American public schools. Freeman is also a big-time fan of the Mearsheimer/Walt “Israel Lobby” smear. And he was also an apologist for the Chinese government’s massacre of dissidents in Beijing. I guess this is Obama’s idea of what hope means.

But what I found really interesting about this lamentable dust-up is the way the Jewish left in this country, even those who like to call themselves Zionists, reacted to Freeman. The Israel Policy Forum’s MJ Rosenberg spent the week cheerleading for Freeman at the HuffPost site as well as on his own blog.

It’s now gotten to the point that the people who identify themselves as “pro-peace” are willing to support anything, even the appointment of a truly vile creature, if it is perceived as anti-Israel. It’s understandable that the people who are open anti-Zionists would celebrate Freeman, but I fail to see how someone who considers himself “pro-Israel” (as people like Rosenberg and his friends at J Street never tire of describing themselves) would feel the same.

For these leftists, it’s no longer enough to bash Israeli right-wingers or to support the Israeli left in its efforts. Whether I agree with them or not, that’s a legitimate position for an American Jew to take, but when Rosenberg and his ilk start backing Chas Freeman and apologizing for Walt and Mearsheimer that’s something very different. Their argument these days seems to be that the best way to be “pro-Israel” is to back anyone — and I do mean anyone — who will attack Israel.

Though unhappy about Freeman, some Jews are saying today that Freeman’s appointment isn’t significant because of all the other pro-Israel figures in the Obama administration. But if you believe there is a moral equivalence between having someone in government who supports Israel and someone who doesn’t, that’s quite a step down from the assurances we were getting all last year from Jewish Democrats about Obama’s reliability on Israeli security. With Hillary Clinton turning on Israel in regard to Gaza, and with the appointment of Freeman, that is a position that is unraveling fast.   

Well, the appointment of Charles “Chas” Freeman as head of the National Intelligence Council is now official. That a longtime shill for the Saudis and virulent hater of Israel would be put in such a post is an amazing and troubling development.

This piece by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency gives some of the background on him. But as many others have written during the last week as Freeman’s appointment was mooted, he is more than just your standard Saudi-financed Israel-basher. This is a guy who has promoted the purchase of Saudi-financed textbooks about Islam for American public schools. Freeman is also a big-time fan of the Mearsheimer/Walt “Israel Lobby” smear. And he was also an apologist for the Chinese government’s massacre of dissidents in Beijing. I guess this is Obama’s idea of what hope means.

But what I found really interesting about this lamentable dust-up is the way the Jewish left in this country, even those who like to call themselves Zionists, reacted to Freeman. The Israel Policy Forum’s MJ Rosenberg spent the week cheerleading for Freeman at the HuffPost site as well as on his own blog.

It’s now gotten to the point that the people who identify themselves as “pro-peace” are willing to support anything, even the appointment of a truly vile creature, if it is perceived as anti-Israel. It’s understandable that the people who are open anti-Zionists would celebrate Freeman, but I fail to see how someone who considers himself “pro-Israel” (as people like Rosenberg and his friends at J Street never tire of describing themselves) would feel the same.

For these leftists, it’s no longer enough to bash Israeli right-wingers or to support the Israeli left in its efforts. Whether I agree with them or not, that’s a legitimate position for an American Jew to take, but when Rosenberg and his ilk start backing Chas Freeman and apologizing for Walt and Mearsheimer that’s something very different. Their argument these days seems to be that the best way to be “pro-Israel” is to back anyone — and I do mean anyone — who will attack Israel.

Though unhappy about Freeman, some Jews are saying today that Freeman’s appointment isn’t significant because of all the other pro-Israel figures in the Obama administration. But if you believe there is a moral equivalence between having someone in government who supports Israel and someone who doesn’t, that’s quite a step down from the assurances we were getting all last year from Jewish Democrats about Obama’s reliability on Israeli security. With Hillary Clinton turning on Israel in regard to Gaza, and with the appointment of Freeman, that is a position that is unraveling fast.   

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Markets Aren’t Easily Charmed

Unlike some delirious pundits still caught up in the charm of Obama, Michael Gerson cuts to the chase:

Markets, investors, businessmen and entrepreneurs are generally immune to tone and charm. They seek reassurance on three issues of substance: the credibility of the credit system, the eventual return of economic growth and a serious approach to debt.

And now that we know what is in the budget — massive new taxes and spending — Gerson’s take on the speech seems even more compelling:

The source of skepticism for many Americans is not the prospect of government waste but Obama’s theory of job creation. It sounds somehow passe to assert it, but most jobs are created by private capital in the private sector, often by small businesses. And small businesses got little policy attention in Obama’s speech. An example Obama used — retaining police officers — is a worthy cause, but hardly typical of American job creation. A small-business owner heard nothing about his daily struggles with litigation or regulation… Obama was even less credible on the issue of debt. Most Americans seem to accept the need for the temporary deficit spike to provide a jolt to the economy. But Obama’s pledges to go “line by line through the federal budget” and to remove “waste, fraud and abuse” were the most tired portions of his energetic speech — and simply were not credible with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in vivid green over his left shoulder.

The question remains whether substance or style matter when what is at issue is the ability to instill confidence and create optimism. The style will continue to transfix many an eye-batting columnist and even sustain public opinion polls for a time. But economic activity adheres to some predictable truths. If you tax businesses and investors more, they’ll have less money to devote to wealth creation and hiring. If you bail out firms that should be put through bankruptcy, you’ll perpetuate ineptitude in management and misallocation of resources. If you keep credit-unworthy people in homes, they’ll eventually default and further weaken financial institutions.

Some things can’t be disguised by stagecraft or media cheerleading. In the end, it matters what you do, not how you describe your plans.

Unlike some delirious pundits still caught up in the charm of Obama, Michael Gerson cuts to the chase:

Markets, investors, businessmen and entrepreneurs are generally immune to tone and charm. They seek reassurance on three issues of substance: the credibility of the credit system, the eventual return of economic growth and a serious approach to debt.

And now that we know what is in the budget — massive new taxes and spending — Gerson’s take on the speech seems even more compelling:

The source of skepticism for many Americans is not the prospect of government waste but Obama’s theory of job creation. It sounds somehow passe to assert it, but most jobs are created by private capital in the private sector, often by small businesses. And small businesses got little policy attention in Obama’s speech. An example Obama used — retaining police officers — is a worthy cause, but hardly typical of American job creation. A small-business owner heard nothing about his daily struggles with litigation or regulation… Obama was even less credible on the issue of debt. Most Americans seem to accept the need for the temporary deficit spike to provide a jolt to the economy. But Obama’s pledges to go “line by line through the federal budget” and to remove “waste, fraud and abuse” were the most tired portions of his energetic speech — and simply were not credible with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in vivid green over his left shoulder.

The question remains whether substance or style matter when what is at issue is the ability to instill confidence and create optimism. The style will continue to transfix many an eye-batting columnist and even sustain public opinion polls for a time. But economic activity adheres to some predictable truths. If you tax businesses and investors more, they’ll have less money to devote to wealth creation and hiring. If you bail out firms that should be put through bankruptcy, you’ll perpetuate ineptitude in management and misallocation of resources. If you keep credit-unworthy people in homes, they’ll eventually default and further weaken financial institutions.

Some things can’t be disguised by stagecraft or media cheerleading. In the end, it matters what you do, not how you describe your plans.

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Taking Holder to Task

Stuart Taylor, one of the most analytically impressive writers on the scene today, devotes his National Journal column to Attorney General Eric Holder’s “nation of cowards” speech on race. Taylor calls it “embarrassingly misinformed, hackneyed, and devoid of thoughtful contributions to racial dialogue” — and then proceeds to show why that judgment is a fair one. The column is worth reading (then again, that is always the case with Taylor, even when I disagree with him).

Stuart Taylor, one of the most analytically impressive writers on the scene today, devotes his National Journal column to Attorney General Eric Holder’s “nation of cowards” speech on race. Taylor calls it “embarrassingly misinformed, hackneyed, and devoid of thoughtful contributions to racial dialogue” — and then proceeds to show why that judgment is a fair one. The column is worth reading (then again, that is always the case with Taylor, even when I disagree with him).

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FYI

I just deleted a post I’d written that was based on the first news story I read about newly released economic statistics — the story got many things wrong and so did I and so it’s gone.

I just deleted a post I’d written that was based on the first news story I read about newly released economic statistics — the story got many things wrong and so did I and so it’s gone.

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What If?

Here at CPAC a well placed source with knowledge of the Republican Senate Committee plans tells me that Larry Kudlow is “considering” a Senate run against embattled Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. Dodd’s approval ratings have been plummeting in light of the Friend of Angelo  scandal and the ongoing effort to stonewall local and national media. Kudlow would bring instant name recognition and plenty of funding, but more importantly a wealth of economic knowledge. A debate between the two over the management of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae would be a thing to behold. Kudlow has been approached and is considering the possibilities. Also on the horizon is former Congressman Rob Simmons. So stay tuned: we might just have the most entertaining and most educational senate race in a long time.

Here at CPAC a well placed source with knowledge of the Republican Senate Committee plans tells me that Larry Kudlow is “considering” a Senate run against embattled Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. Dodd’s approval ratings have been plummeting in light of the Friend of Angelo  scandal and the ongoing effort to stonewall local and national media. Kudlow would bring instant name recognition and plenty of funding, but more importantly a wealth of economic knowledge. A debate between the two over the management of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae would be a thing to behold. Kudlow has been approached and is considering the possibilities. Also on the horizon is former Congressman Rob Simmons. So stay tuned: we might just have the most entertaining and most educational senate race in a long time.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Budget sleight of hand is a thing of the past? Hardly.

Well, Obama won’t have George W. Bush to kick around much longer: “This is Obama’s budget, one he has said will fix federal spending. He owns the deficit now.”

Kimberley Strassel’s must read gives us Obama Cliffs Notes: “The thing about cutting deficits is that there are only two choices, one hard for politicians, the other hard for Americans. Government can reduce spending, or government can raise taxes. Mr. Obama made clear with yesterday’s budget he has no intention of cutting back. So the hard part now falls to Americans, who are being told they have a patriotic duty to their children to pay more, and cover Washington’s costs.” Short version: It’s all Bush’s fault, government is taking over much of the economy, and your kids are getting the bill.

And, as Mona Charen points out, we have to do it really fast: “Obama, like other liberals, wants to dispense with experimentation and debate (which he dismisses as the ‘the same old gridlock and partisan posturing’) and sluice an enormous liberal/socialist wish list, to include single-payer health care, universal college education, and so-called green energy into law.”

Is Jim Tedisco (running for Kirsten Gillibrand’s seat in the NY-20) the first step back for the GOP?

And, so far, Tedisco has a twelve point lead in the polls.

Do the markets hate Obama?” In a word, “yes.”

Class warfare returns to Washington.” Aside from one noteworthy slip about “spreading the wealth,” Obama ran on an economically  moderate, mildly pro-tax cut position. ”But no amount of spin or recalibration could fuzz up the flashback to previous Democratic administration’s fiscal policy when Obama unveiled his spending plan.”

People who live with wallpaper swatches shouldn’t take potshots at decorators. (Alert: Is the media getting cheeky all of the sudden?)

Finally bipartisanship: 87 Senators oppose the Fairness Doctrine.

I suppose it’s not really news that Joe Biden doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Louisiana is actually gaining jobs, contrary to his claim.

It is very early, but this is a cogent argument that 2012 looks better than 2008 for Mitt Romney: “Other potential 2012 candidates will have trouble making as compelling a case for the nomination. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is still very young and may not even run. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will never gain support from fiscal conservatives. Palin has too many detractors within the party. Romney, however, has already answered the tough questions from the GOP skeptics.” And we likely will need a turnaround guru by 2012. That said, virtually everything one said in 2005 about 2008 turned out to be wrong.

I think Patrick Ruffini was at a different CPAC than the other 8000 of us. At the actual one, Paul Ryan, Steve Moore, Mike Pence (who got raves from many there and online), John Bolton and even Mike Huckabee were talking about conservative revitalization and some meaty policy issues. But it would be mundane, I suppose, to sit and actually listen (or even report) on what was happening. Really, all of the cultural divide blog-chatter is very 2008. Virtually the entire GOP is focused on saving the free market these days.

This is quite representative of much of the discussion.

And these appear to be real conservatives. Young ones, even.

Budget sleight of hand is a thing of the past? Hardly.

Well, Obama won’t have George W. Bush to kick around much longer: “This is Obama’s budget, one he has said will fix federal spending. He owns the deficit now.”

Kimberley Strassel’s must read gives us Obama Cliffs Notes: “The thing about cutting deficits is that there are only two choices, one hard for politicians, the other hard for Americans. Government can reduce spending, or government can raise taxes. Mr. Obama made clear with yesterday’s budget he has no intention of cutting back. So the hard part now falls to Americans, who are being told they have a patriotic duty to their children to pay more, and cover Washington’s costs.” Short version: It’s all Bush’s fault, government is taking over much of the economy, and your kids are getting the bill.

And, as Mona Charen points out, we have to do it really fast: “Obama, like other liberals, wants to dispense with experimentation and debate (which he dismisses as the ‘the same old gridlock and partisan posturing’) and sluice an enormous liberal/socialist wish list, to include single-payer health care, universal college education, and so-called green energy into law.”

Is Jim Tedisco (running for Kirsten Gillibrand’s seat in the NY-20) the first step back for the GOP?

And, so far, Tedisco has a twelve point lead in the polls.

Do the markets hate Obama?” In a word, “yes.”

Class warfare returns to Washington.” Aside from one noteworthy slip about “spreading the wealth,” Obama ran on an economically  moderate, mildly pro-tax cut position. ”But no amount of spin or recalibration could fuzz up the flashback to previous Democratic administration’s fiscal policy when Obama unveiled his spending plan.”

People who live with wallpaper swatches shouldn’t take potshots at decorators. (Alert: Is the media getting cheeky all of the sudden?)

Finally bipartisanship: 87 Senators oppose the Fairness Doctrine.

I suppose it’s not really news that Joe Biden doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Louisiana is actually gaining jobs, contrary to his claim.

It is very early, but this is a cogent argument that 2012 looks better than 2008 for Mitt Romney: “Other potential 2012 candidates will have trouble making as compelling a case for the nomination. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is still very young and may not even run. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will never gain support from fiscal conservatives. Palin has too many detractors within the party. Romney, however, has already answered the tough questions from the GOP skeptics.” And we likely will need a turnaround guru by 2012. That said, virtually everything one said in 2005 about 2008 turned out to be wrong.

I think Patrick Ruffini was at a different CPAC than the other 8000 of us. At the actual one, Paul Ryan, Steve Moore, Mike Pence (who got raves from many there and online), John Bolton and even Mike Huckabee were talking about conservative revitalization and some meaty policy issues. But it would be mundane, I suppose, to sit and actually listen (or even report) on what was happening. Really, all of the cultural divide blog-chatter is very 2008. Virtually the entire GOP is focused on saving the free market these days.

This is quite representative of much of the discussion.

And these appear to be real conservatives. Young ones, even.

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Commentary of the Day

aardvarck, on Jennifer Rubin:

I don’t think it is too hard to see what Obama is up to here.His self-flattering view of himself as a new Lincoln is a key. Some writers (e.g., Gary Wills) have famously argued that Lincoln redefined the American constitution and the meaning of the Declaration of Independence through his rhetorical initiatives at Gettysburg, in the Second Inaugural, and elsewhere. I think it is clear that Obama is seeking, with the aid of his rhetorical gifts, to redefine the goals and roles of the government in American life–he sees himself as Abe Lincoln II, creating a historic shift in how we conceive of ourselves as a nation and a political community.For this reason, Obama welcomes our economic recession, wishes to amplify our fear of it, and to thus use it as version of the American Civil War–as an opportunity to create wide-ranging and deep changes in the political community.God help us. Honest Abe wasn’t as disingenuous and deceptive over the entire course of his life as Obama is in a single speech, press conference, or titling of a piece of legislation. Obama seems to think that the purpose of rhetoric is to distract the nation from what he is actually doing.

aardvarck, on Jennifer Rubin:

I don’t think it is too hard to see what Obama is up to here.His self-flattering view of himself as a new Lincoln is a key. Some writers (e.g., Gary Wills) have famously argued that Lincoln redefined the American constitution and the meaning of the Declaration of Independence through his rhetorical initiatives at Gettysburg, in the Second Inaugural, and elsewhere. I think it is clear that Obama is seeking, with the aid of his rhetorical gifts, to redefine the goals and roles of the government in American life–he sees himself as Abe Lincoln II, creating a historic shift in how we conceive of ourselves as a nation and a political community.For this reason, Obama welcomes our economic recession, wishes to amplify our fear of it, and to thus use it as version of the American Civil War–as an opportunity to create wide-ranging and deep changes in the political community.God help us. Honest Abe wasn’t as disingenuous and deceptive over the entire course of his life as Obama is in a single speech, press conference, or titling of a piece of legislation. Obama seems to think that the purpose of rhetoric is to distract the nation from what he is actually doing.

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