Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 10, 2009

More on Specter’s Stimulus Support

It seems that Arlen Specter’s potential primary opponent Pat Toomey is indeed on the march. He pens a column today (ostensibly in his capacity as President of Club for Growth) that reads, in part:

The three Republican senators who struck a deal with the Democrats are touting the Senate’s stimulus bill as a bipartisan compromise. In yesterday’s Washington Post, Sen. Arlen Specter even labeled the $838 billion package cobbled together late last week the “moderates’ compromise.”

But the surrender of three liberal Republicans does not make a bill a compromise. Dig into the details of the Senate bill, and it’s obvious that this isn’t a compromise but a capitulation.

.    .    .

Thanks to Specter, Collins, and Snowe, the Republican party lost the opportunity to pass a true compromise bill that would have encouraged economic growth. By unanimously voting against the stimulus bill, House Republicans empowered Senate Republicans to demand substantive, pro-growth amendments. After all, without 60 votes in the Senate, President Obama would not have been able to pass any bill, good or bad.

Quite plainly it is a manifesto against Specter who has bungled the chance, in Toomey’s eyes, to promote a more responsible stimulus bill.

Meanwhile, Specter is doing himself no good. Fresh off his rather lame op-ed, he went on talk radio to defend his decision to support the $838B senate stimulus bill.  But whoever is suggesting Arlen Specter go on talk radio and write op-eds in defense of his support for the stimulus plan should stop it. He lacks any substantive support for his position (citing an economist who actually opposes the bill or screaming “emergency!” doesn’t count) and is only embarrassing himself.

It seems that Arlen Specter’s potential primary opponent Pat Toomey is indeed on the march. He pens a column today (ostensibly in his capacity as President of Club for Growth) that reads, in part:

The three Republican senators who struck a deal with the Democrats are touting the Senate’s stimulus bill as a bipartisan compromise. In yesterday’s Washington Post, Sen. Arlen Specter even labeled the $838 billion package cobbled together late last week the “moderates’ compromise.”

But the surrender of three liberal Republicans does not make a bill a compromise. Dig into the details of the Senate bill, and it’s obvious that this isn’t a compromise but a capitulation.

.    .    .

Thanks to Specter, Collins, and Snowe, the Republican party lost the opportunity to pass a true compromise bill that would have encouraged economic growth. By unanimously voting against the stimulus bill, House Republicans empowered Senate Republicans to demand substantive, pro-growth amendments. After all, without 60 votes in the Senate, President Obama would not have been able to pass any bill, good or bad.

Quite plainly it is a manifesto against Specter who has bungled the chance, in Toomey’s eyes, to promote a more responsible stimulus bill.

Meanwhile, Specter is doing himself no good. Fresh off his rather lame op-ed, he went on talk radio to defend his decision to support the $838B senate stimulus bill.  But whoever is suggesting Arlen Specter go on talk radio and write op-eds in defense of his support for the stimulus plan should stop it. He lacks any substantive support for his position (citing an economist who actually opposes the bill or screaming “emergency!” doesn’t count) and is only embarrassing himself.

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Commentary of the Day

Ted Turner, on Jennifer Rubin:

The public will be fine with it now, because Obama has the bully pulpit and people want to trust and put confidence in their new president. But the plan won’t work, and Republicans should remember that bad policy is ultimately bad politics. Don’t be distracted when pundits wag their fingers and warn that the GOP’s opposition to Porkulus “will backfire.” The midterms are almost two years away, and if Obama’s plan isn’t working by then, he’ll pay the same price Reagan paid in the ‘82 midterms when his economic recovery plan didn’t appear to be working.

Of course, by ‘84 Reagan’s policies were working and he won 49 states. But Reagan’s policies were fundamentally different, which is why Obama always compares this crisis to the Great Depression. The more accurate analog is the economic crisis from ‘80 to ‘82, when you compare numbers. But Obama, obviously, doesn’t want to talk about a Reagan-era recession because he is philosophically stubborn and opposed on principle to combating a recession primarily with tax cuts.

Ted Turner, on Jennifer Rubin:

The public will be fine with it now, because Obama has the bully pulpit and people want to trust and put confidence in their new president. But the plan won’t work, and Republicans should remember that bad policy is ultimately bad politics. Don’t be distracted when pundits wag their fingers and warn that the GOP’s opposition to Porkulus “will backfire.” The midterms are almost two years away, and if Obama’s plan isn’t working by then, he’ll pay the same price Reagan paid in the ‘82 midterms when his economic recovery plan didn’t appear to be working.

Of course, by ‘84 Reagan’s policies were working and he won 49 states. But Reagan’s policies were fundamentally different, which is why Obama always compares this crisis to the Great Depression. The more accurate analog is the economic crisis from ‘80 to ‘82, when you compare numbers. But Obama, obviously, doesn’t want to talk about a Reagan-era recession because he is philosophically stubborn and opposed on principle to combating a recession primarily with tax cuts.

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The Collapse of the Israeli Left, the Return of Likud

As soon as we’ve caught our breath regarding Kadima’s hairline win (according to exit polls only), the real story that emerges is the utter gutting of the Israeli Left, and the return of Likud.

Of the four major parties today, three of them are Likud and its spin-offs: Kadima was founded by Ariel Sharon and is mostly made up of former Likudniks; Yisrael Beitenu’s chairman cut his teeth as the head of the Likud’s central committee. Not only this: The classic parties of the pro-peace camp in Israel are but a tiny shadow of their former selves: Labor, which for decades, until as recently as 1996, led the country, is down to the lower teens. Shinui is gone. Meretz, the far-left party, is down from 10 seats in 1999 to around 4. If we call Kadima centrist, then the left in Israel as a whole will not break 20 seats.

The right, on the other hand, has a number of small parties of 4 or 5 seats, plus Likud, which has gone from 12 to nearly 30 seats, and Yisrael Beiten, which has increased significantly as well. Then there are the ultra-Orthodox parties, which could fairly be called center-right.

That’s the real story here. The Right is bigger than the Left, and the Left is mostly Kadima, which is really not very Left at all. President Shimon Peres knows this all too well. My guess is that we will not know who the next Prime Minister will be for days, perhaps even weeks, and the possibility of a joint Likud-Kadima government, with a rotating prime ministership, should not at all be ruled out.

As soon as we’ve caught our breath regarding Kadima’s hairline win (according to exit polls only), the real story that emerges is the utter gutting of the Israeli Left, and the return of Likud.

Of the four major parties today, three of them are Likud and its spin-offs: Kadima was founded by Ariel Sharon and is mostly made up of former Likudniks; Yisrael Beitenu’s chairman cut his teeth as the head of the Likud’s central committee. Not only this: The classic parties of the pro-peace camp in Israel are but a tiny shadow of their former selves: Labor, which for decades, until as recently as 1996, led the country, is down to the lower teens. Shinui is gone. Meretz, the far-left party, is down from 10 seats in 1999 to around 4. If we call Kadima centrist, then the left in Israel as a whole will not break 20 seats.

The right, on the other hand, has a number of small parties of 4 or 5 seats, plus Likud, which has gone from 12 to nearly 30 seats, and Yisrael Beiten, which has increased significantly as well. Then there are the ultra-Orthodox parties, which could fairly be called center-right.

That’s the real story here. The Right is bigger than the Left, and the Left is mostly Kadima, which is really not very Left at all. President Shimon Peres knows this all too well. My guess is that we will not know who the next Prime Minister will be for days, perhaps even weeks, and the possibility of a joint Likud-Kadima government, with a rotating prime ministership, should not at all be ruled out.

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Is Bipartisanship Desirable?

In recent days,  honorary members of the partisan Left have not only argued that bipartisanship is undesirable because it leads to compromised policy choices; they have also tried to make the point that bipartisanship is politically useless to Obama, that Americans will not like him any better for maintaining a bipartisan stance.

Mark Blumenthal of pollster.com proves the partisans wrong:

[E]vidence of the limits of bipartisanship? Let’s remember that Obama holds an overall approval rating that most polls now peg in the mid-sixty percent range, after winning with roughly 52.9% of the votes cast. Doesn’t the aggregate approval rating, including approval from roughly a third of Republicans, say something about the benefits of the “bipartisan” messaging? And how will those Republican and Republican leaning independents respond to harsher partisan rhetoric from the President?

Moreover, to the extent that Obama’s ratings declined, both Gallup and Rasmussen — the only two measuring his job approval on a daily basis — show that decline occurring by the end of inauguration week, well before Republicans ramped up their criticism of the stimulus bill. So as evidence of a reaction to the stimulus debate, these data fall short.

If there is a lesson in this particular decline in approval ratings, it has little to do with the stimulus plan. I’m not sure I see a lesson here, unless Obama can find a way to hold an inauguration every week.

You can still believe in bipartisanship. The evidence on which these leftist hyper-partisans base their advice? Not so much.

In recent days,  honorary members of the partisan Left have not only argued that bipartisanship is undesirable because it leads to compromised policy choices; they have also tried to make the point that bipartisanship is politically useless to Obama, that Americans will not like him any better for maintaining a bipartisan stance.

Mark Blumenthal of pollster.com proves the partisans wrong:

[E]vidence of the limits of bipartisanship? Let’s remember that Obama holds an overall approval rating that most polls now peg in the mid-sixty percent range, after winning with roughly 52.9% of the votes cast. Doesn’t the aggregate approval rating, including approval from roughly a third of Republicans, say something about the benefits of the “bipartisan” messaging? And how will those Republican and Republican leaning independents respond to harsher partisan rhetoric from the President?

Moreover, to the extent that Obama’s ratings declined, both Gallup and Rasmussen — the only two measuring his job approval on a daily basis — show that decline occurring by the end of inauguration week, well before Republicans ramped up their criticism of the stimulus bill. So as evidence of a reaction to the stimulus debate, these data fall short.

If there is a lesson in this particular decline in approval ratings, it has little to do with the stimulus plan. I’m not sure I see a lesson here, unless Obama can find a way to hold an inauguration every week.

You can still believe in bipartisanship. The evidence on which these leftist hyper-partisans base their advice? Not so much.

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No, Previous Presidents Never Tried this Stunt

Bruce Chapman, a former Census Director, calls foul on the White House claim that other census directors have reported to the political operatives in the White House:

[T]he White House and its Congressional allies are wrong in asserting that the Census in the past has reported directly to the president through his staff. Directors of the Bureau often brief presidents and their staffs, but, as a former director (under President Reagan), I don’t know of any cases where the conduct of the Bureau was directly under White House supervision. That includes Clinton in 2000, Bush 41 in 1990 and Carter in 1980.

The clash between Obama’s platitudes and his brazen attempt to control the system that counts the citizenry could not be more stark. Chapman explains that the issue boils down to whether professionals or pols will control the Census:

If it is the pols, you may well get an order to adjust the Census count with samples and modeling. That will take a presidential order to over-ride the scientific consensus of statisticians at the Bureau and elsewhere.

You would think that an Administration that is thumping its chest about respecting science and scientists on such matters as climate change and embryonic stem cell research would show a little respect for the scientists in the statistical field (a branch of the science of mathematics) and their careful work on this topic.

But even if the new politicos in the West Wing don’t really care about the science involved, you’d think they would have a better sense of the political dangers–for themselves, if not for the country. The Census is one of our oldest, most treasured civic institutions and one of the few functions of government named in the Constitution. As in matters of officials’ ethics (as we keep hearing), one not only needs to avoid the reality of impropriety, but also the appearance of impropriety. To be fair and accurate, the process has to be transparently fair and accurate.

This seems like an ideal line of questioning for senators at the confirmation hearing of Commerce Secretary Judd Gregg (in whose department the Census is supposed to be managed). If the Obama administration wants bipartisan brownie points for including a Republican in the cabinet, the least they should do would be to promulgate rules prohibiting the perpetual campaigners in the White House from politicizing the Census. You might even get Sens. Snowe, Collins, and Specter to go along with that proposition.

Bruce Chapman, a former Census Director, calls foul on the White House claim that other census directors have reported to the political operatives in the White House:

[T]he White House and its Congressional allies are wrong in asserting that the Census in the past has reported directly to the president through his staff. Directors of the Bureau often brief presidents and their staffs, but, as a former director (under President Reagan), I don’t know of any cases where the conduct of the Bureau was directly under White House supervision. That includes Clinton in 2000, Bush 41 in 1990 and Carter in 1980.

The clash between Obama’s platitudes and his brazen attempt to control the system that counts the citizenry could not be more stark. Chapman explains that the issue boils down to whether professionals or pols will control the Census:

If it is the pols, you may well get an order to adjust the Census count with samples and modeling. That will take a presidential order to over-ride the scientific consensus of statisticians at the Bureau and elsewhere.

You would think that an Administration that is thumping its chest about respecting science and scientists on such matters as climate change and embryonic stem cell research would show a little respect for the scientists in the statistical field (a branch of the science of mathematics) and their careful work on this topic.

But even if the new politicos in the West Wing don’t really care about the science involved, you’d think they would have a better sense of the political dangers–for themselves, if not for the country. The Census is one of our oldest, most treasured civic institutions and one of the few functions of government named in the Constitution. As in matters of officials’ ethics (as we keep hearing), one not only needs to avoid the reality of impropriety, but also the appearance of impropriety. To be fair and accurate, the process has to be transparently fair and accurate.

This seems like an ideal line of questioning for senators at the confirmation hearing of Commerce Secretary Judd Gregg (in whose department the Census is supposed to be managed). If the Obama administration wants bipartisan brownie points for including a Republican in the cabinet, the least they should do would be to promulgate rules prohibiting the perpetual campaigners in the White House from politicizing the Census. You might even get Sens. Snowe, Collins, and Specter to go along with that proposition.

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At Least They Don’t Blame Jews for Global Warming

Harvard University professor and frequent COMMENTARY contributor Ruth Wisse once wrote that the most successful ideology of the 20th century was anti-Semitism. Unlike Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, all of which attempted to use Jew-hatred, anti-Semitism has adapted and survived into the 21st century.

New evidence of this persistence comes today from the Anti-Defamation League,which released a survey of attitudes toward Jews in seven European countries (Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom). The results show, as the ADL says, that “classical anti-Semitic canards” still resonate in Europe.

Among the highlights:

* 31 percent of European respondents blame Jews in the financial industry for the global financial meltdown.

* Nearly 40 percent of all respondents believe “Jews have too much power in the business world.” 67 percent of Hungarians believe it to be true.

* 41 percent of Europeans think “Jews have too much power in international financial markets.”  In Spain the figure is 74%.

* 44 percent think Jews talk too much about the Holocaust. A majority of respondents in Austria, Hungary, and Poland believe it to be true.

* Ironically, the good news is that only 23% of those surveyed continue to blame Jews for the death of Jesus. But maybe this has more to do with the reported decline in Christian religious belief in Europe than rejection of the deicide myth.

The survey was taken in late December and early January, so there is good reason to believe that the massive campaign of defamation and incitement against Israel and the Jews as a result of Israel’s incursion into Gaza helped stoke the hate meter. On that score, the survey provided some insight, with 38 percent of those surveyed believing that violence directed against Jews is a result of anti-Jewish feelings, while 24 percent believing it is a result of anti-Israel sentiment. That gives us some clue, but what isn’t clear is how much of this hate is a holdover from 2,000 years of traditional European Jew-hatred rooted in religious prejudice, and how much of it is the result of the influence of the anti-Zionist rhetoric that has become commonplace in discussions of the Middle Eastern conflicts. The latter has found a new foothold in Europe as the result of large populations of Muslim immigrants and the intellectual Israel-bashing of Western elites.

Israel’s foes have utilized these classic anti-Jewish themes, highlighted by the ADL survey, and given them new life. While fewer Europeans think that the Jews are “Christ-killers,” growing numbers of them are still prepared to buy into notions about Jewish control of world finance.

But let’s be grateful for one aspect of this story: The only thing apparently missing from the survey is a question about whether Jews are responsible for global warming. That would be the moral equivalent of the medieval belief that the Jews were poisoning the wells. But let’s not give the Islamists and the Euro Jew-haters any ideas.

Harvard University professor and frequent COMMENTARY contributor Ruth Wisse once wrote that the most successful ideology of the 20th century was anti-Semitism. Unlike Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, all of which attempted to use Jew-hatred, anti-Semitism has adapted and survived into the 21st century.

New evidence of this persistence comes today from the Anti-Defamation League,which released a survey of attitudes toward Jews in seven European countries (Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom). The results show, as the ADL says, that “classical anti-Semitic canards” still resonate in Europe.

Among the highlights:

* 31 percent of European respondents blame Jews in the financial industry for the global financial meltdown.

* Nearly 40 percent of all respondents believe “Jews have too much power in the business world.” 67 percent of Hungarians believe it to be true.

* 41 percent of Europeans think “Jews have too much power in international financial markets.”  In Spain the figure is 74%.

* 44 percent think Jews talk too much about the Holocaust. A majority of respondents in Austria, Hungary, and Poland believe it to be true.

* Ironically, the good news is that only 23% of those surveyed continue to blame Jews for the death of Jesus. But maybe this has more to do with the reported decline in Christian religious belief in Europe than rejection of the deicide myth.

The survey was taken in late December and early January, so there is good reason to believe that the massive campaign of defamation and incitement against Israel and the Jews as a result of Israel’s incursion into Gaza helped stoke the hate meter. On that score, the survey provided some insight, with 38 percent of those surveyed believing that violence directed against Jews is a result of anti-Jewish feelings, while 24 percent believing it is a result of anti-Israel sentiment. That gives us some clue, but what isn’t clear is how much of this hate is a holdover from 2,000 years of traditional European Jew-hatred rooted in religious prejudice, and how much of it is the result of the influence of the anti-Zionist rhetoric that has become commonplace in discussions of the Middle Eastern conflicts. The latter has found a new foothold in Europe as the result of large populations of Muslim immigrants and the intellectual Israel-bashing of Western elites.

Israel’s foes have utilized these classic anti-Jewish themes, highlighted by the ADL survey, and given them new life. While fewer Europeans think that the Jews are “Christ-killers,” growing numbers of them are still prepared to buy into notions about Jewish control of world finance.

But let’s be grateful for one aspect of this story: The only thing apparently missing from the survey is a question about whether Jews are responsible for global warming. That would be the moral equivalent of the medieval belief that the Jews were poisoning the wells. But let’s not give the Islamists and the Euro Jew-haters any ideas.

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Truths Trickle Out

After the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s candid protest of Hamas’s looting of its warehouses in Gaza, and UNRWA’s admission that Israel did not hit one of its schools on January 6, we have another Man Bites Dog moment from Gaza: “Hamas kneecappings, punishment beatings and killings of ‘collaborators’ revealed in new Amnesty report.” Keep them coming.

After the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s candid protest of Hamas’s looting of its warehouses in Gaza, and UNRWA’s admission that Israel did not hit one of its schools on January 6, we have another Man Bites Dog moment from Gaza: “Hamas kneecappings, punishment beatings and killings of ‘collaborators’ revealed in new Amnesty report.” Keep them coming.

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No to Netanyahu

If there’s one lesson to be learned from Kadima’s election upset – according to exit polls, it got more mandates than the Likud party – it is this: Binyamin Netanyahu hasn’t yet overcome his reputation among fearful and apprehensive Israelis. Left-wing Meretz got only 4 mandates because Meretz voters turned to Livni in the hope that she will stop Netanyahu. If Labor lost most of the mandates it gained during the Gaza war, it is because potential Labor voters also turned to Livni in the hope that she will stop Netanyahu.

Why do they not like him? It has a lot to do with the way he handled the office of Prime Minister back in the mid-nineties. Apparently, the Israelis that were willing to forgive and forget the earlier sins of Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon weren’t as merciful this time. Too many people refuse to forgive Netanyahu and Ehud Barak for the failures of the nineties.

Ideologically, the Netanyahu way has won. The right-wing block has more votes and more power in the next Israeli parliament. But elections are often more about personality than about ideology.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from Kadima’s election upset – according to exit polls, it got more mandates than the Likud party – it is this: Binyamin Netanyahu hasn’t yet overcome his reputation among fearful and apprehensive Israelis. Left-wing Meretz got only 4 mandates because Meretz voters turned to Livni in the hope that she will stop Netanyahu. If Labor lost most of the mandates it gained during the Gaza war, it is because potential Labor voters also turned to Livni in the hope that she will stop Netanyahu.

Why do they not like him? It has a lot to do with the way he handled the office of Prime Minister back in the mid-nineties. Apparently, the Israelis that were willing to forgive and forget the earlier sins of Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon weren’t as merciful this time. Too many people refuse to forgive Netanyahu and Ehud Barak for the failures of the nineties.

Ideologically, the Netanyahu way has won. The right-wing block has more votes and more power in the next Israeli parliament. But elections are often more about personality than about ideology.

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The Results Are In . . .

. . . at least of the exit polls — final results tomorrow. The results shown below reflect the number of seats projected in the 120-seat Knesset. I have included only the four major parties in the running. Here are the exit poll results from three major Israeli news channels:

Channel 1:
Kadima 30
Likud 28
Yisrael Beitenu  14
Labor 13

Channel 2:
Kadima 29
Likud 27
Yisrael Beitenu 15
Labor 13

Channel 10:
Kadima 30
Likud 28
Yisrael Beitenu 15
Labor 13

These are only exit polls, true results and analysis will follow in the hours and days to come…

. . . at least of the exit polls — final results tomorrow. The results shown below reflect the number of seats projected in the 120-seat Knesset. I have included only the four major parties in the running. Here are the exit poll results from three major Israeli news channels:

Channel 1:
Kadima 30
Likud 28
Yisrael Beitenu  14
Labor 13

Channel 2:
Kadima 29
Likud 27
Yisrael Beitenu 15
Labor 13

Channel 10:
Kadima 30
Likud 28
Yisrael Beitenu 15
Labor 13

These are only exit polls, true results and analysis will follow in the hours and days to come…

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Playing with Fire, Make That “Fear”

It is unclear why all the financial fear-mongering, gloom and doom routine is really needed. The president has his votes to pass the stimulus bill, but he persists in trying to scare the dickens out of the public. As Roger Simon notes:

Barack Obama has a tough act to pull off. He must simultaneously petrify people and also restore their confidence. He must scare us to death and calm our fears.

He must convince the nation that the times are so dire we must carry out his bold plans immediately, and then he must persuade us to be patient and give his plans time to work.  .  . He used phrases like “full-blown crisis” and “vicious cycle.” And he said that unless we do something quickly, “we may be unable to reverse” the crisis we face.

Yes, he needs to get Congress to move and, yes, he wants to lower expectations to buy himself some political breathing room, but the whole stimulus hocus-pocus (“Look we passed a bill spending bill and confidence has returned!”) depends on people not really believing we are on the precipice of the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. (Does no one remember double-digit inflation and unemployment under Jimmy Carter?)

Tim Geithner announced his bailout plan today. The markets promptly tanked. Perhaps they expected more, given the perilous times in which we live. As David Malpass explained:

President Obama has been highlighting the negatives in the U.S. outlook. The market’s default assumption is that conditions will get worse for quite a while. Geithner didn’t dispute this. I think the administration should attack head-on the Great Depression analogies and the claims that the U.S. is a bankrupt nation. It has to decide that it is planning for recovery, not a drawn-out nationwide debt-restructuring program. Otherwise, the downward momentum is self-fulfilling, causing needlessly high unemployment.

Indeed, the businesses which will need to decide whether to lay off more workers, consumers who will need to weigh the benefits of saving vs. spending and investors who will have to decide between, for example, gold and the stock market better not be paying any attention to Obama’s histrionics. Otherwise this “stimulus plan” is going to be one big, very expensive bust.

It is unclear why all the financial fear-mongering, gloom and doom routine is really needed. The president has his votes to pass the stimulus bill, but he persists in trying to scare the dickens out of the public. As Roger Simon notes:

Barack Obama has a tough act to pull off. He must simultaneously petrify people and also restore their confidence. He must scare us to death and calm our fears.

He must convince the nation that the times are so dire we must carry out his bold plans immediately, and then he must persuade us to be patient and give his plans time to work.  .  . He used phrases like “full-blown crisis” and “vicious cycle.” And he said that unless we do something quickly, “we may be unable to reverse” the crisis we face.

Yes, he needs to get Congress to move and, yes, he wants to lower expectations to buy himself some political breathing room, but the whole stimulus hocus-pocus (“Look we passed a bill spending bill and confidence has returned!”) depends on people not really believing we are on the precipice of the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. (Does no one remember double-digit inflation and unemployment under Jimmy Carter?)

Tim Geithner announced his bailout plan today. The markets promptly tanked. Perhaps they expected more, given the perilous times in which we live. As David Malpass explained:

President Obama has been highlighting the negatives in the U.S. outlook. The market’s default assumption is that conditions will get worse for quite a while. Geithner didn’t dispute this. I think the administration should attack head-on the Great Depression analogies and the claims that the U.S. is a bankrupt nation. It has to decide that it is planning for recovery, not a drawn-out nationwide debt-restructuring program. Otherwise, the downward momentum is self-fulfilling, causing needlessly high unemployment.

Indeed, the businesses which will need to decide whether to lay off more workers, consumers who will need to weigh the benefits of saving vs. spending and investors who will have to decide between, for example, gold and the stock market better not be paying any attention to Obama’s histrionics. Otherwise this “stimulus plan” is going to be one big, very expensive bust.

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Worse Than Ineffective

There is no international bully before which the Obama “smart power” machine will not lay prostrate, no crisis that offers anything other than a reason to “hope,” no stakes too high to permit senseless babble.

Last month, North Korea announced its unilateral withdrawal from the 1991 peace accords with South Korea. This, among other things, ends North Korea’s recognition of its southern neighbor’s ocean border – an alarming fact considering the two countries have fought naval battles over this border as recently as seven years ago. Moreover, satellite images reveal that North Korea began transporting a Taepodong 2 missile, capable of reaching our West Coast, to a launch pad.

We can all agree that “bring ‘em on” wouldn’t do much good, but does this?

The United States is “hopeful” that the move “is not a precursor of any actions that would up the ante, or threaten the stability and peace and security of the neighbors in the region,” Clinton told reporters.

But she added that “North Korea has to understand that all of the countries in east Asia have made it clear that its behavior is viewed as unacceptable” and that it can benefit from another path.

“There are opportunities” for North Korea and its people if they engage with the international community, the chief US diplomat said.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll see that in the weeks and months ahead.”

There is something so calculated — so patronizingly studied – about the “adults are now in charge” tone of the Obama administration’s foreign policy rhetoric that you have to wonder about the intended audience. Hillary Clinton knows that this is white noise to the Kim regime. The same way she knows that Tehran doesn’t care about President Obama’s outstretched hand.

If the Obama administration is using sound bites about crises to set a pervasive tone of humility, we should be deeply concerned. Reading Bret Stephens’s Wall Street Journal piece today, you get the sense that Obama is not so much due to be tested by this or that bad actor, but on the verge of getting ambushed by the lot of them. Faced with ever more brazen antagonists, our White House and State Department dig deeper for apologies, compliments, and affirmations. President Obama can either get serious about these challenges or have seriousness forced upon him.

There is no international bully before which the Obama “smart power” machine will not lay prostrate, no crisis that offers anything other than a reason to “hope,” no stakes too high to permit senseless babble.

Last month, North Korea announced its unilateral withdrawal from the 1991 peace accords with South Korea. This, among other things, ends North Korea’s recognition of its southern neighbor’s ocean border – an alarming fact considering the two countries have fought naval battles over this border as recently as seven years ago. Moreover, satellite images reveal that North Korea began transporting a Taepodong 2 missile, capable of reaching our West Coast, to a launch pad.

We can all agree that “bring ‘em on” wouldn’t do much good, but does this?

The United States is “hopeful” that the move “is not a precursor of any actions that would up the ante, or threaten the stability and peace and security of the neighbors in the region,” Clinton told reporters.

But she added that “North Korea has to understand that all of the countries in east Asia have made it clear that its behavior is viewed as unacceptable” and that it can benefit from another path.

“There are opportunities” for North Korea and its people if they engage with the international community, the chief US diplomat said.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll see that in the weeks and months ahead.”

There is something so calculated — so patronizingly studied – about the “adults are now in charge” tone of the Obama administration’s foreign policy rhetoric that you have to wonder about the intended audience. Hillary Clinton knows that this is white noise to the Kim regime. The same way she knows that Tehran doesn’t care about President Obama’s outstretched hand.

If the Obama administration is using sound bites about crises to set a pervasive tone of humility, we should be deeply concerned. Reading Bret Stephens’s Wall Street Journal piece today, you get the sense that Obama is not so much due to be tested by this or that bad actor, but on the verge of getting ambushed by the lot of them. Faced with ever more brazen antagonists, our White House and State Department dig deeper for apologies, compliments, and affirmations. President Obama can either get serious about these challenges or have seriousness forced upon him.

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The End of Pax Americana?

One day historians may see our ongoing efforts to end piracy off the Horn of Africa as marking the beginning of the end of Pax Americana, at least according to the always interesting J. E. Dyer, a retired naval intelligence officer.  “Without any particular notice being paid by Americans or Europeans,” she writes in her new blog, “we are seeing develop, in the waters off Somalia, a most informative kind of evidence that we are no longer the hyperpower we were fifteen years ago: the arrival of navy after navy to operate in support of UN resolutions, but independently of official leadership by the US, according to multiple national agendas.”

There are some who think the United States, by not acting, hoped other nations would get involved in what Dyer calls an “anti-piracy gaggle,” the “biggest naval free-for-all in modern history.”  If that was our strategy, we have invited troublemakers — like Russia, China, and even Iran — into those troubled waters.

And in so doing we have intentionally abandoned our responsibility as the guarantor of the sea lanes and legitimized the role of our adversaries.  In short, we have not only marginalized ourselves, but we have also boosted the worst states in the world today.  This is not how the United States maintained order last century.

As Yale’s Paul Kennedy has written, some nations fail after “imperial overstretch.”  In our case, it looks as if Dyer may be right and we will fade away after empowering those who wish us harm.  We will not, as we hope, make autocrats responsible members of the international community by giving them a role in maintaining order.  We will just make them better able to accomplish their aims.

One day historians may see our ongoing efforts to end piracy off the Horn of Africa as marking the beginning of the end of Pax Americana, at least according to the always interesting J. E. Dyer, a retired naval intelligence officer.  “Without any particular notice being paid by Americans or Europeans,” she writes in her new blog, “we are seeing develop, in the waters off Somalia, a most informative kind of evidence that we are no longer the hyperpower we were fifteen years ago: the arrival of navy after navy to operate in support of UN resolutions, but independently of official leadership by the US, according to multiple national agendas.”

There are some who think the United States, by not acting, hoped other nations would get involved in what Dyer calls an “anti-piracy gaggle,” the “biggest naval free-for-all in modern history.”  If that was our strategy, we have invited troublemakers — like Russia, China, and even Iran — into those troubled waters.

And in so doing we have intentionally abandoned our responsibility as the guarantor of the sea lanes and legitimized the role of our adversaries.  In short, we have not only marginalized ourselves, but we have also boosted the worst states in the world today.  This is not how the United States maintained order last century.

As Yale’s Paul Kennedy has written, some nations fail after “imperial overstretch.”  In our case, it looks as if Dyer may be right and we will fade away after empowering those who wish us harm.  We will not, as we hope, make autocrats responsible members of the international community by giving them a role in maintaining order.  We will just make them better able to accomplish their aims.

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Anticipating the Anti-Bibi Trend

Israelis are still voting but the current buzz is that the race tightened up over the weekend, since the last polls were published. It’s hard to tell whether or not talk of Tzipi Livni and Kadima’s gains on Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud is wishful thinking on the part of a press corps that ardently desires Bibi’s defeat.

Unless things have radically changed in the last few days the parties of the right will probably find it easier to form a new governing coalition than those of the left. That will mean that the person who is most likely to lead the next Israeli government is Netanyahu. But anyone expecting Bibi to get some kind of honeymoon from the media is dreaming. Even before he takes office he will be falsely accused of killing the peace process in the 1990s. Rather than face up to the reality that there’s no viable Palestinian peace partner, the press will call the absence of peace Netanyahu’s fault.

But some people just couldn’t wait for the voters to speak to start the Bibi-bashing. Britain’s Independent weighed in on Friday with “The nightmare of Netanyahu returns.”

Here in the United States, the Los Angeles Times editorial page anticipated the election results on the day of the voting with less hysteria in a piece decrying the mood in Israel, in which “the front-runners in today’s elections have emphasized security over peacemaking.”

Why would they do that? Yes, the Times admits, Hamas is not nice and Fatah is weak, “leaving Israelis feeling that they have no peace partner.” Of course they “feel” that way because that’s the reality, not a misunderstanding of Palestinian society. Even worse, the paper denounces Israel’s “walls, fences and checkpoints” which have lessened the chances for peace. That reading ignores the fact that the only reason those barriers exist is to protect Israeli civilians from a barbarous Palestinian terrorist offensive. Apparently from the Times’s point of view it would be better for Israelis to still face the danger of being blown up in buses, restaurants, and malls than to “know no one from the other side.”

The editorial concludes by claiming that Israel “needs a leader who will help restore the country’s faith in peacemaking” via territorial withdrawals — a clear swipe at Netanyahu. But the only force that can restore Israel’s faith in such policies would be a leader or party on the Palestinian side that actually believed in peace. Since that doesn’t currently exist it is still easier to blame Israel’s leaders and its voters. If Bibi manages to win tonight get ready for a lot more of this theme in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Israelis are still voting but the current buzz is that the race tightened up over the weekend, since the last polls were published. It’s hard to tell whether or not talk of Tzipi Livni and Kadima’s gains on Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud is wishful thinking on the part of a press corps that ardently desires Bibi’s defeat.

Unless things have radically changed in the last few days the parties of the right will probably find it easier to form a new governing coalition than those of the left. That will mean that the person who is most likely to lead the next Israeli government is Netanyahu. But anyone expecting Bibi to get some kind of honeymoon from the media is dreaming. Even before he takes office he will be falsely accused of killing the peace process in the 1990s. Rather than face up to the reality that there’s no viable Palestinian peace partner, the press will call the absence of peace Netanyahu’s fault.

But some people just couldn’t wait for the voters to speak to start the Bibi-bashing. Britain’s Independent weighed in on Friday with “The nightmare of Netanyahu returns.”

Here in the United States, the Los Angeles Times editorial page anticipated the election results on the day of the voting with less hysteria in a piece decrying the mood in Israel, in which “the front-runners in today’s elections have emphasized security over peacemaking.”

Why would they do that? Yes, the Times admits, Hamas is not nice and Fatah is weak, “leaving Israelis feeling that they have no peace partner.” Of course they “feel” that way because that’s the reality, not a misunderstanding of Palestinian society. Even worse, the paper denounces Israel’s “walls, fences and checkpoints” which have lessened the chances for peace. That reading ignores the fact that the only reason those barriers exist is to protect Israeli civilians from a barbarous Palestinian terrorist offensive. Apparently from the Times’s point of view it would be better for Israelis to still face the danger of being blown up in buses, restaurants, and malls than to “know no one from the other side.”

The editorial concludes by claiming that Israel “needs a leader who will help restore the country’s faith in peacemaking” via territorial withdrawals — a clear swipe at Netanyahu. But the only force that can restore Israel’s faith in such policies would be a leader or party on the Palestinian side that actually believed in peace. Since that doesn’t currently exist it is still easier to blame Israel’s leaders and its voters. If Bibi manages to win tonight get ready for a lot more of this theme in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

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We Know!

I think we owe Caroline Kennedy a, you know, apology. This is from Hillary Clinton’s interview with Jodi Kantor of the New York Times:

But he is someone who, you know, is really such a dedicated public servant that I, you know — I am, you know, really grateful he took on this responsibility. It takes — you know, it takes a big change in his life to be able to relocate and do this. But I think that, you know, many — you know, many people who have worked with Richard over the years know that he’s someone who, you know, just doesn’t quit, is always trying to be creative and flexible, but without losing sight of what’s most important. He’s not somebody who gets — you know, loses the forest for the trees. He wants to count every tree, but at the end of the day, he wants to try to, you know, create the conditions that will lead to peace.

And that’s just one — representative — paragraph. I guess it takes a few decades in public life before you’re really comfortable speaking to the press.

I think we owe Caroline Kennedy a, you know, apology. This is from Hillary Clinton’s interview with Jodi Kantor of the New York Times:

But he is someone who, you know, is really such a dedicated public servant that I, you know — I am, you know, really grateful he took on this responsibility. It takes — you know, it takes a big change in his life to be able to relocate and do this. But I think that, you know, many — you know, many people who have worked with Richard over the years know that he’s someone who, you know, just doesn’t quit, is always trying to be creative and flexible, but without losing sight of what’s most important. He’s not somebody who gets — you know, loses the forest for the trees. He wants to count every tree, but at the end of the day, he wants to try to, you know, create the conditions that will lead to peace.

And that’s just one — representative — paragraph. I guess it takes a few decades in public life before you’re really comfortable speaking to the press.

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Three Thoughts on Israel’s Elections

We are just a couple of hours before exit polls are announced here in Jerusalem. A few points of interest:

1. Despite a dramatically shortened campaign season due to the Gaza war; despite a long-awaited rainstorm in one of the worst droughts in water-deprived Israel’s history; despite a near-total lack of specific campaign issues to effectively differentiate Kadima from Likud — despite all these things, voter turnout is up compared to 2006. Right now we’re on target for upwards of 70 percent.

2. For the last two weeks, almost every media outlet has been using the pictures of Tzipi Livni, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak — the leaders of the Kadima, Likud, and Labor parties respectively, as their symbol for election campaign coverage. The funny thing, though, is that for the last two weeks, Labor has not been in third place, but in fourth, behind Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party. Which makes the entire thing seem like a deliberate outcasting of Lieberman. They are probably afraid of him. And maybe they should be: His anti-Arab, Russian-immigrant-oriented campaign played heavily on racist themes, and its slogan was “Only Lieberman speaks Arabic.” Not so good for Israeli democracy.

3. Although the polls have shown Livni’s Kadima party closing the gap behind the first-place Likud, most of it has actually been due to Likud losing votes to Lieberman. Which means that the Right is still way ahead of the Left as a coalition bloc goes. In Israel’s system, the right to form a government does not necessarily go to the largest party. Rather, the president consults with all the elected parties and asks who they recommend to set up the coalition. There is a real possibility that Kadima will come out ahead of Likud, but Likud will put together the coalition nonetheless.

Stay tuned for exit polls at 3 pm Eastern Time today.

We are just a couple of hours before exit polls are announced here in Jerusalem. A few points of interest:

1. Despite a dramatically shortened campaign season due to the Gaza war; despite a long-awaited rainstorm in one of the worst droughts in water-deprived Israel’s history; despite a near-total lack of specific campaign issues to effectively differentiate Kadima from Likud — despite all these things, voter turnout is up compared to 2006. Right now we’re on target for upwards of 70 percent.

2. For the last two weeks, almost every media outlet has been using the pictures of Tzipi Livni, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak — the leaders of the Kadima, Likud, and Labor parties respectively, as their symbol for election campaign coverage. The funny thing, though, is that for the last two weeks, Labor has not been in third place, but in fourth, behind Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party. Which makes the entire thing seem like a deliberate outcasting of Lieberman. They are probably afraid of him. And maybe they should be: His anti-Arab, Russian-immigrant-oriented campaign played heavily on racist themes, and its slogan was “Only Lieberman speaks Arabic.” Not so good for Israeli democracy.

3. Although the polls have shown Livni’s Kadima party closing the gap behind the first-place Likud, most of it has actually been due to Likud losing votes to Lieberman. Which means that the Right is still way ahead of the Left as a coalition bloc goes. In Israel’s system, the right to form a government does not necessarily go to the largest party. Rather, the president consults with all the elected parties and asks who they recommend to set up the coalition. There is a real possibility that Kadima will come out ahead of Likud, but Likud will put together the coalition nonetheless.

Stay tuned for exit polls at 3 pm Eastern Time today.

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How and When?

Yuval Levin asks:

Again and again tonight, and over the past few weeks, the president said the stimulus bill “will save or create up to 4 million jobs.” How exactly do we measure jobs that are “saved”—i.e., that would have been lost but weren’t? Will every American who hasn’t lost his job a year from now be indebted to the stimulus plan for saving it? Is this just a way to make sure he meets his goal regardless of what actually happens?

As Yuval makes clear, this is silly stuff — as if the president were claiming that the stimulus was responsible for the rain or the population growth, both of which are sure to follow with or without the stimulus.

More interesting is when he’ll declare “mission accomplished.” Will the jobs be saved just in time for the Congressional 2010 elections? Or will it take until the fall of 2012? Perhaps if his poll numbers dip in 2011, that would be a good time to pull his number out. Next time Christina Romer or Larry Summers are interviewed some enterprising reporter might ask how they are keeping track of all the “saved” jobs.

At some level this is evidence of the low regard with which the White House views the press and public. “Hey, let’s tell ‘em 4 million!” “No, no– I got it we will say ‘save’– then we can’t be wrong!” This sort of thing seems beneath the offering of all those brainy Ivy Leaguers. But more and more it appears that they are merely window dressing for recycled political cant. It is plainly the spin doctors who are in charge here.

Yuval Levin asks:

Again and again tonight, and over the past few weeks, the president said the stimulus bill “will save or create up to 4 million jobs.” How exactly do we measure jobs that are “saved”—i.e., that would have been lost but weren’t? Will every American who hasn’t lost his job a year from now be indebted to the stimulus plan for saving it? Is this just a way to make sure he meets his goal regardless of what actually happens?

As Yuval makes clear, this is silly stuff — as if the president were claiming that the stimulus was responsible for the rain or the population growth, both of which are sure to follow with or without the stimulus.

More interesting is when he’ll declare “mission accomplished.” Will the jobs be saved just in time for the Congressional 2010 elections? Or will it take until the fall of 2012? Perhaps if his poll numbers dip in 2011, that would be a good time to pull his number out. Next time Christina Romer or Larry Summers are interviewed some enterprising reporter might ask how they are keeping track of all the “saved” jobs.

At some level this is evidence of the low regard with which the White House views the press and public. “Hey, let’s tell ‘em 4 million!” “No, no– I got it we will say ‘save’– then we can’t be wrong!” This sort of thing seems beneath the offering of all those brainy Ivy Leaguers. But more and more it appears that they are merely window dressing for recycled political cant. It is plainly the spin doctors who are in charge here.

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A Picture Worth a Thousand Parties

Israeli blogger Carl in Jerusalem captures the insanity of Knesset elections with one photo. Question: How was he even allowed to take the picture?

Israeli blogger Carl in Jerusalem captures the insanity of Knesset elections with one photo. Question: How was he even allowed to take the picture?

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It’s Always November

As President Obama continues his full-court press for the passage of the so-called stimulus bill, we find that him reverting to type: the tireless campaigner.

It must be remembered that Obama has spent his entire career campaigning for the next office, and has only lost one election. He won the first time he ran for the Illinois State Senate, and then started eying Washington. He was defeated the first time he ran for the House, but two years later won election to the Senate. And he barely had time to warm his seat there before he began running for the presidency.

So Obama has plenty of success in campaigning. How about in governing?

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As President Obama continues his full-court press for the passage of the so-called stimulus bill, we find that him reverting to type: the tireless campaigner.

It must be remembered that Obama has spent his entire career campaigning for the next office, and has only lost one election. He won the first time he ran for the Illinois State Senate, and then started eying Washington. He was defeated the first time he ran for the House, but two years later won election to the Senate. And he barely had time to warm his seat there before he began running for the presidency.

So Obama has plenty of success in campaigning. How about in governing?

Not so much.

Barack Obama’s fluid ability to turn every political station into a launching pad from which he may reach the next is his defining career achievement.

Here’s a sobering thought for our 44th president: in eight years, he will be only 55 and Constitutionally prevented from seeking a third term. There is no higher office left. And he will have another 30 or so years (judging by the lifespans of modern-day former presidents) left to go.

For now, the campaign must go on (even without a race). First up, there was a rally with the party faithful. He gave a speech at a Democratic congressional retreat, filled with hyperbole and political red meat. (He actually said, “We can’t embrace the losing formula that offers more tax cuts as the only answer to every problem we face, while ignoring critical challenges like our addiction to foreign oil, the soaring cost of health care, failing schools and crumbling bridges, roads and levees.” Nobody responsible has called only for tax cuts; most have protested the fact that the House Democrats shut the Republicans out of the bill-writing process and turned the “stimulus” bill into a Christmas present.)Then he took Air Force One to public rallies in Elkhart, Indiana and Fort Myers, Florida. He knows that he can sway a crowd like no other, and the visual effect is tremendously compelling. He hoped that that would put sufficient pressure on recalcitrant Republicans in Congress to yield on the bill.

But that’s not how senators are swayed. Senators are not answerable to the general public, but rather to the people of their own state. And not a single sitting senator has to worry about that for about a year and a half. No, the way to influence them is through negotiations and compromise, the give and take that is the key element of the legislative process.

So far, President Obama doesn’t seem to grasp that. His idea of bipartisanship is “you get to talk all you want, but in the end you vote with me.” The notion that those who disagree with him might have some valid points is a foreign one.

In the House, Obama has thus far been content to let Speaker Pelosi have free rein. He asked her for something he could call a “stimulus” bill, and let her craft the dog’s breakfast of a bill that passed without a single Republican vote or the slightest bit of Republican involvement. In the Senate, he allowed Harry Reid to define “bipartisan” as “we will try to pry the bare minimum of Republicans across the line to get the bill to pass, and ignore all but those two or three senators.”

This is a bad strategy for long-term success, as it tends to galvanize opponents who find themselves shut out of the process. But it may prove to be a  short-term success and that’s what campaigns are all about: a finite goal, a mark on the calendar when the contest is over and the winners are declared.

Real governing, however, is seldom so tidy. Should this bill pass, Obama will have his victory. And he will have almost two more years to govern with the very same Congress — packed with almost 180 Republicans in the House and about 40 in the Senate that have been given the back of his hand. Moreover, congressional leaders have set a precedent of getting whatever measure they want embraced by the White House, no questions asked.

And that is a recipe for disaster.

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Stimulate What?

Deep in the front section of the Washington Post we find an article that begins:

The economic stimulus packages under consideration on Capitol Hill represent a massive financial windfall for agencies across the federal government. Taken together, they could lead to more spending for “green” initiatives, the upgrading of federal buildings and facilities, and improved health-care service.

Despite the president’s touchiness on the subject, it is hard to escape the conclusion that this is not stimulative spending (that is temporary, targeted and timely) aimed at job growth, but an effort to bolster the size of the federal government. Well, it may create some jobs, but those won’t be private sector jobs. And unless the government continues to expand year after year those people will eventually need to find permanent employment outside the civil service. (Hmm, I suppose Pelosi and Reid have a solution to that one.)

At least Eugene Robinson is being honest when he writes:

The House of Representatives loaded up the bill like a Christmas tree as powerful Democrats found room for their pet projects. This was a good thing, not an outrage. Hundreds of millions of dollars for contraceptives? To the extent that those condoms or birth-control pills are made in the United States and sold in U.S. drugstores, that spending would be stimulative in more ways than one.

It is fine to call the trillion dollar bill “stimulative,” but it is not stimulative in the sense most people understand the term — a short term fix to help bolster the economy (that good old Keynesian multiplier). Rather it is a targeted and timely, but not a temporary, effort to inflate the size and scope of government.

But it wouldn’t do the president much good, I suppose, to come right out and confess that he likes the huge, overstuffed bag of Pelosi’s liberal goodies just fine. It wasn’t what he ran on and it’s not what’s selling, but it is what we’re getting. We’ll see if the public is fine with that.

Deep in the front section of the Washington Post we find an article that begins:

The economic stimulus packages under consideration on Capitol Hill represent a massive financial windfall for agencies across the federal government. Taken together, they could lead to more spending for “green” initiatives, the upgrading of federal buildings and facilities, and improved health-care service.

Despite the president’s touchiness on the subject, it is hard to escape the conclusion that this is not stimulative spending (that is temporary, targeted and timely) aimed at job growth, but an effort to bolster the size of the federal government. Well, it may create some jobs, but those won’t be private sector jobs. And unless the government continues to expand year after year those people will eventually need to find permanent employment outside the civil service. (Hmm, I suppose Pelosi and Reid have a solution to that one.)

At least Eugene Robinson is being honest when he writes:

The House of Representatives loaded up the bill like a Christmas tree as powerful Democrats found room for their pet projects. This was a good thing, not an outrage. Hundreds of millions of dollars for contraceptives? To the extent that those condoms or birth-control pills are made in the United States and sold in U.S. drugstores, that spending would be stimulative in more ways than one.

It is fine to call the trillion dollar bill “stimulative,” but it is not stimulative in the sense most people understand the term — a short term fix to help bolster the economy (that good old Keynesian multiplier). Rather it is a targeted and timely, but not a temporary, effort to inflate the size and scope of government.

But it wouldn’t do the president much good, I suppose, to come right out and confess that he likes the huge, overstuffed bag of Pelosi’s liberal goodies just fine. It wasn’t what he ran on and it’s not what’s selling, but it is what we’re getting. We’ll see if the public is fine with that.

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A Little Revisionism

In his most recent response to John Podhoretz, Andrew Sullivan, in analyzing his own mistakes on Iraq, admits:

I clearly believed there were WMD stockpiles in Iraq before the war, and also believed that the Bush administration had the capacity to pull off a very ambitious invasion/occupation. On all this, I was wrong. Then I was wrong again in thinking that the metrics Petraeus laid out for the surge wouldn’t work (by his own Balkan measurements) and that cutting our losses in 2007 was the least worst option. I was not alone in this and it was an honest error, but born out of a desire to mitigate what I saw as a very, very bleak future. It even forced me to consider whether there was some Western interest in a wider Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East . From the still-fragile consensus of today, that too seems too bleak, although the future remains unknowable.

On the positive side, Sullivan writes:

I did, however, get some things right: there were not enough troops after the invasion, as I worried…

Actually, that’s not quite right. If you check Andrew’s blog entries during April 2003 — a month after the war began — you’ll find things like this (from April 9, 2003):

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In his most recent response to John Podhoretz, Andrew Sullivan, in analyzing his own mistakes on Iraq, admits:

I clearly believed there were WMD stockpiles in Iraq before the war, and also believed that the Bush administration had the capacity to pull off a very ambitious invasion/occupation. On all this, I was wrong. Then I was wrong again in thinking that the metrics Petraeus laid out for the surge wouldn’t work (by his own Balkan measurements) and that cutting our losses in 2007 was the least worst option. I was not alone in this and it was an honest error, but born out of a desire to mitigate what I saw as a very, very bleak future. It even forced me to consider whether there was some Western interest in a wider Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East . From the still-fragile consensus of today, that too seems too bleak, although the future remains unknowable.

On the positive side, Sullivan writes:

I did, however, get some things right: there were not enough troops after the invasion, as I worried…

Actually, that’s not quite right. If you check Andrew’s blog entries during April 2003 — a month after the war began — you’ll find things like this (from April 9, 2003):

VICTORY: The quibblers, the carpers, the second-guessers, the cynics, and the isolationists on right and left now have to read paragraphs like this:

In Firdos Square in central Baghdad , a group of Iraqi men climbed up the pedestal of a 20-foot statue of Mr. Hussein and smacked it with a sledgehammer. Then they put a chain around the neck of the statue and tied it to an armored American military vehicle. The crowd then cheered and clapped as the vehicle pulled away, toppling the statue. Several Iraqis danced and jumped on the fallen statue. Elsewhere in Baghdad , the American military emptied jails overnight, releasing their prisoners. In the neighborhood called Saddam City, a densely populated Shiite area, crowds of men shouted and waved their arms in jubilation. Some carried makeshift flags. One middle-aged man held up a huge portrait of Mr. Hussein, and in the middle of the street used his shoe to beat the face of the Iraqi leader, a particular insult. “This man has killed two million of us,” he yelled as bystanders milled around approvingly.

This is an amazing victory, a victory over a monster who gassed civilians, jailed children, sent millions into fruitless wars, harbored poisonous weapons to threaten free peoples, tortured thousands, and made alliances with every two-bit opportunist on the planet. It’s a victory over those who marched in the millions to stop this liberation, over the endless media cynics, over the hate-America crowd, and the armchair generals. It’s a victory for the two countries in the world that have always made freedom possible and who have now brought it to another corner of the world made dark by terror. It’s a victory for the extraordinary servicemen and women who performed this task with such skill, cool, courage and restraint. It’s a victory for optimism over pessimism, the righting of past wrongs, the assertion of universal truths against postmodern excuses, and of political leadership over appeasement. Celebrate it. Don’t let the whiners take this away from you or from the people of Iraq.

The next day Sullivan wrote this:

THE COMING SPIN: You can see it now. Chaos. Looting. Disorder. Losing the peace. It’s not that there won’t be some truth to these stories; and real cause for concern. The pent-up fury, frustration and sheer anger of three decades is a powerful thing, probably impossible to stop immediately without too much force. And the last thing we want is fire-power directed toward the celebrating masses. The trouble is that they could become the narrative of the story, especially among the usual media suspects, and erode the impact and power of April 9. By Sunday, or sooner, you-know-who will probably have a front-page “news analysis” that will describe the joy of liberation being transformed into the nightmare of a Hobbesian quicksand of ever-looming cliches. [emphasis added]

On April 21, 2003, we read this:

THE GOOD NEWS: I was heartened to read Kanan Makiya’s latest missive in the New Republic . There are some memes in the liberal media I just don’t buy — i.e. all exiles are bad; Islam will destroy Iraqi democracy; we’ll be hated soon; we’re hated already, etc., etc. Kristof has absorbed, as usual, all the defeatist talking points, but at least he has conceded he got almost everything wrong last year. In contrast, here’s the money Makiya quote:

Garner was an enormous hit with the Iraqis present at the meeting. He wisely stayed very much in the background, judging that the key task at hand was having Iraqis speak to one another, rather than having them hear speeches from representatives of the U.S.-led coalition. When Garner did finally speak, it was to make a direct, honest, straight-from-the-heart appeal to the participants that won them over instantly. He said, simply, that his role was to support Iraqis in the reconstruction of their country, and that he plans on leaving as soon as Iraqis themselves find it appropriate. “He really means it,” a businessman from Mosul said to me after the conference. “This man is the genuine article.”

I remain an optimist about the Iraqi future — and America ‘s critical role in it. Yes, there have been some obvious screw-ups — the failure to protect Baghdad ‘s museums strikes me as damn-near indefensible. But the direction is clear. And if the U.N. is successfully kept at the margins, we can work this out.

And here’s one from May 4:

HAWKS, SCHMAWKS: One of the more irritating memes of the foreign policy debate is that the world is divided between hawks, who favor military action, and doves, who favor diplomacy. Of course this has always been a crude simplification. But our current world shows something that Machiavelli understood well: that being a hawk sometimes is the only means of being an effective dove. Why have Syria and North Korea become — even temporarily — more compliant with U.S. diplomatic entreaties? Because they’re scared of us. Being feared is sometimes much more important than being loved. In the Middle East it’s almost always more important. The critical facet of the current president’s superb foreign policy has been his inclusion of Powell and Rumsfeld on the same team (with Rice operating as go-between). It has given him more credibility and flexibility than any recent president, except Reagan. And what was Reagan’s signal achievement? Bringing about the peaceful collapse of the evil empire in part by scaring the world to death. Now, we even see signs of Paris supporting U.S. pressure on Syria . From Le Parisien this weekend:

The thing is sufficiently rare to be remarked: Paris and Washington find themselves, on the subject of Syria , following a common line. On his return from the Middle East , Dominique de Villepin used, in effect, an unusually firm tone vis-a-vis the regime of Bachar el-Assad. In a press conference, he first urged the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon … In his speech, Villepin [also] urged Damascus to ‘moderate’ its support of ‘politico-military’ organizations operating against Israel from Lebanese soil. His target: Hezbollah, the Shiite group also supported by Teheran. In plain language: viewed from the French foreign ministry, Hezbollah, which has a main office in Beirut , can continue its political activities, but must stop its attacks on Israel . For Paris , a notable turn: we remember what happened to Lionel Jospin in February 2000 when, at the time Prime Minister, he called Hezbollah a ‘terrorist movement.’ This comment resulted in a ‘convocation’ with the President. But why this sharp turn [in French policy]? What’s at stake, explains one diplomat, is the seller’s bonanza that’s developing in the Middle East . The Americans, after their ‘victory’ in Iraq , are next going to tackle the Israel-Arab dossier. Thus France , marginalized because of its opposition to the US , wants nonetheless to have influence in the region.

Isn’t victory sweet? Just remember who got us here and who opposed it.

There were, in other words, no expressions of concern by Andrew that we did not have enough troops soon after the invasion began.

I have written before that everybody got something wrong about Iraq, so I don’t think perfection should be the standard, in this instance or in any other. But if you’re going to claim credit for having been right about some aspects of the Iraq war, it probably strengthens your case if what you claim you said at the time is accurate, as opposed to very nearly the opposite of what you claim.

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