Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 5, 2009

Chaos

Michael Goldfarb reported the latest — almost cringe-inducing – developments surrounding Chas Freeman. What is apparent is that Freeman has run out of supporters and defenders. And who would step forward at this point? He hasn’t disclosed the rudimentary financial data concerning his income. His intemperate email dissing Congressmen is likely just the beginning of the drip-drip-drip of unflattering information — the leakers are out in force. Will Freeman survive his meeting with Sen. Kit Bond? It would seem an exercise in futility to continue — and a needless embarrassment for the administration.

Oh, and the administration lost Sanjay Gupta . And two of Tim Geithner’s potential deputies have backed out.

Other than that, and a 280 point drop in the Dow, everything is going swimmingly.

Michael Goldfarb reported the latest — almost cringe-inducing – developments surrounding Chas Freeman. What is apparent is that Freeman has run out of supporters and defenders. And who would step forward at this point? He hasn’t disclosed the rudimentary financial data concerning his income. His intemperate email dissing Congressmen is likely just the beginning of the drip-drip-drip of unflattering information — the leakers are out in force. Will Freeman survive his meeting with Sen. Kit Bond? It would seem an exercise in futility to continue — and a needless embarrassment for the administration.

Oh, and the administration lost Sanjay Gupta . And two of Tim Geithner’s potential deputies have backed out.

Other than that, and a 280 point drop in the Dow, everything is going swimmingly.

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Gibbs Should Pick on Someone Less Informed

The Obama administration has adopted an odd tactic of going after individual media figures. I honestly can’t recall the Bush or Clinton administrations ever engaging in such a practice. The increasingly peevish Robert Gibbs’s list of offenders is getting long — Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santelli, and Jim Cramer. You might think it unseemly for the White House to engage in name calling from the briefing room, but it is also counterproductive when the White House goes after highly informed business analysts who understand, apparently far better than Gibbs, market dynamics and the impact of the administration’s policies on our prospects for recovery. (And as Jim Geraghty points out, it’s hard to demonize entire publications that raise similarly informed criticism.)

Jim Cramer writes a must-read rebuttal to the White House attack and concludes:

I believe his agenda is crushing nest eggs around the nation in loud ways, like the decline in the averages, and in soft but dangerous ways, like in the annuities that can’t be paid and the insurance benefits that will be challenging to deliver on.

So I will fight the fight against that agenda. I will stand up for what I believe and for what I have always believed: Every person has a right to be rich in this country and I want to help them get there. And when they get there, if times are good, we can have them give back or pay higher taxes. Until they get there, I don’t want them shackled or scared or paralyzed. That’s what I see now.

If that makes me an enemy of the White House, then call me a general of an army that Obama may not even know exists — tens of millions of people who live in fear of having no money saved when they need it and who get poorer by the day.

The White House is under the illusion that economic well-being of ordinary people can be separated from that of the markets and the world of investors, employers, and wealth creators. But this is a pre-World War II view of the world. The majority of voters in the country have a 401k, a pension, stocks — or, at the very least, a job. And while they may not all watch CNBC, they do, I suspect, share Cramer’s sense that the immediate concern should be preserving savings, restoring growth, and returning businesses to profitability. In that regard, in the Gibbs vs. Cramer face-off, I’d wager most Americans agree with Cramer. Which explains why Gibbs’s attacks are ultimately self-defeating.

The Obama administration has adopted an odd tactic of going after individual media figures. I honestly can’t recall the Bush or Clinton administrations ever engaging in such a practice. The increasingly peevish Robert Gibbs’s list of offenders is getting long — Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santelli, and Jim Cramer. You might think it unseemly for the White House to engage in name calling from the briefing room, but it is also counterproductive when the White House goes after highly informed business analysts who understand, apparently far better than Gibbs, market dynamics and the impact of the administration’s policies on our prospects for recovery. (And as Jim Geraghty points out, it’s hard to demonize entire publications that raise similarly informed criticism.)

Jim Cramer writes a must-read rebuttal to the White House attack and concludes:

I believe his agenda is crushing nest eggs around the nation in loud ways, like the decline in the averages, and in soft but dangerous ways, like in the annuities that can’t be paid and the insurance benefits that will be challenging to deliver on.

So I will fight the fight against that agenda. I will stand up for what I believe and for what I have always believed: Every person has a right to be rich in this country and I want to help them get there. And when they get there, if times are good, we can have them give back or pay higher taxes. Until they get there, I don’t want them shackled or scared or paralyzed. That’s what I see now.

If that makes me an enemy of the White House, then call me a general of an army that Obama may not even know exists — tens of millions of people who live in fear of having no money saved when they need it and who get poorer by the day.

The White House is under the illusion that economic well-being of ordinary people can be separated from that of the markets and the world of investors, employers, and wealth creators. But this is a pre-World War II view of the world. The majority of voters in the country have a 401k, a pension, stocks — or, at the very least, a job. And while they may not all watch CNBC, they do, I suspect, share Cramer’s sense that the immediate concern should be preserving savings, restoring growth, and returning businesses to profitability. In that regard, in the Gibbs vs. Cramer face-off, I’d wager most Americans agree with Cramer. Which explains why Gibbs’s attacks are ultimately self-defeating.

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Commentary of the Day

Elvin, on Jennifer Rubin:

I always thought that Bill Clinton was solid on economics. I rate him a B+, maybe even A- on economics, especially if we throw out the mess of his first two years. He was pro-business, promoted free trade (NAFTA, China and the WTO), cut taxes with the capital gains tax cut, reformed welfare, and actually oversaw a relative decline in size of the federal government. The downsides were a too strong dollar policy, which helped to spur too much consumption and hollowed our manufacturing base, and a DoJ that was too interested in antitrust. Overall, he was supply-sider Democrat. I think, unlike Obama, that he instinctively understood the importance of the private sector and the limitations of government. I miss him, too.

Elvin, on Jennifer Rubin:

I always thought that Bill Clinton was solid on economics. I rate him a B+, maybe even A- on economics, especially if we throw out the mess of his first two years. He was pro-business, promoted free trade (NAFTA, China and the WTO), cut taxes with the capital gains tax cut, reformed welfare, and actually oversaw a relative decline in size of the federal government. The downsides were a too strong dollar policy, which helped to spur too much consumption and hollowed our manufacturing base, and a DoJ that was too interested in antitrust. Overall, he was supply-sider Democrat. I think, unlike Obama, that he instinctively understood the importance of the private sector and the limitations of government. I miss him, too.

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No Longer Any Doubt

Pointing out the vast gulf between Barack Obama’s campaign promises and presidential actions on earmarks, spending, healthcare and taxes, Karl Rove concludes:

Barack Obama has been president for a little more than five weeks. During his speech to a joint session of Congress last week, he showed what a skilled speaker he is and how persuasive he can be. But words delivered from a teleprompter, while important, have to line up with actions. Promises have to be met. And a president who promised to be one thing cannot be another. At some point, the gap between good feelings and results, between perception and reality, closes.

Eloquent words and “spin” work better in a campaign than they do while governing. And as Mr. Obama is discovering, the laws of economics won’t change, even for him.

Conservatives wonder aloud and fret: when will the public notice? Implicit in the nervous chatter is the fear that somehow the public will be duped, won’t notice the further deterioration of the economy, and will return to the same one-party rule in 2010 and 2012. Or perhaps the economy will overcome almost insurmountable odds, get better in time and allow the Democrats to “claim credit.” Well, none of that bespeaks a movement or a group of people with much confidence in their own perspective.

Given no reason (other than a meager senate record) to doubt Obama’s soothing words, the public — desperate to junk the Bush administration — was more than willing to extend to Obama the benefit of the doubt and take his reassuring claims of moderation at face value. But the benefit of the doubt is gone. We know what he is in favor of now — huge tax increases, a cap-and-trade tax/regulatory system, an ever-growing government, and a vague but expensive scheme of nationalized healthcare. So unless one believes that the American people like that sort of thing (not even Obama did, which is why he largely concealed all that during the campaign), one can be reasonably assured that the public won’t support that vision of governance.

As for claiming credit for an “in spite of” rather than “because of” recovery, it is always possible that investors, employers and consumers will muddle through. But chances are if the government sets out to tax and demonize wealth creators and business (read: employers), we’re not going to enjoy a full-throated recovery. But there’s a first for everything. Obama better hope so.

Pointing out the vast gulf between Barack Obama’s campaign promises and presidential actions on earmarks, spending, healthcare and taxes, Karl Rove concludes:

Barack Obama has been president for a little more than five weeks. During his speech to a joint session of Congress last week, he showed what a skilled speaker he is and how persuasive he can be. But words delivered from a teleprompter, while important, have to line up with actions. Promises have to be met. And a president who promised to be one thing cannot be another. At some point, the gap between good feelings and results, between perception and reality, closes.

Eloquent words and “spin” work better in a campaign than they do while governing. And as Mr. Obama is discovering, the laws of economics won’t change, even for him.

Conservatives wonder aloud and fret: when will the public notice? Implicit in the nervous chatter is the fear that somehow the public will be duped, won’t notice the further deterioration of the economy, and will return to the same one-party rule in 2010 and 2012. Or perhaps the economy will overcome almost insurmountable odds, get better in time and allow the Democrats to “claim credit.” Well, none of that bespeaks a movement or a group of people with much confidence in their own perspective.

Given no reason (other than a meager senate record) to doubt Obama’s soothing words, the public — desperate to junk the Bush administration — was more than willing to extend to Obama the benefit of the doubt and take his reassuring claims of moderation at face value. But the benefit of the doubt is gone. We know what he is in favor of now — huge tax increases, a cap-and-trade tax/regulatory system, an ever-growing government, and a vague but expensive scheme of nationalized healthcare. So unless one believes that the American people like that sort of thing (not even Obama did, which is why he largely concealed all that during the campaign), one can be reasonably assured that the public won’t support that vision of governance.

As for claiming credit for an “in spite of” rather than “because of” recovery, it is always possible that investors, employers and consumers will muddle through. But chances are if the government sets out to tax and demonize wealth creators and business (read: employers), we’re not going to enjoy a full-throated recovery. But there’s a first for everything. Obama better hope so.

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Friending

Hillary Clinton wants to include Iran in upcoming talks about the future of Afghanistan:

“We presented the idea of what is being called a big-tent meeting, with all the parties who have a stake and an interest in Afghanistan,”Mrs. Clinton said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers here. “We hope that this meeting could provide an opportunity to reach a common set of principles.’

“If we move forward with such a meeting, it is expected that Iran would be invited, as a neighbor of Afghanistan,” she said at a news conference after the NATO meeting.

The Obama administration may very well be in exquisite touch with the zeitgeist. Because this isn’t “smart power”; it’s Facebook diplomacy. The focus here is on amassing “friends.” It matters not that you share no ideals or goals with these “friends.” The important thing is to collect them so that everyone can see how loved you are. You suspend judgement or discernment of any kind, and just “friend” everyone. Then you send your “friends” virtual goodies and wait for them to reciprocate.

The only real thing about any of it is the time lost to silliness.

If you looked at our president’s “wall” right now, it might tell you that Barack Obama sent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an extended hand and that Ahmadinejad sent Obama a list of American crimes to atone for. And you’d also see that Obama sent Dmitry Mededev an Iron Curtain to drop as needed. But Medvedev’s etiquette leaves a lot to be desired: he never sent that nuke-free Iran in return. So someone else in Obama’s network, Hillary Clinton, sent Vladimir Putin an offer to partner up on a missile shield. But Putin has had so many of those sent his way he’s taken to deleting them as they come in. So now Hillary’s working on another “friend”; she’s sent Ahmadinejad an open tent.

Of course, when you step away from Facebook reality and rejoin the real world, you’re empty-handed and behind in your work. You don’t have any of the colorful booty to consume or trade. You don’t even have the friends. And then the worst part is you harbor the nagging feeling that you may have left behind an awkward status update. Something like, “Hillary thinks it is time for realism, as well as hope.”

Consider this a comment on her status.

Hillary Clinton wants to include Iran in upcoming talks about the future of Afghanistan:

“We presented the idea of what is being called a big-tent meeting, with all the parties who have a stake and an interest in Afghanistan,”Mrs. Clinton said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers here. “We hope that this meeting could provide an opportunity to reach a common set of principles.’

“If we move forward with such a meeting, it is expected that Iran would be invited, as a neighbor of Afghanistan,” she said at a news conference after the NATO meeting.

The Obama administration may very well be in exquisite touch with the zeitgeist. Because this isn’t “smart power”; it’s Facebook diplomacy. The focus here is on amassing “friends.” It matters not that you share no ideals or goals with these “friends.” The important thing is to collect them so that everyone can see how loved you are. You suspend judgement or discernment of any kind, and just “friend” everyone. Then you send your “friends” virtual goodies and wait for them to reciprocate.

The only real thing about any of it is the time lost to silliness.

If you looked at our president’s “wall” right now, it might tell you that Barack Obama sent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an extended hand and that Ahmadinejad sent Obama a list of American crimes to atone for. And you’d also see that Obama sent Dmitry Mededev an Iron Curtain to drop as needed. But Medvedev’s etiquette leaves a lot to be desired: he never sent that nuke-free Iran in return. So someone else in Obama’s network, Hillary Clinton, sent Vladimir Putin an offer to partner up on a missile shield. But Putin has had so many of those sent his way he’s taken to deleting them as they come in. So now Hillary’s working on another “friend”; she’s sent Ahmadinejad an open tent.

Of course, when you step away from Facebook reality and rejoin the real world, you’re empty-handed and behind in your work. You don’t have any of the colorful booty to consume or trade. You don’t even have the friends. And then the worst part is you harbor the nagging feeling that you may have left behind an awkward status update. Something like, “Hillary thinks it is time for realism, as well as hope.”

Consider this a comment on her status.

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Miss Him Already?

Steve Chapman is missing Bill Clinton. No, not the one-man wrecking crew of his wife’s campaign. And not the personally undisciplined man who made hash of his own presidency. But the Bill who was, just as he advertised, a centrist Democrat:

Clinton, for all his appetites and excesses, was a cautious, centrist sort of Democrat. He had innumerable ideas for things the government could do, but most were small and fairly innocuous. He was willing to go along with Republicans on some of their sound ideas — such as balancing the budget, reforming the welfare system and expanding foreign trade.

He focused on making government better, not making it bigger. He didn’t greatly enlarge Washington’s role in our lives. He proclaimed — or conceded — that the “era of big government is over.”

Obama seems to think his victory was not a repudiation of George W. Bush (although that was 90% of the campaign’s focus), but a mandate for a new, New Deal — more ambitious and more hostile toward business than the original one. Chapman thinks this spells political trouble:

LBJ illustrates the dangers of taking an election victory for a far-reaching mandate. He got the Great Society passed, but two years after his landslide victory, Republicans made big gains. In 1968, Johnson didn’t even run for re-election, and Richard Nixon won the presidency — which the GOP would hold for 20 of the next 24 years.

Americans, with their traditional wariness toward government, never bought into Johnson’s expensive agenda. Before long, they were voting in Ronald Reagan, who saw Washington as the problem, not the solution. So even though Obama may be able to get his programs through a Democratic Congress, he and they may come to regret it.

But first Obama has to jam his agenda through. And that may not be so easy. Unlike LBJ, Obama shows none of the arm-twisting skill  needed to corral his Red state senators and Blue Dog congressmen. A group of moderate Democrats are all ready in a mini-revolt over earmarks, taxes, and spending. Moreover, we are, despite Obama’s cavalier attitude toward the stock market, in the midst of a market panic and consumer funk.

It’s far from certain Obama’s lurch left will succeed either on policy or political grounds. So if LBJ is any guide, he might consider junking the whole experiment and recalibrating his agenda to focus on recovery, growth, and good government reform. That’s a formula more likely to earn him a second term and keep his congressional majority in place.

Steve Chapman is missing Bill Clinton. No, not the one-man wrecking crew of his wife’s campaign. And not the personally undisciplined man who made hash of his own presidency. But the Bill who was, just as he advertised, a centrist Democrat:

Clinton, for all his appetites and excesses, was a cautious, centrist sort of Democrat. He had innumerable ideas for things the government could do, but most were small and fairly innocuous. He was willing to go along with Republicans on some of their sound ideas — such as balancing the budget, reforming the welfare system and expanding foreign trade.

He focused on making government better, not making it bigger. He didn’t greatly enlarge Washington’s role in our lives. He proclaimed — or conceded — that the “era of big government is over.”

Obama seems to think his victory was not a repudiation of George W. Bush (although that was 90% of the campaign’s focus), but a mandate for a new, New Deal — more ambitious and more hostile toward business than the original one. Chapman thinks this spells political trouble:

LBJ illustrates the dangers of taking an election victory for a far-reaching mandate. He got the Great Society passed, but two years after his landslide victory, Republicans made big gains. In 1968, Johnson didn’t even run for re-election, and Richard Nixon won the presidency — which the GOP would hold for 20 of the next 24 years.

Americans, with their traditional wariness toward government, never bought into Johnson’s expensive agenda. Before long, they were voting in Ronald Reagan, who saw Washington as the problem, not the solution. So even though Obama may be able to get his programs through a Democratic Congress, he and they may come to regret it.

But first Obama has to jam his agenda through. And that may not be so easy. Unlike LBJ, Obama shows none of the arm-twisting skill  needed to corral his Red state senators and Blue Dog congressmen. A group of moderate Democrats are all ready in a mini-revolt over earmarks, taxes, and spending. Moreover, we are, despite Obama’s cavalier attitude toward the stock market, in the midst of a market panic and consumer funk.

It’s far from certain Obama’s lurch left will succeed either on policy or political grounds. So if LBJ is any guide, he might consider junking the whole experiment and recalibrating his agenda to focus on recovery, growth, and good government reform. That’s a formula more likely to earn him a second term and keep his congressional majority in place.

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Rupert Murdoch on Israel

Yesterday, in accepting the National Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee, Rupert Murdoch made an affecting and thoughtful speech, paying particular attention to Israel’s fight against Hamas:

This assault comes from people who make clear they have no intention of ever living side-by-side in peace with a Jewish state – no matter how many concessions Israel might make. The reason for this is also clear: These are men who cannot abide the idea of freedom, tolerance, and democracy. They hate Israel for the same reasons they hate us.

At I speak, the flashpoint is Gaza. For months now, Hamas has been raining down rockets on Israeli civilians. Like all terrorist attacks, the aim is to spread fear within free societies, and to paralyze its leaders. This Israel cannot afford. I do not need to tell anyone in this room that no sovereign nation can sit by while its civilian population is attacked.

Hamas knows this better than we do. And Hamas understands something else as well: In the 21st century, when democratic states respond to terrorist attacks, they face two terrible handicaps.

The first handicap is military. It’s true that Israel’s conventional superiority means it could flatten Gaza if it wanted. But the Israeli Defense Forces – unlike Hamas – are accountable to a democratically chosen government.

No matter which party is in the majority, every Israeli government knows it will be held accountable by its people and by the world for the lives that are lost because of its decisions. That’s true for lives of innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire. And it’s also true for the Israeli soldiers who may lose their lives defending their people.

In this kind of war, Hamas does not need to defeat Israel militarily to win a big victory. In fact, Hamas knows that in some ways, dead Palestinians serve their purposes even better than dead Israelis.

In the West we look at this and say, “It makes no sense.” But it does make sense.

If you are committed to Israel’s destruction, and if you believe that dead Palestinians help you score a propaganda victory, you do things like launch rockets from a Palestinian schoolyard. This ensures that when the Israelis do respond, it will likely lead to the death of an innocent Palestinian – no matter how many precautions Israeli soldiers take.

Read the whole thing.

Yesterday, in accepting the National Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee, Rupert Murdoch made an affecting and thoughtful speech, paying particular attention to Israel’s fight against Hamas:

This assault comes from people who make clear they have no intention of ever living side-by-side in peace with a Jewish state – no matter how many concessions Israel might make. The reason for this is also clear: These are men who cannot abide the idea of freedom, tolerance, and democracy. They hate Israel for the same reasons they hate us.

At I speak, the flashpoint is Gaza. For months now, Hamas has been raining down rockets on Israeli civilians. Like all terrorist attacks, the aim is to spread fear within free societies, and to paralyze its leaders. This Israel cannot afford. I do not need to tell anyone in this room that no sovereign nation can sit by while its civilian population is attacked.

Hamas knows this better than we do. And Hamas understands something else as well: In the 21st century, when democratic states respond to terrorist attacks, they face two terrible handicaps.

The first handicap is military. It’s true that Israel’s conventional superiority means it could flatten Gaza if it wanted. But the Israeli Defense Forces – unlike Hamas – are accountable to a democratically chosen government.

No matter which party is in the majority, every Israeli government knows it will be held accountable by its people and by the world for the lives that are lost because of its decisions. That’s true for lives of innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire. And it’s also true for the Israeli soldiers who may lose their lives defending their people.

In this kind of war, Hamas does not need to defeat Israel militarily to win a big victory. In fact, Hamas knows that in some ways, dead Palestinians serve their purposes even better than dead Israelis.

In the West we look at this and say, “It makes no sense.” But it does make sense.

If you are committed to Israel’s destruction, and if you believe that dead Palestinians help you score a propaganda victory, you do things like launch rockets from a Palestinian schoolyard. This ensures that when the Israelis do respond, it will likely lead to the death of an innocent Palestinian – no matter how many precautions Israeli soldiers take.

Read the whole thing.

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The Not So New Ugliness

Kudos to Time magazine’s Michael Scherer and David von Drehle for calling out Team Obama for their pettiness and recklessness in targeting Rush Limbaugh.

Scherer quotes from an Obama speech on September 10, 2008, in which Obama said:

The McCain campaign would much rather have the story about phony and foolish diversions than about the future. . . . We have real problems in this country right now and the American people are looking to us for answers, not distractions, not diversions, not manipulations.

Yet that is precisely what we are getting privately from President Obama (in remarks to Republicans) and publicly from his chief of staff and his former campaign manager. In employing a strategy hatched with Paul Begala and James Carville (two of the more divisive figures from the Clinton years), and Stanley Greenberg, Obama is bringing us back to the kind of politics many Americans grew to hate in the 1990s: trivial, divisive, angry, and ad hominem.

This conduct would be troubling for any presidency; it’s doubly so when the administration doing this kind of thing made ushering in a “new” kind of politics — mature, serious, elevated, and intellectually honest — the centerpiece of its campaign. One senses that Team Obama, even in these early weeks, feels as if events are in the saddle. Seemingly unable to deal with them, and clearly unable to halt a collapsing market, they are reaching back to the playbook of the last Democratic president. It isn’t very attractive, and it will, I think, come back to hurt them. Even those who voted against Obama expected something more, and something better, than this kind of thing.

On this day perhaps we can hope Mr. Obama, and his aides and supporters, will, in the words of America’s 44th President, proclaim an end to petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. The time has come to set aside childish things.

Kudos to Time magazine’s Michael Scherer and David von Drehle for calling out Team Obama for their pettiness and recklessness in targeting Rush Limbaugh.

Scherer quotes from an Obama speech on September 10, 2008, in which Obama said:

The McCain campaign would much rather have the story about phony and foolish diversions than about the future. . . . We have real problems in this country right now and the American people are looking to us for answers, not distractions, not diversions, not manipulations.

Yet that is precisely what we are getting privately from President Obama (in remarks to Republicans) and publicly from his chief of staff and his former campaign manager. In employing a strategy hatched with Paul Begala and James Carville (two of the more divisive figures from the Clinton years), and Stanley Greenberg, Obama is bringing us back to the kind of politics many Americans grew to hate in the 1990s: trivial, divisive, angry, and ad hominem.

This conduct would be troubling for any presidency; it’s doubly so when the administration doing this kind of thing made ushering in a “new” kind of politics — mature, serious, elevated, and intellectually honest — the centerpiece of its campaign. One senses that Team Obama, even in these early weeks, feels as if events are in the saddle. Seemingly unable to deal with them, and clearly unable to halt a collapsing market, they are reaching back to the playbook of the last Democratic president. It isn’t very attractive, and it will, I think, come back to hurt them. Even those who voted against Obama expected something more, and something better, than this kind of thing.

On this day perhaps we can hope Mr. Obama, and his aides and supporters, will, in the words of America’s 44th President, proclaim an end to petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. The time has come to set aside childish things.

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Re: Freeman NOW Gets Vetted

Matt Yglesis, in an unintentionally hilarious post, writes:

Chas Freeman, designated head of the National Intelligence Council, has all the right enemies. And his enemies are going after him because they don’t like the fact that he’s criticized Israel in strong terms in the past. But that said, just because his enemies are bad people delving into his financial ties to China and Saudi Arabia in bad faith doesn’t mean that his enemies don’t have the goods. Apparently there’s going to be an independent Inspector General looking into some of the financing behind the Middle East Policy Council and Freeman’s service on the board of a Chinese oil company. I’m not thrilled to see things take this turn, but at the same time I don’t think this is the hill I want to die on. Randy Scheunemann’s foreign lobbying was a problem, the lack of transparency around the Clinton Global Initiative’s finances was a problem, and I think it’s legitimate to see problems in Freeman’s relationships, too.

(I’ll not bother repeating Yglesiasis’s ad hominem attack on Jamie Kirchick, which follows the above.)

Now the “bad people” delving into his finances, strictly speaking, include the Obama administration. So if Yglesias concedes the “bad” people actually have “the goods” on Freeman’s conflicts of interest then those supposedly “bad” people are right about Freeman. And the “good” people defending the Saudi toady would be what, exactly? Foolish? Uninformed?

Well, now that Freeman’s knee-jerk support from the left is fading perhaps the Obama administration will throw in the towel as well. And then we can get around to asking what in the dickens is wrong with Admiral Blair.

UPDATE: Word now comes that Chuck Schumer has expressed his concerns directly to Rahm Emanuel. I’d give Freeman until Friday afternoon when in a classic bad news dump before a weekend he can be shoved under that bus.

Matt Yglesis, in an unintentionally hilarious post, writes:

Chas Freeman, designated head of the National Intelligence Council, has all the right enemies. And his enemies are going after him because they don’t like the fact that he’s criticized Israel in strong terms in the past. But that said, just because his enemies are bad people delving into his financial ties to China and Saudi Arabia in bad faith doesn’t mean that his enemies don’t have the goods. Apparently there’s going to be an independent Inspector General looking into some of the financing behind the Middle East Policy Council and Freeman’s service on the board of a Chinese oil company. I’m not thrilled to see things take this turn, but at the same time I don’t think this is the hill I want to die on. Randy Scheunemann’s foreign lobbying was a problem, the lack of transparency around the Clinton Global Initiative’s finances was a problem, and I think it’s legitimate to see problems in Freeman’s relationships, too.

(I’ll not bother repeating Yglesiasis’s ad hominem attack on Jamie Kirchick, which follows the above.)

Now the “bad people” delving into his finances, strictly speaking, include the Obama administration. So if Yglesias concedes the “bad” people actually have “the goods” on Freeman’s conflicts of interest then those supposedly “bad” people are right about Freeman. And the “good” people defending the Saudi toady would be what, exactly? Foolish? Uninformed?

Well, now that Freeman’s knee-jerk support from the left is fading perhaps the Obama administration will throw in the towel as well. And then we can get around to asking what in the dickens is wrong with Admiral Blair.

UPDATE: Word now comes that Chuck Schumer has expressed his concerns directly to Rahm Emanuel. I’d give Freeman until Friday afternoon when in a classic bad news dump before a weekend he can be shoved under that bus.

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Italy’s out of Durban II

Italy has become the first EU country to pull out of the UN’s Durban II conference:

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy has withdrawn its delegation from the preparatory negotiations ahead of the so-called Durban II conference due to “aggressive and anti-Semitic statements” in the draft of the event’s final document.

Ministry Spokesman, Maurizio Massari, said that Italy would reconsider if offending language in the document is changed — which is no weaker or stronger a position than the one adopted by the Obama administration last week.

This is, on balance, good news. But it’s hard to celebrate the rejection of an isolated case of anti-Semitism when the rejection is coupled with a fundamental naivete about the larger anti-Semitic framework behind the offense. The original Durban “racism conference” and its slated repeat were conceived to promote anti-Jewish prejudice and Muslim supremacy. This fact, and all its horrid implications, cannot be wiped away by changing a few words in a document.

Western governments — at the very least, the United States government — would attain no small measure of dignity by simply acknowledging the conference’s noxious aims and refusing to play edit-the-document. Barack Obama loves to talk about the U.S. excerising its power by example, not might. What could be easier than making a speech denouncing Durban as an offensive undertaking built on rotten principles?

Italy has become the first EU country to pull out of the UN’s Durban II conference:

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy has withdrawn its delegation from the preparatory negotiations ahead of the so-called Durban II conference due to “aggressive and anti-Semitic statements” in the draft of the event’s final document.

Ministry Spokesman, Maurizio Massari, said that Italy would reconsider if offending language in the document is changed — which is no weaker or stronger a position than the one adopted by the Obama administration last week.

This is, on balance, good news. But it’s hard to celebrate the rejection of an isolated case of anti-Semitism when the rejection is coupled with a fundamental naivete about the larger anti-Semitic framework behind the offense. The original Durban “racism conference” and its slated repeat were conceived to promote anti-Jewish prejudice and Muslim supremacy. This fact, and all its horrid implications, cannot be wiped away by changing a few words in a document.

Western governments — at the very least, the United States government — would attain no small measure of dignity by simply acknowledging the conference’s noxious aims and refusing to play edit-the-document. Barack Obama loves to talk about the U.S. excerising its power by example, not might. What could be easier than making a speech denouncing Durban as an offensive undertaking built on rotten principles?

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Olmert Sinking Deeper

Today, Israeli police issued a recommendation to the State Attorney’s Office that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert be indicted on corruption charges dating to his tenure as Minister of Industry and Trade in 2003-2006. This is the third such recommendation made against Olmert, and it seems likely that some or all of these will turn into full-fledged indictments in the coming weeks.

This is really the most phenomenal implosion in Israel’s political history. A leader who gave Israel two wars of ambiguous result, who charmed no one, and who was so unpopular that he was completely absent from his own party’s election campaign, now faces a serious possibility of jail time to boot. Tzipi Livni did all she could to distance herself from Olmert, with the campaign posters showing pictures of her and Ariel Sharon only. With reports that Labor’s Ehud Barak has flip-flopped and is now interested in joining a Netanyahu-led government, Livni could find herself leading the only major party in the opposition. Perhaps that’s her best hope of rebuilding her party. But as I’ve pointed out before, it may be the end of her brief political stardom as well.

Today, Israeli police issued a recommendation to the State Attorney’s Office that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert be indicted on corruption charges dating to his tenure as Minister of Industry and Trade in 2003-2006. This is the third such recommendation made against Olmert, and it seems likely that some or all of these will turn into full-fledged indictments in the coming weeks.

This is really the most phenomenal implosion in Israel’s political history. A leader who gave Israel two wars of ambiguous result, who charmed no one, and who was so unpopular that he was completely absent from his own party’s election campaign, now faces a serious possibility of jail time to boot. Tzipi Livni did all she could to distance herself from Olmert, with the campaign posters showing pictures of her and Ariel Sharon only. With reports that Labor’s Ehud Barak has flip-flopped and is now interested in joining a Netanyahu-led government, Livni could find herself leading the only major party in the opposition. Perhaps that’s her best hope of rebuilding her party. But as I’ve pointed out before, it may be the end of her brief political stardom as well.

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I’d Hide Joe Biden Too

The AFL-CIO’s swank retreat in Miami Beach is getting some coverage. Joe Biden is there, but we won’t see him talking to labor officials. The White House has decreed no cameras. Putting aside the soundness of that rule with regard to all of Biden’s appearances, one has to question what the White House wants to keep from view.

It is hard to keep telling the unions one thing (“Yes, yes we love card check — full steam ahead!”) while telling Congress and the mainstream media another (“Uh, maybe later.”) Pretty soon the public and the unions catch on to the flim-flam and want to know what the president really intends to do. And hiding the VP and the special interest Big Labor bosses from the cameras is not very transparent, is it?

Moreover, this gambit is not likely to give comfort to those Red state senators. The message they are gathering from the “no camera rule” is that this is a loser with the public — better hide. Good advice, I’d say.

The AFL-CIO’s swank retreat in Miami Beach is getting some coverage. Joe Biden is there, but we won’t see him talking to labor officials. The White House has decreed no cameras. Putting aside the soundness of that rule with regard to all of Biden’s appearances, one has to question what the White House wants to keep from view.

It is hard to keep telling the unions one thing (“Yes, yes we love card check — full steam ahead!”) while telling Congress and the mainstream media another (“Uh, maybe later.”) Pretty soon the public and the unions catch on to the flim-flam and want to know what the president really intends to do. And hiding the VP and the special interest Big Labor bosses from the cameras is not very transparent, is it?

Moreover, this gambit is not likely to give comfort to those Red state senators. The message they are gathering from the “no camera rule” is that this is a loser with the public — better hide. Good advice, I’d say.

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Hillary and Bibi Meet

If you are looking to find out what happened in Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Binyamin Netanyahu, only a handful of people can provide you with an accurate account. Even the reports listing the participants were imperfect. Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Sallai Meridor, was not in the room. Nor were former New York Consul General Alon Pinkas and former Ambassador Zalman Shoval in attendance. In short: many people were waiting with Netanyahu for the meeting, but only two Israelis were in the room with him: Professor Uzi Arad, rumored to be Israel’s future head of the National Security Council, and attorney Yitzhak Molcho, who worked with Netanyahu when he was Prime Minister in the late Nineties. On Clinton’s side, the two other participants were U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and special envoy, George Mitchell.

There were two sticky issues that turned this meeting into an especially interesting one:

1. Netanyahu and the Clinton family weren’t the best of friends when Netanyahu and Bill Clinton were in power.

2. While Netanyahu does not accept a two-state solution — giving Kadima its main excuse for not joining his coalition — Clinton made sure during her visit to repeatedly recommit the U.S. to a two-state formulation.

How did these two old acquaintances deal with the two elephants in the room?

The meeting, many sources tell me, was friendly and cheerful in tone. Netanyahu had no reason to open old wounds, and Clinton, in her first visit, was not looking for a fight. She came with a couple of items on her agenda — more aid to Gaza (not Bibi’s problem yet, he isn’t in power) to which she added criticism of Israel’s intention to demolish some fifty Arab houses built illegally in Jerusalem (again, not yet Bibi’s problem). But she had no intention of getting into the philosophical question of “the two state solution, pro and con.” Her public statements were clear enough. His position is also clear, if more nuanced. In the meeting, as far as I could discern, the issue was not raised at all. What can be learned from this? At least, at this stage, these two experienced leaders aren’t looking for a fight — they are looking to find ways to work together.

If you are looking to find out what happened in Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Binyamin Netanyahu, only a handful of people can provide you with an accurate account. Even the reports listing the participants were imperfect. Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Sallai Meridor, was not in the room. Nor were former New York Consul General Alon Pinkas and former Ambassador Zalman Shoval in attendance. In short: many people were waiting with Netanyahu for the meeting, but only two Israelis were in the room with him: Professor Uzi Arad, rumored to be Israel’s future head of the National Security Council, and attorney Yitzhak Molcho, who worked with Netanyahu when he was Prime Minister in the late Nineties. On Clinton’s side, the two other participants were U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and special envoy, George Mitchell.

There were two sticky issues that turned this meeting into an especially interesting one:

1. Netanyahu and the Clinton family weren’t the best of friends when Netanyahu and Bill Clinton were in power.

2. While Netanyahu does not accept a two-state solution — giving Kadima its main excuse for not joining his coalition — Clinton made sure during her visit to repeatedly recommit the U.S. to a two-state formulation.

How did these two old acquaintances deal with the two elephants in the room?

The meeting, many sources tell me, was friendly and cheerful in tone. Netanyahu had no reason to open old wounds, and Clinton, in her first visit, was not looking for a fight. She came with a couple of items on her agenda — more aid to Gaza (not Bibi’s problem yet, he isn’t in power) to which she added criticism of Israel’s intention to demolish some fifty Arab houses built illegally in Jerusalem (again, not yet Bibi’s problem). But she had no intention of getting into the philosophical question of “the two state solution, pro and con.” Her public statements were clear enough. His position is also clear, if more nuanced. In the meeting, as far as I could discern, the issue was not raised at all. What can be learned from this? At least, at this stage, these two experienced leaders aren’t looking for a fight — they are looking to find ways to work together.

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The Feeling Is Mutual

Rarely if ever have we had a president this contemptuous or hostile toward wealth creators, businesses and markets. The Dow is a “poll.” He rips bank executives in his joint address to congress. His agenda is stuffed with stifling regulation (cap and trade), new taxes, and executive pay limits. In totality, it’s a rather fulsome assault on those who we in large part rely on to fuel the recovery.

And Charlie Gasparino tells us the feeling is mutual:

Here’s how one top Wall Street exec, who has tried passing along ideas to the Obama team, put it: “Geithner thinks he’s in charge, but he has no staff to get anything done. Summers sits there and likes to remind everyone he’s in charge – and Volcker, probably the only adult in the room, has his nose out of joint because no one is listening to him.”

[. . .]

To be sure, the tax hikes of the early Clinton years slowed down the economy – but economic czar Bob Rubin made sure they went for deficit-reduction. The Obama budget and the so-called stimulus package don’t just expand the deficit (as we should during a downturn), they do so in the most irresponsible ways, with pork and programs pulled from old liberal wish lists.

On top of that, we get fresh threats of higher taxes on the most productive people in the country and a bank bailout that remains a mystery. Plus policy measures that contradict each other – like vows to unclog the banking system of toxic mortgage debt, along with a mortgage “cram down” that would make that debt more toxic.

It all has Wall Street’s collective head spinning – and Obama’s most ardent financial-industry fans deserting him.

This does not bode well for either the economy or the president’s political fortunes. The class warfare, anti-business venom coming from the administration is a far cry from his campaign rhetoric which called for national unity and an end to the demonization of political opponents. And that’s the rub: Obama views business as “opponents,” and its spokespeople ( e.g. Jim Cramer, Rick Santelli) as political enemies to be dismissed or bullied. What an extraordinary and counterproductive approach for a president whose main task is our economic revival.

Rarely if ever have we had a president this contemptuous or hostile toward wealth creators, businesses and markets. The Dow is a “poll.” He rips bank executives in his joint address to congress. His agenda is stuffed with stifling regulation (cap and trade), new taxes, and executive pay limits. In totality, it’s a rather fulsome assault on those who we in large part rely on to fuel the recovery.

And Charlie Gasparino tells us the feeling is mutual:

Here’s how one top Wall Street exec, who has tried passing along ideas to the Obama team, put it: “Geithner thinks he’s in charge, but he has no staff to get anything done. Summers sits there and likes to remind everyone he’s in charge – and Volcker, probably the only adult in the room, has his nose out of joint because no one is listening to him.”

[. . .]

To be sure, the tax hikes of the early Clinton years slowed down the economy – but economic czar Bob Rubin made sure they went for deficit-reduction. The Obama budget and the so-called stimulus package don’t just expand the deficit (as we should during a downturn), they do so in the most irresponsible ways, with pork and programs pulled from old liberal wish lists.

On top of that, we get fresh threats of higher taxes on the most productive people in the country and a bank bailout that remains a mystery. Plus policy measures that contradict each other – like vows to unclog the banking system of toxic mortgage debt, along with a mortgage “cram down” that would make that debt more toxic.

It all has Wall Street’s collective head spinning – and Obama’s most ardent financial-industry fans deserting him.

This does not bode well for either the economy or the president’s political fortunes. The class warfare, anti-business venom coming from the administration is a far cry from his campaign rhetoric which called for national unity and an end to the demonization of political opponents. And that’s the rub: Obama views business as “opponents,” and its spokespeople ( e.g. Jim Cramer, Rick Santelli) as political enemies to be dismissed or bullied. What an extraordinary and counterproductive approach for a president whose main task is our economic revival.

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Afghanistan Is Better Than You Think

I have just returned from Afghanistan shocked by the depth of the disconnect between reality and reporting.

The coalition officers that I spoke with expressed confidence that with the U.S. reinforcements now flowing into the country, they will be able to score victories against insurgents who have been given free reign in some areas because of a paucity of NATO resources. But even before the 17,000 additional U.S. troops arrive, the situation is hardly critical. Kabul and the other major cities are safe, and even large swathes of the countryside are hardly infested by insurgents.

That is the reality. This is the reporting:

Here’s a scary thought. The United States could be walking in the Soviet Union’s shoes…. The United States went in there in 2001 to crush Al Qaeda and push the Taliban from power so Afghanistan would never again be used as a staging area for terrorist attacks…. The problem is that America is now in danger of falling short of that limited goal, and even losing the war. Sending more U.S. soldiers is not the answer.

That’s the lede of Celestine Bohlen’s “Letter from Europe,” in the International Herald Tribune. The dateline, I note, is Paris, not Kabul, which reinforces a point for which I’ve seen evidence many times in Iraq — it is easier to be panicky from afar.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

I have just returned from Afghanistan shocked by the depth of the disconnect between reality and reporting.

The coalition officers that I spoke with expressed confidence that with the U.S. reinforcements now flowing into the country, they will be able to score victories against insurgents who have been given free reign in some areas because of a paucity of NATO resources. But even before the 17,000 additional U.S. troops arrive, the situation is hardly critical. Kabul and the other major cities are safe, and even large swathes of the countryside are hardly infested by insurgents.

That is the reality. This is the reporting:

Here’s a scary thought. The United States could be walking in the Soviet Union’s shoes…. The United States went in there in 2001 to crush Al Qaeda and push the Taliban from power so Afghanistan would never again be used as a staging area for terrorist attacks…. The problem is that America is now in danger of falling short of that limited goal, and even losing the war. Sending more U.S. soldiers is not the answer.

That’s the lede of Celestine Bohlen’s “Letter from Europe,” in the International Herald Tribune. The dateline, I note, is Paris, not Kabul, which reinforces a point for which I’ve seen evidence many times in Iraq — it is easier to be panicky from afar.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In addition to Eli Lake’s Washington Times piece, the Chas Freeman story hits Fox. Do we think the White House has heard of the issue yet?

Chris Matthews is fed up with business as usual and isn’t very patient with his guests who are making excuses. Honest. (Does his laugh sound like Hillary’s cackle, by the way?)

The House GOP and the NRA have tied the Democrats up in knots over the DC voting rights bill. Do Democrats want gun control so badly that they’d sacrificed a cherished political objective? In the end, I suspect not.

And speaking of clever, the GOP House leader offers votes in support of a veto of the omnibus spending bill. (And  then kicks the White House in the shins for running a “political sideshow.”)

Michael Gerson discovers that Obama is radical on domestic policy and that his budget “is a weakening of the theoretical basis for capitalism — that free individuals are generally more rational and efficient in making investment decisions than are government planners.” And, yes, he’s out to “crush conservatives.”

Eric Cantor objects to the notion that the stock market is a “tracking poll.” Well, in one regard, it is — if a candidate sank 60% it’d be a signal to get out of the race. And his spokesman is just getting warmed up with a call for the White House to ”join us in our bipartisan national conversation about job creation, stimulating small business and middle class tax relief” and an invitation to “apologize to the American people for supporting these tactics and get back to work.” That’s not happening, but the White House may need to scramble for the high ground.

So much for the strategy of playing nice with the president. Really, the opposition party has no choice but to oppose when the issue is so fundamental (e.g. free market capitalism).

Communist China is more friendly toward capital than Obama? Yup. No capital gains tax there.

You know those fawning little bios which the MSM runs? Well sometimes you learn the strangest things: “[UN Ambassador Susan] Rice is married to Canadian journalist Ian Cameron, executive producer of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” Wait. The EP of a top Sunday show is married to a top Obama official? Shouldn’t this be disclosed on air, at least when they are discussing foreign policy?

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s Global Crossing deal is surfacing in the local media. Now might not be the best time to run for office as a millionaire who got in on a great deal because of political ties and got out before the little people lost everything. But McAuliffe says it’s really no big deal.

While we’re busy dismantling free market capitalism, we should consider what it has brought us. “To what do we owe this significant 80% reduction in the time cost of household goods over time? It’s all part of the miracle of the market economy.”

Meanwhile, Jon Corzine is in a heap of trouble in New Jersey.

The Brits must miss the Bush era — when they were shown respect. Somehow our closest ally didn’t make it on to the “improve international relations” to-do list. Maybe if they started threatening Israel and insulting us in public the administration would give them more attention. That’s how it works, right?

Tony Blankley tells us: “Obama lied; the economy died.”

The administration’s actions to raise fuel standards and allow California to increase environmental standards are working at cross-purposes with the effort to rescue the car companies, or at the very least making that task “more expensive and more complex.” Which, in a nutshell, is why the government shouldn’t run car companies — or other companies for that matter.

The Obama team may give up on limiting charitable and home mortgage deductability.

In addition to Eli Lake’s Washington Times piece, the Chas Freeman story hits Fox. Do we think the White House has heard of the issue yet?

Chris Matthews is fed up with business as usual and isn’t very patient with his guests who are making excuses. Honest. (Does his laugh sound like Hillary’s cackle, by the way?)

The House GOP and the NRA have tied the Democrats up in knots over the DC voting rights bill. Do Democrats want gun control so badly that they’d sacrificed a cherished political objective? In the end, I suspect not.

And speaking of clever, the GOP House leader offers votes in support of a veto of the omnibus spending bill. (And  then kicks the White House in the shins for running a “political sideshow.”)

Michael Gerson discovers that Obama is radical on domestic policy and that his budget “is a weakening of the theoretical basis for capitalism — that free individuals are generally more rational and efficient in making investment decisions than are government planners.” And, yes, he’s out to “crush conservatives.”

Eric Cantor objects to the notion that the stock market is a “tracking poll.” Well, in one regard, it is — if a candidate sank 60% it’d be a signal to get out of the race. And his spokesman is just getting warmed up with a call for the White House to ”join us in our bipartisan national conversation about job creation, stimulating small business and middle class tax relief” and an invitation to “apologize to the American people for supporting these tactics and get back to work.” That’s not happening, but the White House may need to scramble for the high ground.

So much for the strategy of playing nice with the president. Really, the opposition party has no choice but to oppose when the issue is so fundamental (e.g. free market capitalism).

Communist China is more friendly toward capital than Obama? Yup. No capital gains tax there.

You know those fawning little bios which the MSM runs? Well sometimes you learn the strangest things: “[UN Ambassador Susan] Rice is married to Canadian journalist Ian Cameron, executive producer of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” Wait. The EP of a top Sunday show is married to a top Obama official? Shouldn’t this be disclosed on air, at least when they are discussing foreign policy?

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s Global Crossing deal is surfacing in the local media. Now might not be the best time to run for office as a millionaire who got in on a great deal because of political ties and got out before the little people lost everything. But McAuliffe says it’s really no big deal.

While we’re busy dismantling free market capitalism, we should consider what it has brought us. “To what do we owe this significant 80% reduction in the time cost of household goods over time? It’s all part of the miracle of the market economy.”

Meanwhile, Jon Corzine is in a heap of trouble in New Jersey.

The Brits must miss the Bush era — when they were shown respect. Somehow our closest ally didn’t make it on to the “improve international relations” to-do list. Maybe if they started threatening Israel and insulting us in public the administration would give them more attention. That’s how it works, right?

Tony Blankley tells us: “Obama lied; the economy died.”

The administration’s actions to raise fuel standards and allow California to increase environmental standards are working at cross-purposes with the effort to rescue the car companies, or at the very least making that task “more expensive and more complex.” Which, in a nutshell, is why the government shouldn’t run car companies — or other companies for that matter.

The Obama team may give up on limiting charitable and home mortgage deductability.

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Brown’s Bad History

Yesterday, Gordon Brown addressed a joint meeting of Congress. Did you know? Exactly. This is the least significant visit to the United States by the least significant Prime Minister in post-war history, and one of the most unpopular to boot.  Say what you will about Brown — and I do — this is sad stuff.

My take on his speech is up at the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog. In short, it was the speech he was expected to give, far better than Obama on the Special Relationship, stout but insubstantial on security, and globalist and incoherent on the economy.  But, as is often the case when politicians turn to history, Brown’s vision of American economic policy post-1945 was askew, and in ways that reveal what he intends in his vaunted “Global New Deal.”

According to Brown, U.S. visionaries responded to the Great Depression, and then World War II, by producing a bold plan for global economic cooperation, one based on shared prosperity.  That is entirely right.  But at the root of that plan was what became the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the GATT, the basis for today’s WTO.  True, there was also the IMF, a stabilization board in an era of fixed currencies, and the World Bank, a reconstruction fund for a highly developed area — Western Europe — that had serious but temporary problems.

But it was GATT that was tasked with the most important and enduring duty: reducing the protectionism that American leaders saw as central to the deepening of the Depression and to the rise of the Nazis.  And that was a two-fold diagnosis: Protectionism was economically destructive, and centralized control of economies was profoundly illiberal.  Reducing protectionism was a contribution both to economic good sense and liberal government, in a world composed of sovereign, democratic, capitalist, nation-states.

How different this is from Brown’s vision.  Simultaneously, he attacks protectionism, praises government intervention to “shape global markets to meet the needs of the people,” and argues for the creation of global institutions to restrain the ability of nations to, for instance, create “tax havens” by shrinking government.  This is a vision that, except for the rejection of protectionism, has nothing in common with the U.S. leaders he praises.

When they saw tariffs, they worried about the overbearing, destructive state.  They believed that a state big and willful enough to control trade would necessarily be illiberal.  When he sees tariffs, he worries that the state is not large enough, and that it should be supplemented and controlled by global governance.  He believes that a big and willful state will magically refrain from controlling trade, and will remain safely liberal.

This is not one of those arguments about the differences between Victorian liberalism and modern liberalism.  The post-1945 generation, like Brown, were modern, big-state liberals.  But those liberals had seen what all out government control wrought, and while they wanted more of it than conservatives wished, they were indeed right, and wise, to turn away from their early protectionist leanings and the all-controlling state on which it rested.  That way, they realized, lay economic and political disaster of the most illiberal kind.  The pity is that today, when the state is far, far larger than it was in the late 1940s, liberals do not have the wisdom of their ancestors.

Yesterday, Gordon Brown addressed a joint meeting of Congress. Did you know? Exactly. This is the least significant visit to the United States by the least significant Prime Minister in post-war history, and one of the most unpopular to boot.  Say what you will about Brown — and I do — this is sad stuff.

My take on his speech is up at the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog. In short, it was the speech he was expected to give, far better than Obama on the Special Relationship, stout but insubstantial on security, and globalist and incoherent on the economy.  But, as is often the case when politicians turn to history, Brown’s vision of American economic policy post-1945 was askew, and in ways that reveal what he intends in his vaunted “Global New Deal.”

According to Brown, U.S. visionaries responded to the Great Depression, and then World War II, by producing a bold plan for global economic cooperation, one based on shared prosperity.  That is entirely right.  But at the root of that plan was what became the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the GATT, the basis for today’s WTO.  True, there was also the IMF, a stabilization board in an era of fixed currencies, and the World Bank, a reconstruction fund for a highly developed area — Western Europe — that had serious but temporary problems.

But it was GATT that was tasked with the most important and enduring duty: reducing the protectionism that American leaders saw as central to the deepening of the Depression and to the rise of the Nazis.  And that was a two-fold diagnosis: Protectionism was economically destructive, and centralized control of economies was profoundly illiberal.  Reducing protectionism was a contribution both to economic good sense and liberal government, in a world composed of sovereign, democratic, capitalist, nation-states.

How different this is from Brown’s vision.  Simultaneously, he attacks protectionism, praises government intervention to “shape global markets to meet the needs of the people,” and argues for the creation of global institutions to restrain the ability of nations to, for instance, create “tax havens” by shrinking government.  This is a vision that, except for the rejection of protectionism, has nothing in common with the U.S. leaders he praises.

When they saw tariffs, they worried about the overbearing, destructive state.  They believed that a state big and willful enough to control trade would necessarily be illiberal.  When he sees tariffs, he worries that the state is not large enough, and that it should be supplemented and controlled by global governance.  He believes that a big and willful state will magically refrain from controlling trade, and will remain safely liberal.

This is not one of those arguments about the differences between Victorian liberalism and modern liberalism.  The post-1945 generation, like Brown, were modern, big-state liberals.  But those liberals had seen what all out government control wrought, and while they wanted more of it than conservatives wished, they were indeed right, and wise, to turn away from their early protectionist leanings and the all-controlling state on which it rested.  That way, they realized, lay economic and political disaster of the most illiberal kind.  The pity is that today, when the state is far, far larger than it was in the late 1940s, liberals do not have the wisdom of their ancestors.

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Childish Things

A cynical ploy, a “petty strategy” to distract voters from real issues. That’s what Time is calling the Rush Limbaugh gambit cooked up by the Obama administration:

According to [Jonathan] Martin, the Rush “controversy” began as an idea last fall that followed a poll taken by Stanley Greenberg, who owns the house where White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stays when he is in Washington. With his old Clinton Administration colleagues, Paul Begala and James Carville, Greenberg realized that Limbaugh was deeply unpopular among wide swaths of the American electorate. So, the strategists figured, why not turn the turn Republican Party into a Limbaughesque caricature? Limbaugh, a consummate publicity hound, was only too eager to help. Earlier this year, he said he hoped Obama “fails,” a reasonable claim in context, given that Limbaugh’s entire worldview is constructed around an opposition to the sorts of policies that Obama has proposed.

Even Robert Gibbs gave up the ghost yesterday, conceding it could be “counterproductive” to egg on Limbaugh and other commentators if the aim was to have a serious public discussion about important issues.

I suppose “putting away childish things” is one of those pieces of advice for other people only. Or, like going “line-by-line” through the budget, something better used for show than in practice. But I will give the press their due: they seem to have had enough of the White House’s rather cynical media strategy.

As a practical matter, however, now that the Republicans have mounted a “counteroffensive” against the White House and are going for the high ground, is the Obama gambit even effective?

A cynical ploy, a “petty strategy” to distract voters from real issues. That’s what Time is calling the Rush Limbaugh gambit cooked up by the Obama administration:

According to [Jonathan] Martin, the Rush “controversy” began as an idea last fall that followed a poll taken by Stanley Greenberg, who owns the house where White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stays when he is in Washington. With his old Clinton Administration colleagues, Paul Begala and James Carville, Greenberg realized that Limbaugh was deeply unpopular among wide swaths of the American electorate. So, the strategists figured, why not turn the turn Republican Party into a Limbaughesque caricature? Limbaugh, a consummate publicity hound, was only too eager to help. Earlier this year, he said he hoped Obama “fails,” a reasonable claim in context, given that Limbaugh’s entire worldview is constructed around an opposition to the sorts of policies that Obama has proposed.

Even Robert Gibbs gave up the ghost yesterday, conceding it could be “counterproductive” to egg on Limbaugh and other commentators if the aim was to have a serious public discussion about important issues.

I suppose “putting away childish things” is one of those pieces of advice for other people only. Or, like going “line-by-line” through the budget, something better used for show than in practice. But I will give the press their due: they seem to have had enough of the White House’s rather cynical media strategy.

As a practical matter, however, now that the Republicans have mounted a “counteroffensive” against the White House and are going for the high ground, is the Obama gambit even effective?

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“Please, You’ve Got To Save Me From Myself!”

In Texas, a state lawmaker is proposing a law to mandate “divorce classes” for couples looking to dissolve their unions. The idea is to make sure people seeking divorces fully understand the ramifications of their choices.

Is it really the state’s place to require this?

Texas isn’t the only state in which the government is becoming increasingly meddlesome. New Hampshire is reconsidering its status as the only state without a mandatory seat belt law for adults. The state legislature is, no doubt, lured by the promise of increased federal money for highways.

Now, admittedly, New Hampshire’s seat belt use rate is the lowest in the nation, at 63%. But that’s barely behind a lot of other states that do have such laws. More telling is the fact that the state is tied for the lowest number of vehicle fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

It has been conclusively proven, time and time again, that seat belts save lives. But is it really the business of the government to force people to protect themselves against their wishes?

In Texas, a state lawmaker is proposing a law to mandate “divorce classes” for couples looking to dissolve their unions. The idea is to make sure people seeking divorces fully understand the ramifications of their choices.

Is it really the state’s place to require this?

Texas isn’t the only state in which the government is becoming increasingly meddlesome. New Hampshire is reconsidering its status as the only state without a mandatory seat belt law for adults. The state legislature is, no doubt, lured by the promise of increased federal money for highways.

Now, admittedly, New Hampshire’s seat belt use rate is the lowest in the nation, at 63%. But that’s barely behind a lot of other states that do have such laws. More telling is the fact that the state is tied for the lowest number of vehicle fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

It has been conclusively proven, time and time again, that seat belts save lives. But is it really the business of the government to force people to protect themselves against their wishes?

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Freeman NOW Gets Vetted?

Eli Lake reports that Chas Freeman is indeed to be investigated by the Inspector General. At issue are his ties the to China National Offshore Oil Corp, in which the Chinese government has a majority stake, and his role as president of the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), which is in part Saudi-funded. And not surprisingly, the backpedaling has already begun:

Mr. Freeman has not submitted the financial disclosure forms required of all candidates for senior public positions, according to the general counsel’s office of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Nor did Mr. Blair seek the White House’s approval before he announced the appointment of Mr. Freeman, said Mr. Blair’s spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi.

“The director did not seek the White House’s approval,” Ms. Morigi said. “In addition to his formal background security investigation, we expect that the White House will undertake the typical vetting associated with senior administration assignments.”

All the easier to dump him then, perhaps. And how is it possible that a key position was filled without completing these steps? Lake reports: “Three former NIC chairmen and one former vice chairman told The Washington Times that Mr. Freeman’s business ties to China, Saudi Arabia and other nations should be vetted before Mr. Freeman takes his post.” But this was, bizarrely, not done before Freeman was appointed, we are now told.

And it is becoming increasingly difficult for the administration’s apologists to maintain that this is all a right-wing, pro-Israel plot to get Freeman . We have voices as diverse as a former deputy chairman of the NIC ( “Can you imagine if I had stood up and explained away Tienanmen Square? He does not have the intellectual fire power to sort through the intelligence and reach a plausible conclusion”) and Human Rights Watch questioning the appointment.

All of this once again leads to the conclusion that there is chaos in the vetting apparatus of the Obama administration. How a position of this import could be filled without full consideration of the obvious policy and financial objections — and with the feigned or actual cluelessness of the White House — is quite simply shocking. And now that the administration has a full blown firestorm on its hands the question remains: how quickly will Freeman join Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle and the “performance czarina” under that proverbial bus?

And one final note: since nearly all of the MSM has been ignoring this story they are now in the uncomfortable position of trying to “catch up” their readers: “Well, there was this appointment, a raging debate, a dishonest denial of any awareness of the issue by the White House and congressional letters of protest — which, dear readers, we ignored — but now let us tell you about a serious vetting lapse in the intelligence community.” Once again, the mainstream media are revealed to have been carrying water for and masking the horrendous slip-ups of an administration which obviously warrants closer scrutiny.

Eli Lake reports that Chas Freeman is indeed to be investigated by the Inspector General. At issue are his ties the to China National Offshore Oil Corp, in which the Chinese government has a majority stake, and his role as president of the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), which is in part Saudi-funded. And not surprisingly, the backpedaling has already begun:

Mr. Freeman has not submitted the financial disclosure forms required of all candidates for senior public positions, according to the general counsel’s office of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Nor did Mr. Blair seek the White House’s approval before he announced the appointment of Mr. Freeman, said Mr. Blair’s spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi.

“The director did not seek the White House’s approval,” Ms. Morigi said. “In addition to his formal background security investigation, we expect that the White House will undertake the typical vetting associated with senior administration assignments.”

All the easier to dump him then, perhaps. And how is it possible that a key position was filled without completing these steps? Lake reports: “Three former NIC chairmen and one former vice chairman told The Washington Times that Mr. Freeman’s business ties to China, Saudi Arabia and other nations should be vetted before Mr. Freeman takes his post.” But this was, bizarrely, not done before Freeman was appointed, we are now told.

And it is becoming increasingly difficult for the administration’s apologists to maintain that this is all a right-wing, pro-Israel plot to get Freeman . We have voices as diverse as a former deputy chairman of the NIC ( “Can you imagine if I had stood up and explained away Tienanmen Square? He does not have the intellectual fire power to sort through the intelligence and reach a plausible conclusion”) and Human Rights Watch questioning the appointment.

All of this once again leads to the conclusion that there is chaos in the vetting apparatus of the Obama administration. How a position of this import could be filled without full consideration of the obvious policy and financial objections — and with the feigned or actual cluelessness of the White House — is quite simply shocking. And now that the administration has a full blown firestorm on its hands the question remains: how quickly will Freeman join Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle and the “performance czarina” under that proverbial bus?

And one final note: since nearly all of the MSM has been ignoring this story they are now in the uncomfortable position of trying to “catch up” their readers: “Well, there was this appointment, a raging debate, a dishonest denial of any awareness of the issue by the White House and congressional letters of protest — which, dear readers, we ignored — but now let us tell you about a serious vetting lapse in the intelligence community.” Once again, the mainstream media are revealed to have been carrying water for and masking the horrendous slip-ups of an administration which obviously warrants closer scrutiny.

Read Less




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