Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 2, 2009

Leon’s Behind the Times

Leon Wieseltier’s latest meditation on the situation in Israel is typically muddled. It starts out with his usual moralistic preening about Israel’s shortcomings. The only problem is that it’s a bit out of date.

Unfortunately for Wieseltier, the supposed testimony about Israeli war crimes that originated in Ha’aretz has since been undermined by every credible source. The tales of misdeeds were, at best, hearsay, and, at worst, inventions of Israeli leftists who have their own agenda to undermine the IDF. Even the New York Times has acknowledged that the story is sinking under the weight of its own lies.

But that apparently ran before Wieseltier’s piece went to press, so he’s stuck with his acceptance of it. His talk about the “coarsening of conscience” in Israel is itself sickening.

Ironically, if you keep reading past the opening tripe about Israel’s moral decline, Wieseltier says some sensible things: That it makes no sense to deal with Hamas, and that anti-Zionism at the UN is a disgrace, as is Times columnist Roger Cohen’s recent reporting from Iran.

Which just proves that Wieseltier is incapable of a straightforward defense of Israel against its disgraceful foes without first demonstrating how morally superior he is to the Israelis. But given that the latter point was predicated on his credulousness about a false story, the only thing he’s demonstrated is his incoherence.

Leon Wieseltier’s latest meditation on the situation in Israel is typically muddled. It starts out with his usual moralistic preening about Israel’s shortcomings. The only problem is that it’s a bit out of date.

Unfortunately for Wieseltier, the supposed testimony about Israeli war crimes that originated in Ha’aretz has since been undermined by every credible source. The tales of misdeeds were, at best, hearsay, and, at worst, inventions of Israeli leftists who have their own agenda to undermine the IDF. Even the New York Times has acknowledged that the story is sinking under the weight of its own lies.

But that apparently ran before Wieseltier’s piece went to press, so he’s stuck with his acceptance of it. His talk about the “coarsening of conscience” in Israel is itself sickening.

Ironically, if you keep reading past the opening tripe about Israel’s moral decline, Wieseltier says some sensible things: That it makes no sense to deal with Hamas, and that anti-Zionism at the UN is a disgrace, as is Times columnist Roger Cohen’s recent reporting from Iran.

Which just proves that Wieseltier is incapable of a straightforward defense of Israel against its disgraceful foes without first demonstrating how morally superior he is to the Israelis. But given that the latter point was predicated on his credulousness about a false story, the only thing he’s demonstrated is his incoherence.

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Commentary of the Day

soccer dad, on Rick Richman:

I had hoped to blog about this today, but then I saw about the terror attack.

Kershner, like most the MSM, only concentrates on Israel. It’s in part because the Palestinian side is so alien to their sensibilities they simply dismiss it. Today Khaled Abu Toameh reported on a recent declaration of the PA

The Palestinian Authority has issued yet another warning to Palestinians against selling their homes or properties to Jews, saying those who violate the order would be accused of “high treason” — a charge that carries the death penalty.

Is there anyone on Israel’s side who could hold a corresponding view and serve in government or even get elected to office? And yet this is a pronouncement of the moderates in the PA!

Then as Noah Pollak pointed out yesterday, for all the talk of how extreme Lieberman is, there’s little acknowledgment of the forces to which he is reacting – like Arab Knesset members openly rooting for Israel’s enemies.

(When the media used to cover Azmi Bishara, it would be with the utmost sympathy, disregarding any of his inciting comments. See here for example.)

So yes, the media, when it comes to Israel, usually operates with blinders.

soccer dad, on Rick Richman:

I had hoped to blog about this today, but then I saw about the terror attack.

Kershner, like most the MSM, only concentrates on Israel. It’s in part because the Palestinian side is so alien to their sensibilities they simply dismiss it. Today Khaled Abu Toameh reported on a recent declaration of the PA

The Palestinian Authority has issued yet another warning to Palestinians against selling their homes or properties to Jews, saying those who violate the order would be accused of “high treason” — a charge that carries the death penalty.

Is there anyone on Israel’s side who could hold a corresponding view and serve in government or even get elected to office? And yet this is a pronouncement of the moderates in the PA!

Then as Noah Pollak pointed out yesterday, for all the talk of how extreme Lieberman is, there’s little acknowledgment of the forces to which he is reacting – like Arab Knesset members openly rooting for Israel’s enemies.

(When the media used to cover Azmi Bishara, it would be with the utmost sympathy, disregarding any of his inciting comments. See here for example.)

So yes, the media, when it comes to Israel, usually operates with blinders.

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Liberal Fascism in the Times

Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism got an unexpected boost on Tuesday in David Leonhardt’s Economic Scene column in the New York Times.

Leonhardt and other liberal economic writers have been flailing away at Amity Shlaes’s history of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, for stating what historians have understood for decades: that Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal didn’t work. But now that Barack Obama has decided to try and spend his way out of our current economic difficulties, FDR’s policies must be exhumed and defended. Indeed, according to Leonhardt and others, Roosevelt’s main flaw was that he didn’t spend enough. I’ll leave the dissecting of these bad arguments to Shlaes, but I found it fascinating that in the course of Leonhardt’s latest piece on this issue, he saw it fit to prove the genius of stimulus spending by pointing to the example of the Third Reich.

That’s right. Leonhardt believes that Adolf Hitler’s building of the autobahn, facilities for the 1936 Olympics, and other public works projects such as monuments to the Nazi Party “helped Germany escape the Great Depression faster than other countries.” Unmentioned by Leonhardt was Hitler’s vast expansion of the German military (long before the United States expanded its own armed forces) as well as the wealth that accumulated to various official arms of the state from the theft of Jewish properties. Later in the same piece, Leonhardt also lauds America’s World War II mobilization as showing the genius of a stimulus, though he fails to mention that along with all the tanks, planes, and ships that were built, nearly 15 million Americans were also under arms during the war. That helped lower unemployment too.

This doesn’t mean that Barack Obama is a card-carrying socialist or that he is plotting a rerun of Nazi Germany. What it does mean is that there is a slippery slope in arguments that assume statist economies and systems are a good thing. There is a price to be paid for putting so much power in the hands of government. Americans rightly tried to steer away from the excesses of the New Deal (such as the National Recovery Administration which arrogated to itself the right to decide virtually everything about the American economy). We repeat those mistakes or go further only at the peril of our prosperity and our liberties.

Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism got an unexpected boost on Tuesday in David Leonhardt’s Economic Scene column in the New York Times.

Leonhardt and other liberal economic writers have been flailing away at Amity Shlaes’s history of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, for stating what historians have understood for decades: that Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal didn’t work. But now that Barack Obama has decided to try and spend his way out of our current economic difficulties, FDR’s policies must be exhumed and defended. Indeed, according to Leonhardt and others, Roosevelt’s main flaw was that he didn’t spend enough. I’ll leave the dissecting of these bad arguments to Shlaes, but I found it fascinating that in the course of Leonhardt’s latest piece on this issue, he saw it fit to prove the genius of stimulus spending by pointing to the example of the Third Reich.

That’s right. Leonhardt believes that Adolf Hitler’s building of the autobahn, facilities for the 1936 Olympics, and other public works projects such as monuments to the Nazi Party “helped Germany escape the Great Depression faster than other countries.” Unmentioned by Leonhardt was Hitler’s vast expansion of the German military (long before the United States expanded its own armed forces) as well as the wealth that accumulated to various official arms of the state from the theft of Jewish properties. Later in the same piece, Leonhardt also lauds America’s World War II mobilization as showing the genius of a stimulus, though he fails to mention that along with all the tanks, planes, and ships that were built, nearly 15 million Americans were also under arms during the war. That helped lower unemployment too.

This doesn’t mean that Barack Obama is a card-carrying socialist or that he is plotting a rerun of Nazi Germany. What it does mean is that there is a slippery slope in arguments that assume statist economies and systems are a good thing. There is a price to be paid for putting so much power in the hands of government. Americans rightly tried to steer away from the excesses of the New Deal (such as the National Recovery Administration which arrogated to itself the right to decide virtually everything about the American economy). We repeat those mistakes or go further only at the peril of our prosperity and our liberties.

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Why NATO Matters

NATO celebrates its 60th anniversary this week, even as the limits of its power are being demonstrated in Afghanistan. The alliance gamely agreed to take on the war effort against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But most of its members refused to do any serious fighting, leaving the actual combat to what is essentially a “coalition of the willing”: the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and a handful of others. Even those countries that are doing the heavy lifting are finding themselves hampered by NATO’s dysfunctional command structure, with countless officers rotating in and out on four to six month tours and various national contingents checking with their capitals before undertaking certain missions. There is nothing like the streamlined command structure that turned around the war effort in Iraq.

That’s a cause of real concern as 21,000 more Americans head to Afghanistan. To make sure those troops are deployed in the best possible manner, we will probably have to Americanize the war effort even more than we have already done.

Does that mean NATO’s day is done and we can afford to junk the alliance? That’s what Andy Bacevich argues. He concedes that Europe faces a continuing threat from Russia, whose bellicosity has diminished but not disappeared since the end of the Cold War. But he goes on to argue:

The difference between 1949 and 2009 is that present-day Europe is more than capable of addressing today’s threat, without American assistance or supervision. Collectively, the Europeans don’t need U.S. troops or dollars, both of which are in short supply anyway and needed elsewhere. Yet as long as the United States sustains the pretense that Europe cannot manage its own affairs, the Europeans will endorse that proposition, letting Americans foot most of the bill. Only if Washington makes it clear that the era of free-riding has ended will Europe grow up.

I’m not sure what he has in mind by “free riding,” since it is no more expensive to base U.S. troops in Europe than it is in the continental United States. In most cases it is actually cheaper because European states like Germany underwrite some of the costs. That’s one reason Donald Rumsfeld was pursuing a misguided agenda when he decided to bring most American troops home; I hope that Bob Gates countermands his redeployment scheme.

Another reason Bacevich (and Rumsfeld) are wrong is that having our troops in Europe puts them closer to the action in places where they might be deployed, such as Central Asia and the Middle East.

Moreover — and this is the key mission that U.S. troops still accomplish — they provide vital stabilization and reassurance to Europe that it will not be abandoned by the United States. Left on their own, it is not hard to imagine the feckless Western Europeans leaving Eastern and Southern Europeans at the mercy of aggressors and demagogues, as happened in the 1930s and again, on a smaller scale, during the Balkans crisis of the early 1990s. The dangers today are not as great as in the fascist or even the immediate post-communist eras, but neither are the defense capacities and willingness to fight of most major western European nations. It is wishful thinking to assume that if left alone by the United States they will pick up the burden of their own defense. More likely, they will cut deals with the devil, which will wind up proving costly to us in the end.

NATO still performs a vital function by stabilizing newly democratic areas and expanding the boundaries of the “West.” In the 1990s that meant moving NATO into nations such as Poland and Hungary ahead of the European Union. Today it means incorporating nations such as Ukraine and Georgia, however fearful Europeans may be of those tasks. It would be a mistake to leave NATO — as much of a mistake as it would be to rely on NATO too heavily in places like Afghanistan. The alliance can still play an important, largely political role if we realistically assess its strengths and limitations.

NATO celebrates its 60th anniversary this week, even as the limits of its power are being demonstrated in Afghanistan. The alliance gamely agreed to take on the war effort against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But most of its members refused to do any serious fighting, leaving the actual combat to what is essentially a “coalition of the willing”: the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and a handful of others. Even those countries that are doing the heavy lifting are finding themselves hampered by NATO’s dysfunctional command structure, with countless officers rotating in and out on four to six month tours and various national contingents checking with their capitals before undertaking certain missions. There is nothing like the streamlined command structure that turned around the war effort in Iraq.

That’s a cause of real concern as 21,000 more Americans head to Afghanistan. To make sure those troops are deployed in the best possible manner, we will probably have to Americanize the war effort even more than we have already done.

Does that mean NATO’s day is done and we can afford to junk the alliance? That’s what Andy Bacevich argues. He concedes that Europe faces a continuing threat from Russia, whose bellicosity has diminished but not disappeared since the end of the Cold War. But he goes on to argue:

The difference between 1949 and 2009 is that present-day Europe is more than capable of addressing today’s threat, without American assistance or supervision. Collectively, the Europeans don’t need U.S. troops or dollars, both of which are in short supply anyway and needed elsewhere. Yet as long as the United States sustains the pretense that Europe cannot manage its own affairs, the Europeans will endorse that proposition, letting Americans foot most of the bill. Only if Washington makes it clear that the era of free-riding has ended will Europe grow up.

I’m not sure what he has in mind by “free riding,” since it is no more expensive to base U.S. troops in Europe than it is in the continental United States. In most cases it is actually cheaper because European states like Germany underwrite some of the costs. That’s one reason Donald Rumsfeld was pursuing a misguided agenda when he decided to bring most American troops home; I hope that Bob Gates countermands his redeployment scheme.

Another reason Bacevich (and Rumsfeld) are wrong is that having our troops in Europe puts them closer to the action in places where they might be deployed, such as Central Asia and the Middle East.

Moreover — and this is the key mission that U.S. troops still accomplish — they provide vital stabilization and reassurance to Europe that it will not be abandoned by the United States. Left on their own, it is not hard to imagine the feckless Western Europeans leaving Eastern and Southern Europeans at the mercy of aggressors and demagogues, as happened in the 1930s and again, on a smaller scale, during the Balkans crisis of the early 1990s. The dangers today are not as great as in the fascist or even the immediate post-communist eras, but neither are the defense capacities and willingness to fight of most major western European nations. It is wishful thinking to assume that if left alone by the United States they will pick up the burden of their own defense. More likely, they will cut deals with the devil, which will wind up proving costly to us in the end.

NATO still performs a vital function by stabilizing newly democratic areas and expanding the boundaries of the “West.” In the 1990s that meant moving NATO into nations such as Poland and Hungary ahead of the European Union. Today it means incorporating nations such as Ukraine and Georgia, however fearful Europeans may be of those tasks. It would be a mistake to leave NATO — as much of a mistake as it would be to rely on NATO too heavily in places like Afghanistan. The alliance can still play an important, largely political role if we realistically assess its strengths and limitations.

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What Is It About “60” they Don’t Understand?

Roll Call reports, “Labor leaders are giving President Barack Obama a pass — for now — on his failure to put ‘card check’ legislation at the top of his to-do list, but they are preparing to demand immediate action if Democrat Al Franken is seated as Minnesota’s Senator.” And we hear that Big Labor is preparing some sort of “blitz” on the issue during Congress’s two-week recess.

But to what end is all this fuss? Even the Los Angeles Times conceded that Senate defections have put the bill in “deep trouble.” Arlen Specter has said “no way.” Democrats from Diane Feinstein to Ben Nelson to Mary Landrieu and Balnche Lincoln have given card check supporters the brush off. Even if all of those Democrats were to cave and Al Franken were to gain entry to the Senate, Big Labor would have only 59 votes.

Perpetuating the issue must make those Red state Democrats quite uncomfortable. Would Blanche Lincoln like to run for re-election with card check as a “live” issue or a dead one? Certainly the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia is milking this issue for all it’s worth against three Democratic contenders who would rather change the topic. The seemingly futile crusade of Big Labor also exposes the uncomfortable tension within the White House.

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Roll Call reports, “Labor leaders are giving President Barack Obama a pass — for now — on his failure to put ‘card check’ legislation at the top of his to-do list, but they are preparing to demand immediate action if Democrat Al Franken is seated as Minnesota’s Senator.” And we hear that Big Labor is preparing some sort of “blitz” on the issue during Congress’s two-week recess.

But to what end is all this fuss? Even the Los Angeles Times conceded that Senate defections have put the bill in “deep trouble.” Arlen Specter has said “no way.” Democrats from Diane Feinstein to Ben Nelson to Mary Landrieu and Balnche Lincoln have given card check supporters the brush off. Even if all of those Democrats were to cave and Al Franken were to gain entry to the Senate, Big Labor would have only 59 votes.

Perpetuating the issue must make those Red state Democrats quite uncomfortable. Would Blanche Lincoln like to run for re-election with card check as a “live” issue or a dead one? Certainly the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia is milking this issue for all it’s worth against three Democratic contenders who would rather change the topic. The seemingly futile crusade of Big Labor also exposes the uncomfortable tension within the White House.

Roll Call reports:

Labor leaders are giving President Barack Obama a pass — for now — on his failure to put “card check” legislation at the top of his to-do list, but they are preparing to demand immediate action if Democrat Al Franken is seated as Minnesota’s Senator.

“President Obama made it very clear he supports” the Employee Free Choice Act, one labor official said. “We take him at his word.”

Obama’s path to victory — not to mention Democrats’ 2006 takeover of Congress — was paved with labor’s support. The unions, in turn, have no greater priority for the president and Congressional Democrats than EFCA, which would provide a boon to labor by making it easier for workers to unionize.

But Obama, since becoming president, has made little mention of legislation that causes fits up and down K Street, where business operatives are waging an unrestrained war to kill it.

[. . .]

Asked about Obama’s position on the bill last week, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was unusually terse. “He continues to support the legislation,” Gibbs said.

White House officials maintained their low-key approach when prodded Wednesday on the issue, declining to say anything other than that Obama continues to back the measure.

[. . .]

“We have been assured that at the appropriate time, once Franken is seated, they are looking to be very aggressive,” one labor official said. “They are going to move into a different mode on this.”

Obama will then be asked to become personally involved in the legislative effort, along with his senior aides.

Union officials want the president to try his hand with Republicans, particularly Specter and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. The two moderate Republicans from Maine, viewed as having decent relations with the White House, are seen by labor as among the best shots at the pickup that they desperately need. But they may be long shots.

“I think card check is dead,” one respected Democratic lobbyist said. “There will be no 60th vote unless they change some of the substance of it.”

So Big Labor wants to send Obama on an impossible quest to get votes that aren’t there and make life miserable for conservative and moderate Democrats? At least savvier Democrats recognize how counterproductive all of this may be. (“A lot of House Members do not want to vote on this if it’s not going to happen,” another top Democratic lobbyist said. “If you’re from a moderate or a conservative district, you’ll vote for it if it comes up, but you’re not eager to do it.”)

Republicans remain mystified by all this, but they are abiding by the first law of politics: never interfere when your opponent is doing himself harm. And this entire undertaking seems to offer nothing but trouble for the Democrats.

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A Royal Minus

Barack Obama has literally bowed before King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Here’s the question: Was this unprecedented embarrassment the result of the Obama team’s inexperience, incompetence, or inclination toward American humility on the world stage?

Here’s the answer: Who cares? Whatever the cause, the fallout will be the same. Among Muslim democrats and human rights advocates, utter dejection that the “leader of the Free World” has offered himself as a “subject” of the Saudi monarch; among Islamists, bliss over America’s seeming prostration before Salafist Islam; among international bad actors, assurance that America poses no threat; and among our allies, depression about the new systemic instability of the most dependable superpower in history.

Barack Obama has literally bowed before King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Here’s the question: Was this unprecedented embarrassment the result of the Obama team’s inexperience, incompetence, or inclination toward American humility on the world stage?

Here’s the answer: Who cares? Whatever the cause, the fallout will be the same. Among Muslim democrats and human rights advocates, utter dejection that the “leader of the Free World” has offered himself as a “subject” of the Saudi monarch; among Islamists, bliss over America’s seeming prostration before Salafist Islam; among international bad actors, assurance that America poses no threat; and among our allies, depression about the new systemic instability of the most dependable superpower in history.

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A Stunt ACORN Would Think Up

We get this little nugget from Dana Milbank about Organizing America’s collection of pledges in support of the president’s budget:

CNN and the Huffington Post dutifully reported the DNC’s claim of 642,000 pledges. Network cameras and the BBC showed up to film the operation. “We had one of the big printers downstairs smoking last night,” party spokesman Brad Woodhouse said.

In fact, the canvassing of Obama’s vaunted e-mail list of 13 million people resulted in just 114,000 pledges — a response rate of less than 1 percent. Workers gathered 100,000 more from street canvassing. The DNC got to 642,000 by making three photocopies of each pledge so that each signer’s senators and representative could get one.

That’s a rather cheesy move, and indicative of the difficulty in rallying troops to the president’s policies. It is one thing to elect the Agent of Change. It is quite another to drum up support for a $3.5 trillion budget.

We get this little nugget from Dana Milbank about Organizing America’s collection of pledges in support of the president’s budget:

CNN and the Huffington Post dutifully reported the DNC’s claim of 642,000 pledges. Network cameras and the BBC showed up to film the operation. “We had one of the big printers downstairs smoking last night,” party spokesman Brad Woodhouse said.

In fact, the canvassing of Obama’s vaunted e-mail list of 13 million people resulted in just 114,000 pledges — a response rate of less than 1 percent. Workers gathered 100,000 more from street canvassing. The DNC got to 642,000 by making three photocopies of each pledge so that each signer’s senators and representative could get one.

That’s a rather cheesy move, and indicative of the difficulty in rallying troops to the president’s policies. It is one thing to elect the Agent of Change. It is quite another to drum up support for a $3.5 trillion budget.

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The Face of Palestinian “Resistance”

While the world was harrumphing yesterday because Israel’s new foreign minister affirmed the obvious futility of the Annapolis peace conference, an axe-wielding Palestinian terrorist slaughtered a 13-year-old Jewish boy and wounded another.

This disgusting crime took place at the town of Bat Ayin, a Jewish settlement a few miles southwest of Jerusalem. This means that in much of the world, the attack will be considered an understandable reaction on the part of a Palestinian humiliated by the sight of Jews living in that part of the country. That’s the way all such murders have been treated by the international press. Jews who live over the “green line” are considered provocateurs at best, and deserving of retaliatory Arab violence at worst.

But though I don’t doubt the murdered child, whose name was Shlomo Nativ, will be simply called a “settler” in most accounts, it isn’t likely that we will hear much about the history of the area where he lived.

You see, Bat Ayin is part of the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements. Far from being built after the 1967 war and thus, wrongly considered a violation of international law, Gush Etzion was settled by Jews prior to 1948. In 1948, the Gush Etzion bloc was attacked by Arab gangs and after a long siege, overwhelmed by the attackers who were aided by Jordan’s Arab Legion. Most of the Jewish inhabitants were massacred. After this territory was retaken by Israel in June 1967, some of the survivors of the 1948 attack returned to the area and began the work of restoring Jewish life to this part of historic Biblical Judea.

Just to confirm how normal and legitimate their town is the people of Bat Ayin have chosen not to build a fence around their homes because they believe it would be a sign of insecurity.

Objections to Gush Etzion cannot be about expropriation or “illegal” settlements. The problem that Gush Etzion presents to the Arab and Islamic world is that the people who live there are Jews.

In recent years we have heard much about the suffering of Arabs living in the West Bank who have to put up with the inconvenience of Israeli Army roadblocks and a security fence, both of which are the direct result of a campaign of terrorism aimed at Israelis. What we don’t hear much about is the constant harassment and attacks visited upon Jews who live in the West Bank. A lot of people don’t think the idea of maintaining Jewish communities over the “green line” is wise. But what the “resistance” to the Jewish presence in the territories amounts to is not a protest against specific measures or even a dispute about land. As the attack on Bat Ayin confirms yet again, the hatred and violence directed against the settlers is a measure of the Palestinian antipathy for Jews, pure and simple.

While the world was harrumphing yesterday because Israel’s new foreign minister affirmed the obvious futility of the Annapolis peace conference, an axe-wielding Palestinian terrorist slaughtered a 13-year-old Jewish boy and wounded another.

This disgusting crime took place at the town of Bat Ayin, a Jewish settlement a few miles southwest of Jerusalem. This means that in much of the world, the attack will be considered an understandable reaction on the part of a Palestinian humiliated by the sight of Jews living in that part of the country. That’s the way all such murders have been treated by the international press. Jews who live over the “green line” are considered provocateurs at best, and deserving of retaliatory Arab violence at worst.

But though I don’t doubt the murdered child, whose name was Shlomo Nativ, will be simply called a “settler” in most accounts, it isn’t likely that we will hear much about the history of the area where he lived.

You see, Bat Ayin is part of the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements. Far from being built after the 1967 war and thus, wrongly considered a violation of international law, Gush Etzion was settled by Jews prior to 1948. In 1948, the Gush Etzion bloc was attacked by Arab gangs and after a long siege, overwhelmed by the attackers who were aided by Jordan’s Arab Legion. Most of the Jewish inhabitants were massacred. After this territory was retaken by Israel in June 1967, some of the survivors of the 1948 attack returned to the area and began the work of restoring Jewish life to this part of historic Biblical Judea.

Just to confirm how normal and legitimate their town is the people of Bat Ayin have chosen not to build a fence around their homes because they believe it would be a sign of insecurity.

Objections to Gush Etzion cannot be about expropriation or “illegal” settlements. The problem that Gush Etzion presents to the Arab and Islamic world is that the people who live there are Jews.

In recent years we have heard much about the suffering of Arabs living in the West Bank who have to put up with the inconvenience of Israeli Army roadblocks and a security fence, both of which are the direct result of a campaign of terrorism aimed at Israelis. What we don’t hear much about is the constant harassment and attacks visited upon Jews who live in the West Bank. A lot of people don’t think the idea of maintaining Jewish communities over the “green line” is wise. But what the “resistance” to the Jewish presence in the territories amounts to is not a protest against specific measures or even a dispute about land. As the attack on Bat Ayin confirms yet again, the hatred and violence directed against the settlers is a measure of the Palestinian antipathy for Jews, pure and simple.

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It Worked Before

The New York Times editors are getting nervous. It seems Nancy Pelosi is giving moderate and conservative Democrats — that would be those most likely at risk in 2010 — the cold shoulder on investigating the growing controversy over PMA Group. The editors declare:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi should listen to the wise Democrats who are pushing for an ethics inquiry into the far-too-cozy relationship between lawmakers and the PMA Group of superlobbyists.

The Justice Department is investigating whether PMA used illegal straw donors to lard the campaign kitties of cooperative lawmakers. The firm — which shut itself down after being raided by federal agents — fed and fed richly off the defense appropriations subcommittee led by Representative John Murtha, the House baron of Pentagon spending.

Dryly noting that there are “plenty of questions” to answer, they point to some troublesome facts:

PMA funneled more than $40 million in donations to members of Congress since 1998, including $2.4 million to Mr. Murtha and $7.8 million to members of his committee. Congress, in turn, rewarded PMA clients with rarely debated earmarks. Last year, the firm was able to marshal more than 100 lawmakers to earmark $300 million in contracts for the lobbyist’s clients.

The similarities to 1994 and 2006 are plain. The majority party has grown fat and corrupt, its leaders reluctant to take on the Old Bulls, and the legal and political vultures swirl above their heads. Pelosi is not known for her concern for the opinions of Republicans or good-government groups. But perhaps the in-house paper for liberal Democrats will shake her into action. Hey, it worked for Tom Daschle.

The New York Times editors are getting nervous. It seems Nancy Pelosi is giving moderate and conservative Democrats — that would be those most likely at risk in 2010 — the cold shoulder on investigating the growing controversy over PMA Group. The editors declare:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi should listen to the wise Democrats who are pushing for an ethics inquiry into the far-too-cozy relationship between lawmakers and the PMA Group of superlobbyists.

The Justice Department is investigating whether PMA used illegal straw donors to lard the campaign kitties of cooperative lawmakers. The firm — which shut itself down after being raided by federal agents — fed and fed richly off the defense appropriations subcommittee led by Representative John Murtha, the House baron of Pentagon spending.

Dryly noting that there are “plenty of questions” to answer, they point to some troublesome facts:

PMA funneled more than $40 million in donations to members of Congress since 1998, including $2.4 million to Mr. Murtha and $7.8 million to members of his committee. Congress, in turn, rewarded PMA clients with rarely debated earmarks. Last year, the firm was able to marshal more than 100 lawmakers to earmark $300 million in contracts for the lobbyist’s clients.

The similarities to 1994 and 2006 are plain. The majority party has grown fat and corrupt, its leaders reluctant to take on the Old Bulls, and the legal and political vultures swirl above their heads. Pelosi is not known for her concern for the opinions of Republicans or good-government groups. But perhaps the in-house paper for liberal Democrats will shake her into action. Hey, it worked for Tom Daschle.

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Watching Bushehr

According to a news report, General Petraeus warned Congress yesterday that Israel might preemptively attack Iran. Petraeus also failed to say that the U.S. would act to restrain Israel. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday that an Israeli attack is unlikely at the moment, based on his tame assessment of Iran’s nuclear timeline.

As Shahar Ilan notes in his Ha’aretz dispatch, the two statements seem to contradict one another, especially given Israel’s more pessimistic assessment of Iran’s progress. The fact is, quite aside from putting together a device and testing a bomb, the timeline is largely determined by other factors — including, possibly, the progress at Bushehr’s nuclear reactor. Though clearly built for civilian nuclear energy, Bushehr is supplied by Russian fuel that is supposed to be returned to Russia after use (before it could be reprocessed into Plutonium), and can serve other purposes as well.

Re-purposing Bushehr would only take the political will to face the consequences of turning the site into a reprocessing plant. Once this happened, Israel would have to attack before the reactor was active. Given that, both Gates and Petraeus may be right: Iran is still at least a year away from a bomb. And Israel will attack preemptively sooner than one would expect, because Iran’s finish line, from Israel’s point of view, is sooner than Gates thinks.

According to a news report, General Petraeus warned Congress yesterday that Israel might preemptively attack Iran. Petraeus also failed to say that the U.S. would act to restrain Israel. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday that an Israeli attack is unlikely at the moment, based on his tame assessment of Iran’s nuclear timeline.

As Shahar Ilan notes in his Ha’aretz dispatch, the two statements seem to contradict one another, especially given Israel’s more pessimistic assessment of Iran’s progress. The fact is, quite aside from putting together a device and testing a bomb, the timeline is largely determined by other factors — including, possibly, the progress at Bushehr’s nuclear reactor. Though clearly built for civilian nuclear energy, Bushehr is supplied by Russian fuel that is supposed to be returned to Russia after use (before it could be reprocessed into Plutonium), and can serve other purposes as well.

Re-purposing Bushehr would only take the political will to face the consequences of turning the site into a reprocessing plant. Once this happened, Israel would have to attack before the reactor was active. Given that, both Gates and Petraeus may be right: Iran is still at least a year away from a bomb. And Israel will attack preemptively sooner than one would expect, because Iran’s finish line, from Israel’s point of view, is sooner than Gates thinks.

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Diplomatic Masochism

The Russians have started speaking Obamese:

Relations between Russia and the United States have a “new quality,” with each side ready to give heed to the other’s positions, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

“A new atmosphere of relations has been created,” Lavrov said in London after talks between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama. “There is mutual interest and, most importantly, readiness to listen to each other, something we had lacked for many years.”

“This means a new quality of relations,” he said.

Much like the American version, the Russian language of reconciliation has nothing to do with reality. On what issues, for instance, is Russia “ready to give heed” to the American position? When Obama left his first meeting with Medvedev, Russia still opposed the expansion of NATO, still objected to an American-installed missile defense system in Eastern Europe, was still a committed nuclear energy partner with Iran, and still talked about replacing the dollar with a new global currency. This “new quality” doesn’t feel so new from where I sit.

However, from Moscow’s standpoint, hope and change are here. As this AP analysis has it:

President Dmitry Medvedev’s first meeting with Barack Obama brought Russia a shot of prestige, upbeat headlines about nuclear-arms cuts and a powerful signal that Moscow has the ear of the new U.S. president.

The price tag for Russia so far: virtually zero.

Medvedev’s talks with Obama set a constructive new tone after years of growing acrimony between the U.S. and an assertive Russia. Their joint vow to reduce the two biggest nuclear arsenals on the planet cast a softer light on Russia, which has worried Europe with recent natural-gas supply cutoffs and threats to put missiles on its borders.

Obama pledged to support Moscow’s World Trade Organization membership bid, which could help end what Russia sees as the embarrassment of being the largest economy outside the WTO. Obama also said he would seek U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, something Moscow has long wanted from Washington.

And in a nod to the Kremlin’s self-image as a chief guardian of global security, Obama also acknowledged Russia’s proposal for a new trans-Atlantic security arrangement – a key Medvedev initiative that the Bush administration pointedly ignored.

It’s hard to believe that every single administration interaction with a bad actor leaves us worse off. Yet, here we are.

The Russians have started speaking Obamese:

Relations between Russia and the United States have a “new quality,” with each side ready to give heed to the other’s positions, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

“A new atmosphere of relations has been created,” Lavrov said in London after talks between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama. “There is mutual interest and, most importantly, readiness to listen to each other, something we had lacked for many years.”

“This means a new quality of relations,” he said.

Much like the American version, the Russian language of reconciliation has nothing to do with reality. On what issues, for instance, is Russia “ready to give heed” to the American position? When Obama left his first meeting with Medvedev, Russia still opposed the expansion of NATO, still objected to an American-installed missile defense system in Eastern Europe, was still a committed nuclear energy partner with Iran, and still talked about replacing the dollar with a new global currency. This “new quality” doesn’t feel so new from where I sit.

However, from Moscow’s standpoint, hope and change are here. As this AP analysis has it:

President Dmitry Medvedev’s first meeting with Barack Obama brought Russia a shot of prestige, upbeat headlines about nuclear-arms cuts and a powerful signal that Moscow has the ear of the new U.S. president.

The price tag for Russia so far: virtually zero.

Medvedev’s talks with Obama set a constructive new tone after years of growing acrimony between the U.S. and an assertive Russia. Their joint vow to reduce the two biggest nuclear arsenals on the planet cast a softer light on Russia, which has worried Europe with recent natural-gas supply cutoffs and threats to put missiles on its borders.

Obama pledged to support Moscow’s World Trade Organization membership bid, which could help end what Russia sees as the embarrassment of being the largest economy outside the WTO. Obama also said he would seek U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, something Moscow has long wanted from Washington.

And in a nod to the Kremlin’s self-image as a chief guardian of global security, Obama also acknowledged Russia’s proposal for a new trans-Atlantic security arrangement – a key Medvedev initiative that the Bush administration pointedly ignored.

It’s hard to believe that every single administration interaction with a bad actor leaves us worse off. Yet, here we are.

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Math in The NY-20

Scott Murphy’s lead may have narrowed to 13 votes among those who cast ballots on Tuesday. Everyone has a theory about the NY-20 absentee ballots. But the Democrats’ theory as transmitted to Chris Cillizza seems mighty suspect. He reports that their “projection” shows “the Democrat gaining 115 votes in Warren County, 96 votes in Columbia County and 70 votes in Washington County as well as scoring smaller gains in several other counties.” Hmm…

According to absentee-ballot numbers I received last night: in Warren, Republicans returned 569 of 764 ballots while Democrats returned only 316 of 437, with 113 of 205 “other” ballots returned. I suppose the Democrat could pick up votes, but he’d have to overcome a tremendous differential in party identification of the returned absentee ballots — 569 vs. 316, or 57% vs. 31%. (That’s a big advantage over registration in the county as a whole, where Republicans have only 49% of the electorate.) How likely is that?

Likewise in Washington, where the Democrats’ projection is a pick up of 70 votes, Tedisco has an advantage of 315 vs. 187 in returned absentee ballots (62% vs. 37%). In the county as a whole Republicans only have 45% of registered voters. Again, it is possible Murphy could pick up votes, but not as likely when you look at the pool of absentee ballots.

Columbia is a more plausible source of votes for Murphy, who enjoys an advantage of 472 to 242 returned ballots over Republicans, and who won that county 56-44%. But aside from a tiny margin in Duchess County, Columbia is the only county where Democrats enjoy an advantage in the percentage of returned absentees or the total absentee ballots sent out.

But the real kicker is in Saratoga. The latest figures there were 1,731 ballots returned, 922 of which were Republican and 502 Democratic (53% vs. 29%), with the remainder “other .” That is a very big  chunk of the absentees, about one third. Tedisco won that county by a 54-46% margin.

None of these figures include the approximately 1,000 military ballots sent out (less than 200 returned). Considering Murphy’s comments on ROTC recruitment on campus and the assumption that military voters are more conservative, these will likely go in Tedisco’s favor. No one knows how it will all shake out, and this is why they count the ballots — to find out who really won.

Scott Murphy’s lead may have narrowed to 13 votes among those who cast ballots on Tuesday. Everyone has a theory about the NY-20 absentee ballots. But the Democrats’ theory as transmitted to Chris Cillizza seems mighty suspect. He reports that their “projection” shows “the Democrat gaining 115 votes in Warren County, 96 votes in Columbia County and 70 votes in Washington County as well as scoring smaller gains in several other counties.” Hmm…

According to absentee-ballot numbers I received last night: in Warren, Republicans returned 569 of 764 ballots while Democrats returned only 316 of 437, with 113 of 205 “other” ballots returned. I suppose the Democrat could pick up votes, but he’d have to overcome a tremendous differential in party identification of the returned absentee ballots — 569 vs. 316, or 57% vs. 31%. (That’s a big advantage over registration in the county as a whole, where Republicans have only 49% of the electorate.) How likely is that?

Likewise in Washington, where the Democrats’ projection is a pick up of 70 votes, Tedisco has an advantage of 315 vs. 187 in returned absentee ballots (62% vs. 37%). In the county as a whole Republicans only have 45% of registered voters. Again, it is possible Murphy could pick up votes, but not as likely when you look at the pool of absentee ballots.

Columbia is a more plausible source of votes for Murphy, who enjoys an advantage of 472 to 242 returned ballots over Republicans, and who won that county 56-44%. But aside from a tiny margin in Duchess County, Columbia is the only county where Democrats enjoy an advantage in the percentage of returned absentees or the total absentee ballots sent out.

But the real kicker is in Saratoga. The latest figures there were 1,731 ballots returned, 922 of which were Republican and 502 Democratic (53% vs. 29%), with the remainder “other .” That is a very big  chunk of the absentees, about one third. Tedisco won that county by a 54-46% margin.

None of these figures include the approximately 1,000 military ballots sent out (less than 200 returned). Considering Murphy’s comments on ROTC recruitment on campus and the assumption that military voters are more conservative, these will likely go in Tedisco’s favor. No one knows how it will all shake out, and this is why they count the ballots — to find out who really won.

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Time to Get to the Bottom of It?

Attorney General Eric Holder’s override of the career attorneys’ opinion on the constitutionality of the DC voting rights statute has stirred up a hornet’s nest. The Wall Street Journal sums up:

We’re in favor of Administrations making their own policy decisions, and an AG is certainly within his rights to overrule career attorneys. But it is extraordinary to overrule an Office of Legal Counsel opinion that we’re told is rooted in Justice Department analysis going back to the JFK-LBJ Administrations. It is also extraordinary for an AG to so blatantly politicize the Solicitor General’s office, which is the home of lawyers who argue cases before the Supreme Court. Imagine if Alberto Gonzales had tried that one.

Meanwhile, the Office of Legal Counsel opinion should give Congress pause about its rush to enact the law, which has already passed the Senate but is stalled in the House over D.C. gun rights . Democrats want the bill to pass so it gives them another House vote, while setting the stage for two more Democratic Senators. We’ll gladly run the memo if someone leaks it to us, and, if nothing else, this should end the canard that only Republican Justice Departments are political.

In the Bush era, members of Congress would be hollering for oversight hearings to learn what arm-twisting was applied and what was in that OLC opinion. Sen. John Cornyn has called for release of the OLC memo finding the DC voting rights bill to be unconstitutional. His request was rebuffed. It seems that Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee is uniquely positioned to get to the bottom of this. Does he plan to push for hearings? Has he sent a letter to Holder demanding to know what Holder was doing meddling with the work of career attorneys? As the Washington Post notes:

Holder’s actions raised eyebrows because they appeared to politicize the legal review. During the Bush administration, lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel were accused of shaping their opinions to suit superiors in the White House.

The opinion declaring the bill unconstitutional was approved by David Barron, an Obama appointee and Democrat who is serving as acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment.

It seems that the already controversial nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the OLC, the very office at issue, should be delayed until we get to the bottom of this.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s override of the career attorneys’ opinion on the constitutionality of the DC voting rights statute has stirred up a hornet’s nest. The Wall Street Journal sums up:

We’re in favor of Administrations making their own policy decisions, and an AG is certainly within his rights to overrule career attorneys. But it is extraordinary to overrule an Office of Legal Counsel opinion that we’re told is rooted in Justice Department analysis going back to the JFK-LBJ Administrations. It is also extraordinary for an AG to so blatantly politicize the Solicitor General’s office, which is the home of lawyers who argue cases before the Supreme Court. Imagine if Alberto Gonzales had tried that one.

Meanwhile, the Office of Legal Counsel opinion should give Congress pause about its rush to enact the law, which has already passed the Senate but is stalled in the House over D.C. gun rights . Democrats want the bill to pass so it gives them another House vote, while setting the stage for two more Democratic Senators. We’ll gladly run the memo if someone leaks it to us, and, if nothing else, this should end the canard that only Republican Justice Departments are political.

In the Bush era, members of Congress would be hollering for oversight hearings to learn what arm-twisting was applied and what was in that OLC opinion. Sen. John Cornyn has called for release of the OLC memo finding the DC voting rights bill to be unconstitutional. His request was rebuffed. It seems that Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee is uniquely positioned to get to the bottom of this. Does he plan to push for hearings? Has he sent a letter to Holder demanding to know what Holder was doing meddling with the work of career attorneys? As the Washington Post notes:

Holder’s actions raised eyebrows because they appeared to politicize the legal review. During the Bush administration, lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel were accused of shaping their opinions to suit superiors in the White House.

The opinion declaring the bill unconstitutional was approved by David Barron, an Obama appointee and Democrat who is serving as acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment.

It seems that the already controversial nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the OLC, the very office at issue, should be delayed until we get to the bottom of this.

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Peace and Preparation for War

In The New York Times this morning, Isabel Kershner begins her news coverage of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s first speech with these words:

In a blunt and belligerent speech on his first day as Israel’s’s new foreign minister, the hawkish nationalist Avigdor Lieberman declared Wednesday that “those who wish for peace should prepare for war” . . .

In addition to “blunt and belligerent” and “hawkish nationalist,” Kershner in the course of her article describes Lieberman as “ultra-nationalist,” “unsubtle and often unpredictable,” “not known for diplomacy,” “contentious,” “seen by many as racist,” “often contradictory” and “contrary in his positions.”

It is of course not good to be a blunt belligerent ultra-nationalist unsubtle unpredictable contentious contradictory racist, but it is also possible Kershner did not recognize the derivation of Lieberman’s reference to preparing for war.  Here is the portion of Lieberman’s speech in which the reference appeared:

We have seen that . . . after all the gestures that we made, after all the dramatic steps we took and all the far reaching proposals we presented, in the past few years this country has gone through wars — the Second War in Lebanon and Operation Cast Lead — and not because we choose to.  I have not seen peace here. . . .

We are also losing ground every day in public opinion. Does anyone think that concessions, and constantly saying “I am prepared to concede,” and using the word “peace” will lead to anything?  No, that will just invite pressure, and more and more wars. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” – if you want peace, prepare for war, be strong.

Si vis pacem, para bellum” is a Latin adage with a long history.  It is generally attributed to an ancient Roman military writer. Here, French historian De Bourrienne references it in discussing Napoleon’s foreign policy:

Everyone knows the adage . . . . Had Bonaparte been a Latin scholar he would probably have reversed it and said, Si vis bellum para pacem” [meaning that if you are planning a war you should put other nations off guard by cultivating peace].

Sometimes a “peace process” can lead to war.  Sometimes the “peace of the brave” turns out to be a trick.  Sometimes a peace agreement does not actually lead to peace in our time.  And always, if you want peace, it is necessary to prepare for war and be strong.  We’ve known this for nearly 2,000 years, and you should be able to express it on your first day in a new position without being vilified in a “news article” by The New York Times.

In The New York Times this morning, Isabel Kershner begins her news coverage of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s first speech with these words:

In a blunt and belligerent speech on his first day as Israel’s’s new foreign minister, the hawkish nationalist Avigdor Lieberman declared Wednesday that “those who wish for peace should prepare for war” . . .

In addition to “blunt and belligerent” and “hawkish nationalist,” Kershner in the course of her article describes Lieberman as “ultra-nationalist,” “unsubtle and often unpredictable,” “not known for diplomacy,” “contentious,” “seen by many as racist,” “often contradictory” and “contrary in his positions.”

It is of course not good to be a blunt belligerent ultra-nationalist unsubtle unpredictable contentious contradictory racist, but it is also possible Kershner did not recognize the derivation of Lieberman’s reference to preparing for war.  Here is the portion of Lieberman’s speech in which the reference appeared:

We have seen that . . . after all the gestures that we made, after all the dramatic steps we took and all the far reaching proposals we presented, in the past few years this country has gone through wars — the Second War in Lebanon and Operation Cast Lead — and not because we choose to.  I have not seen peace here. . . .

We are also losing ground every day in public opinion. Does anyone think that concessions, and constantly saying “I am prepared to concede,” and using the word “peace” will lead to anything?  No, that will just invite pressure, and more and more wars. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” – if you want peace, prepare for war, be strong.

Si vis pacem, para bellum” is a Latin adage with a long history.  It is generally attributed to an ancient Roman military writer. Here, French historian De Bourrienne references it in discussing Napoleon’s foreign policy:

Everyone knows the adage . . . . Had Bonaparte been a Latin scholar he would probably have reversed it and said, Si vis bellum para pacem” [meaning that if you are planning a war you should put other nations off guard by cultivating peace].

Sometimes a “peace process” can lead to war.  Sometimes the “peace of the brave” turns out to be a trick.  Sometimes a peace agreement does not actually lead to peace in our time.  And always, if you want peace, it is necessary to prepare for war and be strong.  We’ve known this for nearly 2,000 years, and you should be able to express it on your first day in a new position without being vilified in a “news article” by The New York Times.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The GM-White House alliance finally gave late night comics some material on Obama.

Well, this isn’t very funny: “Fiat cars are unreliable and unsatisfying, according to two respected independent surveys of European-market vehicles. What’s more, parent company Fiat Group appears not to have enough money to pay debt that matures in the next 12 months, Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday as it downgraded Fiat’s ratings. Those are chilling reports at a time the Italian automaker is viewed as the only savior for Chrysler, via a proposed partnership.”

Rep. Connie Mack says if Obama fired the head of GM he should fire the head of the UAW. Remember the old days when the president just fired his own staff?

Headline he may regret: “DCCC chair: NY20 race proof of Obama’s coattails” Well, unless the Democrat loses in which case it was a local race.

Calvin Woodward writes: “One of President Barack Obama’s campaign pledges on taxes went up in puffs of smoke Wednesday.The largest increase in tobacco taxes took effect despite Obama’s promise not to raise taxes of any kind on families earning under $250,000 or individuals under $200,000. This is one tax that disproportionately affects the poor, who are more likely to smoke than the rich.” Other than AIG executives, smokers are about the most politically unpopular group in America, so they don’t “count.”

The Senate rejects the cap-and-trade reconciliation route: “The Senate overwhelmingly voted Wednesday not to use a fast-track budget procedure to pass President Obama’s ‘cap and trade’ plan to combat global warming. The vote was a victory for Republicans, who vehemently oppose using the special rules to pass any of Obama’s policy initiatives because the method doesn’t allow for filibusters. But it does not mean the rules – known as budget ‘reconciliation’ – won’t be used to pass the president’s sweeping health care plan, as several senior Democrats have suggested in recent days is likely to happen.” It seems Red state Democrats aren’t willing to walk the plank on everything for Obama.

Should Congressional Democrats worry, asks Karl Rove, that the president is “keeping score”? Between Organizing America, albeit not with an impressive debut (“Having less than 5% of your own activists sign a petition is unimpressive and perhaps evidence that adding $9.3 trillion to the deficit alarms even some of Mr. Obama’s most fervent supporters”) and targeting members of the media, it does seem like bare-knuckled politics is the order of the day.

Mitt Romney gives credit where credit is due, praising “Obama for not pulling troops from Iraq haphazardly and for going after terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” But he hits him hard on spending. I suspect that will be the formula many Republicans use in 2010 and 2012.

The Conference Board warns of a double dip recession if we have “too rapid” a recovery. Doesn’t seem very rapid to me.

The GM-White House alliance finally gave late night comics some material on Obama.

Well, this isn’t very funny: “Fiat cars are unreliable and unsatisfying, according to two respected independent surveys of European-market vehicles. What’s more, parent company Fiat Group appears not to have enough money to pay debt that matures in the next 12 months, Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday as it downgraded Fiat’s ratings. Those are chilling reports at a time the Italian automaker is viewed as the only savior for Chrysler, via a proposed partnership.”

Rep. Connie Mack says if Obama fired the head of GM he should fire the head of the UAW. Remember the old days when the president just fired his own staff?

Headline he may regret: “DCCC chair: NY20 race proof of Obama’s coattails” Well, unless the Democrat loses in which case it was a local race.

Calvin Woodward writes: “One of President Barack Obama’s campaign pledges on taxes went up in puffs of smoke Wednesday.The largest increase in tobacco taxes took effect despite Obama’s promise not to raise taxes of any kind on families earning under $250,000 or individuals under $200,000. This is one tax that disproportionately affects the poor, who are more likely to smoke than the rich.” Other than AIG executives, smokers are about the most politically unpopular group in America, so they don’t “count.”

The Senate rejects the cap-and-trade reconciliation route: “The Senate overwhelmingly voted Wednesday not to use a fast-track budget procedure to pass President Obama’s ‘cap and trade’ plan to combat global warming. The vote was a victory for Republicans, who vehemently oppose using the special rules to pass any of Obama’s policy initiatives because the method doesn’t allow for filibusters. But it does not mean the rules – known as budget ‘reconciliation’ – won’t be used to pass the president’s sweeping health care plan, as several senior Democrats have suggested in recent days is likely to happen.” It seems Red state Democrats aren’t willing to walk the plank on everything for Obama.

Should Congressional Democrats worry, asks Karl Rove, that the president is “keeping score”? Between Organizing America, albeit not with an impressive debut (“Having less than 5% of your own activists sign a petition is unimpressive and perhaps evidence that adding $9.3 trillion to the deficit alarms even some of Mr. Obama’s most fervent supporters”) and targeting members of the media, it does seem like bare-knuckled politics is the order of the day.

Mitt Romney gives credit where credit is due, praising “Obama for not pulling troops from Iraq haphazardly and for going after terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” But he hits him hard on spending. I suspect that will be the formula many Republicans use in 2010 and 2012.

The Conference Board warns of a double dip recession if we have “too rapid” a recovery. Doesn’t seem very rapid to me.

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