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Posts For: May 30, 2009

Subtle, but Dishonest

A small but illustrative addition to the Andrew Sullivan file. Andrew, quoting from what is apparently an MJ Rosenberg translation of an interview Martin Indyk gave to Yedioth Ahronoth, declares:

And Netanyahu is behaving as Indyk noted: “like the boy who killed his parents and then asked for mercy because he was an orphan.” He should know who he’s dealing with.

But Indyk didn’t say that Bibi is behaving that way. He said that in the future, Bibi shouldn’t behave that way. Here is the non-Dowdified quote:

“Of course [Bibi] has political constraints,” [Indyk] said. “There is great appreciation in the US of the fact that Israel is a democratic country. Conversely, if you don’t want to do anything, why should we help you. Especially if you’re the one asking.

“Bibi can’t behave with Washington like the boy who killed his parents and then asked for mercy because he was an orphan. He can’t say, I can’t make compromises because I have Lieberman in my coalition.”

Thus by careful misquotation is a hypothetical scenario presented as something that has already happened. Once upon a time, of course, Andrew railed against Dowdifying.

A small but illustrative addition to the Andrew Sullivan file. Andrew, quoting from what is apparently an MJ Rosenberg translation of an interview Martin Indyk gave to Yedioth Ahronoth, declares:

And Netanyahu is behaving as Indyk noted: “like the boy who killed his parents and then asked for mercy because he was an orphan.” He should know who he’s dealing with.

But Indyk didn’t say that Bibi is behaving that way. He said that in the future, Bibi shouldn’t behave that way. Here is the non-Dowdified quote:

“Of course [Bibi] has political constraints,” [Indyk] said. “There is great appreciation in the US of the fact that Israel is a democratic country. Conversely, if you don’t want to do anything, why should we help you. Especially if you’re the one asking.

“Bibi can’t behave with Washington like the boy who killed his parents and then asked for mercy because he was an orphan. He can’t say, I can’t make compromises because I have Lieberman in my coalition.”

Thus by careful misquotation is a hypothetical scenario presented as something that has already happened. Once upon a time, of course, Andrew railed against Dowdifying.

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Where Will It End?

Much has been and will be written about Frank Ricci and the New Haven firefighter case. Jan Greenburg Crawford and Ariane de Vogue pen one of the more engrossing pieces. One is struck by the lack of attention which Sotomayor displayed toward the firefighters’ claim. The report explains:

What has all of Washington talking is what happened next: Sotomayor and two fellow appellate judges dismissed the white firefighters’ claims — and 2,000 pages of court papers and filings — in a one-paragraph ruling.

“We are not unsympathetic to the plaintiffs’ expression of frustration,” but the firefighters who filed the case don’t have a “viable” claim under the law, the opinion said.

Conservatives, like Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, have decried the ruling.

“Judge Sotomayor and her colleagues didn’t engage in any legal analysis. They didn’t grapple with these issues,” Long charged.

“It leads one to think that Judge Sotomayor and her two colleagues who were involved in the case simply wanted to bury the claims of the New Haven firefighters.”

On the next appeal to the full 13-member court, the judges were more conflicted. Six sharply objected to the short, unsigned opinion, saying it failed to examine any of the law.

“The opinion contains no reference whatsoever to the constitutional claims at the core of this case,” wrote Judge Jose Cabranes, a Clinton appointee and long-time mentor to Sotomayor, in a scathing dissent. “This perfunctory disposition rests uneasily with the weighty issues presented by this appeal.”

Yes, as her defenders point out, per curium opinions are not uncommon. But after all she “missed” — or sought to shove under the rug — a serious constitutional issue which the Supreme Court selected to consider. The Senate will need to know why she didn’t at the very least spot and fully analyze the Constitutional issue.

But even more than Sotomayor’s cavalier handing of the claim, one is taken aback by the reaction of one the African American firefighters:

Black firefighters say that the stakes in their case couldn’t be higher.

“If we lose this,” New Haven firefighter Octavius Dawson said, “the implication is catastrophic. I mean, where does it end? Not just with the fire department. Police department, education, who knows where it could end?”

Yes, where will it end? Soon colorblind evaluations at police departments, next race-based quotas thrown out at public universities and soon the whole darn country filled with citizens all being evaluated on their merits. Well, one can see why the case might have been such a hot potato.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings provide quite an education. We’ll learn a lot about Sotomayor, but also the degree to which the Left is wedded to identity politics and race-based preferences. Does the country really like all this divvying up by race, as Chief Justice John Roberts put it? I think we’ll be reminded this summer that they certainly do not. And they might wonder why the president has appointed someone who did not, at least in this key case, grapple with the tough issue and give the parties a full opinion on the merits.

Much has been and will be written about Frank Ricci and the New Haven firefighter case. Jan Greenburg Crawford and Ariane de Vogue pen one of the more engrossing pieces. One is struck by the lack of attention which Sotomayor displayed toward the firefighters’ claim. The report explains:

What has all of Washington talking is what happened next: Sotomayor and two fellow appellate judges dismissed the white firefighters’ claims — and 2,000 pages of court papers and filings — in a one-paragraph ruling.

“We are not unsympathetic to the plaintiffs’ expression of frustration,” but the firefighters who filed the case don’t have a “viable” claim under the law, the opinion said.

Conservatives, like Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, have decried the ruling.

“Judge Sotomayor and her colleagues didn’t engage in any legal analysis. They didn’t grapple with these issues,” Long charged.

“It leads one to think that Judge Sotomayor and her two colleagues who were involved in the case simply wanted to bury the claims of the New Haven firefighters.”

On the next appeal to the full 13-member court, the judges were more conflicted. Six sharply objected to the short, unsigned opinion, saying it failed to examine any of the law.

“The opinion contains no reference whatsoever to the constitutional claims at the core of this case,” wrote Judge Jose Cabranes, a Clinton appointee and long-time mentor to Sotomayor, in a scathing dissent. “This perfunctory disposition rests uneasily with the weighty issues presented by this appeal.”

Yes, as her defenders point out, per curium opinions are not uncommon. But after all she “missed” — or sought to shove under the rug — a serious constitutional issue which the Supreme Court selected to consider. The Senate will need to know why she didn’t at the very least spot and fully analyze the Constitutional issue.

But even more than Sotomayor’s cavalier handing of the claim, one is taken aback by the reaction of one the African American firefighters:

Black firefighters say that the stakes in their case couldn’t be higher.

“If we lose this,” New Haven firefighter Octavius Dawson said, “the implication is catastrophic. I mean, where does it end? Not just with the fire department. Police department, education, who knows where it could end?”

Yes, where will it end? Soon colorblind evaluations at police departments, next race-based quotas thrown out at public universities and soon the whole darn country filled with citizens all being evaluated on their merits. Well, one can see why the case might have been such a hot potato.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings provide quite an education. We’ll learn a lot about Sotomayor, but also the degree to which the Left is wedded to identity politics and race-based preferences. Does the country really like all this divvying up by race, as Chief Justice John Roberts put it? I think we’ll be reminded this summer that they certainly do not. And they might wonder why the president has appointed someone who did not, at least in this key case, grapple with the tough issue and give the parties a full opinion on the merits.

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Accepting the Unacceptable

Here’s Mark Steyn on the collective non-response to North Korea’s nuke test:

It is remarkable in just five years how the world has adjusted to the inevitability of a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Iran. Nudge it on another half-decade: Whose nuclear ambitions will be unstoppable by 2015? Syria’s? Sudan’s? Selected fiefdoms in Somalia?

Meanwhile, speaking in Singapore on Saturday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in the region — or on us . . . Our goal is complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.”

I remember George W. Bush saying the same thing about Iran.

The meanings of the words “acceptable” and “unacceptable” have taken a funny turn. There used to be a preventative connotation in refusing to accept a certain possible outcome. Now it’s more to do with registering an official complaint when faced with that outcome. Later in Gates’s speech he was a bit more accurate about where things stand: “At the end of the day, the choice to continue as a destitute international pariah or chart a new course is North Korea’s alone to make.” He’s got that right. Kim will be left alone to do as he pleases.  Declaring the unacceptable has become a statement of impotence, not power. At least Barack Obama’s preferred “game changer” keeps expectations accurately low.

Here’s Mark Steyn on the collective non-response to North Korea’s nuke test:

It is remarkable in just five years how the world has adjusted to the inevitability of a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Iran. Nudge it on another half-decade: Whose nuclear ambitions will be unstoppable by 2015? Syria’s? Sudan’s? Selected fiefdoms in Somalia?

Meanwhile, speaking in Singapore on Saturday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in the region — or on us . . . Our goal is complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.”

I remember George W. Bush saying the same thing about Iran.

The meanings of the words “acceptable” and “unacceptable” have taken a funny turn. There used to be a preventative connotation in refusing to accept a certain possible outcome. Now it’s more to do with registering an official complaint when faced with that outcome. Later in Gates’s speech he was a bit more accurate about where things stand: “At the end of the day, the choice to continue as a destitute international pariah or chart a new course is North Korea’s alone to make.” He’s got that right. Kim will be left alone to do as he pleases.  Declaring the unacceptable has become a statement of impotence, not power. At least Barack Obama’s preferred “game changer” keeps expectations accurately low.

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Self-Promotion Isn’t Leadership

Fred Barnes observes:

Let’s stipulate that President Obama is a wonderful speaker, vigorous in promoting his policies and even eloquent at times. But there’s a problem: He’s not persuasive. Obama is effective at marketing himself. His 64 percent job approval (Gallup poll) is a reflection of this. But in building public support for his policies, Obama has been largely unsuccessful.

As Barnes and others have noted, there is a significant gap between Obama’s personal popularity and the popularity of his policies. On Guantanamo, spending, bailouts and even his Supreme Court nominee the public doesn’t “take Obama’s word for it.” They are making independent judgments and don’t like a significant portion of the agenda. Or they like it a lot less than they like him ( and largely along party lines).

It is also worthy noting that Obama hasn’t been any more successful in Congress. Really, how hard is it for the president to first defer draftsmanship to his Democratic colleagues and then sign it? He hasn’t persuaded Republicans of much of anything. And Democrats simply were allowed to do what they wanted on the stimulus and budget. There really wasn’t a “sale.” Indeed he ran from fights, on the 9000-earmark omnibus spending plan for example. And aside from a dog-and-pony show and a speech or two he’s done nothing on entitlement reform.

So what’s the “problem”? Well, for starters the country hasn’t really moved to the left. The split of  voters on ideology ( i.e. conservatives/moderates/liberals) on election day didn’t register much of a shift. And while the Republican Party is in a rough patch there’s plenty of evidence on everything from abortion to guns to spending that we remain a center-right country. And Obama is not — center-right, that is. So whatever Obama is selling — voters aren’t really inclined to buy.

But I think there is something more here. Obama doesn’t make much of an effort to engage on the merits. The Republicans, he kept saying during the stimulus debate, had “no ideas.” ( They did but he rejected them out of hand.) He is famous for the strawman argument but not so much for marshaling the facts and making a tightly argued case for his position. The Guantanamo debate was a case in point. He declared — without proof — that Guantanamo had served as a recruiting tool. Contrast that to Dick Cheney’s detailed argument based on a litany of facts on Guantanamo and our interrogation policies. Obama might reassure those who already agreed with him, but absent factual data he was unlikely — and didn’t — sway those not already convinced of his position.

In short, if you are selling what voters aren’t predisposed to accept, and you don’t give them well-argued reasons to change their minds, they likely will remain wary of your policies. Up until now, with large Democratic majorities and a fawning media, that hasn’t been a problem. But does Obama have the ability or even the interest to persuade Congress and the country on healthcare and cap-and-trade ( two bitterly contested issues with no pre-made consensus) or on the remainder of his agenda? It isn’t clear that he does.

And should Obama’s Congressional majorities shrink in 2010 — as they are wont to do in the first mid-term election — what then? Unless the president shifts on policy or learns to make the case and not just a speech, his agenda faces tough sledding.

Fred Barnes observes:

Let’s stipulate that President Obama is a wonderful speaker, vigorous in promoting his policies and even eloquent at times. But there’s a problem: He’s not persuasive. Obama is effective at marketing himself. His 64 percent job approval (Gallup poll) is a reflection of this. But in building public support for his policies, Obama has been largely unsuccessful.

As Barnes and others have noted, there is a significant gap between Obama’s personal popularity and the popularity of his policies. On Guantanamo, spending, bailouts and even his Supreme Court nominee the public doesn’t “take Obama’s word for it.” They are making independent judgments and don’t like a significant portion of the agenda. Or they like it a lot less than they like him ( and largely along party lines).

It is also worthy noting that Obama hasn’t been any more successful in Congress. Really, how hard is it for the president to first defer draftsmanship to his Democratic colleagues and then sign it? He hasn’t persuaded Republicans of much of anything. And Democrats simply were allowed to do what they wanted on the stimulus and budget. There really wasn’t a “sale.” Indeed he ran from fights, on the 9000-earmark omnibus spending plan for example. And aside from a dog-and-pony show and a speech or two he’s done nothing on entitlement reform.

So what’s the “problem”? Well, for starters the country hasn’t really moved to the left. The split of  voters on ideology ( i.e. conservatives/moderates/liberals) on election day didn’t register much of a shift. And while the Republican Party is in a rough patch there’s plenty of evidence on everything from abortion to guns to spending that we remain a center-right country. And Obama is not — center-right, that is. So whatever Obama is selling — voters aren’t really inclined to buy.

But I think there is something more here. Obama doesn’t make much of an effort to engage on the merits. The Republicans, he kept saying during the stimulus debate, had “no ideas.” ( They did but he rejected them out of hand.) He is famous for the strawman argument but not so much for marshaling the facts and making a tightly argued case for his position. The Guantanamo debate was a case in point. He declared — without proof — that Guantanamo had served as a recruiting tool. Contrast that to Dick Cheney’s detailed argument based on a litany of facts on Guantanamo and our interrogation policies. Obama might reassure those who already agreed with him, but absent factual data he was unlikely — and didn’t — sway those not already convinced of his position.

In short, if you are selling what voters aren’t predisposed to accept, and you don’t give them well-argued reasons to change their minds, they likely will remain wary of your policies. Up until now, with large Democratic majorities and a fawning media, that hasn’t been a problem. But does Obama have the ability or even the interest to persuade Congress and the country on healthcare and cap-and-trade ( two bitterly contested issues with no pre-made consensus) or on the remainder of his agenda? It isn’t clear that he does.

And should Obama’s Congressional majorities shrink in 2010 — as they are wont to do in the first mid-term election — what then? Unless the president shifts on policy or learns to make the case and not just a speech, his agenda faces tough sledding.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

John McCormick observes that Obama’s high personal popularity hasn’t carried over to his Supreme Court nominee. It didn’t carry over to his Guantanamo policy either. Could it be that when the whole country pays close attention to a controversial issue, the issue itself and common-sense concerns (e.g. Are the Uighurs dangerous people? Is Sotomayor a proponent on impartial justice?) matter more than Obama’s personal magnetism? Nah!

Speaking of Guantanamo, the Obama administration adopts the Bush administration’s position that the Uighurs have no right to be released in the U.S. Andy McCarthy points out that “the President tends to do the right thing only after knuckle-dragging right-wingers push back against his (and his Justice Department’s) reliable inclination to do the wrong thing.” Sounds like the lesson for the Right is: keep it up!

Ms. Pelosi, your swamp needs draining: “Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury looking into the PMA Group, a once-high flying lobbying firm that collapsed after a federal raid in November.” (Helpful background can be found here.)

David Broder sees another part of the swamp: “When the Illinois Democrat was elevated to the White House, Reid inherited Roland Burris as the Senate successor to Obama. Reid almost certainly would have preferred someone else. But now all three — Obama, Reid and Burris — are linked in a way that poses a challenge for the Democrats in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections. . . The Burris case is before the Senate ethics committee, which has set no deadline for action. The question is what Reid and Obama will say and do about Burris’s intention to brush all this off and act as if he were entitled to retain his Senate seat. Republicans — and everybody else — will be watching.”

Joe Lieberman calls for a bipartisan approach on Iran. However:  “A realistic response requires that we first recognize that the danger posed by the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities cannot be divorced from its broader foreign policy ambitions and patterns of behavior — in particular, its longstanding use of terrorist proxies to destabilize and weaken its Arab neighbors and Israel, to carve out spheres of Iranian influence in the Mideast, and to tilt the region toward extremism.” I don’t sense that we’re there yet — even (especially?) in the administration.

Apparently not all the Hispanic jurists in attendance agreed with Sotomayor’s wise Latina perspective at that Berkeley symposium in 2001. Well, that means it wasn’t a slip of the tongue, right? Otherwise she could have, at the very least, used language as clear as her colleagues in affirming that her ethnicity “does not mean that I apply a different standard of justice, because that is wrong.” I think it’s crystal clear that Sotomayor was saying the opposite.

Bill Kristol points out that Robert Gibbs might not be the best person to parse Sotomayor’s word choice. Well, there’s always Joe Biden. ( You gotta’ wonder what’s going to slip out of his mouth on some of the more controversial aspects of the nomination. Perhaps he’ll spend the summer on the funeral circuit.)

Liz Cheney weighs in on Sotomayor’s “troubling” comments. (It seems that Liz Cheney is becoming a go-to Republican on even non-national security issues.)

It never ends: “Human rights activists at odds with President Obama over his recent national security decisions are indicating that they might legally challenge the U.S. military’s use of Predator drones, a weapon that intelligence officials say is their single most effective tool in combating Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” And when the “activists” start throwing around terms like “war crimes” the Obama lawyers might consider whether it’s such a good idea to punish another administration’s lawyers for their legal advice.

John McCormick observes that Obama’s high personal popularity hasn’t carried over to his Supreme Court nominee. It didn’t carry over to his Guantanamo policy either. Could it be that when the whole country pays close attention to a controversial issue, the issue itself and common-sense concerns (e.g. Are the Uighurs dangerous people? Is Sotomayor a proponent on impartial justice?) matter more than Obama’s personal magnetism? Nah!

Speaking of Guantanamo, the Obama administration adopts the Bush administration’s position that the Uighurs have no right to be released in the U.S. Andy McCarthy points out that “the President tends to do the right thing only after knuckle-dragging right-wingers push back against his (and his Justice Department’s) reliable inclination to do the wrong thing.” Sounds like the lesson for the Right is: keep it up!

Ms. Pelosi, your swamp needs draining: “Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury looking into the PMA Group, a once-high flying lobbying firm that collapsed after a federal raid in November.” (Helpful background can be found here.)

David Broder sees another part of the swamp: “When the Illinois Democrat was elevated to the White House, Reid inherited Roland Burris as the Senate successor to Obama. Reid almost certainly would have preferred someone else. But now all three — Obama, Reid and Burris — are linked in a way that poses a challenge for the Democrats in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections. . . The Burris case is before the Senate ethics committee, which has set no deadline for action. The question is what Reid and Obama will say and do about Burris’s intention to brush all this off and act as if he were entitled to retain his Senate seat. Republicans — and everybody else — will be watching.”

Joe Lieberman calls for a bipartisan approach on Iran. However:  “A realistic response requires that we first recognize that the danger posed by the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities cannot be divorced from its broader foreign policy ambitions and patterns of behavior — in particular, its longstanding use of terrorist proxies to destabilize and weaken its Arab neighbors and Israel, to carve out spheres of Iranian influence in the Mideast, and to tilt the region toward extremism.” I don’t sense that we’re there yet — even (especially?) in the administration.

Apparently not all the Hispanic jurists in attendance agreed with Sotomayor’s wise Latina perspective at that Berkeley symposium in 2001. Well, that means it wasn’t a slip of the tongue, right? Otherwise she could have, at the very least, used language as clear as her colleagues in affirming that her ethnicity “does not mean that I apply a different standard of justice, because that is wrong.” I think it’s crystal clear that Sotomayor was saying the opposite.

Bill Kristol points out that Robert Gibbs might not be the best person to parse Sotomayor’s word choice. Well, there’s always Joe Biden. ( You gotta’ wonder what’s going to slip out of his mouth on some of the more controversial aspects of the nomination. Perhaps he’ll spend the summer on the funeral circuit.)

Liz Cheney weighs in on Sotomayor’s “troubling” comments. (It seems that Liz Cheney is becoming a go-to Republican on even non-national security issues.)

It never ends: “Human rights activists at odds with President Obama over his recent national security decisions are indicating that they might legally challenge the U.S. military’s use of Predator drones, a weapon that intelligence officials say is their single most effective tool in combating Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” And when the “activists” start throwing around terms like “war crimes” the Obama lawyers might consider whether it’s such a good idea to punish another administration’s lawyers for their legal advice.

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