Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 14, 2009

That Was Then

I thought it would be interesting to go back to then-candidate Barack Obama’s speech to an AIPAC in 2008 forum in 2007 to see what he said then and what agenda he was presenting to the voters. He had this to say about Iran:

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad’s regime is a threat to all of us. His words contain a chilling echo of some of the world’s most tragic history.

Unfortunately, history has a terrible way of repeating itself. President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust. He held a conference in his country, claiming it was a myth. But we know the Holocaust was as real as he 6 million who died in mass graves at Buchenwald, or the cattle cars to Dachau or whose ashes clouded the sky at Auschwitz. We have seen the pictures. We have walked the halls of the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem. We have touched the tattoos on loved-ones arms. After 60 years, it is time to deny the deniers.

In the 21 st century, it is unacceptable that a member state of the United Nations would openly call for the elimination of another member state. But that is exactly what he has done. Neither Israel nor the United States has the luxury of dismissing these outrages as mere rhetoric. The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.

Iranian nuclear weapons would destabilize the region and could set off a new arms race. Some nations in the region, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, could fall away from restraint and rush into a nuclear contest that could fuel greater instability in the region—that’s not just bad for the Middle East, but bad for the world, making it a vastly more dangerous and unpredictable place. Other nations would feel great pressure to accommodate Iranian demands. Terrorist groups with Iran’s backing would feel emboldened to act even more brazenly under an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And as the A.Q. Kahn network in Pakistan demonstrated, Iran could spread this technology around the world.

In 2008 just after clinching the nomination he had this to say:

There is no greater threat to Israel — or to the peace and stability of the region — than Iran. Now this audience is made up of both Republicans and Democrats, and the enemies of Israel should have no doubt that, regardless of party, Americans stand shoulder to shoulder in our commitment to Israel’s security. So while I don’t want to strike too partisan a note here today, I do want to address some willful mischaracterizations of my positions.

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

This is what he said in Cairo:

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

[. . .]

I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. But that only makes diplomacy more important. If we must use military force, we are more likely to succeed, and will have far greater support at home and abroad, if we have exhausted our diplomatic efforts.

Is there any doubt that had he said that in 2007 or 2008 he would have been greeted with catcalls and boos? In 2008 he sounded serious and committed to stopping the Iranian nuclear threat and was candid about the nature of the regime. In Cairo, all that was gone. Nary a direct word of criticism of the Iranian regime (Holocaust denial was never tied to the Iranians and was covered in a separate section of his address). In 2008 he was telling Iran it would have no nuclear capability; in 2009 he was declaring no country could tell Iran it couldn’t have a nuclear capability. A complete reversal in tone and substance.

In 2008  2007 there was no mention of settlements. None.  But he did have this to say about his approach to Israel:

But in the end, we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli Prime Minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States.

In 2008: “The United States must be a strong and consistent partner in this process — not to force concessions, but to help committed partners avoid stalemate and the kind of vacuums that are filled by violence. That’s what I commit to do as president of the United States.”

That’s a far cry from Cairo and the interviews before and after in which the president harped on the settlement issue. And in Cairo he lectured Israel:

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

So did he change his mind? Well, according to this report in the Washington Post, the Cairo approach represents his long-held views, nursed and developed in his days in Chicago. ( Left unsaid by the Post is the role played by his close friend Rashid Khalidi.) He apparently thought all along that settlements were the end-all and be-all of the Middle East peace process and a way to leverage Israel.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that he told a very different story in 2008 to get elected and, once in office, sprung the most antagonistic approach to Israel and the most timid toward Iran of any president in recent memory. Those who bought his story in 2008 were had. And those who vouched for him should be embarrassed.

UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that in 2008 Obama did make mention of the settlements: ” Israel can also advance the cause of peace by taking appropriate steps — consistent with its security — to ease the freedom of movement for Palestinians, improve economic conditions in the West Bank, and to refrain from building new settlements — as it agreed to with the Bush administration at Annapolis.” It appears that this agreement with the Bush administration is now very much disputed by the Obama administration.

I thought it would be interesting to go back to then-candidate Barack Obama’s speech to an AIPAC in 2008 forum in 2007 to see what he said then and what agenda he was presenting to the voters. He had this to say about Iran:

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad’s regime is a threat to all of us. His words contain a chilling echo of some of the world’s most tragic history.

Unfortunately, history has a terrible way of repeating itself. President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust. He held a conference in his country, claiming it was a myth. But we know the Holocaust was as real as he 6 million who died in mass graves at Buchenwald, or the cattle cars to Dachau or whose ashes clouded the sky at Auschwitz. We have seen the pictures. We have walked the halls of the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem. We have touched the tattoos on loved-ones arms. After 60 years, it is time to deny the deniers.

In the 21 st century, it is unacceptable that a member state of the United Nations would openly call for the elimination of another member state. But that is exactly what he has done. Neither Israel nor the United States has the luxury of dismissing these outrages as mere rhetoric. The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.

Iranian nuclear weapons would destabilize the region and could set off a new arms race. Some nations in the region, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, could fall away from restraint and rush into a nuclear contest that could fuel greater instability in the region—that’s not just bad for the Middle East, but bad for the world, making it a vastly more dangerous and unpredictable place. Other nations would feel great pressure to accommodate Iranian demands. Terrorist groups with Iran’s backing would feel emboldened to act even more brazenly under an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And as the A.Q. Kahn network in Pakistan demonstrated, Iran could spread this technology around the world.

In 2008 just after clinching the nomination he had this to say:

There is no greater threat to Israel — or to the peace and stability of the region — than Iran. Now this audience is made up of both Republicans and Democrats, and the enemies of Israel should have no doubt that, regardless of party, Americans stand shoulder to shoulder in our commitment to Israel’s security. So while I don’t want to strike too partisan a note here today, I do want to address some willful mischaracterizations of my positions.

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

This is what he said in Cairo:

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

[. . .]

I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. But that only makes diplomacy more important. If we must use military force, we are more likely to succeed, and will have far greater support at home and abroad, if we have exhausted our diplomatic efforts.

Is there any doubt that had he said that in 2007 or 2008 he would have been greeted with catcalls and boos? In 2008 he sounded serious and committed to stopping the Iranian nuclear threat and was candid about the nature of the regime. In Cairo, all that was gone. Nary a direct word of criticism of the Iranian regime (Holocaust denial was never tied to the Iranians and was covered in a separate section of his address). In 2008 he was telling Iran it would have no nuclear capability; in 2009 he was declaring no country could tell Iran it couldn’t have a nuclear capability. A complete reversal in tone and substance.

In 2008  2007 there was no mention of settlements. None.  But he did have this to say about his approach to Israel:

But in the end, we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli Prime Minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States.

In 2008: “The United States must be a strong and consistent partner in this process — not to force concessions, but to help committed partners avoid stalemate and the kind of vacuums that are filled by violence. That’s what I commit to do as president of the United States.”

That’s a far cry from Cairo and the interviews before and after in which the president harped on the settlement issue. And in Cairo he lectured Israel:

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

So did he change his mind? Well, according to this report in the Washington Post, the Cairo approach represents his long-held views, nursed and developed in his days in Chicago. ( Left unsaid by the Post is the role played by his close friend Rashid Khalidi.) He apparently thought all along that settlements were the end-all and be-all of the Middle East peace process and a way to leverage Israel.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that he told a very different story in 2008 to get elected and, once in office, sprung the most antagonistic approach to Israel and the most timid toward Iran of any president in recent memory. Those who bought his story in 2008 were had. And those who vouched for him should be embarrassed.

UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that in 2008 Obama did make mention of the settlements: ” Israel can also advance the cause of peace by taking appropriate steps — consistent with its security — to ease the freedom of movement for Palestinians, improve economic conditions in the West Bank, and to refrain from building new settlements — as it agreed to with the Bush administration at Annapolis.” It appears that this agreement with the Bush administration is now very much disputed by the Obama administration.

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Bibi’s Speech

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday was in some ways a refutation of the distortions and half-truths which riddled President Obama’s Cairo speech. It can be read in full here. On Iran, the source of Israel’s right to statehood, and the path toward peace, the contrast between the two speeches was stark. And because Netanyahu had the facts on his side and could deploy them, his was a speech grounded in the real world.

On Iran, he did not evade the reality of a nuclear-armed regime. He did not suggest that Iran has any right to pursue its nuclear ambitions or that we are precluded from denying them weapons, as the president bizarrely suggested in Cairo. To the contrary, Netanyahu declared:

The Iranian threat looms large before us, as was further demonstrated yesterday. The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons. I discussed this issue with President [Barack] Obama during my recent visit to Washington, and I will raise it again in my meetings next week with European leaders. For years, I have been working tirelessly to forge an international alliance to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Left out was any indication that Obama shares that concern. Nevertheless, without belligerence and without using recent events to prove his point about the nature of the Iranian regime, he was blunt. For now Israel will work with other nations.

Netanyahu provided a robust  retort to Obama concerning Zionism and the right of the Jewish people to a state. Obama would have us believe it is out of sympathy for the Jews because of  the Holocaust that the world gave Israel its state. This is false and Netanyahu said so:

The connection of the Jewish People to the Land has been in existence for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked, our forefathers David, Solomon, Isaiah and Jeremiah ? this is not a foreign land, this is the Land of our Forefathers. (Applause)

The right of the Jewish People to a state in the Land of Israel does not arise from the series of disasters that befell the Jewish People over 2,000 years — persecutions, expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, murders, which reached its climax in the Holocaust, an unprecedented tragedy in the history of nations. There are those who say that without the Holocaust the State would not have been established, but I say that if the State of Israel had been established in time, the Holocaust would not have taken place. (Applause) The tragedies that arose from the Jewish People?s helplessness show very sharply that we need a protective state.
The right to establish our sovereign state here, in the Land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: Eretz Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People. (Applause)

As the first PM David Ben Gurion in the declaration of the State, the State of Israel was established here in Eretz Israel, where the People of Israel created the Book of Books, and gave it to the world.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday was in some ways a refutation of the distortions and half-truths which riddled President Obama’s Cairo speech. It can be read in full here. On Iran, the source of Israel’s right to statehood, and the path toward peace, the contrast between the two speeches was stark. And because Netanyahu had the facts on his side and could deploy them, his was a speech grounded in the real world.

On Iran, he did not evade the reality of a nuclear-armed regime. He did not suggest that Iran has any right to pursue its nuclear ambitions or that we are precluded from denying them weapons, as the president bizarrely suggested in Cairo. To the contrary, Netanyahu declared:

The Iranian threat looms large before us, as was further demonstrated yesterday. The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons. I discussed this issue with President [Barack] Obama during my recent visit to Washington, and I will raise it again in my meetings next week with European leaders. For years, I have been working tirelessly to forge an international alliance to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Left out was any indication that Obama shares that concern. Nevertheless, without belligerence and without using recent events to prove his point about the nature of the Iranian regime, he was blunt. For now Israel will work with other nations.

Netanyahu provided a robust  retort to Obama concerning Zionism and the right of the Jewish people to a state. Obama would have us believe it is out of sympathy for the Jews because of  the Holocaust that the world gave Israel its state. This is false and Netanyahu said so:

The connection of the Jewish People to the Land has been in existence for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked, our forefathers David, Solomon, Isaiah and Jeremiah ? this is not a foreign land, this is the Land of our Forefathers. (Applause)

The right of the Jewish People to a state in the Land of Israel does not arise from the series of disasters that befell the Jewish People over 2,000 years — persecutions, expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, murders, which reached its climax in the Holocaust, an unprecedented tragedy in the history of nations. There are those who say that without the Holocaust the State would not have been established, but I say that if the State of Israel had been established in time, the Holocaust would not have taken place. (Applause) The tragedies that arose from the Jewish People?s helplessness show very sharply that we need a protective state.
The right to establish our sovereign state here, in the Land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: Eretz Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People. (Applause)

As the first PM David Ben Gurion in the declaration of the State, the State of Israel was established here in Eretz Israel, where the People of Israel created the Book of Books, and gave it to the world.

 

Obama did not and perhaps could not acknowledge as much. His “Muslim World” listeners wouldn’t have accepted that and it would have made clear that Israel’s claim to statehood is not rooted in sympathy but in fact and history.

But Netanyahu’s most complete argument was reserved for the nature of the Palestinian crisis and the key to unlocking peace. Unlike Obama, who is fixated on settlements and the status of the West Bank (and who therefore omitted 60 years of history), Netanyahu’s vision is based on the simple truth of Palestinian intransigence. With facts on his side, he provided a history lesson for his American allies and whomever else will listen:

Friends, with the advantages of peace so clear, so obvious, we must ask ourselves why is peace still so far from us, even though our hands are extended for peace? Why has the conflict going on for over 60 years? To bring an end to it, there must be a sincere, genuine answer to the question: what is the root of the conflict? In his speech at the Zionist Congress in Basel, in speaking of his grand vision of a Jewish homeland for the Jewish People, Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel, said: This is so big, we must talk about it only in the simplest words possible.

I now am asking that when we speak of the huge challenge of peace, we must use the simplest words possible, using person to person terms. Even with our eyes on the horizon, we must have our feet on the ground, firmly rooted in truth. The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been ? and remains – the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.

In 1947 when the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the proposal, while the Jewish community accepted it with great rejoicing and dancing. The Arabs refused any Jewish state whatsoever, with any borders whatsoever.

Whoever thinks that the continued hostility to Israel is a result of our forces in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is confusing cause and effect. The attacks on us began in the 1920s, became an overall attack in 1948 when the state was declared, continued in the 1950s with the fedaayyin attacks, and reached their climax in 1967 on the eve of the Six-Day War, with the attempt to strangle Israel. All this happened nearly 50 years before a single Israeli soldier went into Judea and Samaria.

To our joy, Egypt and Jordan left this circle of hostility. They signed peace agreements with us which ended their hostility to Israel. It brought about peace.

To our deep regret, this is not happening with the Palestinians. The closer we get to a peace agreement with them, the more they are distancing themselves from peace. They raise new demands. They are not showing us that they want to end the conflict.

And for those who still insist on withdrawl (or in Obama’s case, unilateral concessions) he had a simple answer: it hasn’t worked. He again provided the mini-course in recent history:

We tried withdrawal by agreement, withdrawal without an agreement, we tried partial withdrawal and full withdrawal. In 2000, and once again last year, the government of Israel, based on good will, tried a nearly complete withdrawal, in exchange for the end of the conflict, and were twice refused.

We withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last centimeter, we uprooted dozens of settlements and turned thousands of Israelis out of their homes. In exchange, what we received were missiles raining down on our cities, our towns and our children. The argument that withdrawal would bring peace closer did not stand up to the test of reality.

With Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, they keep on saying that they want to ‘liberate’ Ashkelon in the south and Haifa and Tiberias.

Even the moderates among the Palestinians are not ready to say the most simplest things: The State of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish People and will remain so. (Applause)

So what’s his solution? He’ll go anywhere for peace, listing the countries he’s prepared to visit. He suggested numerous economic measures (“an economic peace”) to pave the way for a political peace. He will work toward a two-state solution with a demilitarized Palestinian state and defensible borders for Israel. He requires only one thing: “The fundamental condition for ending the conflict is the public, binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People.” And what about the settlements? Well, he’s sticking to Israel’s prior deals:

The territorial issues will be discussed in a permanent agreement. Till then we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements. But there is a need to have people live normal lives and let mothers and fathers raise their children like everyone in the world. The settlers are not enemies of peace. They are our brothers and sisters.

As Elliott Abrams explains, he “stuck with the Bush-Sharon” bargain: “He referred to two aspects of that bargain (no new settlements and no confiscation of land in the West Bank for settlements), but it can be assumed that he’ll stick as well to the other two parts of the deal (no financial incentives for settlers, and construction only in already built-up areas).”

One can’t but admit what a vast gulf there is between Obama’s distorted history and Netanyahu’s accurate one, and between Obama’s formulation that Israel’s territorial concessions must precede unconditional recongition and Netanyahu’s diametrically opposite view. 

Where do we go from here? Nowhere, it seems. But let’s be honest that we weren’t going anywhere before. The Palestinians have no viable government, have not resolved their internal conflict between the PA and Hamas and still refuse to concede Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. So the rest is, pardon the expression, commentary. For those who like to get their history right, Netanyahu’s is the more compelling because it is, as Obama likes to say, honest.

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The Bright Side of Ahamdinejad’s “Win”

On the principle of “the worse the better” for our enemies–and, make no mistake, Iran is our enemy–it is possible to take some small degree of satisfaction from the outcome of Iran’s elections.

If the mullahs were really canny, they would have let Mousavi win. He would have presented a more reasonable face to the world without changing the grim underlying realities of Iran’s regime–the oppression, the support for terrorism, the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. He is the kind of “moderate” with whom the Obama administration could happily engage in endless negotiations which probably would not accomplish anything except to buy time for Iran to weaponize its fissile material.

But instead it appears that the mullahocracy was determined to anoint Ahmadinejad the winner–and by a margin which no one can take seriously as a true representation of Iranian popular will. Ahmadinejad is about the worst spokesman possible to make Iran’s case to the West–a president who denies the Holocaust, calls for Israel’s eradication, claims there are no homosexuals in Iran, and generally comes off like a denizen of an alternative universe. Even the Obama administration will be hard put to enter into serious negotiations with Ahmadinejad, especially when his scant credibility has been undermined by these utterly fraudulent elections and the resulting street protests.

That doesn’t mean that Obama won’t try–but he will have a lot less patience with Ahmadinejad than he would have had with Mousavi. And that in turn means there is a greater probability that eventually Obama may do something serious to stop the Iranian nuclear program–whether by embargoing Iranian refined-petroleum imports or by tacitly giving the go-ahead to Israel to attack its nuclear installations.

So in an odd sort of way a win for Ahmadinejad is also a win for those of us who are seriously alarmed about Iranian capabilities and intentions. With crazy Mahmoud in office–and his patron, Ayatollah Khameini, looming in the background–it will be harder for Iranian apologists to deny the reality of this terrorist regime.

On the principle of “the worse the better” for our enemies–and, make no mistake, Iran is our enemy–it is possible to take some small degree of satisfaction from the outcome of Iran’s elections.

If the mullahs were really canny, they would have let Mousavi win. He would have presented a more reasonable face to the world without changing the grim underlying realities of Iran’s regime–the oppression, the support for terrorism, the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. He is the kind of “moderate” with whom the Obama administration could happily engage in endless negotiations which probably would not accomplish anything except to buy time for Iran to weaponize its fissile material.

But instead it appears that the mullahocracy was determined to anoint Ahmadinejad the winner–and by a margin which no one can take seriously as a true representation of Iranian popular will. Ahmadinejad is about the worst spokesman possible to make Iran’s case to the West–a president who denies the Holocaust, calls for Israel’s eradication, claims there are no homosexuals in Iran, and generally comes off like a denizen of an alternative universe. Even the Obama administration will be hard put to enter into serious negotiations with Ahmadinejad, especially when his scant credibility has been undermined by these utterly fraudulent elections and the resulting street protests.

That doesn’t mean that Obama won’t try–but he will have a lot less patience with Ahmadinejad than he would have had with Mousavi. And that in turn means there is a greater probability that eventually Obama may do something serious to stop the Iranian nuclear program–whether by embargoing Iranian refined-petroleum imports or by tacitly giving the go-ahead to Israel to attack its nuclear installations.

So in an odd sort of way a win for Ahmadinejad is also a win for those of us who are seriously alarmed about Iranian capabilities and intentions. With crazy Mahmoud in office–and his patron, Ayatollah Khameini, looming in the background–it will be harder for Iranian apologists to deny the reality of this terrorist regime.

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Turnout In Virginia

The popular blog on Virginia state politics, Not Larry Sabato, identifies a factor in Virginia’s gubernatorial race which few national observers have picked up on:

10,000 More Democrats…Voted in Fairfax County in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary than voted for Sharon Bulova in February’s special election for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors against Pat Herrity. Ouch.  I know Special Election turnout can be low- but lower than a state primary that featured fierce rainstorms in the morning and evening prime voting times? If I were a Democrat running in 2011 in Fairfax County (Senators, Delegates, Board of Supervisors), I would be VERY concerned.

All true but, of course, there’s also this year’s gubernatorial election and other state races. It seems the Democrats this year should be concerned. All of the local races in Northern Virginia and the Democratic primary race this year have had appallingly low turnouts. And in those Republicans either won or mounted shockingly close races (in a House of Delegate race in the Democratic stronghold, Alexandria, for example.)  The hotly contested Democratic primary clocked in with 6% of the vote. What does this mean?

It is a reminder that off year elections don’t generate the sort of interest and turnout that presidential races, especially once-in-a-life-time presidential races, do. The hundreds of thousands of new voters, many college students and African American who lifted Obama to victory (the first Democratic presidential winner in Virginia since LBJ), may be nowhere to be found on Election Day in November 2009. The electorate, in short, is going to look more like an “ordinary” one than the Obama electorate.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Republicans should be cheering. After all, Tim Kaine and Jim Webb won in statewide, pre-Obama races, foretelling the shift in the electorate away from a dependable Red state. But it does mean that Democrats, especially when running an amiable but unexciting Creigh Deeds, will once again have to work to turn out the vote. (No wonder Deeds moved his campaign office from Charlottesville to voter-rich Northern Virginia, which happens to be his Republican opponent’s home base.) And it means Deeds (who ran and lost to Bob McDonnell in a nail-biter for attorney general in 2005, running 2-3% below the top of the ticket) will need to find a way to energize traditional Democratic voters who may not be very jazzed by a middle-of-the-road, relatively pro-gun, rural candidate. (Will college kids and minority voters turn out in droves for him? Unclear.)

And McDonnell also has his work cut out for himself to try to differentiate himself from the least liberal of the Democrats who sought the nomination. But in a lower turnout race, the candidate who has won in Northern Virginia counties (plus Virginia Beach) will at least start with a natural base of support. And he also may have the advantage of  enthusiasm from party activists who see this as do-or-die time for the GOP in Virginia.

The issues and personalities in the race will matter. But the cliché is true — the guy who wins is the one who gets the most votes on Election Day. And to do that, you actually have to get your voters to vote.

The popular blog on Virginia state politics, Not Larry Sabato, identifies a factor in Virginia’s gubernatorial race which few national observers have picked up on:

10,000 More Democrats…Voted in Fairfax County in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary than voted for Sharon Bulova in February’s special election for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors against Pat Herrity. Ouch.  I know Special Election turnout can be low- but lower than a state primary that featured fierce rainstorms in the morning and evening prime voting times? If I were a Democrat running in 2011 in Fairfax County (Senators, Delegates, Board of Supervisors), I would be VERY concerned.

All true but, of course, there’s also this year’s gubernatorial election and other state races. It seems the Democrats this year should be concerned. All of the local races in Northern Virginia and the Democratic primary race this year have had appallingly low turnouts. And in those Republicans either won or mounted shockingly close races (in a House of Delegate race in the Democratic stronghold, Alexandria, for example.)  The hotly contested Democratic primary clocked in with 6% of the vote. What does this mean?

It is a reminder that off year elections don’t generate the sort of interest and turnout that presidential races, especially once-in-a-life-time presidential races, do. The hundreds of thousands of new voters, many college students and African American who lifted Obama to victory (the first Democratic presidential winner in Virginia since LBJ), may be nowhere to be found on Election Day in November 2009. The electorate, in short, is going to look more like an “ordinary” one than the Obama electorate.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Republicans should be cheering. After all, Tim Kaine and Jim Webb won in statewide, pre-Obama races, foretelling the shift in the electorate away from a dependable Red state. But it does mean that Democrats, especially when running an amiable but unexciting Creigh Deeds, will once again have to work to turn out the vote. (No wonder Deeds moved his campaign office from Charlottesville to voter-rich Northern Virginia, which happens to be his Republican opponent’s home base.) And it means Deeds (who ran and lost to Bob McDonnell in a nail-biter for attorney general in 2005, running 2-3% below the top of the ticket) will need to find a way to energize traditional Democratic voters who may not be very jazzed by a middle-of-the-road, relatively pro-gun, rural candidate. (Will college kids and minority voters turn out in droves for him? Unclear.)

And McDonnell also has his work cut out for himself to try to differentiate himself from the least liberal of the Democrats who sought the nomination. But in a lower turnout race, the candidate who has won in Northern Virginia counties (plus Virginia Beach) will at least start with a natural base of support. And he also may have the advantage of  enthusiasm from party activists who see this as do-or-die time for the GOP in Virginia.

The issues and personalities in the race will matter. But the cliché is true — the guy who wins is the one who gets the most votes on Election Day. And to do that, you actually have to get your voters to vote.

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Tehran Tienanmen 2

Michael Ledeen writes, apropos my earlier posting:

John says, inter alia, “this is a time of testing for the idea that the mullahcracy can be shaken to its foundations by an aggrieved populace. If it can’t, then the regime will prove itself stronger than some of its most heated critics say it is, and the world will have to adjust accordingly.”

I suppose this means that we should abandon the Iranian dissidents—who seem to constitute a majority of the “electorate”—if the current wave of demonstrations fails to overthrow the mullahs. I don’t think much of that as a policy.  John ought to try that general theory out on, say, Bukovsky and Sharansky.  He’d get some strong words on the subject of why America should always support freedom-fighting dissidents. To be sure, there were gaggles of deep thinkers back in the eighties, and long before, who lectured some of the Kremlin’s “most heated critics” on the folly of supporting Soviet dissidents.

Without question, we should support dissidents in Iran. That’s not the issue here. The issue here is whether a popular uprising can up-end the regime in Iran or shake it to its foundations, which is what Michael has claimed. And the model of regime change Michael has suggested, emanating from disaffected Westernized youth, bears no relation whatever to the intellectual and philosophical revolt engaged in by the Soviet dissidents—and no relation to the method by which the Soviet Union fell when it fell.

Michael Ledeen writes, apropos my earlier posting:

John says, inter alia, “this is a time of testing for the idea that the mullahcracy can be shaken to its foundations by an aggrieved populace. If it can’t, then the regime will prove itself stronger than some of its most heated critics say it is, and the world will have to adjust accordingly.”

I suppose this means that we should abandon the Iranian dissidents—who seem to constitute a majority of the “electorate”—if the current wave of demonstrations fails to overthrow the mullahs. I don’t think much of that as a policy.  John ought to try that general theory out on, say, Bukovsky and Sharansky.  He’d get some strong words on the subject of why America should always support freedom-fighting dissidents. To be sure, there were gaggles of deep thinkers back in the eighties, and long before, who lectured some of the Kremlin’s “most heated critics” on the folly of supporting Soviet dissidents.

Without question, we should support dissidents in Iran. That’s not the issue here. The issue here is whether a popular uprising can up-end the regime in Iran or shake it to its foundations, which is what Michael has claimed. And the model of regime change Michael has suggested, emanating from disaffected Westernized youth, bears no relation whatever to the intellectual and philosophical revolt engaged in by the Soviet dissidents—and no relation to the method by which the Soviet Union fell when it fell.

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Comments From the Boiling Middle East

1. Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is scheduled to speak tonight. He will respond to President’s Obama Cairo speech – and to the administration’s pressure on the Israeli settlement issue. Israel’s two leading papers, Yediot and Maariv, carried almost identical headlines this morning. In Yediot it reads, “The speech of his life,” in Maariv it’s “The test of his life.” Hyperbolic journalism aside (in Israel newspapers are struggling too), there’s no sign at this point in time that Netanyahu is ready to do what Obama wants him to do. Obama’s Cairo speech hardly changed the region, and I don’t expect Netanyahu to change much no matter what he chooses to say. And as for leaks, assumptions, guesses, speculation – why not wait. It’s only hours away.

2. For some reason, pressuring Israel is now seen as a form of bravery on the part of the American President. Jacob Weisberg calls it “a gutsy step forward.” Peter Beinart says that “This crisis [with Israel] has already revealed something about Obama: he’s not timid.”  Sorry – but I can’t see how pressuring Netanyahu gets  counted as courageous. Whether one thinks Obama is right or wrong to demand an Israeli settlement freeze, there’s no price to pay here. Obama will not lose the political support of Jewish Americans because of it. He will not lose the support of Evangelical Christians over it (because he never had their support to begin with). In fact, as long as the President frames the issue as this dispute over settlements, he’s in no danger of losing the public-opinion battle.

3. Public opinion is tricky for Netanyahu within Israel, as a new survey published today by The Institute for National Security Studies demonstrates (not yet available in English, the Hebrew version is here): 57% support the dismantling of illegal outposts, 42% oppose settlement expansion, and 41% support settlement expansion, “but not if this leads to confrontation with the U.S. administration.” Only 17% of Israelis will support settlement expansion even if it leads to confrontation with Obama.

4. Assuming that Iran’s election results were forged – as most observers assume – an interesting trend emerges: while in most of the Arab world it is despotic secular regimes that are trying to hold reformers back because they claim to fear the emergence of democratic Islamic governments – in Iran what we see is the mirror image. A supposedly democratic Islamic regime is stopping more moderate reformers from gaining in the polls. Whether they want theocracy or democracy, in this region the people can never win over the desires of the ruling regime.

1. Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is scheduled to speak tonight. He will respond to President’s Obama Cairo speech – and to the administration’s pressure on the Israeli settlement issue. Israel’s two leading papers, Yediot and Maariv, carried almost identical headlines this morning. In Yediot it reads, “The speech of his life,” in Maariv it’s “The test of his life.” Hyperbolic journalism aside (in Israel newspapers are struggling too), there’s no sign at this point in time that Netanyahu is ready to do what Obama wants him to do. Obama’s Cairo speech hardly changed the region, and I don’t expect Netanyahu to change much no matter what he chooses to say. And as for leaks, assumptions, guesses, speculation – why not wait. It’s only hours away.

2. For some reason, pressuring Israel is now seen as a form of bravery on the part of the American President. Jacob Weisberg calls it “a gutsy step forward.” Peter Beinart says that “This crisis [with Israel] has already revealed something about Obama: he’s not timid.”  Sorry – but I can’t see how pressuring Netanyahu gets  counted as courageous. Whether one thinks Obama is right or wrong to demand an Israeli settlement freeze, there’s no price to pay here. Obama will not lose the political support of Jewish Americans because of it. He will not lose the support of Evangelical Christians over it (because he never had their support to begin with). In fact, as long as the President frames the issue as this dispute over settlements, he’s in no danger of losing the public-opinion battle.

3. Public opinion is tricky for Netanyahu within Israel, as a new survey published today by The Institute for National Security Studies demonstrates (not yet available in English, the Hebrew version is here): 57% support the dismantling of illegal outposts, 42% oppose settlement expansion, and 41% support settlement expansion, “but not if this leads to confrontation with the U.S. administration.” Only 17% of Israelis will support settlement expansion even if it leads to confrontation with Obama.

4. Assuming that Iran’s election results were forged – as most observers assume – an interesting trend emerges: while in most of the Arab world it is despotic secular regimes that are trying to hold reformers back because they claim to fear the emergence of democratic Islamic governments – in Iran what we see is the mirror image. A supposedly democratic Islamic regime is stopping more moderate reformers from gaining in the polls. Whether they want theocracy or democracy, in this region the people can never win over the desires of the ruling regime.

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Dying on the Vine?

Sen. Joe Lieberman is the latest Democrat to give thumbs down to the “public option” on healthcare reform. The Hill reports:

“I don’t favor a public option,” Lieberman told Bloomberg News in an interview broadcast this weekend. “And I don’t favor a public option because I think there’s plenty of competition in the private insurance market.”

Lieberman’s decision joins several other centrist Democrats’ decision to have publicly refused to back the plan, derided as a “government-run” plan by Republicans.

Centrist Democrats like Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) have also been skittish to back the public option, which is favored by liberal Democrats and the Obama administration. If Republicans are able to pick off enough Democrats, they may be able to muster enough votes to filibuster any legislation that includes the public option.

If this keeps up there won’t be a bare majority, let alone 60 votes for the public option. (Sounds like card check more and more every day.)

And it’s not hard to see why this makes so many conservatives and middle-of-the-roaders nervous. As Yuval Levin and Bill Kristol explained, Obama is insisting that private insurance competition is insufficient:

Obama wants government to be one of the competitors–in the alleged interest of honesty and price reduction. When has a government alternative produced those results? Clearly the point is to use the power of the government to impose price controls and override state rules in order to undersell private insurers. The public plan is a gradual path to single payer health care, aimed at moving American health care in a European or Canadian direction.

Despite all the smoke-and-mirrors from the White House on everyone getting to keep the doctor and insurance they want, Congressmen and Senators — not to mention the AMA — have figured out what’s up. And the idea of ushering in a hugely expensive system of rationed, government-controlled healthcare is proving to be quite distasteful — to lawmakers of both parties.

It seems once again that for all his popularity, Obama isn’t very successful in getting support for his policies.

Sen. Joe Lieberman is the latest Democrat to give thumbs down to the “public option” on healthcare reform. The Hill reports:

“I don’t favor a public option,” Lieberman told Bloomberg News in an interview broadcast this weekend. “And I don’t favor a public option because I think there’s plenty of competition in the private insurance market.”

Lieberman’s decision joins several other centrist Democrats’ decision to have publicly refused to back the plan, derided as a “government-run” plan by Republicans.

Centrist Democrats like Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) have also been skittish to back the public option, which is favored by liberal Democrats and the Obama administration. If Republicans are able to pick off enough Democrats, they may be able to muster enough votes to filibuster any legislation that includes the public option.

If this keeps up there won’t be a bare majority, let alone 60 votes for the public option. (Sounds like card check more and more every day.)

And it’s not hard to see why this makes so many conservatives and middle-of-the-roaders nervous. As Yuval Levin and Bill Kristol explained, Obama is insisting that private insurance competition is insufficient:

Obama wants government to be one of the competitors–in the alleged interest of honesty and price reduction. When has a government alternative produced those results? Clearly the point is to use the power of the government to impose price controls and override state rules in order to undersell private insurers. The public plan is a gradual path to single payer health care, aimed at moving American health care in a European or Canadian direction.

Despite all the smoke-and-mirrors from the White House on everyone getting to keep the doctor and insurance they want, Congressmen and Senators — not to mention the AMA — have figured out what’s up. And the idea of ushering in a hugely expensive system of rationed, government-controlled healthcare is proving to be quite distasteful — to lawmakers of both parties.

It seems once again that for all his popularity, Obama isn’t very successful in getting support for his policies.

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Tweeting Tehran

Right now events in Iran are moving too fast for proper coverage in the MSM. Even the bloggers are slow compared with the flow through Twitter. You can follow it here, here, and here. There is also a YouTube channel up with a constant flow of video from Iran. Though it is unclear how many of these reports can be confirmed, they include the arrest of at least a hundred organizers and journalists, Moussavi’s being put under house arrest, and a lot of violence, including (again unconfirmed) killings across Iran.

Right now events in Iran are moving too fast for proper coverage in the MSM. Even the bloggers are slow compared with the flow through Twitter. You can follow it here, here, and here. There is also a YouTube channel up with a constant flow of video from Iran. Though it is unclear how many of these reports can be confirmed, they include the arrest of at least a hundred organizers and journalists, Moussavi’s being put under house arrest, and a lot of violence, including (again unconfirmed) killings across Iran.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Marty Peretz concludes that “while Sa’ad Harari’s election in Lebanon was in some manner a response to Obama’s address to the Arab world, the ur test was what happened in Iran.  And, I am afraid, that the canny meshugana won and that Obama lost.” And now we’ll see whether Obama bestows legitimacy on the meshugana and his mullah string-pullers, choosing “engagement” over the hope for a better Iran.

If nothing else the rose-colored glasses have been knocked off the Gray Lady: “It is impossible to know for sure how much the ostensible re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad represents the preference of an essentially conservative Iranian public and how much, as opposition voters passionately believe, it is the imposed verdict of a fundamentally authoritarian regime. But for those who dreamed of a gentler Iran, Saturday was a day of smoldering anger, crushed hopes and punctured illusions, from the streets of Tehran to the policy centers of Western capitals.”

Did you really have any doubt that the administration would throw Iranians to the wolves in pursuit of engagement? “The Obama administration is determined to press on with efforts to engage the Iranian government, senior officials said Saturday, despite misgivings about irregularities in the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” Because Obama has no Plan B — and why let a brutal, despotic regime get in the way of hope-n-change. But wait: how is this hope-n-change? And how is he going to possibly “get” anything from these people? Back to beating up on Israel, I suppose. That’ll do the trick, right?

Hamas and Syria are delighted with the results.

You get the feeling no one takes us very seriously these days: “North Korea responded Saturday to new United Nations sanctions on Friday by defiantly vowing to press forward with the production of nuclear weapons and take ‘resolute military actions’ against international efforts to isolate it.”

Shocked, shocked to hear the revolving door is still spinning: “The official overseeing White House health care reform efforts earned more than $5.8M in the past three years form her work for major medical companies.”

Palau is having second thoughts about taking the Uighurs. The president mulls whether the beaches, free housing and “positive, friendly residents” really constitute the right environment. “‘They come from a high-altitude country,’ he said. ‘I don’t know if they like the ocean.'” Switzerland? The French Alps?

Meanwhile the Uighurs in Bermuda want to open a restaurant. Oh, and there’s “no security or electronic monitoring” at the “guest cottage complex” where they are staying. And eventually they’ll get passports. Really, read the whole thing. They say they’ve never been terrorists. Honest.

Reviewing an article in Boston Review which finds 32% of Democrats and only 18.4% percent of Republicans attribute at least moderate blame to Jews for the economic collapse, Bill Kristol mulls why “most American Jews foolishly continue to maintain allegiance to a party that includes lots of people who don’t like them much (and who certainly don’t like Israel much).”

Well, it certainly won’t please Paul Krugman to find out that, according to the poll data, there is not “in fact a higher degree of tolerance (for Jews, at least) among Democrats than Republicans.”

More polling data: “empathy” again loses in a landslide. Maybe the president should have focus-group tested that before trotting it out as the principle consideration in his Supreme Court selection.

Should he have paid more attention to the Tea Party protesters? “After enjoying months of towering poll numbers, legislative victories and well-received foreign policy initiatives, the White House has become increasingly concerned that President Obama’s spending plans, which would require $9 trillion in government borrowing over the next decade, could become a political liability that defines the 2010 midterm elections. The concern was reflected in the aggressive response from administration officials to criticism that money from Obama’s stimulus plan is arriving too slowly to help the languishing economy, as well as in the president’s public endorsement of ‘pay as you go’ legislation, which would require Congress to make room for new non-discretionary spending with equivalent cuts to other parts of the budget. . . But there is evidence of growing public concern over his fiscal policies. As he traveled Thursday in Green Bay, Wis., Obama was greeted by demonstrators holding signs that said, ‘No socialism’ and ‘Taxed Enough Yet?'”

Marty Peretz concludes that “while Sa’ad Harari’s election in Lebanon was in some manner a response to Obama’s address to the Arab world, the ur test was what happened in Iran.  And, I am afraid, that the canny meshugana won and that Obama lost.” And now we’ll see whether Obama bestows legitimacy on the meshugana and his mullah string-pullers, choosing “engagement” over the hope for a better Iran.

If nothing else the rose-colored glasses have been knocked off the Gray Lady: “It is impossible to know for sure how much the ostensible re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad represents the preference of an essentially conservative Iranian public and how much, as opposition voters passionately believe, it is the imposed verdict of a fundamentally authoritarian regime. But for those who dreamed of a gentler Iran, Saturday was a day of smoldering anger, crushed hopes and punctured illusions, from the streets of Tehran to the policy centers of Western capitals.”

Did you really have any doubt that the administration would throw Iranians to the wolves in pursuit of engagement? “The Obama administration is determined to press on with efforts to engage the Iranian government, senior officials said Saturday, despite misgivings about irregularities in the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” Because Obama has no Plan B — and why let a brutal, despotic regime get in the way of hope-n-change. But wait: how is this hope-n-change? And how is he going to possibly “get” anything from these people? Back to beating up on Israel, I suppose. That’ll do the trick, right?

Hamas and Syria are delighted with the results.

You get the feeling no one takes us very seriously these days: “North Korea responded Saturday to new United Nations sanctions on Friday by defiantly vowing to press forward with the production of nuclear weapons and take ‘resolute military actions’ against international efforts to isolate it.”

Shocked, shocked to hear the revolving door is still spinning: “The official overseeing White House health care reform efforts earned more than $5.8M in the past three years form her work for major medical companies.”

Palau is having second thoughts about taking the Uighurs. The president mulls whether the beaches, free housing and “positive, friendly residents” really constitute the right environment. “‘They come from a high-altitude country,’ he said. ‘I don’t know if they like the ocean.'” Switzerland? The French Alps?

Meanwhile the Uighurs in Bermuda want to open a restaurant. Oh, and there’s “no security or electronic monitoring” at the “guest cottage complex” where they are staying. And eventually they’ll get passports. Really, read the whole thing. They say they’ve never been terrorists. Honest.

Reviewing an article in Boston Review which finds 32% of Democrats and only 18.4% percent of Republicans attribute at least moderate blame to Jews for the economic collapse, Bill Kristol mulls why “most American Jews foolishly continue to maintain allegiance to a party that includes lots of people who don’t like them much (and who certainly don’t like Israel much).”

Well, it certainly won’t please Paul Krugman to find out that, according to the poll data, there is not “in fact a higher degree of tolerance (for Jews, at least) among Democrats than Republicans.”

More polling data: “empathy” again loses in a landslide. Maybe the president should have focus-group tested that before trotting it out as the principle consideration in his Supreme Court selection.

Should he have paid more attention to the Tea Party protesters? “After enjoying months of towering poll numbers, legislative victories and well-received foreign policy initiatives, the White House has become increasingly concerned that President Obama’s spending plans, which would require $9 trillion in government borrowing over the next decade, could become a political liability that defines the 2010 midterm elections. The concern was reflected in the aggressive response from administration officials to criticism that money from Obama’s stimulus plan is arriving too slowly to help the languishing economy, as well as in the president’s public endorsement of ‘pay as you go’ legislation, which would require Congress to make room for new non-discretionary spending with equivalent cuts to other parts of the budget. . . But there is evidence of growing public concern over his fiscal policies. As he traveled Thursday in Green Bay, Wis., Obama was greeted by demonstrators holding signs that said, ‘No socialism’ and ‘Taxed Enough Yet?'”

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