Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 24, 2009

Re: It Must Be Exhausting

Jen, it’s certainly good news that our diplomats won’t be celebrating the Fourth of July with representatives of the Iranian regime. Here’s what I find most interesting about these retractions of fanciful policy: that awkward PR no man’s land when the writing is on the wall but the administration can’t yet acknowledge it got things wrong. This has become a recognizable phase of Obama policy adjustment.

Yesterday, Obama was questioned on the status of the July 4 invites and instead of answering, he coughed up an Orpah-esque soliloquy about “healing wounds.” At these moments the president seems unable to fully relinquish the ambitious rhetoric that cloaked the naive policy. Back in April, before clearly advising against criminal investigations into the Bush administration for CIA methods, Obama was so committed to that “dark and painful chapter” schtick that days went by while he seemed to weigh the relative merits of moving forward against those of national political disintegration. Perhaps Obama, gifted speaker that he is, would come to reality-based policies sooner if he found an inspiring way to speak about things as they really are.

Jen, it’s certainly good news that our diplomats won’t be celebrating the Fourth of July with representatives of the Iranian regime. Here’s what I find most interesting about these retractions of fanciful policy: that awkward PR no man’s land when the writing is on the wall but the administration can’t yet acknowledge it got things wrong. This has become a recognizable phase of Obama policy adjustment.

Yesterday, Obama was questioned on the status of the July 4 invites and instead of answering, he coughed up an Orpah-esque soliloquy about “healing wounds.” At these moments the president seems unable to fully relinquish the ambitious rhetoric that cloaked the naive policy. Back in April, before clearly advising against criminal investigations into the Bush administration for CIA methods, Obama was so committed to that “dark and painful chapter” schtick that days went by while he seemed to weigh the relative merits of moving forward against those of national political disintegration. Perhaps Obama, gifted speaker that he is, would come to reality-based policies sooner if he found an inspiring way to speak about things as they really are.

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Buffet Gives Thumbs Down

Warren Buffet, in a devastating interview, says the economy is in “shambles” in this year and for years to come — declaring we haven’t made much progress at all on solving the economic crisis. He says everything he sees suggests “we have had no bounce.”  Those “green shoots”? He is “not seeing them.” Washington has “turned its sites to other things” but, he says, the economic problem has not been solved. He does credit the Fed Chairman for stabilizing the financial sector.

He has positive words for the financial regulatory overhaul (while conceding it’s a tough problem to come up with the right regime, given the history of boom-and-bust and “human nature” to lean toward “excesses”). He raises a concern about future inflation — and our decision to “monetize” the debt. But his harshest words are saved for cap-and-trade. On that front, he takes no prisoners and whacks Nancy Pelosi’s cap-and-trade plan as a “huge tax . . . no sense calling it anything else” and “fairly regressive.” “Very poor people are going to pay a lot more for electricity,” he says.

Perhaps Buffet, like many, many Americans is having second thoughts about the agenda of the candidate he supported for president. It seems that results matter — especially to investors.

Warren Buffet, in a devastating interview, says the economy is in “shambles” in this year and for years to come — declaring we haven’t made much progress at all on solving the economic crisis. He says everything he sees suggests “we have had no bounce.”  Those “green shoots”? He is “not seeing them.” Washington has “turned its sites to other things” but, he says, the economic problem has not been solved. He does credit the Fed Chairman for stabilizing the financial sector.

He has positive words for the financial regulatory overhaul (while conceding it’s a tough problem to come up with the right regime, given the history of boom-and-bust and “human nature” to lean toward “excesses”). He raises a concern about future inflation — and our decision to “monetize” the debt. But his harshest words are saved for cap-and-trade. On that front, he takes no prisoners and whacks Nancy Pelosi’s cap-and-trade plan as a “huge tax . . . no sense calling it anything else” and “fairly regressive.” “Very poor people are going to pay a lot more for electricity,” he says.

Perhaps Buffet, like many, many Americans is having second thoughts about the agenda of the candidate he supported for president. It seems that results matter — especially to investors.

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Commentary of the Day

Tom Gregg, on Jennifer Rubin:

What people have a hard time accepting is that health care is no different from any other type of economic activity. It’s an amalgam of goods and services that must compete with other sectors of the economy for a share of total available resources. To view health care in isolation, as if it somehow constitutes an exception to the rule, and to treat health care is if it is a right, is the cardinal error of most so-called reform proposals.

RCAR’s story is a sad one. But the fact remains that somehow, in some way, health care costs have got to be contained. Nobody likes to think about it, but that’s the reality. To give people all the health care they demand is plainly impossible. There is no conceivable health care system that could guarantee that such abuses would not occur. In Britain, for instance, widespread shortages of specialists, equipment and hospital beds lead to numerous preventable deaths.

We see how the unfunded obligations embodied in Medicare threaten to devour the whole federal budget. Obama’s “reform” proposal (what we know of it) would inevitably make a bad situation even worse. Probably the fairest and most efficient health care system would be one that is market-based and largely free of government regulation. Would it eliminate all abuses? No. But without doubt, it would allocate resources most efficiently, and produce the greatest good for the greatest number—which is all we can reasonably expect.

Tom Gregg, on Jennifer Rubin:

What people have a hard time accepting is that health care is no different from any other type of economic activity. It’s an amalgam of goods and services that must compete with other sectors of the economy for a share of total available resources. To view health care in isolation, as if it somehow constitutes an exception to the rule, and to treat health care is if it is a right, is the cardinal error of most so-called reform proposals.

RCAR’s story is a sad one. But the fact remains that somehow, in some way, health care costs have got to be contained. Nobody likes to think about it, but that’s the reality. To give people all the health care they demand is plainly impossible. There is no conceivable health care system that could guarantee that such abuses would not occur. In Britain, for instance, widespread shortages of specialists, equipment and hospital beds lead to numerous preventable deaths.

We see how the unfunded obligations embodied in Medicare threaten to devour the whole federal budget. Obama’s “reform” proposal (what we know of it) would inevitably make a bad situation even worse. Probably the fairest and most efficient health care system would be one that is market-based and largely free of government regulation. Would it eliminate all abuses? No. But without doubt, it would allocate resources most efficiently, and produce the greatest good for the greatest number—which is all we can reasonably expect.

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Britain’s Islamist Pipeline

Maajid Nawaz, the director of the London-based Quilliam Foundation, has a superb article in the Observer about his recent return to Pakistan to campaign against Islamism. There are a lot of ironies here — ten years ago, Nawaz, then a radical Islamist, was on his way to Pakistan to spread Hizbut Tahrir’s message in Lahore and prepare the way for the coming of a nuclear-armed Islamic caliphate.

And he wasn’t alone. We tend to think of Pakistan as a source of radicalism and terrorism. Well, it is. But pipelines can and do flow in both directions. So Pakistan’s not just a source of terror. It’s also a target. And furthermore, it’s a lot easier to get to a third country coming from Britain, and with a British passport, than it is to go direct from Karachi. So this new “British disease” has spread around the world. As Nawaz notes chillingly:

British members of HT also played crucial roles in exporting their group to Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, Mauritius, India, Egypt and Denmark, among others. I know because in each case I know the people ho did it.

It’s easy to find parts of Nawaz’s message — and, indeed, the entire Quilliam Foundation campaign — that still raise an eyebrow or three. But some of the West’s most effective early campaigners against Communism — George Orwell and Arthur Koestler, most obviously — were defectors from the cause of the left, and all the more powerful as a result, not simply because they knew what they were talking about, but because they shattered the myth of Communism as a monolithic, impenetrable block. Nawaz has much the same merit.

Of course, fragmentation cuts both ways: the most frightening and important part of Nawaz’s article is not his dissection of Britain’s role in promoting Islamic terrorism, but his discussion of the conspiracy theories and the social, cultural, religious, and ethnic strains that have prevented Pakistan from coming together, and are now pulling it apart. Nawaz did his bit to make that happen, and to spread the virus around the world. It’s a pity that, for some of the victims, and perhaps for Pakistan itself, Nawaz’s tour — with all its obvious and commendable bravery — is coming too late.

Maajid Nawaz, the director of the London-based Quilliam Foundation, has a superb article in the Observer about his recent return to Pakistan to campaign against Islamism. There are a lot of ironies here — ten years ago, Nawaz, then a radical Islamist, was on his way to Pakistan to spread Hizbut Tahrir’s message in Lahore and prepare the way for the coming of a nuclear-armed Islamic caliphate.

And he wasn’t alone. We tend to think of Pakistan as a source of radicalism and terrorism. Well, it is. But pipelines can and do flow in both directions. So Pakistan’s not just a source of terror. It’s also a target. And furthermore, it’s a lot easier to get to a third country coming from Britain, and with a British passport, than it is to go direct from Karachi. So this new “British disease” has spread around the world. As Nawaz notes chillingly:

British members of HT also played crucial roles in exporting their group to Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, Mauritius, India, Egypt and Denmark, among others. I know because in each case I know the people ho did it.

It’s easy to find parts of Nawaz’s message — and, indeed, the entire Quilliam Foundation campaign — that still raise an eyebrow or three. But some of the West’s most effective early campaigners against Communism — George Orwell and Arthur Koestler, most obviously — were defectors from the cause of the left, and all the more powerful as a result, not simply because they knew what they were talking about, but because they shattered the myth of Communism as a monolithic, impenetrable block. Nawaz has much the same merit.

Of course, fragmentation cuts both ways: the most frightening and important part of Nawaz’s article is not his dissection of Britain’s role in promoting Islamic terrorism, but his discussion of the conspiracy theories and the social, cultural, religious, and ethnic strains that have prevented Pakistan from coming together, and are now pulling it apart. Nawaz did his bit to make that happen, and to spread the virus around the world. It’s a pity that, for some of the victims, and perhaps for Pakistan itself, Nawaz’s tour — with all its obvious and commendable bravery — is coming too late.

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A Bold Prediction

Tonight, ABC is giving President Obama two full hours to sell the American people on his health plan. Naturally, in the interests of fairness and balance and presenting a complete picture, ABC will also allow those who disagree with the president to present their opinions.

Whoops, my mistake. ABC won’t be interviewing or featuring any opponents. Nor will it be accepting paid commercials to present the alternative.

ABC says it will be featuring a wide assortment of ordinary Americans who will be allowed to ask the president and his people unscripted, unsolicited questions on the subject. We all know how well that works out. During the presidential primary season, CNN teamed up with YouTube to host a pair of debates — one for each party. And when it came time for the Republican debate — surprise, surprise! — they stacked the deck.

Among the 34 supposed “undecided Republican voters” chosen to ask questions, 8 were found to have serious ties to Democrats. Declared supporters, former Democratic interns, and — in one famous case — a retired gay Air Force general who worked for both John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. General Kerr got extra-special attention, as befitted his long-standing relationship with CNN — he, alone, was flown in to the debate to critique the answers given by the candidates.

CNN got away with it. And tonight, so might ABC News.

Tonight, ABC is giving President Obama two full hours to sell the American people on his health plan. Naturally, in the interests of fairness and balance and presenting a complete picture, ABC will also allow those who disagree with the president to present their opinions.

Whoops, my mistake. ABC won’t be interviewing or featuring any opponents. Nor will it be accepting paid commercials to present the alternative.

ABC says it will be featuring a wide assortment of ordinary Americans who will be allowed to ask the president and his people unscripted, unsolicited questions on the subject. We all know how well that works out. During the presidential primary season, CNN teamed up with YouTube to host a pair of debates — one for each party. And when it came time for the Republican debate — surprise, surprise! — they stacked the deck.

Among the 34 supposed “undecided Republican voters” chosen to ask questions, 8 were found to have serious ties to Democrats. Declared supporters, former Democratic interns, and — in one famous case — a retired gay Air Force general who worked for both John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. General Kerr got extra-special attention, as befitted his long-standing relationship with CNN — he, alone, was flown in to the debate to critique the answers given by the candidates.

CNN got away with it. And tonight, so might ABC News.

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It Must Be Exhausting

The president has rescinded his invitation for hot dogs with Iranian diplomats after days of criticism from the blogosphere, members of Congress, and conservatives. Once again the Left has been marched up the hill to defend the inexcusable (How rude to disinvite someone with whom we may have to “engage”! How petty!) only to abandon the position when common sense or political necessity intervene.

This is a pattern of course — on the president’s language on Iran, on release of detainee abuse photos, on Chas Freeman, and sort of on a Truth Commission. One would think the Right has more influence with this administration than do those who launched his campaign and put him in the White House. Perhaps liberals might not want to spin so furiously or believe whatever excuse for inactivity comes out of the White House (We can’t make this about us!). When the president is forced to reverse himself, his media spinners are left adrift to either ignore there ever was a difference of opinion with conservatives, or to concoct a ridiculous set of mysterious facts and unreported factors to make some decision right on Monday (BBQ with the mullahs’ representatives) and make it wrong on Wednesday (you can’t socialize with them).

Perhaps rather than justifying timidity, confusion, and reversals, sympathetic pundits should try to counsel the president to find a reasonable position in light of real world events — and the then stick to it. It is far less stressful than trying to spin whatever gibberish comes out of the White House.

The president has rescinded his invitation for hot dogs with Iranian diplomats after days of criticism from the blogosphere, members of Congress, and conservatives. Once again the Left has been marched up the hill to defend the inexcusable (How rude to disinvite someone with whom we may have to “engage”! How petty!) only to abandon the position when common sense or political necessity intervene.

This is a pattern of course — on the president’s language on Iran, on release of detainee abuse photos, on Chas Freeman, and sort of on a Truth Commission. One would think the Right has more influence with this administration than do those who launched his campaign and put him in the White House. Perhaps liberals might not want to spin so furiously or believe whatever excuse for inactivity comes out of the White House (We can’t make this about us!). When the president is forced to reverse himself, his media spinners are left adrift to either ignore there ever was a difference of opinion with conservatives, or to concoct a ridiculous set of mysterious facts and unreported factors to make some decision right on Monday (BBQ with the mullahs’ representatives) and make it wrong on Wednesday (you can’t socialize with them).

Perhaps rather than justifying timidity, confusion, and reversals, sympathetic pundits should try to counsel the president to find a reasonable position in light of real world events — and the then stick to it. It is far less stressful than trying to spin whatever gibberish comes out of the White House.

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What’s to Mediate?

The EU Parliament President, Hans-Gert Pottering, is ready to head an EU delegation to Tehran to mediate: “The aim of this delegation would be to meet with Iranian authorities, as well as with members of peaceful opposition groups,” Pottering said today. He added that “We are willing to offer our support and mediation to bring about a peaceful solution.” Meanwhile, eye witness reports from Tehran indicate that the Police are assailing unarmed protestors with axes. Good luck mediating, Mr Pottering!

Clearly, Europe’s mindset at its best.

The EU Parliament President, Hans-Gert Pottering, is ready to head an EU delegation to Tehran to mediate: “The aim of this delegation would be to meet with Iranian authorities, as well as with members of peaceful opposition groups,” Pottering said today. He added that “We are willing to offer our support and mediation to bring about a peaceful solution.” Meanwhile, eye witness reports from Tehran indicate that the Police are assailing unarmed protestors with axes. Good luck mediating, Mr Pottering!

Clearly, Europe’s mindset at its best.

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Where Do You Rank Sanford Now?

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford earned conservative applause earlier this year for refusing to accept federal stimulus funds since he opposed them in principle. Some even saw Sanford as a possible future GOP presidential hopeful though most of the mainstream media — and the South Carolina legislature that overrode him on the stimulus — saw him as just a conservative goofball.

Unfortunately for those searching for the next GOP star, that dim view of Sanford looks to be on the money after the governor disappeared for a week with his cell phone turned off. His office claimed he was off for a solo hike on the Appalachian Trail to clear his head after a stormy legislative session. Though some South Carolinians thought the post of governor was important enough that his whereabouts should never be a secret (not to mention little details such as who would be in charge of the National Guard in case of a disaster), others thought the idea of a leader going off to meditate in the midst of nature was great material for a future campaign. Indeed, campaign strategist Mark McKinnon, who has been keeping track of Republican presidential hopefuls for 2012 on the Daily Beast, thought the Appalachian retreat was a brilliant move by Sanford. Writing earlier this week, McKinnon described the walkabout as “Mark Sanford unplugged. Literally. He decided to take a hike. And he told his security detail to take a hike as well. Guy wanted some alone time in the woods to clear his head. Here we have a guy in politics who actually likes to get OUT of the spotlight. How exceedingly normal. … This is the sign of a healthy, sane individual.”

This was enough for McKinnon to move Sanford up on his list of 2012 Republican presidential contenders to fourth, leaving the South Carolinian trailing only Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and John Thune, even though such rankings are pretty meaningless at this stage.

But unfortunately for McKinnon’s ranking system, Sanford wasn’t making like St. Francis of Assisi communing with the birds, the beasts, and the flowers in God’s southern mountain garden. Nor was he channeling that scene in the classic film “Sergeant York,” where Gary Cooper sits on top of a mountain with his dog and a bible while he decides whether to fight for his country.

Instead, as the world now knows, Sanford spent the last few days “crying in Argentina” as he sorted out his affair with an unidentified Argentinian lady with whom he originally shared an interest in politics.

Let’s just say that those who looked to South Carolina for a plausible presidential candidate had been a bit optimistic. His self-indulgent performance at today’s press conference shows him to be an egotistical nitwit. I’ll say one thing about this sorry spectacle; at least we were spared the sight of his wife standing by his side as he humiliates her, in the manner of Elliot Spitzer and his aggrieved spouse. Good for Mrs. Sanford. As for where Mark Sanford goes from here, the only reasonable answer for South Carolinians and Republicans is that he should just go away.

But I am looking forward to Mark McKinnon’s next ranking of candidates. Let’s just say that Gov. Sanford ought to lose a few notches.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford earned conservative applause earlier this year for refusing to accept federal stimulus funds since he opposed them in principle. Some even saw Sanford as a possible future GOP presidential hopeful though most of the mainstream media — and the South Carolina legislature that overrode him on the stimulus — saw him as just a conservative goofball.

Unfortunately for those searching for the next GOP star, that dim view of Sanford looks to be on the money after the governor disappeared for a week with his cell phone turned off. His office claimed he was off for a solo hike on the Appalachian Trail to clear his head after a stormy legislative session. Though some South Carolinians thought the post of governor was important enough that his whereabouts should never be a secret (not to mention little details such as who would be in charge of the National Guard in case of a disaster), others thought the idea of a leader going off to meditate in the midst of nature was great material for a future campaign. Indeed, campaign strategist Mark McKinnon, who has been keeping track of Republican presidential hopefuls for 2012 on the Daily Beast, thought the Appalachian retreat was a brilliant move by Sanford. Writing earlier this week, McKinnon described the walkabout as “Mark Sanford unplugged. Literally. He decided to take a hike. And he told his security detail to take a hike as well. Guy wanted some alone time in the woods to clear his head. Here we have a guy in politics who actually likes to get OUT of the spotlight. How exceedingly normal. … This is the sign of a healthy, sane individual.”

This was enough for McKinnon to move Sanford up on his list of 2012 Republican presidential contenders to fourth, leaving the South Carolinian trailing only Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and John Thune, even though such rankings are pretty meaningless at this stage.

But unfortunately for McKinnon’s ranking system, Sanford wasn’t making like St. Francis of Assisi communing with the birds, the beasts, and the flowers in God’s southern mountain garden. Nor was he channeling that scene in the classic film “Sergeant York,” where Gary Cooper sits on top of a mountain with his dog and a bible while he decides whether to fight for his country.

Instead, as the world now knows, Sanford spent the last few days “crying in Argentina” as he sorted out his affair with an unidentified Argentinian lady with whom he originally shared an interest in politics.

Let’s just say that those who looked to South Carolina for a plausible presidential candidate had been a bit optimistic. His self-indulgent performance at today’s press conference shows him to be an egotistical nitwit. I’ll say one thing about this sorry spectacle; at least we were spared the sight of his wife standing by his side as he humiliates her, in the manner of Elliot Spitzer and his aggrieved spouse. Good for Mrs. Sanford. As for where Mark Sanford goes from here, the only reasonable answer for South Carolinians and Republicans is that he should just go away.

But I am looking forward to Mark McKinnon’s next ranking of candidates. Let’s just say that Gov. Sanford ought to lose a few notches.

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They’ve Chosen Their Path

At Tuesday’s press conference, Barack Obama finally condemned the Iranian regime for brutality that “appalled and outraged.” But as forceful as some of Obama’s language was, he left the door open for engagement with a repentant mullahcracy. He was asked: “[I]s there any red line that your administration won’t cross where that offer [to talk to Iran's leaders] will be shut off?” He responded in part:

Well, obviously what’s happened in Iran is profound, and we’re still waiting to see how it plays itself out. . . We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms. . . It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path.

Wait no more, Mr. President. The Los Angeles Times reports that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced today, “[H]e would neither reconsider vote results nor bow to public pressure over the disputed reelection of his ally President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as state-controlled broadcasting intensified a media blitz against the West.” This comes in concert with stepped up brutality against protesters and raids on opposition “headquarters.” So much for that path to international norms.

It is no doubt a great surprise to the Obama administration that a fascist theocracy insists on acting like a fascist theocracy. Amazingly, the president and the State Department will have to adjust to the stubbornness of reality. This means treating the mullahs like enemy fanatics — not slighted innocents or kids hankering for hot dogs.

This also means accepting the necessity of George W. Bush’s general posture on Iran. There are those who wish Bush had followed through on his early proclamations and halted Iran’s nuclear program with air strikes before leaving office. Having stopped short of that, the last president did largely understand the inutility of diplomacy with the mullahs. Prostration and apology were out of the question — as they are soon to be for Obama.

Like the North Koreans before them, the Iranians have used the Obama approach as an opportunity for aggression. They took his sideline indifference as an all-clear. Just as Obama has reverted to early Bush policy on Pyongyang, so he will do in regard to Tehran. He will never call it that, of course; he’ll call it consistency.

But the only consistency on display has been embodied by the world’s bad actors. In response to Obama’s outstretched hand, toy reset button, and proclivity for mutual respect, rogue regimes have held fast to the policies and programs that have sustained them since their inceptions. In some sense that is the “international norm,” and it remains America’s job to upset it — not “witness” it. The red line was drawn when Khamenei and Ahmadinejad first cracked down on democratic protesters 12 days ago. President Obama just didn’t know it yet. He’s figuring it out now.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Barack Obama finally condemned the Iranian regime for brutality that “appalled and outraged.” But as forceful as some of Obama’s language was, he left the door open for engagement with a repentant mullahcracy. He was asked: “[I]s there any red line that your administration won’t cross where that offer [to talk to Iran's leaders] will be shut off?” He responded in part:

Well, obviously what’s happened in Iran is profound, and we’re still waiting to see how it plays itself out. . . We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms. . . It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path.

Wait no more, Mr. President. The Los Angeles Times reports that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced today, “[H]e would neither reconsider vote results nor bow to public pressure over the disputed reelection of his ally President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as state-controlled broadcasting intensified a media blitz against the West.” This comes in concert with stepped up brutality against protesters and raids on opposition “headquarters.” So much for that path to international norms.

It is no doubt a great surprise to the Obama administration that a fascist theocracy insists on acting like a fascist theocracy. Amazingly, the president and the State Department will have to adjust to the stubbornness of reality. This means treating the mullahs like enemy fanatics — not slighted innocents or kids hankering for hot dogs.

This also means accepting the necessity of George W. Bush’s general posture on Iran. There are those who wish Bush had followed through on his early proclamations and halted Iran’s nuclear program with air strikes before leaving office. Having stopped short of that, the last president did largely understand the inutility of diplomacy with the mullahs. Prostration and apology were out of the question — as they are soon to be for Obama.

Like the North Koreans before them, the Iranians have used the Obama approach as an opportunity for aggression. They took his sideline indifference as an all-clear. Just as Obama has reverted to early Bush policy on Pyongyang, so he will do in regard to Tehran. He will never call it that, of course; he’ll call it consistency.

But the only consistency on display has been embodied by the world’s bad actors. In response to Obama’s outstretched hand, toy reset button, and proclivity for mutual respect, rogue regimes have held fast to the policies and programs that have sustained them since their inceptions. In some sense that is the “international norm,” and it remains America’s job to upset it — not “witness” it. The red line was drawn when Khamenei and Ahmadinejad first cracked down on democratic protesters 12 days ago. President Obama just didn’t know it yet. He’s figuring it out now.

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McConnell Lays out the Case Against Sotomayor

Sen. Mitch McConnell took to the floor with other Republican senators to begin laying out the case against Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. He took issue first with the notion of “empathy,” which he suggested was nothing more than garden-variety bias, an endorsement of identity politics (citing her “wise Latina” remarks as an example), and an abandonment of impartiality. Next up was her long association with and leadership role in PRLDEF:

One of the group’s most important projects was filing lawsuits against the City of New York based on its use of civil service exams.  Judge Sotomayor, in fact, has been credited with helping develop the group’s policy of challenging these exams.

In one of these cases, the group sued the New York City Police Department on the grounds that its test for promotion discriminated against certain groups.  The suit alleged that too many Caucasian officers were doing well on the exam and not enough Hispanic and African-American officers were performing as well.  The city settled the lawsuit by promoting some African-Americans and Hispanics who hadn’t passed the test while passing over some white officers who had.

Well, some of these white police officers turned around and sued the City.  They alleged that even though they performed well on the exam, the City discriminated against them based on race under the settlement agreement and refused to promote them because of quotas. Their case reached the Supreme Court, with the High Court splitting 4-4, which allowed the settlement to stand.

From there, he drew a straight line to the analogous New Haven firefighter case, which he noted, was taken up by the Supreme Court as posing a significant Constitutional issue:

Is this what the President means by ‘empathy’— where he says he wants judges to empathize with certain groups, but implicitly, not with others?  If so, what if you’re not in one of those groups?  What if you’re Frank Ricci?
This is not a partisan issue.  It’s not just conservatives or Republicans who have criticized Judge Sotomayor’s handling of the Ricci case.  Self-described Democrats and political independents have done so as well.  President Clinton’s appointee to the Second Circuit and Judge Sotomayor’s colleague, Jose Cabranes, has criticized the handling of the case.  He wrote a stinging dissent, terming the handling of the case ‘perfunctory’ and saying that the way her panel handled the case did a disservice to the weighty issues involved.  Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen was similarly offended by the way the matter was handled.

Legal journalist Stuart Taylor with the National Journal has been highly critical of how the case was handled, calling it peculiar.  Even the Obama Justice Department has weighed-in.  It filed a brief in the Supreme Court arguing that Judge Sotomayor’s panel was wrong to simply dismiss the case.

It is an admirable quality to be a zealous advocate for your clients and the causes in which you believe.  But judges are supposed to be passionate advocates for the even-handed reading and fair application of the law, not their own policies and preferences.

In reviewing the Ricci case, I am concerned that Judge Sotomayor may have lost sight of that. As we consider this nomination, I will continue to examine her record to see if personal or political views have influenced her judgment.”

That, in a nutshell, is his case against Sotomayor: this is a biased judge who is not willing or able to put her racial or gender preferences aside. Her agenda, revealed in speeches, advocacy work, and in Ricci, appears grounded in identity politics and bent on furthering racial preferences.

We will see if the rest of the Senate agrees.

Sen. Mitch McConnell took to the floor with other Republican senators to begin laying out the case against Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. He took issue first with the notion of “empathy,” which he suggested was nothing more than garden-variety bias, an endorsement of identity politics (citing her “wise Latina” remarks as an example), and an abandonment of impartiality. Next up was her long association with and leadership role in PRLDEF:

One of the group’s most important projects was filing lawsuits against the City of New York based on its use of civil service exams.  Judge Sotomayor, in fact, has been credited with helping develop the group’s policy of challenging these exams.

In one of these cases, the group sued the New York City Police Department on the grounds that its test for promotion discriminated against certain groups.  The suit alleged that too many Caucasian officers were doing well on the exam and not enough Hispanic and African-American officers were performing as well.  The city settled the lawsuit by promoting some African-Americans and Hispanics who hadn’t passed the test while passing over some white officers who had.

Well, some of these white police officers turned around and sued the City.  They alleged that even though they performed well on the exam, the City discriminated against them based on race under the settlement agreement and refused to promote them because of quotas. Their case reached the Supreme Court, with the High Court splitting 4-4, which allowed the settlement to stand.

From there, he drew a straight line to the analogous New Haven firefighter case, which he noted, was taken up by the Supreme Court as posing a significant Constitutional issue:

Is this what the President means by ‘empathy’— where he says he wants judges to empathize with certain groups, but implicitly, not with others?  If so, what if you’re not in one of those groups?  What if you’re Frank Ricci?
This is not a partisan issue.  It’s not just conservatives or Republicans who have criticized Judge Sotomayor’s handling of the Ricci case.  Self-described Democrats and political independents have done so as well.  President Clinton’s appointee to the Second Circuit and Judge Sotomayor’s colleague, Jose Cabranes, has criticized the handling of the case.  He wrote a stinging dissent, terming the handling of the case ‘perfunctory’ and saying that the way her panel handled the case did a disservice to the weighty issues involved.  Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen was similarly offended by the way the matter was handled.

Legal journalist Stuart Taylor with the National Journal has been highly critical of how the case was handled, calling it peculiar.  Even the Obama Justice Department has weighed-in.  It filed a brief in the Supreme Court arguing that Judge Sotomayor’s panel was wrong to simply dismiss the case.

It is an admirable quality to be a zealous advocate for your clients and the causes in which you believe.  But judges are supposed to be passionate advocates for the even-handed reading and fair application of the law, not their own policies and preferences.

In reviewing the Ricci case, I am concerned that Judge Sotomayor may have lost sight of that. As we consider this nomination, I will continue to examine her record to see if personal or political views have influenced her judgment.”

That, in a nutshell, is his case against Sotomayor: this is a biased judge who is not willing or able to put her racial or gender preferences aside. Her agenda, revealed in speeches, advocacy work, and in Ricci, appears grounded in identity politics and bent on furthering racial preferences.

We will see if the rest of the Senate agrees.

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What’s Really Dead? “Realism” on Iran

Only two days ago a wide range of pundits were praising President Obama for his refusal to take a strong stand on the situation in Iran.

At the Daily Beast, veteran foreign policy “realist” Leslie Gelb complimented the president for his refusal to embrace the street protests or to express outrage over the situation. Gelb thought Obama was wise to ignore the neocons and “leave Iran to the Iranians,” lest a presidential statement tarnish the demonstrators as tools of America.

On the same day on the same site, veteran leftie Eric Alterman took an interestingly similar stance,  mocking neoconservatives such as Charles Krauthammer’s and Robert Kagan’s criticism of the president for, as Alterman put it, “not force-feeding Iran their democracy.” For Alterman, the whole idea of the United States taking a strong stand on the bloodshed in the streets of Tehran was just a wacky neocon theory, deeply reminiscent of the prelude to the war in Iraq, which he then rehearsed at length. Conveniently, Alterman omits the ultimate outcome of the war, which to date has produced a flawed and shaky but still coherent democracy that right now may look pretty good to those living under the thumb of the ayatollahs.

Indeed, Alterman thought the whole idea of Americans expecting their president to articulate a moral stance on a crucial foreign-affairs issue to be so laughable that he predicted that the dust-up over Obama’s failures on Iran means that neoconservatism will soon be as dead as Marxism. And considering that Alterman has spent a good deal of his career flaking for the legacy of the late Stalinist spy I.F. Stone, he may be presumed to be an expert on the subject of the death of Marxism.

These were just a couple of the pundits who blasted whomever who had the temerity to ask their president to start behaving like a leader. In the view of many realists, leftists and a few renegade Republicans who defy classification (such as former congressman and current MSNBC gabber Joe Scarborough who may fancy himself as a future leader of the GOP), Obama was right to stay mum.

But, lo and behold, after ten days of milquetoast releases on Iran, the president decided to significantly raise the temperature on the subject yesterday by making exactly the kind of strong statement his critics had been begging for all week. And what was the reaction from all those who had been saying that his refusal to do so was an indicator of his cool wisdom? Nothing much.

The Washington Post editorial page claimed that the president was not yielding to those who had blasted his “softness” even though that is exactly what he had just done. Instead, the Post pretended that Obama was finding his own middle way to avoid repeating what they think is the mistake of the Bush administration in trying to isolate Iran (though, in fact, Bush’s team significantly backed away from a tough Iran policy in his last year in office). Other neocon bashers seem either silent or in a similar state of denial about Obama’s flip. Like the White House spinners, they are merely pretending nothing has happened.

What does all this prove? That after taking a beating on the issue, Obama accepted that the so-called “realist” policy of engaging Iran is simply unacceptable to an American people that seem curiously susceptible to ideas like support for democracy and freedom abroad, even though such neoconservative notions were supposedly dead. Obama may still hope to one day engage Ahmadinejad rather than deal with the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons and terrorism at home and abroad, but he can’t afford to be branded an appeaser or enabler of that regime even if that’s what his realist and left-wing fans want.

Obama is still a popular president and, given his keen political instincts, may remain so despite his obvious failings. But the events of the last two weeks have shown that the only ideological corpse on display is the realist foreign policy on Iran that he had embraced to applause from the same pundits who are mum about his switcheroo.

Only two days ago a wide range of pundits were praising President Obama for his refusal to take a strong stand on the situation in Iran.

At the Daily Beast, veteran foreign policy “realist” Leslie Gelb complimented the president for his refusal to embrace the street protests or to express outrage over the situation. Gelb thought Obama was wise to ignore the neocons and “leave Iran to the Iranians,” lest a presidential statement tarnish the demonstrators as tools of America.

On the same day on the same site, veteran leftie Eric Alterman took an interestingly similar stance,  mocking neoconservatives such as Charles Krauthammer’s and Robert Kagan’s criticism of the president for, as Alterman put it, “not force-feeding Iran their democracy.” For Alterman, the whole idea of the United States taking a strong stand on the bloodshed in the streets of Tehran was just a wacky neocon theory, deeply reminiscent of the prelude to the war in Iraq, which he then rehearsed at length. Conveniently, Alterman omits the ultimate outcome of the war, which to date has produced a flawed and shaky but still coherent democracy that right now may look pretty good to those living under the thumb of the ayatollahs.

Indeed, Alterman thought the whole idea of Americans expecting their president to articulate a moral stance on a crucial foreign-affairs issue to be so laughable that he predicted that the dust-up over Obama’s failures on Iran means that neoconservatism will soon be as dead as Marxism. And considering that Alterman has spent a good deal of his career flaking for the legacy of the late Stalinist spy I.F. Stone, he may be presumed to be an expert on the subject of the death of Marxism.

These were just a couple of the pundits who blasted whomever who had the temerity to ask their president to start behaving like a leader. In the view of many realists, leftists and a few renegade Republicans who defy classification (such as former congressman and current MSNBC gabber Joe Scarborough who may fancy himself as a future leader of the GOP), Obama was right to stay mum.

But, lo and behold, after ten days of milquetoast releases on Iran, the president decided to significantly raise the temperature on the subject yesterday by making exactly the kind of strong statement his critics had been begging for all week. And what was the reaction from all those who had been saying that his refusal to do so was an indicator of his cool wisdom? Nothing much.

The Washington Post editorial page claimed that the president was not yielding to those who had blasted his “softness” even though that is exactly what he had just done. Instead, the Post pretended that Obama was finding his own middle way to avoid repeating what they think is the mistake of the Bush administration in trying to isolate Iran (though, in fact, Bush’s team significantly backed away from a tough Iran policy in his last year in office). Other neocon bashers seem either silent or in a similar state of denial about Obama’s flip. Like the White House spinners, they are merely pretending nothing has happened.

What does all this prove? That after taking a beating on the issue, Obama accepted that the so-called “realist” policy of engaging Iran is simply unacceptable to an American people that seem curiously susceptible to ideas like support for democracy and freedom abroad, even though such neoconservative notions were supposedly dead. Obama may still hope to one day engage Ahmadinejad rather than deal with the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons and terrorism at home and abroad, but he can’t afford to be branded an appeaser or enabler of that regime even if that’s what his realist and left-wing fans want.

Obama is still a popular president and, given his keen political instincts, may remain so despite his obvious failings. But the events of the last two weeks have shown that the only ideological corpse on display is the realist foreign policy on Iran that he had embraced to applause from the same pundits who are mum about his switcheroo.

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Now We Are All Bearing Witness

If the current reports are even remotely accurate, the violent suppression of the Green Revolution has taken a turn for the worse. One of the most prolific on-the-scene reporters via Twitter had the following reports in over the last two hours:

saw 7/8 militia beating one woman with baton on ground – -she had no defense nothing — #Iranelection sure that she is dead

so many ppl arrested — young & old — they take ppl away — #Iranelection — we lose our group

ppl run into alleys and militia standing there waiting — from 2 sides they attack ppl in middle of alleys #Iranelection

phone line was cut and we lost internet — #Iranelection — getting more difficult to log into net — #Iranelection

rumour they are tracking high use of phone lines to find internet users — must move from here now — #Iranelection

reports of street fighting in Vanak Sq, Tajrish sq, Azadi Sq — now – #Iranelection — Sea of Green — Allah Akbar

in Baharestan we saw militia with axe choping ppl like meat — blood everywhere — like butcher — Allah Akbar – #Iranelection RT RT RT

they catch ppl with mobile — so many killed today — so many injured — Allah Akbar — they take one of us — #Iranelection

Lalezar Sq is same as Baharestan — unbelevable — ppls murdered everywhere – #Iranelection

they pull away the dead into trucks — like factory — no human can do this — we beg Allah for save us — #Iranelection

we must go — dont know when we can get internet — they take 1 of us, they will torture and get names — now we must move fast

thank you ppls 4 supporting Sea of Green — pls remember always our martyrs — Allah Akbar — Allah Akbar — Allah Akbar #Iranelection

Allah — you are the creator of all and all must return to you — Allah Akbar — #Iranelection Sea of Green

This report, of an apparent full-scale massacre being waged in Tehran, is repeated by another witness interviewed on CNN, via Andrew Sullivan:

I was going towards Baharestan with my friend. This was everyone, not just supporters of one candidate or another. All of my friends, they were going to Baharestan to express our opposition to these killings and demanding freedom. The black-clad police stopped everyone. They emptied the buses that were taking people there and let the private cars go on. We went on until Ferdowsi then all of a sudden some 500 people with clubs came out of [undecipherable] mosque and they started beating everyone. They tried to beat everyone on [undecipherable] bridge and throwing them off of the bridge. And everyone also on the sidewalks. They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband, he fainted. They were beating people like hell. It was a massacre. They were trying to beat people so they would die. they were cursing and saying very bad words to everyone. This was exactly a massacre… I don’t know how to describe it.

It was only a few days ago when the popular uprising was waxing, that I could say with a straight face that Western leaders might be doing the right thing in showing restraint. The concern was then about discrediting the revolution inside Iran by seeming to confirm the accusation that it was a U.S. conspiracy.
Well, it’s certainly starting to look like I was wrong. Convinced that the protesters did not have the world on their side, the Mullahs have now unleashed total violence and horror on their own people. Fewer and fewer reports are escaping the hell, and the silencing of our sources inside Iran, one by one, suggests something far worse than the few dozen dead and few hundred arrested that the official news agencies are reporting.

Is it too late for massive Western pressure to make a difference? Is there any chance of it now?

If the current reports are even remotely accurate, the violent suppression of the Green Revolution has taken a turn for the worse. One of the most prolific on-the-scene reporters via Twitter had the following reports in over the last two hours:

saw 7/8 militia beating one woman with baton on ground – -she had no defense nothing — #Iranelection sure that she is dead

so many ppl arrested — young & old — they take ppl away — #Iranelection — we lose our group

ppl run into alleys and militia standing there waiting — from 2 sides they attack ppl in middle of alleys #Iranelection

phone line was cut and we lost internet — #Iranelection — getting more difficult to log into net — #Iranelection

rumour they are tracking high use of phone lines to find internet users — must move from here now — #Iranelection

reports of street fighting in Vanak Sq, Tajrish sq, Azadi Sq — now – #Iranelection — Sea of Green — Allah Akbar

in Baharestan we saw militia with axe choping ppl like meat — blood everywhere — like butcher — Allah Akbar – #Iranelection RT RT RT

they catch ppl with mobile — so many killed today — so many injured — Allah Akbar — they take one of us — #Iranelection

Lalezar Sq is same as Baharestan — unbelevable — ppls murdered everywhere – #Iranelection

they pull away the dead into trucks — like factory — no human can do this — we beg Allah for save us — #Iranelection

we must go — dont know when we can get internet — they take 1 of us, they will torture and get names — now we must move fast

thank you ppls 4 supporting Sea of Green — pls remember always our martyrs — Allah Akbar — Allah Akbar — Allah Akbar #Iranelection

Allah — you are the creator of all and all must return to you — Allah Akbar — #Iranelection Sea of Green

This report, of an apparent full-scale massacre being waged in Tehran, is repeated by another witness interviewed on CNN, via Andrew Sullivan:

I was going towards Baharestan with my friend. This was everyone, not just supporters of one candidate or another. All of my friends, they were going to Baharestan to express our opposition to these killings and demanding freedom. The black-clad police stopped everyone. They emptied the buses that were taking people there and let the private cars go on. We went on until Ferdowsi then all of a sudden some 500 people with clubs came out of [undecipherable] mosque and they started beating everyone. They tried to beat everyone on [undecipherable] bridge and throwing them off of the bridge. And everyone also on the sidewalks. They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband, he fainted. They were beating people like hell. It was a massacre. They were trying to beat people so they would die. they were cursing and saying very bad words to everyone. This was exactly a massacre… I don’t know how to describe it.

It was only a few days ago when the popular uprising was waxing, that I could say with a straight face that Western leaders might be doing the right thing in showing restraint. The concern was then about discrediting the revolution inside Iran by seeming to confirm the accusation that it was a U.S. conspiracy.
Well, it’s certainly starting to look like I was wrong. Convinced that the protesters did not have the world on their side, the Mullahs have now unleashed total violence and horror on their own people. Fewer and fewer reports are escaping the hell, and the silencing of our sources inside Iran, one by one, suggests something far worse than the few dozen dead and few hundred arrested that the official news agencies are reporting.

Is it too late for massive Western pressure to make a difference? Is there any chance of it now?

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This Could Be the Start of Something Big

The state of Maine, with a Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor, has enacted the country’s first (nearly) flat tax. The previous income tax, first enacted in 1969, had four brackets ranging from two percent, which kicked in at a mere $4,849 in income, to 8.5 percent at $19,450, one of the highest rates in the country. The new tax has a flat rate of 6.5 percent for incomes below $250,000, and 6.85 percent for those over it.

To make up for anticipated lost revenue, the state has broadened the sales tax on services and cut the state budget by $300 million out of $5.8 billion. (Cut the budget to meet a shortfall in revenue — what a concept!) I would bet a modest sum that a year from now the big story will be that Maine has seen its income tax receipts exceed estimates by a substantial margin, as Maine citizens become more willing to forgo tax shelters and other means of legally avoiding taxes.

The idea of a flat tax on income is spreading relentlessly because it is good. Over twenty countries, including Russia and the Czech Republic, now employ it. Even make-the-rich-pay-their-fair-share California is considering it as a means of ending the roller-coaster ride of tax revenue bonanzas in good times and tax revenue crashes in bad ones.

The ostensible reason for opposing the flat tax is that it is not “progressive”: there is a single rate on all incomes and the “rich” therefore don’t pay more than the less rich. But this confuses the marginal rate with the effective rate. Yes, the marginal rate (the tax on the last dollar of income) is flat. But the effective rate (the percentage of income taxed away) is not. It is actually quite steeply progressive. As an example, assume a 20 percent rate, personal exemption of $10,000, and no other deductions. For a family of four, the effective rate on a $40,000 income would be 0 percent; on $50,000, 4 percent; on $100,000, 12 percent; on $1,000,000, 19.2 percent.

And, because there are no deductions, no fiddles, no sheltering income in a corporation, etc. etc. etc., you know that your neighbor down the street with the bigger income is actually paying a higher percentage of that income in taxes. Today all you know is that he probably has a better tax accountant.

The real reason the flat tax is so bitterly opposed is because the two groups principally benefited by the status quo are politically potent. These groups are 1) the very rich and 2) members of Congress. The very rich fund the campaigns of members of Congress and the members of Congress provide loopholes to make sure that the very rich don’t pay their fair share (while, of course, demanding in public that they do so). The U.S. Tax Code is amended hundreds — sometimes thousands — of times a year and most of these amendments benefit very few — but very specific — people. It is a deeply corrupt system that profoundly and adversely impacts the economy and politics of the country.

But if the flat tax begins to spread among the states that have income taxes and begins to yield big benefits in terms of revenues and economic growth, more states will join the bandwagon and pressure will begin to mount on Congress to adopt a national flat tax.

The state of Maine, with a Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor, has enacted the country’s first (nearly) flat tax. The previous income tax, first enacted in 1969, had four brackets ranging from two percent, which kicked in at a mere $4,849 in income, to 8.5 percent at $19,450, one of the highest rates in the country. The new tax has a flat rate of 6.5 percent for incomes below $250,000, and 6.85 percent for those over it.

To make up for anticipated lost revenue, the state has broadened the sales tax on services and cut the state budget by $300 million out of $5.8 billion. (Cut the budget to meet a shortfall in revenue — what a concept!) I would bet a modest sum that a year from now the big story will be that Maine has seen its income tax receipts exceed estimates by a substantial margin, as Maine citizens become more willing to forgo tax shelters and other means of legally avoiding taxes.

The idea of a flat tax on income is spreading relentlessly because it is good. Over twenty countries, including Russia and the Czech Republic, now employ it. Even make-the-rich-pay-their-fair-share California is considering it as a means of ending the roller-coaster ride of tax revenue bonanzas in good times and tax revenue crashes in bad ones.

The ostensible reason for opposing the flat tax is that it is not “progressive”: there is a single rate on all incomes and the “rich” therefore don’t pay more than the less rich. But this confuses the marginal rate with the effective rate. Yes, the marginal rate (the tax on the last dollar of income) is flat. But the effective rate (the percentage of income taxed away) is not. It is actually quite steeply progressive. As an example, assume a 20 percent rate, personal exemption of $10,000, and no other deductions. For a family of four, the effective rate on a $40,000 income would be 0 percent; on $50,000, 4 percent; on $100,000, 12 percent; on $1,000,000, 19.2 percent.

And, because there are no deductions, no fiddles, no sheltering income in a corporation, etc. etc. etc., you know that your neighbor down the street with the bigger income is actually paying a higher percentage of that income in taxes. Today all you know is that he probably has a better tax accountant.

The real reason the flat tax is so bitterly opposed is because the two groups principally benefited by the status quo are politically potent. These groups are 1) the very rich and 2) members of Congress. The very rich fund the campaigns of members of Congress and the members of Congress provide loopholes to make sure that the very rich don’t pay their fair share (while, of course, demanding in public that they do so). The U.S. Tax Code is amended hundreds — sometimes thousands — of times a year and most of these amendments benefit very few — but very specific — people. It is a deeply corrupt system that profoundly and adversely impacts the economy and politics of the country.

But if the flat tax begins to spread among the states that have income taxes and begins to yield big benefits in terms of revenues and economic growth, more states will join the bandwagon and pressure will begin to mount on Congress to adopt a national flat tax.

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Bearing Witness

James Taranto zeroes in on Obama’s comments about “bearing witness” to the events in Iran and makes an excellent suggestion:

A regime that takes foreign diplomats hostage, uses children in combat, threatens to wipe another country off the map, and uses terrorist tactics against its countrymen has shown its determination to flout international norms.

“We must . . . bear witness,” says Obama. This entails acknowledging evil as well as celebrating the courage of genuine martyrs like Neda. Obama could do a lot of good simply by giving a speech describing the Iranian regime’s departures from international norms starting in 1979. In the process, he might even learn something himself.

Indeed, Obama is all about “honesty” and talking tough to those who prefer only their own circumscribed set of facts. So why not a speech, not to the mullahs as he did for al-Arabiya, but to the Iranian people? Tell them we know and understand the suffering of living under tyranny and want to draw them out of isolation, terror, brutality, and economic ruin, and into the family of nations.

After all, if the Cairo speech,  as the Obama team now tells us, begot the Lebanese elections, maybe a speech from another capital where democracy now flourishes in the Middle East — say, Baghdad — might make for some powerful TV. If they get real elections in Iraq with multiple parties, full campaigns, and no pre-screened candidates, why should they get any less in Iran?

James Taranto zeroes in on Obama’s comments about “bearing witness” to the events in Iran and makes an excellent suggestion:

A regime that takes foreign diplomats hostage, uses children in combat, threatens to wipe another country off the map, and uses terrorist tactics against its countrymen has shown its determination to flout international norms.

“We must . . . bear witness,” says Obama. This entails acknowledging evil as well as celebrating the courage of genuine martyrs like Neda. Obama could do a lot of good simply by giving a speech describing the Iranian regime’s departures from international norms starting in 1979. In the process, he might even learn something himself.

Indeed, Obama is all about “honesty” and talking tough to those who prefer only their own circumscribed set of facts. So why not a speech, not to the mullahs as he did for al-Arabiya, but to the Iranian people? Tell them we know and understand the suffering of living under tyranny and want to draw them out of isolation, terror, brutality, and economic ruin, and into the family of nations.

After all, if the Cairo speech,  as the Obama team now tells us, begot the Lebanese elections, maybe a speech from another capital where democracy now flourishes in the Middle East — say, Baghdad — might make for some powerful TV. If they get real elections in Iraq with multiple parties, full campaigns, and no pre-screened candidates, why should they get any less in Iran?

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Cohen vs. Cohen

Roger Cohen, on March 1, 2009:

The June presidential election pitting the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against Mohammad Khatami (a former president who once spoke in a synagogue) will be a genuine contest as compared to the charades that pass for elections in many Arab states.

Roger Cohen, on June 24, 2009:

Numbers have ceased to mean anything here. All the evidence is that percentages were simply allotted to each candidate and the votes cast backward-engineered from there. The Interior Ministry took 10 days to divulge results for all provinces. Such engineering takes time.

Roger Cohen on March 1, 2009:

Iran is an un-free society with a keen, intermittently brutal apparatus of repression, but it’s far from meeting [the criteria of a totalitarian state]. Significant margins of liberty, even democracy, exist. Anything but mad, the mullahs have proved malleable.

Roger Cohen on June 24, 2009:

All the fudge that allowed a modern society to coexist with a theocracy inspired by an imam occulted in the 9th century has been swept away, leaving two Irans at war.

Roger Cohen on March 1, 2009:

For all the morality police inspecting whether women are wearing boots outside their pants (the latest no-no on the dress front) and the regime zealots of the Basiji militia, the air you breathe in Iran is not suffocating. Its streets at dusk hum with life – not a monochrome male-only form of it, or one inhabited by fear – but the vibrancy of a changing, highly-educated society.

Roger Cohen on June 24, 2009:

Iran’s international rhetoric, effective in Ahmadinejad’s first term, will be far less so now. Every time he talks of justice and ethics, his two favorite words, video will roll of Neda Agha Soltan’s murder and the regime’s truncheon-wielding goons at work.

Roger Cohen on March 1, 2009:

The compromises being painfully fought out between Islam and democracy in Tehran are of seminal importance. They belie the notion of a fanatical power; they explain Jewish life.

Roger Cohen, on June 24, 2009:

The hypocritical but effective contract that bound society has been broken. The regime never had active support from more than 20 percent of the population. But acquiescence was secured by using only highly targeted repression (leaving the majority free to go about its business), and by giving people a vote for the president every four years.

That’s over. Repression will be broad and ferocious in the coming months.

Roger Cohen, March 1, 2009:

The equating of Iran with terror today is simplistic. Hamas and Hezbollah have evolved into broad political movements widely seen as resisting an Israel over-ready to use crushing force. It is essential to think again about them, just as it is essential to toss out Iran caricatures.

I return to this subject because behind the Jewish issue in Iran lies a critical one – the U.S. propensity to fixate on and demonize a country through a one-dimensional lens, with a sometimes disastrous chain of results.

Roger Cohen, on June 24, 2009:

Over the past week, i[Iran] has looked more like a flag-bearing police state.

Fine writing, in Cohen’s latest column. Still, the switch was fast and seamless: from apologist to sworn enemy, in less than three months. How does one explain this? Instead of name-calling, let’s venture into the publishable:

A liberal mugged by reality?

Someone, whose “‘one-dimensional lenses” used to read Iran last spring have now been cracked by the “disastrous chain of results” his naivete could not foresee?

Someone whose equation of Iran with subtlety, sophistication, and malleability was “simplistic”?

Someone who tossed out Iran caricatures in his columns?

A caricature himself?

Or just Roger Cohen, of the New York Times?

Roger Cohen, on March 1, 2009:

The June presidential election pitting the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against Mohammad Khatami (a former president who once spoke in a synagogue) will be a genuine contest as compared to the charades that pass for elections in many Arab states.

Roger Cohen, on June 24, 2009:

Numbers have ceased to mean anything here. All the evidence is that percentages were simply allotted to each candidate and the votes cast backward-engineered from there. The Interior Ministry took 10 days to divulge results for all provinces. Such engineering takes time.

Roger Cohen on March 1, 2009:

Iran is an un-free society with a keen, intermittently brutal apparatus of repression, but it’s far from meeting [the criteria of a totalitarian state]. Significant margins of liberty, even democracy, exist. Anything but mad, the mullahs have proved malleable.

Roger Cohen on June 24, 2009:

All the fudge that allowed a modern society to coexist with a theocracy inspired by an imam occulted in the 9th century has been swept away, leaving two Irans at war.

Roger Cohen on March 1, 2009:

For all the morality police inspecting whether women are wearing boots outside their pants (the latest no-no on the dress front) and the regime zealots of the Basiji militia, the air you breathe in Iran is not suffocating. Its streets at dusk hum with life – not a monochrome male-only form of it, or one inhabited by fear – but the vibrancy of a changing, highly-educated society.

Roger Cohen on June 24, 2009:

Iran’s international rhetoric, effective in Ahmadinejad’s first term, will be far less so now. Every time he talks of justice and ethics, his two favorite words, video will roll of Neda Agha Soltan’s murder and the regime’s truncheon-wielding goons at work.

Roger Cohen on March 1, 2009:

The compromises being painfully fought out between Islam and democracy in Tehran are of seminal importance. They belie the notion of a fanatical power; they explain Jewish life.

Roger Cohen, on June 24, 2009:

The hypocritical but effective contract that bound society has been broken. The regime never had active support from more than 20 percent of the population. But acquiescence was secured by using only highly targeted repression (leaving the majority free to go about its business), and by giving people a vote for the president every four years.

That’s over. Repression will be broad and ferocious in the coming months.

Roger Cohen, March 1, 2009:

The equating of Iran with terror today is simplistic. Hamas and Hezbollah have evolved into broad political movements widely seen as resisting an Israel over-ready to use crushing force. It is essential to think again about them, just as it is essential to toss out Iran caricatures.

I return to this subject because behind the Jewish issue in Iran lies a critical one – the U.S. propensity to fixate on and demonize a country through a one-dimensional lens, with a sometimes disastrous chain of results.

Roger Cohen, on June 24, 2009:

Over the past week, i[Iran] has looked more like a flag-bearing police state.

Fine writing, in Cohen’s latest column. Still, the switch was fast and seamless: from apologist to sworn enemy, in less than three months. How does one explain this? Instead of name-calling, let’s venture into the publishable:

A liberal mugged by reality?

Someone, whose “‘one-dimensional lenses” used to read Iran last spring have now been cracked by the “disastrous chain of results” his naivete could not foresee?

Someone whose equation of Iran with subtlety, sophistication, and malleability was “simplistic”?

Someone who tossed out Iran caricatures in his columns?

A caricature himself?

Or just Roger Cohen, of the New York Times?

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Testy?

Brit Hume had this take on yesterday’s presidential press conference:

A White House Press Corps that had been ridiculed for its allegedly fawning coverage was asking tough questions. And a president noted for his easy self-assurance was defensive and even testy at times. He insisted there was nothing new in his tough, and unmistakably new, language on Iran. He never did answer the question of whether the invitation still stands to Iranian diplomats to come to U.S. embassies around the world to celebrate the 4th of July.

[. . .]

In the beginning, it seems, charm and style count, but in the end it’s the results that count most.

And even some usually sympathetic pundits thought Obama was out of sorts and even worthy of a “testy“reel. (What is clear from the “testy” montage is that the president doesn’t understand — or pretends not to — that a public option will drive private plans out of business because the public plan will be subsidized by the taxpayers and not need to worry about making a profit.) CBS declared:

The president faced a press corps that at times seemed exasperated and was quick to challenge him, and Mr. Obama seemed more frustrated with his questioners than he has been in the past.

Aside from the president’s demeanor, there seems to be overwhelming agreement that his “I’ve been consistent” on Iran line was just not credible, as seen in yet another montage. (There is always Chris Matthews, the ever embarrassing spinner for his hero, attacking reporters who dare to be “snarky.”) Indeed, the Washington Post editors devote an entire column to the “shift on Iran.” Of the many big and small untruths the president has uttered (e.g., he doesn’t want to run a car company, he doesn’t like big government), this may be the first one the entire mainstream media called foul on.

Don’t they know they are in the presence of the One? Did they get the “your fawning is too obvious” memo? Maybe the media has been shamed into modestly cleaning up its act. (By historical standards, however, the questioning was still gentle, a pale imitation of what George W. Bush faced.) Or maybe these fearless journalists are shameless followers of public opinion; once the president’s poll numbers dived, the media pack decided to adopt a tougher stance toward the less-dreamy-than-before president.

Let’s see if this was a momentary spasm of independence or whether the press corps has decided it’s time to do their job. Like the president’s newly-toughened tone on Iran, the new-found media independence, if real, is inexcusably late in coming – but the conversion, if it is one, is welcomed.

Brit Hume had this take on yesterday’s presidential press conference:

A White House Press Corps that had been ridiculed for its allegedly fawning coverage was asking tough questions. And a president noted for his easy self-assurance was defensive and even testy at times. He insisted there was nothing new in his tough, and unmistakably new, language on Iran. He never did answer the question of whether the invitation still stands to Iranian diplomats to come to U.S. embassies around the world to celebrate the 4th of July.

[. . .]

In the beginning, it seems, charm and style count, but in the end it’s the results that count most.

And even some usually sympathetic pundits thought Obama was out of sorts and even worthy of a “testy“reel. (What is clear from the “testy” montage is that the president doesn’t understand — or pretends not to — that a public option will drive private plans out of business because the public plan will be subsidized by the taxpayers and not need to worry about making a profit.) CBS declared:

The president faced a press corps that at times seemed exasperated and was quick to challenge him, and Mr. Obama seemed more frustrated with his questioners than he has been in the past.

Aside from the president’s demeanor, there seems to be overwhelming agreement that his “I’ve been consistent” on Iran line was just not credible, as seen in yet another montage. (There is always Chris Matthews, the ever embarrassing spinner for his hero, attacking reporters who dare to be “snarky.”) Indeed, the Washington Post editors devote an entire column to the “shift on Iran.” Of the many big and small untruths the president has uttered (e.g., he doesn’t want to run a car company, he doesn’t like big government), this may be the first one the entire mainstream media called foul on.

Don’t they know they are in the presence of the One? Did they get the “your fawning is too obvious” memo? Maybe the media has been shamed into modestly cleaning up its act. (By historical standards, however, the questioning was still gentle, a pale imitation of what George W. Bush faced.) Or maybe these fearless journalists are shameless followers of public opinion; once the president’s poll numbers dived, the media pack decided to adopt a tougher stance toward the less-dreamy-than-before president.

Let’s see if this was a momentary spasm of independence or whether the press corps has decided it’s time to do their job. Like the president’s newly-toughened tone on Iran, the new-found media independence, if real, is inexcusably late in coming – but the conversion, if it is one, is welcomed.

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The Bait is Swallowed, the Hook is Set

Why, Ford?

Of the Big Three (well, Big 2.5) automakers, only Ford refused government bailout money. Only Ford has evaded bankruptcy and only Ford has not had to restructure its entire dealer network — provisions pushed by the federal government, which used its “investments” in the automakers to reshape them according to its political whims.

Well, Ford can no longer resist the bait, and has accepted almost $6 billion in a federal “loan” to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Apparently, Ford thinks it is exempt from the governing rule about accepting federal money: once you go into business with them, you end up the very junior partner in the deal. You will find yourself pushed to cater to the demands of several hundred new CEOs in the White House, in Congress, and in countless other bureaucratic sinecures.

That’s what is happening to banks that accepted TARP money. That’s what is happening to the auto industry. That is what is very likely to happen to the health care and health insurance industries.

Ford’s acceptance of this money is an expression of Hope and Change over reality. Ford is apparently Hoping that the Obama administration will, for some reason, Change how it treats its debtors. That the government, for once, will not use the leverage of its “investments” to exert influence over the entire corporation.

I Hope they’re right.

Why, Ford?

Of the Big Three (well, Big 2.5) automakers, only Ford refused government bailout money. Only Ford has evaded bankruptcy and only Ford has not had to restructure its entire dealer network — provisions pushed by the federal government, which used its “investments” in the automakers to reshape them according to its political whims.

Well, Ford can no longer resist the bait, and has accepted almost $6 billion in a federal “loan” to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Apparently, Ford thinks it is exempt from the governing rule about accepting federal money: once you go into business with them, you end up the very junior partner in the deal. You will find yourself pushed to cater to the demands of several hundred new CEOs in the White House, in Congress, and in countless other bureaucratic sinecures.

That’s what is happening to banks that accepted TARP money. That’s what is happening to the auto industry. That is what is very likely to happen to the health care and health insurance industries.

Ford’s acceptance of this money is an expression of Hope and Change over reality. Ford is apparently Hoping that the Obama administration will, for some reason, Change how it treats its debtors. That the government, for once, will not use the leverage of its “investments” to exert influence over the entire corporation.

I Hope they’re right.

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Who’s Going to Walk the Plank?

Word comes that the Democratic House leadership has rounded up the votes to pass climate change legislation on Friday. Roll Call reports:

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) announced their agreement after emerging from a closed-door meeting with the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs.

“You guys will be happy to know we have an agreement by now,” Peterson said. “We have something that I think works for agriculture.”

With the support of lawmakers with farming interests, Waxman said there is now a “clear consensus” that the legislation has the backing of most industries and that it has “the majority we need” to pass.

So which Blue Dogs are going to roll over for an $800B energy tax? Which one of the Congressmen from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Pennsylvania or other energy-producing or industrial states are going to vote for what Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has described as “imperial climate change policy”?  As he wrote:

This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers — California, Massachusetts and New York — seeking to exploit politically weaker colonies in order to prop up their own decaying economies.

I suspect Republicans won’t contribute a single vote, so this will be an entirely Democratic undertaking.

And maybe it isn’t exactly a done deal. Rep. Henry Waxman gives a rather weak prediction: “I think we will have the majority to pass the bill.” Hmm. Not exactly a ringing statement of confidence.

No wonder he’s not certain. Unemployment in Michigan is 14.1%, in Indiana it’s 10.6%, and in Ohio it’s 10.8%. Congressmen in these states are being asked to vote for something which is a net job-killer.  Congressmen who are tempted to pass this will need to explain their vote in light of studies like the one from the National Black Chamber of Commerce, which determined that cap-and-trade would “reduce national GDP roughly $350 billion below the baseline level; cut net employment by 2.5 million jobs (even after accounting for new ‘green’ jobs); and reduce earnings for the average U.S. worker by $390 per year.”

If cap-and-trade does get through the House then it is on to the Senate. What are the prospects there? One Republican Senate aide explained, “It won’t go through without a fight over here. . . but they have 58 guys, so nothing’s a sure thing to be blocked, unfortunately.” Once again, the pressure will be on the moderate Democrats. Can Evan Bayh tell Indiana voters they are going to give up jobs for a miniscule reduction in greenhouse gasses which India and China will surely match? He’s up for re-election in 2010. Then there is good ole, reliable Arlen Specter from coal-producing Pennsylvania and Red state moderates like Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor,  and Byron Dorgan.

Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman may be thrilled to bring climate change to a vote. Environmental lobbyists will be thrilled. Al Gore will throw them a ticker-tape parade. And there are many lawmakers who would love nothing better than to cast a feel-good vote to save the planet. But for those members in unsafe seats, from states with high unemployment? Not so thrilled, perhaps.

Word comes that the Democratic House leadership has rounded up the votes to pass climate change legislation on Friday. Roll Call reports:

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) announced their agreement after emerging from a closed-door meeting with the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs.

“You guys will be happy to know we have an agreement by now,” Peterson said. “We have something that I think works for agriculture.”

With the support of lawmakers with farming interests, Waxman said there is now a “clear consensus” that the legislation has the backing of most industries and that it has “the majority we need” to pass.

So which Blue Dogs are going to roll over for an $800B energy tax? Which one of the Congressmen from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Pennsylvania or other energy-producing or industrial states are going to vote for what Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has described as “imperial climate change policy”?  As he wrote:

This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers — California, Massachusetts and New York — seeking to exploit politically weaker colonies in order to prop up their own decaying economies.

I suspect Republicans won’t contribute a single vote, so this will be an entirely Democratic undertaking.

And maybe it isn’t exactly a done deal. Rep. Henry Waxman gives a rather weak prediction: “I think we will have the majority to pass the bill.” Hmm. Not exactly a ringing statement of confidence.

No wonder he’s not certain. Unemployment in Michigan is 14.1%, in Indiana it’s 10.6%, and in Ohio it’s 10.8%. Congressmen in these states are being asked to vote for something which is a net job-killer.  Congressmen who are tempted to pass this will need to explain their vote in light of studies like the one from the National Black Chamber of Commerce, which determined that cap-and-trade would “reduce national GDP roughly $350 billion below the baseline level; cut net employment by 2.5 million jobs (even after accounting for new ‘green’ jobs); and reduce earnings for the average U.S. worker by $390 per year.”

If cap-and-trade does get through the House then it is on to the Senate. What are the prospects there? One Republican Senate aide explained, “It won’t go through without a fight over here. . . but they have 58 guys, so nothing’s a sure thing to be blocked, unfortunately.” Once again, the pressure will be on the moderate Democrats. Can Evan Bayh tell Indiana voters they are going to give up jobs for a miniscule reduction in greenhouse gasses which India and China will surely match? He’s up for re-election in 2010. Then there is good ole, reliable Arlen Specter from coal-producing Pennsylvania and Red state moderates like Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor,  and Byron Dorgan.

Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman may be thrilled to bring climate change to a vote. Environmental lobbyists will be thrilled. Al Gore will throw them a ticker-tape parade. And there are many lawmakers who would love nothing better than to cast a feel-good vote to save the planet. But for those members in unsafe seats, from states with high unemployment? Not so thrilled, perhaps.

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Watching How Hopenchange is Made

The New York Times reports that House Democratic leaders released late Monday night a revamped 1,201-page Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” energy bill and plan to move it to the floor on Friday.  The bill has grown from the 946-page version adopted in the Energy and Commerce Committee — and “Sponsors expect to draft a manager’s amendment later this week that reflects additional deals reached among lawmakers.”

Democrats are still not done wheeling and dealing as they gear up for a floor debate, with critical issues still unresolved on everything from biofuels to which federal agency — U.S. EPA or the Agriculture Department — will have lead oversight of the offset program that would pay for environmentally friendly land management practices.

* * *

“There are some issues still under discussion, but we are confident we can resolve them by the time the bill goes to the floor on Friday,” [Pelosi spokesman Drew] Hammill said. “The speaker, Leader [Steny] Hoyer and Chairmen Waxman and Peterson have all agreed on this approach for moving this historic climate change and clean energy jobs bill.”

Paul Blumenthal, writing on the blog of the Sunlight Foundation, describes how the bill is suddenly 255 pages longer than the one reported out of committee — and is getting longer.  The bill was introduced on May 15, reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee with amendments on June 5, discharged by two other committees the same day, discharged by six other committees on June 19, and “now we are expecting a Friday vote on a bill that has had no public hearing in a committee with jurisdiction over it and that is not yet available in the main engine of public disclosure, THOMAS.”

And that isn’t even the worst part. This, apparently, isn’t even the final bill. The final bill will be a manager’s amendment that will be drafted later this week! From a posting on the House Rules Committee, we know that the deadline to submit amendments is Thursday at 9:30am. And there is talk that this will be voted on Friday. Thus, the final version of this bill will likely only be available for less than 24 hours.

It seems clear that, if the public knew what is in this bill, and how much it may cost them, they would concur with this analysis:  it is a “disaster.”  But the Democrats plan to ram it through without hearings or even public availability of the relevant text.  The same legislative process that brought us trillion-dollar stimulus spending and trillion-dollar deficit budgets is about to replicate itself yet again.

Why so fast?  Aside from the obvious reasons, there is a need to make room for the next bill to be railroaded through on a fast track by a one-party Congress.  The Times notes that:

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) . . . wants to see the House adopt the climate bill before the start of the Fourth of July recess so that he can turn his full attention after the break to President Obama’s health care reform plans.

The New York Times reports that House Democratic leaders released late Monday night a revamped 1,201-page Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” energy bill and plan to move it to the floor on Friday.  The bill has grown from the 946-page version adopted in the Energy and Commerce Committee — and “Sponsors expect to draft a manager’s amendment later this week that reflects additional deals reached among lawmakers.”

Democrats are still not done wheeling and dealing as they gear up for a floor debate, with critical issues still unresolved on everything from biofuels to which federal agency — U.S. EPA or the Agriculture Department — will have lead oversight of the offset program that would pay for environmentally friendly land management practices.

* * *

“There are some issues still under discussion, but we are confident we can resolve them by the time the bill goes to the floor on Friday,” [Pelosi spokesman Drew] Hammill said. “The speaker, Leader [Steny] Hoyer and Chairmen Waxman and Peterson have all agreed on this approach for moving this historic climate change and clean energy jobs bill.”

Paul Blumenthal, writing on the blog of the Sunlight Foundation, describes how the bill is suddenly 255 pages longer than the one reported out of committee — and is getting longer.  The bill was introduced on May 15, reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee with amendments on June 5, discharged by two other committees the same day, discharged by six other committees on June 19, and “now we are expecting a Friday vote on a bill that has had no public hearing in a committee with jurisdiction over it and that is not yet available in the main engine of public disclosure, THOMAS.”

And that isn’t even the worst part. This, apparently, isn’t even the final bill. The final bill will be a manager’s amendment that will be drafted later this week! From a posting on the House Rules Committee, we know that the deadline to submit amendments is Thursday at 9:30am. And there is talk that this will be voted on Friday. Thus, the final version of this bill will likely only be available for less than 24 hours.

It seems clear that, if the public knew what is in this bill, and how much it may cost them, they would concur with this analysis:  it is a “disaster.”  But the Democrats plan to ram it through without hearings or even public availability of the relevant text.  The same legislative process that brought us trillion-dollar stimulus spending and trillion-dollar deficit budgets is about to replicate itself yet again.

Why so fast?  Aside from the obvious reasons, there is a need to make room for the next bill to be railroaded through on a fast track by a one-party Congress.  The Times notes that:

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) . . . wants to see the House adopt the climate bill before the start of the Fourth of July recess so that he can turn his full attention after the break to President Obama’s health care reform plans.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Lieberman slays David Shuster’s “Hypocrisy Watch.” It was becoming “Apology Watch.” Good riddance.

Nancy Pelosi’s poll numbers have been diving ever since she became Speaker.

Dennis Prager explains exactly how and why Senator Boxer is so embarrassing.

Perhaps the electorate didn’t shift to the left as the Obama team had hoped. In the Washington Post-ABC poll, voters favor smaller government with fewer services over bigger government with more services by a 54-41% margin. And 87% are concerned about the deficit.

They should have thought of this first: “Some Chinese Muslims detained at Guantanamo Bay are hesitant about accepting this tiny Pacific nation’s offer to take them in because they fear it cannot shield them from China, Palau’s president said Tuesday. .  . The Uighurs, who knew nothing about Palau, grew anxious after they saw the country on a map and its relative proximity to China — although the islands lie deep in the Pacific Ocean, more than 1,700 miles (2,735 kilometers) southeast of the Chinese coast.” The U.S. officials didn’t mention that? Oh, they say the Uighurs have nothing to worry about and don’t need security. If they say so.

Speaking of tanking popularity: “TVNewser has learned the CBS Evening News has once again set an all-time low last week with 4.89 million Total Viewers and 1.42 million A25-54 viewers. But it was also the lowest (since records began in the 1991-’92 season) for ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson. The Gibson program drew 6.42 million Total Viewers and 1.77 million A25-54 viewers.” Maybe Obama should have picked cheerleaders with more staying power.

Harry Reid is less popular than John Ensign in Nevada. And in this swing state Obama’s approval/disapproval rating is 47-50%. Perhaps they dislike financial irresponsibility more than infidelity there.

And Independents, the mother lode of politics, don’t like what they see. Gerald Seib writes: “Among these people, who tend to reside in the middle of the ideological spectrum, the president’s job-approval rating fell to 45% from 60% in April. . .  They are markedly more worried about the federal budget deficit as an economic issue than are Americans in general, and they are more likely to be skeptical of Mr. Obama’s plan for a health-care overhaul. Above all, though, independents are starting to simply view the president as more liberal than they expected. The share of independents who say Mr. Obama is a liberal has risen to a substantial 64% from 46% two months ago. A large portion of them actually classify him as ‘very liberal.’”

Clinton toils in the shadows, ” says the headline. Translation: she’s a nobody in an administration which wanted to marginalize competing power centers.

So what does she do? Sidney Blumenthal – attack dog and shameless Clinton promoter — to the rescue.

Another one for the political party cognitive dissonance file: “Forty-eight percent (48%) of U.S. voters say the president’s Middle Eastern policy is about right, but 35% say he is not supportive enough of Israel. Just 10% think the president is being too supportive of Israel in his efforts to achieve Mideast peace. Sixty-three percent (63%) of Republicans say Obama is not being supportive enough of Israel, but 78% of Democrats say his policy is about right. Unaffiliated voters are much more closely divided between those two positions.”

Since the administration has punted on immigration reform a private citizen, Helen Krieble, is trying her own “Red Card” plan. Maybe all of the people uninvited (or not sure they were invited) to the White House for a meeting about its unseriousness about immigration reform can go talk to Ms. Krieble.

Eric Cantor’s spokesman doesn’t think much of the July 4 BBQ with the mullahs’ representatives: “This is just the latest example of an Administration so desperate to keep a campaign promise that it will celebrate our own Independence Day with the agents of a regime that supports terror and brutalizes its own people.”

CNN grills David Axelrod on the topic. Doesn’t he know “it’s about a lot more than having a hot dog?”

The ABC News President is deeply offended, it seems, that anyone considers their in-White House coverage of the president’s top domestic issue “slanted.” Well they never accorded this much coverage from within the White House for any other president’s top legislative priority. Ever. But here is a suggestion to quiet even the angriest critics: Have Jake Tapper ask the president questions all day long. That’d be fair.

Joe Lieberman slays David Shuster’s “Hypocrisy Watch.” It was becoming “Apology Watch.” Good riddance.

Nancy Pelosi’s poll numbers have been diving ever since she became Speaker.

Dennis Prager explains exactly how and why Senator Boxer is so embarrassing.

Perhaps the electorate didn’t shift to the left as the Obama team had hoped. In the Washington Post-ABC poll, voters favor smaller government with fewer services over bigger government with more services by a 54-41% margin. And 87% are concerned about the deficit.

They should have thought of this first: “Some Chinese Muslims detained at Guantanamo Bay are hesitant about accepting this tiny Pacific nation’s offer to take them in because they fear it cannot shield them from China, Palau’s president said Tuesday. .  . The Uighurs, who knew nothing about Palau, grew anxious after they saw the country on a map and its relative proximity to China — although the islands lie deep in the Pacific Ocean, more than 1,700 miles (2,735 kilometers) southeast of the Chinese coast.” The U.S. officials didn’t mention that? Oh, they say the Uighurs have nothing to worry about and don’t need security. If they say so.

Speaking of tanking popularity: “TVNewser has learned the CBS Evening News has once again set an all-time low last week with 4.89 million Total Viewers and 1.42 million A25-54 viewers. But it was also the lowest (since records began in the 1991-’92 season) for ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson. The Gibson program drew 6.42 million Total Viewers and 1.77 million A25-54 viewers.” Maybe Obama should have picked cheerleaders with more staying power.

Harry Reid is less popular than John Ensign in Nevada. And in this swing state Obama’s approval/disapproval rating is 47-50%. Perhaps they dislike financial irresponsibility more than infidelity there.

And Independents, the mother lode of politics, don’t like what they see. Gerald Seib writes: “Among these people, who tend to reside in the middle of the ideological spectrum, the president’s job-approval rating fell to 45% from 60% in April. . .  They are markedly more worried about the federal budget deficit as an economic issue than are Americans in general, and they are more likely to be skeptical of Mr. Obama’s plan for a health-care overhaul. Above all, though, independents are starting to simply view the president as more liberal than they expected. The share of independents who say Mr. Obama is a liberal has risen to a substantial 64% from 46% two months ago. A large portion of them actually classify him as ‘very liberal.’”

Clinton toils in the shadows, ” says the headline. Translation: she’s a nobody in an administration which wanted to marginalize competing power centers.

So what does she do? Sidney Blumenthal – attack dog and shameless Clinton promoter — to the rescue.

Another one for the political party cognitive dissonance file: “Forty-eight percent (48%) of U.S. voters say the president’s Middle Eastern policy is about right, but 35% say he is not supportive enough of Israel. Just 10% think the president is being too supportive of Israel in his efforts to achieve Mideast peace. Sixty-three percent (63%) of Republicans say Obama is not being supportive enough of Israel, but 78% of Democrats say his policy is about right. Unaffiliated voters are much more closely divided between those two positions.”

Since the administration has punted on immigration reform a private citizen, Helen Krieble, is trying her own “Red Card” plan. Maybe all of the people uninvited (or not sure they were invited) to the White House for a meeting about its unseriousness about immigration reform can go talk to Ms. Krieble.

Eric Cantor’s spokesman doesn’t think much of the July 4 BBQ with the mullahs’ representatives: “This is just the latest example of an Administration so desperate to keep a campaign promise that it will celebrate our own Independence Day with the agents of a regime that supports terror and brutalizes its own people.”

CNN grills David Axelrod on the topic. Doesn’t he know “it’s about a lot more than having a hot dog?”

The ABC News President is deeply offended, it seems, that anyone considers their in-White House coverage of the president’s top domestic issue “slanted.” Well they never accorded this much coverage from within the White House for any other president’s top legislative priority. Ever. But here is a suggestion to quiet even the angriest critics: Have Jake Tapper ask the president questions all day long. That’d be fair.

Read Less




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