Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 9, 2009

A Heads-Up

We’ve been having some trouble with our servers over the past couple of days, with posts appearing and disappearing. We haven’t quite diagnosed the problem yet, so please be patient with us as we attempt to resolve this peculiar problem.

We’ve been having some trouble with our servers over the past couple of days, with posts appearing and disappearing. We haven’t quite diagnosed the problem yet, so please be patient with us as we attempt to resolve this peculiar problem.

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Cap-and-Trade or Duck-and-Hide?

The squeaker vote on cap-and-trade has proven so popular in the Senate and the president’s words of encouragement so compelling that liberal Sen. Barabara Boxer is burying it — maybe forever. This report explains:

President Barack Obama’s push for quick action by Congress on climate change legislation suffered a setback on Thursday when the U.S. Senate committee leading the drive delayed work on the bill until September.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer said her self-imposed deadline of early August for finishing writing a bill to combat global warming has been put off until after Congress returns from a recess that ends in early September.

“We’ll do it as soon as we get back” from that break, Boxer told reporters. Asked if this delay jeopardizes chances the Senate will pass a bill this year, Boxer said, “Not a bit … we’ll be in (session) until Christmas, so I’m not worried about it.”
But Boxer did not guarantee Congress will be able to finish a bill and deliver it to Obama by December, when he plans to attend an international summit on climate change in Copenhagen.

By December we will see how attractive a massive energy tax would be. (Talk about a lump of coal in your stocking.) But Boxer is smart to shove this off to the side. Democrats who cast a hard vote in the House and are now being pummeled by conservatives, business and taxpayer groups, and potential opponents (as are the Republican Eight who are in the dog house with the base). Those who supported cap-and-trade despite warnings about job losses and the adverse impact on the already struggling economy (especially in energy-producing states) are finding little support for having placed a pet issue on the liberal wish-list ahead of their constituents’ economic interests. Then the G-8 didn’t help matters either. And really, if the EPA’s own administrator says it will have no effect on climate, what’s the point of the whole exercise?

So this may turn out to be the worst of all worlds for the Democratic House leadership and the White House, who forced vulnerable members to walk the plank for nothing. Environmental groups will be furious if large Democratic majorities and a Democratic president can’t deliver. And yet those members who tried to deliver will be tagged by opponents in 2010 as disregarding bread-and-butter concerns during a recession.

Sometimes it pays to just say “no.”

The squeaker vote on cap-and-trade has proven so popular in the Senate and the president’s words of encouragement so compelling that liberal Sen. Barabara Boxer is burying it — maybe forever. This report explains:

President Barack Obama’s push for quick action by Congress on climate change legislation suffered a setback on Thursday when the U.S. Senate committee leading the drive delayed work on the bill until September.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer said her self-imposed deadline of early August for finishing writing a bill to combat global warming has been put off until after Congress returns from a recess that ends in early September.

“We’ll do it as soon as we get back” from that break, Boxer told reporters. Asked if this delay jeopardizes chances the Senate will pass a bill this year, Boxer said, “Not a bit … we’ll be in (session) until Christmas, so I’m not worried about it.”
But Boxer did not guarantee Congress will be able to finish a bill and deliver it to Obama by December, when he plans to attend an international summit on climate change in Copenhagen.

By December we will see how attractive a massive energy tax would be. (Talk about a lump of coal in your stocking.) But Boxer is smart to shove this off to the side. Democrats who cast a hard vote in the House and are now being pummeled by conservatives, business and taxpayer groups, and potential opponents (as are the Republican Eight who are in the dog house with the base). Those who supported cap-and-trade despite warnings about job losses and the adverse impact on the already struggling economy (especially in energy-producing states) are finding little support for having placed a pet issue on the liberal wish-list ahead of their constituents’ economic interests. Then the G-8 didn’t help matters either. And really, if the EPA’s own administrator says it will have no effect on climate, what’s the point of the whole exercise?

So this may turn out to be the worst of all worlds for the Democratic House leadership and the White House, who forced vulnerable members to walk the plank for nothing. Environmental groups will be furious if large Democratic majorities and a Democratic president can’t deliver. And yet those members who tried to deliver will be tagged by opponents in 2010 as disregarding bread-and-butter concerns during a recession.

Sometimes it pays to just say “no.”

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G-8 Failure Illustrates Obama’s Iran Folly

The news from the G-8 Summit at L’Aquila, Italy confirms what many of us have suspected all along about Barack Obama’s Iran policy: this administration is not willing to take the kind of actions needed to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

According to Jake Tapper of ABC News, the G-8 leaders will issue a communiqué expressing their dismay about post-election violence in Iran as well as about that nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. But they will not call for more stringent sanctions against Iran, nor will they pledge stricter enforcement of those measures that are already in place.

This is hardly surprising given the that the president didn’t even wait for what Roger Cohen hoped would be a “decent interval” after the stolen Iranian presidential election before reiterating his determination to pursue a policy of engagement with the Iranian regime. Moreover, given the extensive business ties between Iran and some of the other G-8 countries in Europe, it is equally unremarkable that there would be no enthusiasm at the gathering for progress toward effective action on the issue.

The point is, absent stronger sanctions and with Washington disavowing the threat of U.S. or even Israeli military strikes on Iran’s nuclear targets, what incentive does Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or newly re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have to give up their nuclear push?

As much as everyone knows that a military response to the Iranian program is, at best, problematic, the only viable alternative is complete economic isolation for Tehran. Tough sanctions, applied across the board and with Iran’s leading trading partners (e.g. Germany) participating, might bring down a government that has already lost any shred of internal legitimacy. At the least, it might force them to back away from their long cherished hope for what Obama once called a “game changing” nuclear option.

One would think that the aftermath of the election fiasco and the bloody repression on the streets of Tehran would be the perfect opportunity for Obama to take the lead on this issue and, at least, begin the process of expanding sanctions. But as has been the case since the election, Obama’s indecision and unwillingness to lead on this issue has effectively spiked any real hope of a diplomatic resolution of this impending crisis.

The clock is ticking toward the moment when Iran can proclaim having achieved nuclear capability. Every day we delay in moving toward effective sanctions makes it all the more certain that whatever measures are eventually taken, will come too late.

The G-8’s decision to punt on action regarding this issue is further proof that this administration is not serious about the problem; despite the existential threat Iran’s nuclear program poses to Israel and the peril it also presents to the rest of the region and the West. Obama’s apologists may continue to pretend that he understands the high stakes involved and that he will eventually make good on his campaign promises never to accept a nuclear Iran. But the rest of us now know — if we didn’t already understand it — that Obama is prepared to live with Iranian nukes.

Notwithstanding the incoherent messages coming from Vice President Biden and others in the administration, Israelis ought to conclude that they are on their own when it comes to Iran.

The news from the G-8 Summit at L’Aquila, Italy confirms what many of us have suspected all along about Barack Obama’s Iran policy: this administration is not willing to take the kind of actions needed to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

According to Jake Tapper of ABC News, the G-8 leaders will issue a communiqué expressing their dismay about post-election violence in Iran as well as about that nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. But they will not call for more stringent sanctions against Iran, nor will they pledge stricter enforcement of those measures that are already in place.

This is hardly surprising given the that the president didn’t even wait for what Roger Cohen hoped would be a “decent interval” after the stolen Iranian presidential election before reiterating his determination to pursue a policy of engagement with the Iranian regime. Moreover, given the extensive business ties between Iran and some of the other G-8 countries in Europe, it is equally unremarkable that there would be no enthusiasm at the gathering for progress toward effective action on the issue.

The point is, absent stronger sanctions and with Washington disavowing the threat of U.S. or even Israeli military strikes on Iran’s nuclear targets, what incentive does Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or newly re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have to give up their nuclear push?

As much as everyone knows that a military response to the Iranian program is, at best, problematic, the only viable alternative is complete economic isolation for Tehran. Tough sanctions, applied across the board and with Iran’s leading trading partners (e.g. Germany) participating, might bring down a government that has already lost any shred of internal legitimacy. At the least, it might force them to back away from their long cherished hope for what Obama once called a “game changing” nuclear option.

One would think that the aftermath of the election fiasco and the bloody repression on the streets of Tehran would be the perfect opportunity for Obama to take the lead on this issue and, at least, begin the process of expanding sanctions. But as has been the case since the election, Obama’s indecision and unwillingness to lead on this issue has effectively spiked any real hope of a diplomatic resolution of this impending crisis.

The clock is ticking toward the moment when Iran can proclaim having achieved nuclear capability. Every day we delay in moving toward effective sanctions makes it all the more certain that whatever measures are eventually taken, will come too late.

The G-8’s decision to punt on action regarding this issue is further proof that this administration is not serious about the problem; despite the existential threat Iran’s nuclear program poses to Israel and the peril it also presents to the rest of the region and the West. Obama’s apologists may continue to pretend that he understands the high stakes involved and that he will eventually make good on his campaign promises never to accept a nuclear Iran. But the rest of us now know — if we didn’t already understand it — that Obama is prepared to live with Iranian nukes.

Notwithstanding the incoherent messages coming from Vice President Biden and others in the administration, Israelis ought to conclude that they are on their own when it comes to Iran.

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Obama’s Enlightened Choice

President Obama — in an inspired move — named Dr. Francis Collins head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Collins is one of the world’s leading scientists. He is a physician-geneticist known in part for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and for his leadership of the Human Genome Project. (Collins served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH from 1993-2008.)

The New York Times reports, however, that a couple of objections have been raised to the choice of Dr. Collins. According to the Times:

The first is his very public embrace of religion. Dr. Collins, who was not raised with any religious training, wrote a book called “The Language of God,” and he has given many talks and interviews in which he has described his conversion to Christianity as a 27-year-old medical school intern. “I came at this from a position of ignorance,” he said. “I came at it from an intellectual point of view.” Religion and genetic research have long had a fraught relationship, and some in the field are uneasy about what they see as Dr. Collins’s evangelism.

This is an example of the sometimes subtle and sometimes overt bias against people of religious faith. Collins’s critics speak as if Obama had named the President of Westminster Theological Seminary as head of NIH instead of one of the world’s greatest scientific minds and a man of sterling scientific credentials. Dr. Collins being a person of faith — and in particular, of the Christian faith — seems to alarm some people in the scientific world, despite there being nothing in Colins’s body of work that would cause anyone to think twice about how his faith might negatively impact his work at NIH. The mere fact that Collins embraced Christianity and is viewed as an “evangelical” is itself considered grounds for suspicion.

Fortunately, none of this will matter. Dr. Collins will provide outstanding leadership to the NIH. He will show that faith and reason are perfectly compatible. But this episode underscores the prejudices that have to be overcome. And those who think the world of science is free from such things ,ought to think again.

President Obama — in an inspired move — named Dr. Francis Collins head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Collins is one of the world’s leading scientists. He is a physician-geneticist known in part for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and for his leadership of the Human Genome Project. (Collins served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH from 1993-2008.)

The New York Times reports, however, that a couple of objections have been raised to the choice of Dr. Collins. According to the Times:

The first is his very public embrace of religion. Dr. Collins, who was not raised with any religious training, wrote a book called “The Language of God,” and he has given many talks and interviews in which he has described his conversion to Christianity as a 27-year-old medical school intern. “I came at this from a position of ignorance,” he said. “I came at it from an intellectual point of view.” Religion and genetic research have long had a fraught relationship, and some in the field are uneasy about what they see as Dr. Collins’s evangelism.

This is an example of the sometimes subtle and sometimes overt bias against people of religious faith. Collins’s critics speak as if Obama had named the President of Westminster Theological Seminary as head of NIH instead of one of the world’s greatest scientific minds and a man of sterling scientific credentials. Dr. Collins being a person of faith — and in particular, of the Christian faith — seems to alarm some people in the scientific world, despite there being nothing in Colins’s body of work that would cause anyone to think twice about how his faith might negatively impact his work at NIH. The mere fact that Collins embraced Christianity and is viewed as an “evangelical” is itself considered grounds for suspicion.

Fortunately, none of this will matter. Dr. Collins will provide outstanding leadership to the NIH. He will show that faith and reason are perfectly compatible. But this episode underscores the prejudices that have to be overcome. And those who think the world of science is free from such things ,ought to think again.

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Comments

After long consideration, COMMENTARY’s editors have decided to end the policy of publishing comments.

After long consideration, COMMENTARY’s editors have decided to end the policy of publishing comments.

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Fool Us Once Shame on You, Fool Us Twice. . .

Karl Rove makes an interesting argument: we should learn from Obama’s disingenuousness on the stimulus plan when we consider health care. Rove reminds us the stimulus was rushed through on the argument that it was urgently needed to keep unemployment below 8%:

Mr. Obama outsourced writing the stimulus to House appropriators who stuffed it with every bad spending idea they weren’t previously able to push through Congress. Little of it aimed to quickly revive the economy. More stimulus money will be spent in fiscal years 2011 through 2019 than will be spent this fiscal year, which ends in September.

On Sunday, Mr. Biden, backpedaling from his drop-kick comments, said that “no one anticipated, no one expected that the recovery package would in fact be in a position at this point of having to distribute the bulk of the money.”

This fits a pattern. The administration consistently pledges unrealistic results that it later distances itself from. It has gotten away with it because the media haven’t asked many pointed questions.

Aside from a round of I-told-you-so’s, conservatives, Rove suggests, would do well to utilize the evidence before them and encourage some much-needed skepticism about the president’s next far-fetched scheme: a government take-over of health care. Part of Obama’s modus operandi is to avoid ever spelling out what the administration’s own plan is. That’s what he did on the stimulus and he’s at is again on health care.

But here the public, media, and Congress have every reason to slow down the train and ask some hard questions. What will it cost? Who is going to pay for it? Why do we need the government to “keep costs” down when there are private insurance companies competing to do the same? When we cut hundreds of millions from Medicare, won’t that impact care and result in shifting the cost to private insurers? The list is long but Obama is painfully short on specifics.

And the media is slowly catching on to the “deep dissension on several fronts within Democratic ranks and possible defections among key constituencies,” which exists largely because everyone has been fudging fundamental differences between interests (e.g. hospitals and doctors resist having fees slashed) and ignoring the big questions.

Moreover, the liberal vision of “reform” conflicts with political realities. Nancy Pelosi may favor a government-centric health-care system but her members have their doubts. As The Hill notes: “centrist Blue Dog members remain skeptical of a proposal to create a government-run public insurance plan, and vulnerable members facing reelection in conservative districts next year don’t like the idea of voting for a tax increase to pay for it.”

And this brings us back to the lesson of the stimulus plan. Joe Biden says the administration “misread” the economy when devising the stimulus plan. If true, we have reason to question why we should trust them to “read” health care more accurately. If not — and the administration suffers from an honesty deficit — there is even more reason to be wary of what comes out of the White House spin machine. As Rove notes:

Mr. Obama has already created a river of red ink. His health-care plans will only force that river over its banks. We are at the cusp of a crucial political debate, and Mr. Obama’s words on fiscal matters are untrustworthy. His promised savings are a mirage. His proposals to reshape the economy are alarming. And his unwillingness to be forthright with his numbers reveals that he knows his plans would terrify many Americans.

Put differently: if the stimulus plan is the administration’s model of perfection (“There’s nothing that we would have done differently”) then there is good reason to keep health care (something far more complicated and critical to the lives of ordinary Americans than a wasteful Keynesian boondoggle) far from their clutches.

Karl Rove makes an interesting argument: we should learn from Obama’s disingenuousness on the stimulus plan when we consider health care. Rove reminds us the stimulus was rushed through on the argument that it was urgently needed to keep unemployment below 8%:

Mr. Obama outsourced writing the stimulus to House appropriators who stuffed it with every bad spending idea they weren’t previously able to push through Congress. Little of it aimed to quickly revive the economy. More stimulus money will be spent in fiscal years 2011 through 2019 than will be spent this fiscal year, which ends in September.

On Sunday, Mr. Biden, backpedaling from his drop-kick comments, said that “no one anticipated, no one expected that the recovery package would in fact be in a position at this point of having to distribute the bulk of the money.”

This fits a pattern. The administration consistently pledges unrealistic results that it later distances itself from. It has gotten away with it because the media haven’t asked many pointed questions.

Aside from a round of I-told-you-so’s, conservatives, Rove suggests, would do well to utilize the evidence before them and encourage some much-needed skepticism about the president’s next far-fetched scheme: a government take-over of health care. Part of Obama’s modus operandi is to avoid ever spelling out what the administration’s own plan is. That’s what he did on the stimulus and he’s at is again on health care.

But here the public, media, and Congress have every reason to slow down the train and ask some hard questions. What will it cost? Who is going to pay for it? Why do we need the government to “keep costs” down when there are private insurance companies competing to do the same? When we cut hundreds of millions from Medicare, won’t that impact care and result in shifting the cost to private insurers? The list is long but Obama is painfully short on specifics.

And the media is slowly catching on to the “deep dissension on several fronts within Democratic ranks and possible defections among key constituencies,” which exists largely because everyone has been fudging fundamental differences between interests (e.g. hospitals and doctors resist having fees slashed) and ignoring the big questions.

Moreover, the liberal vision of “reform” conflicts with political realities. Nancy Pelosi may favor a government-centric health-care system but her members have their doubts. As The Hill notes: “centrist Blue Dog members remain skeptical of a proposal to create a government-run public insurance plan, and vulnerable members facing reelection in conservative districts next year don’t like the idea of voting for a tax increase to pay for it.”

And this brings us back to the lesson of the stimulus plan. Joe Biden says the administration “misread” the economy when devising the stimulus plan. If true, we have reason to question why we should trust them to “read” health care more accurately. If not — and the administration suffers from an honesty deficit — there is even more reason to be wary of what comes out of the White House spin machine. As Rove notes:

Mr. Obama has already created a river of red ink. His health-care plans will only force that river over its banks. We are at the cusp of a crucial political debate, and Mr. Obama’s words on fiscal matters are untrustworthy. His promised savings are a mirage. His proposals to reshape the economy are alarming. And his unwillingness to be forthright with his numbers reveals that he knows his plans would terrify many Americans.

Put differently: if the stimulus plan is the administration’s model of perfection (“There’s nothing that we would have done differently”) then there is good reason to keep health care (something far more complicated and critical to the lives of ordinary Americans than a wasteful Keynesian boondoggle) far from their clutches.

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The Excuses Begin

Democrats are in a bit of a jam on the stimulus, as many reporters have noticed: “Democrats are all over the map on the stimulus and the possibility of a sequel, and it’s not hard to see why: When it comes to a second stimulus, they may be damned if they do and damned if they don’t.” But there is nothing they would have done differently, right? That phrase may prove to be this administration’s “Mission Accomplished” banner.

The current excuse — that somehow the administration didn’t understand how severe the crisis was — isn’t going over so well. In fact, it’s so easily disproved by rolling back the tapes of all the gloom-and-doom talk that permeated the president’s remarks in the early days of his term, that his critics are having a field day. House Minority Leader John Boehner, for example, isn’t buying any excuses:

I found it … interesting over the last couple of days to hear Vice President Biden and the president mention the fact that they didn’t realize how difficult an economic circumstance we were in. . . Now this is the greatest fabrication I have seen since I’ve been in Congress. I’ve sat in meetings in the White House with the vice president and the president. There’s not one person that sat in those rooms that didn’t understand how serious our economic crisis was.

Well he does have a point; the president kept calling it the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The simple truth is the stimulus was ill-conceived and poorly executed. Sooner or later, the president and his advisers will need to acknowledge that deferring to Nancy Pelosi to devise a grab-bag of goodies for liberal interest groups wasn’t smart politics or smart policy.

Democrats are in a bit of a jam on the stimulus, as many reporters have noticed: “Democrats are all over the map on the stimulus and the possibility of a sequel, and it’s not hard to see why: When it comes to a second stimulus, they may be damned if they do and damned if they don’t.” But there is nothing they would have done differently, right? That phrase may prove to be this administration’s “Mission Accomplished” banner.

The current excuse — that somehow the administration didn’t understand how severe the crisis was — isn’t going over so well. In fact, it’s so easily disproved by rolling back the tapes of all the gloom-and-doom talk that permeated the president’s remarks in the early days of his term, that his critics are having a field day. House Minority Leader John Boehner, for example, isn’t buying any excuses:

I found it … interesting over the last couple of days to hear Vice President Biden and the president mention the fact that they didn’t realize how difficult an economic circumstance we were in. . . Now this is the greatest fabrication I have seen since I’ve been in Congress. I’ve sat in meetings in the White House with the vice president and the president. There’s not one person that sat in those rooms that didn’t understand how serious our economic crisis was.

Well he does have a point; the president kept calling it the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The simple truth is the stimulus was ill-conceived and poorly executed. Sooner or later, the president and his advisers will need to acknowledge that deferring to Nancy Pelosi to devise a grab-bag of goodies for liberal interest groups wasn’t smart politics or smart policy.

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A Response to Dershowitz’s Reply on Obama and Israel

Alan Dershowitz has replied to the critiques of his defense of the Obama administration’s attitude toward Israel that was published in the Wall Street Journal last week made by me and in Britain’s Spectator by the admirable Melanie Phillips. You can read his reply here.

Dershowitz claims that if Obama’s critics have their way, the bipartisan consensus in support of Israel will be destroyed. He says Phillips — and other conservatives like me who disagreed with his article — wants Israel to be a wedge issue between the parties here. He says this would replicate the situation in Britain, where only conservatives back the Jewish state while the liberal/left abhors it.

This is wrong because, to the best of my knowledge, the leadership of the British Conservative Party is no more reliable on Israel than that of Labor or the Social Democrats. If the reaction to the fighting in Gaza last winter is any indication, the only competition among the parties there seems to be over who is more anti-Israel and in a better position to gain the votes of a Muslim community more numerous than that of British Jewry.

He’s also wrong when he claims that holding Obama and other Democrats accountable for their positions on the Middle East is an attempt to make the pro-Israel cause the sole preserve of the GOP. In the last few elections, Jewish Republicans have attempted to increase their party’s share of the Jewish vote by pointing out that many on the Left have distanced themselves from Israel and that, by contrast, fervent support for the Jewish state on the part of the vast majority of American conservatives has become a political fact of life. For their pains, these GOP supporters were rewarded with minimal gains in terms of Jewish votes.

Indeed, by attacking Democrats with a broad brush as if Jimmy Carter represented the mainstream of that party, their ads only served to infuriate Jewish Dems rather than persuading them to vote Republican. In reply, Democratic partisans tried to make the same point as Dershowitz: i.e. that injecting the fate of Israel into political debates is bad policy since it undermines the bi-partisan consensus. This is mere partisan gamesmanship on the part of the Democrats because their goal is not consensus but rather maintaining their stranglehold on the Jewish vote by eliminating the one issue that works for Republicans.

If Jews were to take that advice and refrain from talking about Israel during political campaigns, that would hurt Israel’s cause, not help it. If, as Jewish Democrats urged, Israel were taken off the table as a political issue, then a drift away from Israel might be ignored or condoned. By forcing Democrats to speak up and avow that the Jimmy Carters in their party would continue to be marginalized, the GOP campaign served the community well even though it did little self-serving good. And that’s exactly what happened last year when Democrats like Dershowitz spent so much time and effort vouching for Barack Obama’s bona fides on the issue.

Dershowitz is right when he points out that most Jews remain liberal and are inclined to support the Democrats because of their positions on domestic issues. Though there were good reasons for suspecting that Obama’s campaign statements about Israel were insincere, his statements nevertheless proved sufficient in persuading the vast majority of Jewish Democrats who care about Israel (and though there are many Jews who may no longer care much about Israel, it is a mistake to assume that the majority do not) that he was acceptable on the issue. The problem is, the Barack Obama who stood up at the AIPAC conference in 2008 and said what the Jewish community wanted to hear is not the Barack Obama who currently sits in the Oval Office.

Dershowitz is also right in saying that in the past, some Republicans have been outspoken foes of Israel. But when the elder George Bush anticipated the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis by challenging the right of AIPAC activists to lobby Congress on behalf of loan guarantees in 1991, Jewish Democrats and Republicans both roundly condemned the president. Though James Baker was right when he famously said that most Jews hadn’t voted for Bush in 1988, the Jewish vote for the Republicans actually declined precipitately in 1992. Indeed, since then no Republican candidate for president, including Bush’s extremely pro-Israel son, George W. Bush, has come close to the 32 percent of the Jewish vote that the elder Bush got in 1988.

But when faced with a Cairo speech troubling even for Dershowitz, a ginned-up dispute about settlements that ignores the reality of there being no Palestinian peace partner, Obama’s repudiation of past commitments to Israel made by previous administrations, and a presidential commitment to “engagement” on Iran that has all the earmarks of appeasement, Democrats like Dershowitz are still unwilling to hold Obama’s feet to the fire. This isn’t a matter of asking Democrats to become Republicans. If, as Dershowitz avows, pro-Israel Democrats have influence on the administration, then let them use it in the same way conservative evangelicals did in 2002 when statements by Secretary of State Colin Powell made it appear as if a Republican administration was taking a similarly “even-handed” approach to Israel’s attempts to defend itself against a Palestinian campaign of suicide attacks. They deluged the White House with calls for strong support for Israel and got results.

If the current trend towards a de-emphasis on the alliance with Israel continues without a strong negative reaction from Jewish Democrats, then we are entitled to ask why they are either silent or rationalizing a policy that they know is wrong. Rather than fending off critiques from those who want him to put his influence to work on behalf of Israel’s interests, what Dershowitz ought to do is use his considerable influence to lead his fellow Democrats in demanding that Obama keep his promises of solidarity with Israel.

Alan Dershowitz has replied to the critiques of his defense of the Obama administration’s attitude toward Israel that was published in the Wall Street Journal last week made by me and in Britain’s Spectator by the admirable Melanie Phillips. You can read his reply here.

Dershowitz claims that if Obama’s critics have their way, the bipartisan consensus in support of Israel will be destroyed. He says Phillips — and other conservatives like me who disagreed with his article — wants Israel to be a wedge issue between the parties here. He says this would replicate the situation in Britain, where only conservatives back the Jewish state while the liberal/left abhors it.

This is wrong because, to the best of my knowledge, the leadership of the British Conservative Party is no more reliable on Israel than that of Labor or the Social Democrats. If the reaction to the fighting in Gaza last winter is any indication, the only competition among the parties there seems to be over who is more anti-Israel and in a better position to gain the votes of a Muslim community more numerous than that of British Jewry.

He’s also wrong when he claims that holding Obama and other Democrats accountable for their positions on the Middle East is an attempt to make the pro-Israel cause the sole preserve of the GOP. In the last few elections, Jewish Republicans have attempted to increase their party’s share of the Jewish vote by pointing out that many on the Left have distanced themselves from Israel and that, by contrast, fervent support for the Jewish state on the part of the vast majority of American conservatives has become a political fact of life. For their pains, these GOP supporters were rewarded with minimal gains in terms of Jewish votes.

Indeed, by attacking Democrats with a broad brush as if Jimmy Carter represented the mainstream of that party, their ads only served to infuriate Jewish Dems rather than persuading them to vote Republican. In reply, Democratic partisans tried to make the same point as Dershowitz: i.e. that injecting the fate of Israel into political debates is bad policy since it undermines the bi-partisan consensus. This is mere partisan gamesmanship on the part of the Democrats because their goal is not consensus but rather maintaining their stranglehold on the Jewish vote by eliminating the one issue that works for Republicans.

If Jews were to take that advice and refrain from talking about Israel during political campaigns, that would hurt Israel’s cause, not help it. If, as Jewish Democrats urged, Israel were taken off the table as a political issue, then a drift away from Israel might be ignored or condoned. By forcing Democrats to speak up and avow that the Jimmy Carters in their party would continue to be marginalized, the GOP campaign served the community well even though it did little self-serving good. And that’s exactly what happened last year when Democrats like Dershowitz spent so much time and effort vouching for Barack Obama’s bona fides on the issue.

Dershowitz is right when he points out that most Jews remain liberal and are inclined to support the Democrats because of their positions on domestic issues. Though there were good reasons for suspecting that Obama’s campaign statements about Israel were insincere, his statements nevertheless proved sufficient in persuading the vast majority of Jewish Democrats who care about Israel (and though there are many Jews who may no longer care much about Israel, it is a mistake to assume that the majority do not) that he was acceptable on the issue. The problem is, the Barack Obama who stood up at the AIPAC conference in 2008 and said what the Jewish community wanted to hear is not the Barack Obama who currently sits in the Oval Office.

Dershowitz is also right in saying that in the past, some Republicans have been outspoken foes of Israel. But when the elder George Bush anticipated the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis by challenging the right of AIPAC activists to lobby Congress on behalf of loan guarantees in 1991, Jewish Democrats and Republicans both roundly condemned the president. Though James Baker was right when he famously said that most Jews hadn’t voted for Bush in 1988, the Jewish vote for the Republicans actually declined precipitately in 1992. Indeed, since then no Republican candidate for president, including Bush’s extremely pro-Israel son, George W. Bush, has come close to the 32 percent of the Jewish vote that the elder Bush got in 1988.

But when faced with a Cairo speech troubling even for Dershowitz, a ginned-up dispute about settlements that ignores the reality of there being no Palestinian peace partner, Obama’s repudiation of past commitments to Israel made by previous administrations, and a presidential commitment to “engagement” on Iran that has all the earmarks of appeasement, Democrats like Dershowitz are still unwilling to hold Obama’s feet to the fire. This isn’t a matter of asking Democrats to become Republicans. If, as Dershowitz avows, pro-Israel Democrats have influence on the administration, then let them use it in the same way conservative evangelicals did in 2002 when statements by Secretary of State Colin Powell made it appear as if a Republican administration was taking a similarly “even-handed” approach to Israel’s attempts to defend itself against a Palestinian campaign of suicide attacks. They deluged the White House with calls for strong support for Israel and got results.

If the current trend towards a de-emphasis on the alliance with Israel continues without a strong negative reaction from Jewish Democrats, then we are entitled to ask why they are either silent or rationalizing a policy that they know is wrong. Rather than fending off critiques from those who want him to put his influence to work on behalf of Israel’s interests, what Dershowitz ought to do is use his considerable influence to lead his fellow Democrats in demanding that Obama keep his promises of solidarity with Israel.

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Lawlessness Personified

The Washington Post’s front page story on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor waxes lyrical about her attention to detail and exhaustive review of lower court rulings. There are two problems: that is really not what appellate judges should be doing (i.e. this is further evidence of her disregard for the proper role of judges and the rule of law) and it points to just how egregious her conduct was in the Ricci case, which the Post’s report shockingly omits entirely.

As to the first issue, the Post concedes:

Legal experts said Sotomayor’s rulings fall within the mainstream of those by Democratic-appointed judges. But some were critical of her style, saying it comes close to overstepping the traditional role of appellate judges, who give considerable deference to the judges and juries that observe testimony and are considered the primary finders of fact.

“It seems an odd use of judicial time, given the very heavy caseload in the 2nd Circuit, to spend endless hours delving into the minutiae of the record,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and an authority on federal courts.

Adrienne Urrutia Wisenberg, a Washington criminal appellate lawyer, said appellate judges “are not in the role of reweighing the credibility of a witness. Someone’s demeanor is not reflected on a transcript.”

But it is worse than that, actually. Judges at the appellate level, if they are following the law, generally are required to give extraordinary deference to the factual findings of lower court judges and juries. From where does she get the authority to second-guess triers of fact? Unclear. What is clear is that this is unbridled activism — a vivid example of a judge determined to bend the facts and retry a case to comport with an outcome she favors:

A Republican appointee who disagreed wrote that “appellate courts are not factfinders. . . . I do not understand it to be our role . . . to engage in this kind of dissection of the empirical evidence cited by the district court. Nor is it to identify competing studies or news articles pointing in other directions.”

In 2004, Sotomayor appeared to go beyond the facts established at trial in arguing that two teenage girls were illegally strip-searched at Connecticut juvenile detention facilities. Their lawsuit against the state was dismissed by a federal judge but reinstated in an opinion written by a Democratic 2nd Circuit appointee, who said four of the strip searches at issue were unlawful but four others were legal.

Sotomayor dissented, arguing that all were illegal and blasting any strip search as “severely intrusive.” Citing documents from pretrial discovery, she broke down all 34 strip searches at the facilities in which contraband was found on a prisoner from 1995 to 2000 — searches that were not part of the lawsuit. She concluded that there was “absolutely no evidence that suspicionless strip searches were necessary.”

And that is precisely the criticism leveled by a colleague in a child pornography case:

A fellow Democratic appointee, Judge Rosemary S. Pooler, dissented. Sotomayor’s opinion, she wrote, was based on “speculations and conjectures” and disregarded the judge’s “role as the finder-of-facts.”

“It is inappropriate in all but the most extraordinary cases for this Court to second-guess a district court’s credibility findings,” Pooler concluded. “The majority’s dissection of the district court’s decision departs from our precedents and wrongly supplants the lower court’s assessment of the evidence with its own factual inferences, never having seen or heard any of the testimony that it now seeks to discredit.

And this brings us to Ricci. Where is the meticulous search for facts in that case? Why no exhaustive review of the record by Sotomayor? A per curium opinion hardly seems appropriate or reflective of a judge who is supposed to be “extraordinarily thorough” or who “often meticulously analyzes witness testimony.” One is left to conclude that the record, in this case, wasn’t helpful to the outcome she preferred and instead was rife with all manner of messy evidence of the sort Justice Alito expertly detailed: racial politics gone wild, a bullying African American minister pressuring the city to dump a test minorities had failed, a dearth of evidence that the test was faulty, etc.

One is left to conclude that Sotomayor is devoted to certain ideological outcomes, not to the neutral application of law. When helpful to her cause, she goes rooting around for facts, disregarding the applicable standard of review and imposing her own assessment of the evidence, which should properly be left for others to determine. In other instances, when the facts are not helpful, she ignores them. This is activism of the worst kind — unprincipled and unbound to precedent. The Senate should very carefully consider whether this is the sort of judge who is deserving of elevation to the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post’s front page story on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor waxes lyrical about her attention to detail and exhaustive review of lower court rulings. There are two problems: that is really not what appellate judges should be doing (i.e. this is further evidence of her disregard for the proper role of judges and the rule of law) and it points to just how egregious her conduct was in the Ricci case, which the Post’s report shockingly omits entirely.

As to the first issue, the Post concedes:

Legal experts said Sotomayor’s rulings fall within the mainstream of those by Democratic-appointed judges. But some were critical of her style, saying it comes close to overstepping the traditional role of appellate judges, who give considerable deference to the judges and juries that observe testimony and are considered the primary finders of fact.

“It seems an odd use of judicial time, given the very heavy caseload in the 2nd Circuit, to spend endless hours delving into the minutiae of the record,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and an authority on federal courts.

Adrienne Urrutia Wisenberg, a Washington criminal appellate lawyer, said appellate judges “are not in the role of reweighing the credibility of a witness. Someone’s demeanor is not reflected on a transcript.”

But it is worse than that, actually. Judges at the appellate level, if they are following the law, generally are required to give extraordinary deference to the factual findings of lower court judges and juries. From where does she get the authority to second-guess triers of fact? Unclear. What is clear is that this is unbridled activism — a vivid example of a judge determined to bend the facts and retry a case to comport with an outcome she favors:

A Republican appointee who disagreed wrote that “appellate courts are not factfinders. . . . I do not understand it to be our role . . . to engage in this kind of dissection of the empirical evidence cited by the district court. Nor is it to identify competing studies or news articles pointing in other directions.”

In 2004, Sotomayor appeared to go beyond the facts established at trial in arguing that two teenage girls were illegally strip-searched at Connecticut juvenile detention facilities. Their lawsuit against the state was dismissed by a federal judge but reinstated in an opinion written by a Democratic 2nd Circuit appointee, who said four of the strip searches at issue were unlawful but four others were legal.

Sotomayor dissented, arguing that all were illegal and blasting any strip search as “severely intrusive.” Citing documents from pretrial discovery, she broke down all 34 strip searches at the facilities in which contraband was found on a prisoner from 1995 to 2000 — searches that were not part of the lawsuit. She concluded that there was “absolutely no evidence that suspicionless strip searches were necessary.”

And that is precisely the criticism leveled by a colleague in a child pornography case:

A fellow Democratic appointee, Judge Rosemary S. Pooler, dissented. Sotomayor’s opinion, she wrote, was based on “speculations and conjectures” and disregarded the judge’s “role as the finder-of-facts.”

“It is inappropriate in all but the most extraordinary cases for this Court to second-guess a district court’s credibility findings,” Pooler concluded. “The majority’s dissection of the district court’s decision departs from our precedents and wrongly supplants the lower court’s assessment of the evidence with its own factual inferences, never having seen or heard any of the testimony that it now seeks to discredit.

And this brings us to Ricci. Where is the meticulous search for facts in that case? Why no exhaustive review of the record by Sotomayor? A per curium opinion hardly seems appropriate or reflective of a judge who is supposed to be “extraordinarily thorough” or who “often meticulously analyzes witness testimony.” One is left to conclude that the record, in this case, wasn’t helpful to the outcome she preferred and instead was rife with all manner of messy evidence of the sort Justice Alito expertly detailed: racial politics gone wild, a bullying African American minister pressuring the city to dump a test minorities had failed, a dearth of evidence that the test was faulty, etc.

One is left to conclude that Sotomayor is devoted to certain ideological outcomes, not to the neutral application of law. When helpful to her cause, she goes rooting around for facts, disregarding the applicable standard of review and imposing her own assessment of the evidence, which should properly be left for others to determine. In other instances, when the facts are not helpful, she ignores them. This is activism of the worst kind — unprincipled and unbound to precedent. The Senate should very carefully consider whether this is the sort of judge who is deserving of elevation to the Supreme Court.

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Re: Ohio’s Ominous Political Storm Clouds

Pete, your take on Obama’s diving poll numbers (with a useful reminder that such trends may reverse themselves) is borne out by additional poll numbers. First, in my home state of Virginia, where Obama became the first winning Democratic presidential candidate since LBJ, Public Policy Polling reports that at least among likely voters in this year’s gubernatorial race:

A day after Quinnipiac found Barack Obama’s approval rating in Ohio at 49%, we find it at 48% in Virginia.

The caveat here is that we are measuring his numbers among likely general election voters for this year- in the context of the race for Governor- rather than all registered voters or likely voters for a Presidential election. . . .Taking that into consideration, the numbers still aren’t real good. They show a high level of polarization we find in every state- 95% of Democrats but only 9% of Republicans giving him good marks. But he’s also doing pretty poorly with independents, as only 38% say he’s doing well and 52% disapprove.

In the short run, this may spell trouble for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, who can’t rely on Obama to win over independents. (Remember the trend in Virginia: for eight consecutive elections since 1977 the party which lost the White House won the gubernatorial race the following year.) As Larry J. Sabato wrote last month: “If Obama’s popularity goes south, then Virginians may send the usual off-year message of  ‘change and balance’ by voting Republican.”

In the longer term, this re-enforces the perception that swing voters and states that bought into Obama’s moderate campaign rhetoric and wanted desperately to throw out the party of George W. Bush, don’t like what they are now seeing.

And then there are the national polling trends. Obama’s approval rating in Gallup has dropped to 56%. His poll average in Pollster.com is down to 55.1% and his disapproval rating now averages 38.7%. The two trend lines are narrowing — dramatically.

Much of the problem seems to be with Independents, as Politico reports:

In a potentially alarming trend for the White House, independent voters are deserting President Barack Obama nationally and especially in key swing states, recent polls suggest.

Obama’s job approval rating hit a — still healthy — low of 56 percent in the Gallup Poll on Wednesday. And pollsters are debating whether Obama’s expansive and expensive policy proposals or the ground-level realities of a still-faltering economy are driving the falling numbers.

But a source of the shift appears to be independent voters, who seem to be responding to Republican complaints of excessive spending and government control

Obama may be an attractive figure who provided many voters with a chance to feel good about themselves in a historic election. But more and more Americans don’t feel so good about the economy, for which he will inevitably be held responsible. And they may feel equally put off by the gap between his campaign rhetoric and his governing philosophy. I suspect a significant portion of the 53% of the electorate that supported him did not vote for massive deficits, higher taxes, enormous expansion of government, and the take-over of two car companies. But that is what they got. And at least for now, more and more voters are telling pollsters they don’t like what they see.

Pete, your take on Obama’s diving poll numbers (with a useful reminder that such trends may reverse themselves) is borne out by additional poll numbers. First, in my home state of Virginia, where Obama became the first winning Democratic presidential candidate since LBJ, Public Policy Polling reports that at least among likely voters in this year’s gubernatorial race:

A day after Quinnipiac found Barack Obama’s approval rating in Ohio at 49%, we find it at 48% in Virginia.

The caveat here is that we are measuring his numbers among likely general election voters for this year- in the context of the race for Governor- rather than all registered voters or likely voters for a Presidential election. . . .Taking that into consideration, the numbers still aren’t real good. They show a high level of polarization we find in every state- 95% of Democrats but only 9% of Republicans giving him good marks. But he’s also doing pretty poorly with independents, as only 38% say he’s doing well and 52% disapprove.

In the short run, this may spell trouble for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, who can’t rely on Obama to win over independents. (Remember the trend in Virginia: for eight consecutive elections since 1977 the party which lost the White House won the gubernatorial race the following year.) As Larry J. Sabato wrote last month: “If Obama’s popularity goes south, then Virginians may send the usual off-year message of  ‘change and balance’ by voting Republican.”

In the longer term, this re-enforces the perception that swing voters and states that bought into Obama’s moderate campaign rhetoric and wanted desperately to throw out the party of George W. Bush, don’t like what they are now seeing.

And then there are the national polling trends. Obama’s approval rating in Gallup has dropped to 56%. His poll average in Pollster.com is down to 55.1% and his disapproval rating now averages 38.7%. The two trend lines are narrowing — dramatically.

Much of the problem seems to be with Independents, as Politico reports:

In a potentially alarming trend for the White House, independent voters are deserting President Barack Obama nationally and especially in key swing states, recent polls suggest.

Obama’s job approval rating hit a — still healthy — low of 56 percent in the Gallup Poll on Wednesday. And pollsters are debating whether Obama’s expansive and expensive policy proposals or the ground-level realities of a still-faltering economy are driving the falling numbers.

But a source of the shift appears to be independent voters, who seem to be responding to Republican complaints of excessive spending and government control

Obama may be an attractive figure who provided many voters with a chance to feel good about themselves in a historic election. But more and more Americans don’t feel so good about the economy, for which he will inevitably be held responsible. And they may feel equally put off by the gap between his campaign rhetoric and his governing philosophy. I suspect a significant portion of the 53% of the electorate that supported him did not vote for massive deficits, higher taxes, enormous expansion of government, and the take-over of two car companies. But that is what they got. And at least for now, more and more voters are telling pollsters they don’t like what they see.

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Re: The Health Care No’s

Watching the same trends I remarked upon yesterday, James Capretta thinks Democratic health-care-reform advocates are sailing into “seriously choppy political waters.” Part of this is to be expected, he explains:

The Obama White House and their congressional allies have built expectations among their core supporters that this is the year to pass a government-takeover of American health care. With expectations set so high, most elected Democrats have concluded they have no choice but to set out on a forced march to try to do exactly that — despite unified Republican opposition. But a partisan bill means that Democrats own all of the messy and unattractive details too. The debate is no longer about vague concepts of “coverage” and “cost-control” but who pays and who is forced out of their job-based plans.

So the answer? Why naturally, “shorten the time between a full public airing and a vote.” But even if they do so, they still have to come up with a plan, a complete bill setting forth a funding mechanism, a price tag, and a specified role for government in regulating or directly providing insurance. Given what we know about the outlines of the Kennedy-Dodd plan, we are looking at spending $1.5 trillion and still leaving “15 to 20 million uninsured Americans.”

If the Obama-Reid-Pelosi team is bent on following the directives of their liberal base to effect a government takeover of health care, there will be precious few Republican votes to support such an agenda. As Capretta notes, “Party activists pushed Congressional Democrats over the July 4th recess to write a bill reflecting long-standing party goals — which means government-run insurance and near-total government control. This push has made the chances for bipartisan compromise — already remote — even less likely.”

And so all eyes will be on those moderate and conservative Democrats: do they vote to nationalize health care on a party-line vote? Do they have the nerve to spend $1.5 trillion or so and raise the taxes to pay for it as unemployment goes to double digits and the economy continues its downward spiral? Stay tuned.

Watching the same trends I remarked upon yesterday, James Capretta thinks Democratic health-care-reform advocates are sailing into “seriously choppy political waters.” Part of this is to be expected, he explains:

The Obama White House and their congressional allies have built expectations among their core supporters that this is the year to pass a government-takeover of American health care. With expectations set so high, most elected Democrats have concluded they have no choice but to set out on a forced march to try to do exactly that — despite unified Republican opposition. But a partisan bill means that Democrats own all of the messy and unattractive details too. The debate is no longer about vague concepts of “coverage” and “cost-control” but who pays and who is forced out of their job-based plans.

So the answer? Why naturally, “shorten the time between a full public airing and a vote.” But even if they do so, they still have to come up with a plan, a complete bill setting forth a funding mechanism, a price tag, and a specified role for government in regulating or directly providing insurance. Given what we know about the outlines of the Kennedy-Dodd plan, we are looking at spending $1.5 trillion and still leaving “15 to 20 million uninsured Americans.”

If the Obama-Reid-Pelosi team is bent on following the directives of their liberal base to effect a government takeover of health care, there will be precious few Republican votes to support such an agenda. As Capretta notes, “Party activists pushed Congressional Democrats over the July 4th recess to write a bill reflecting long-standing party goals — which means government-run insurance and near-total government control. This push has made the chances for bipartisan compromise — already remote — even less likely.”

And so all eyes will be on those moderate and conservative Democrats: do they vote to nationalize health care on a party-line vote? Do they have the nerve to spend $1.5 trillion or so and raise the taxes to pay for it as unemployment goes to double digits and the economy continues its downward spiral? Stay tuned.

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Obama’s False Foreign-Policy Notes

In Russia this week, President Obama spoke about the end of the Cold War, disclaiming any distinctive role for the United States, crediting instead the actions of “many nations” and the Russian and Eastern European people who “stood up”:

Make no mistake:  this change did not come from any one nation alone.  The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.

As Scott Johnson noted yesterday at Power Line, Lech Walesa had a somewhat different perspective.  After Ronald Reagan’s death, Walesa wrote that the Czechs owed their liberty to him and that “[t]his can’t be said often enough.”  Walesa particularly remembered the poster that became a powerful symbol for the Poles in the 1989 poll in which Solidarity trounced the Communists:

[T]he poster shows Gary Cooper as the lonely sheriff in the American Western, “High Noon.” Under the headline “At High Noon” runs the red Solidarity banner and the date — June 4, 1989 — of the poll.  It was a simple but effective gimmick that, at the time, was misunderstood by the Communists. They, in fact, tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the “Wild” West, especially the U.S.

But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys in Western clothes had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom, both physical and spiritual. . . . [The poster] has become the emblem of the battle that we all fought together.

Over the past week, Obama also came out in support of an anti-American Honduran leader seeking to extend his term of office beyond constitutional limits.  The administration sided against the Honduran Supreme Court, Congress and Attorney General, suspended aid, and supported OAS action against the country.  The administration now appears to be backing off—because the Honduran people stood up.  An Investor’s Business Daily editorial yesterday described what happened after the U.S. and OAS took their adamant positions:

[Honduran] Government support strengthened though, with the Church, businesses and crowds in the streets all holding together.

“Honduras is an example to the world. We don’t have money. We don’t have oil. We have balls,” read a hand-lettered sign from a defiant street protester in support of his government.

Obama has set a series of false notes in foreign policy by standing silently for a week as huge crowds in Iran courageously protested a stolen election and failing to support Honduras against a Chavez-like attempt to avoid the rules of a democracy.  He has not even been consistent:  in the first case, he feared being characterized as the Wild “Meddling” West; in the second, he had no compunctions against major meddling.

In another sense, however, he was consistent.  In both cases he failed to support the people who were standing up, which makes his rhetoric in Russia still another false note.

In Russia this week, President Obama spoke about the end of the Cold War, disclaiming any distinctive role for the United States, crediting instead the actions of “many nations” and the Russian and Eastern European people who “stood up”:

Make no mistake:  this change did not come from any one nation alone.  The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.

As Scott Johnson noted yesterday at Power Line, Lech Walesa had a somewhat different perspective.  After Ronald Reagan’s death, Walesa wrote that the Czechs owed their liberty to him and that “[t]his can’t be said often enough.”  Walesa particularly remembered the poster that became a powerful symbol for the Poles in the 1989 poll in which Solidarity trounced the Communists:

[T]he poster shows Gary Cooper as the lonely sheriff in the American Western, “High Noon.” Under the headline “At High Noon” runs the red Solidarity banner and the date — June 4, 1989 — of the poll.  It was a simple but effective gimmick that, at the time, was misunderstood by the Communists. They, in fact, tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the “Wild” West, especially the U.S.

But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys in Western clothes had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom, both physical and spiritual. . . . [The poster] has become the emblem of the battle that we all fought together.

Over the past week, Obama also came out in support of an anti-American Honduran leader seeking to extend his term of office beyond constitutional limits.  The administration sided against the Honduran Supreme Court, Congress and Attorney General, suspended aid, and supported OAS action against the country.  The administration now appears to be backing off—because the Honduran people stood up.  An Investor’s Business Daily editorial yesterday described what happened after the U.S. and OAS took their adamant positions:

[Honduran] Government support strengthened though, with the Church, businesses and crowds in the streets all holding together.

“Honduras is an example to the world. We don’t have money. We don’t have oil. We have balls,” read a hand-lettered sign from a defiant street protester in support of his government.

Obama has set a series of false notes in foreign policy by standing silently for a week as huge crowds in Iran courageously protested a stolen election and failing to support Honduras against a Chavez-like attempt to avoid the rules of a democracy.  He has not even been consistent:  in the first case, he feared being characterized as the Wild “Meddling” West; in the second, he had no compunctions against major meddling.

In another sense, however, he was consistent.  In both cases he failed to support the people who were standing up, which makes his rhetoric in Russia still another false note.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Republican Congressman Mark Kirk will run for Senate in Illinois. Democratic favorite and state Attorney general Lisa Madigan will not. A possible GOP pick-up? Not out of the realm of possibility. But Kirk is going to have to explain his cap-and-trade vote to conservatives should he face a primary.

From The Hill: “Public anxiety over the economy, stocks in decline, rising unemployment and a string of expensive Democratic initiatives are all encouraging high-caliber Republicans to compete in 2010. The GOP is enjoying its best candidate recruitment streak in years. The past week has been chock-full of good news for Republicans on the recruiting front and follows troubling developments for Democrats on their side of the ballot.” Remember when the GOP was permanently kaput?

And more news from Illinois: Blago’s top aide pleads guilty and will be explaining, among other things, how Blago was planning to get a plum union job. Or maybe an ambassadorship. (To what possible country?!) Or maybe appoint himself to the Senate.

Maybe we should hold off on hobbling our own economy until the other G-8 countries agree to do the same to theirs. “The world’s major industrial nations and newly emerging powers failed to agree Wednesday on specific cuts in heat-trapping gases by 2050, undercutting an effort to build a global consensus to fight climate change, according to people following the talks. . . The failure to establish specific targets on climate change underscored the difficulty in bridging longstanding divisions between the most developed countries like the United States and developing nations like China and India.”

They did agree on a tentative compromise to keep “temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above average levels of more than a century ago, before large-scale industrial pollution occurred.” Environmentalists labeled this as “largely meaningless.”

“The housing bubble that burst in 2007 and led to a financial crisis can be traced back to federal government intervention in the U.S. housing market intended to help provide homeownership opportunities for more Americans. This intervention began with two government-backed corporations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which privatized their profits but socialized their risks, creating powerful incentives for them to act recklessly and exposing taxpayers to tremendous losses.” A CATO report? Heritage? Nope — part of a 26-page report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The A.P. has figured out the magnitude of Obama’s campaign misrepresentations: “President Barack Obama promised to fix health care and trim the federal budget deficit, all without raising taxes on anyone but the wealthiest Americans. It’s a promise he’s already broken and will likely have to break again. Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress have already increased tobacco taxes — which disproportionately hit the poor — to pay for extending health coverage to 4 million children in working low-income families. Now, lawmakers are looking for more revenues to help pay for providing medical insurance to millions more who lack it at a projected cost of $1 trillion over the next decade.”

From the New York Times, no less: “With their allies controlling the White House and Congress, the nation’s labor unions should be making hay. Instead many unions are making war — largely with one another — in the biggest, nastiest surge of labor fratricide in decades. With some union leaders condemning other leaders as dictators and Darth Vaders, business leaders are smiling. Every million spent by unions to bash one another depletes their coffers for battling corporate America and Republican political candidates.”

Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon on the stimulus: “What a surprise! The Obama administration let the Democrats in Congress pick the spending. Much of it was pork, of course. And much of the rest was a temporary consumer tax cut. How many times do we have to repeat temporary tax cuts (or increases) to learn that households save most temporary tax changes ? And where are all the shovel-ready construction programs? Inept or dishonest? Did our government lie to us? Shocking!”

Republican Congressman Mark Kirk will run for Senate in Illinois. Democratic favorite and state Attorney general Lisa Madigan will not. A possible GOP pick-up? Not out of the realm of possibility. But Kirk is going to have to explain his cap-and-trade vote to conservatives should he face a primary.

From The Hill: “Public anxiety over the economy, stocks in decline, rising unemployment and a string of expensive Democratic initiatives are all encouraging high-caliber Republicans to compete in 2010. The GOP is enjoying its best candidate recruitment streak in years. The past week has been chock-full of good news for Republicans on the recruiting front and follows troubling developments for Democrats on their side of the ballot.” Remember when the GOP was permanently kaput?

And more news from Illinois: Blago’s top aide pleads guilty and will be explaining, among other things, how Blago was planning to get a plum union job. Or maybe an ambassadorship. (To what possible country?!) Or maybe appoint himself to the Senate.

Maybe we should hold off on hobbling our own economy until the other G-8 countries agree to do the same to theirs. “The world’s major industrial nations and newly emerging powers failed to agree Wednesday on specific cuts in heat-trapping gases by 2050, undercutting an effort to build a global consensus to fight climate change, according to people following the talks. . . The failure to establish specific targets on climate change underscored the difficulty in bridging longstanding divisions between the most developed countries like the United States and developing nations like China and India.”

They did agree on a tentative compromise to keep “temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above average levels of more than a century ago, before large-scale industrial pollution occurred.” Environmentalists labeled this as “largely meaningless.”

“The housing bubble that burst in 2007 and led to a financial crisis can be traced back to federal government intervention in the U.S. housing market intended to help provide homeownership opportunities for more Americans. This intervention began with two government-backed corporations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which privatized their profits but socialized their risks, creating powerful incentives for them to act recklessly and exposing taxpayers to tremendous losses.” A CATO report? Heritage? Nope — part of a 26-page report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The A.P. has figured out the magnitude of Obama’s campaign misrepresentations: “President Barack Obama promised to fix health care and trim the federal budget deficit, all without raising taxes on anyone but the wealthiest Americans. It’s a promise he’s already broken and will likely have to break again. Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress have already increased tobacco taxes — which disproportionately hit the poor — to pay for extending health coverage to 4 million children in working low-income families. Now, lawmakers are looking for more revenues to help pay for providing medical insurance to millions more who lack it at a projected cost of $1 trillion over the next decade.”

From the New York Times, no less: “With their allies controlling the White House and Congress, the nation’s labor unions should be making hay. Instead many unions are making war — largely with one another — in the biggest, nastiest surge of labor fratricide in decades. With some union leaders condemning other leaders as dictators and Darth Vaders, business leaders are smiling. Every million spent by unions to bash one another depletes their coffers for battling corporate America and Republican political candidates.”

Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon on the stimulus: “What a surprise! The Obama administration let the Democrats in Congress pick the spending. Much of it was pork, of course. And much of the rest was a temporary consumer tax cut. How many times do we have to repeat temporary tax cuts (or increases) to learn that households save most temporary tax changes ? And where are all the shovel-ready construction programs? Inept or dishonest? Did our government lie to us? Shocking!”

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