Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 15, 2009

There Is Winning, And There Is Winning

If there had been some compelling testimony this afternoon, I would have mentioned it. What is clear is that with the possible exception of Lindsay Graham I am not seeing any Republican votes for Sotomayor. On Round 2 Hatch and Cornyn were back to the “wise Latina” speech, both sounding entirely skeptical. All that said, there are 60 Democrats in the Senate so she’s likely home free, unless the Democrats decide they can’t abide by the dissembling and that everyone should get a look at those PRLDEF records to see if she was, as she now says, unaware and uninvolved in the group’s left-wing litigation campaigns.

But there is another battle going on here between conservative and liberal legal scholars. On this score Sotomayor has let down her home team.

Roger Clegg thinks Sotomayor’s hypocrisy (i.e. her confirmation conversion into a Chief Justice Roberts clone) is a “moral and intellectual” victory for legal conservatives:

She says that judges ought not create new constitutional rights, nor change what the Constitution protects, nor change the meaning of the Constitution. . . Maybe it will even have some practical impact. Hypocrisy may be the tribute that vice pays to virtue, and hypocrites may be confirmed, but at least we have established what virtue is and what vice is.

Almost on cue, liberal lawyer Louis Michael Seidman, who yesterday excoriated Sotomayor’s dishonesty, writes:

The pity is that all of this was probably unnecessary. The Democrats have sixty votes in the Senate. It would have taken some courage for Judge Sotomayor to have told the truth, but not much. She said yesterday that judges should never decide cases out of fear. Yesterday, she testified out of fear. We have a right to expect better of her.

Well, at least we know at least one liberal jurist doesn’t have courage or honesty to say what she means — and to own up to what she was saying (over and over again, for years) before a Supreme Court nomination was dangled in front of her.

If there had been some compelling testimony this afternoon, I would have mentioned it. What is clear is that with the possible exception of Lindsay Graham I am not seeing any Republican votes for Sotomayor. On Round 2 Hatch and Cornyn were back to the “wise Latina” speech, both sounding entirely skeptical. All that said, there are 60 Democrats in the Senate so she’s likely home free, unless the Democrats decide they can’t abide by the dissembling and that everyone should get a look at those PRLDEF records to see if she was, as she now says, unaware and uninvolved in the group’s left-wing litigation campaigns.

But there is another battle going on here between conservative and liberal legal scholars. On this score Sotomayor has let down her home team.

Roger Clegg thinks Sotomayor’s hypocrisy (i.e. her confirmation conversion into a Chief Justice Roberts clone) is a “moral and intellectual” victory for legal conservatives:

She says that judges ought not create new constitutional rights, nor change what the Constitution protects, nor change the meaning of the Constitution. . . Maybe it will even have some practical impact. Hypocrisy may be the tribute that vice pays to virtue, and hypocrites may be confirmed, but at least we have established what virtue is and what vice is.

Almost on cue, liberal lawyer Louis Michael Seidman, who yesterday excoriated Sotomayor’s dishonesty, writes:

The pity is that all of this was probably unnecessary. The Democrats have sixty votes in the Senate. It would have taken some courage for Judge Sotomayor to have told the truth, but not much. She said yesterday that judges should never decide cases out of fear. Yesterday, she testified out of fear. We have a right to expect better of her.

Well, at least we know at least one liberal jurist doesn’t have courage or honesty to say what she means — and to own up to what she was saying (over and over again, for years) before a Supreme Court nomination was dangled in front of her.

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Did Hillary Get the Message?

Yesterday I noted that one of the Jewish groups in attendance at Monday’s White House meeting, the Orthodox Union, openly criticized the president’s desire for “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. Today the OU is touting a speech by Hillary Clinton in which she included this:

We know that progress toward peace cannot be the responsibility of the United States – or Israel – alone. Ending the conflict requires action on all sides. Arab states have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel, and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel’s place in the region. The Saudi peace proposal, supported by more than twenty nations, was a positive step. But so far, those who embrace it seem unwilling to do anything until the Israelis and Palestinians reach an agreement. This may be understandable, but it is not helpful.”

[.  .  .]

“You can’t claim to be sending messages of peace until you also act against the cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict.”

The OU says this is “a step in a better direction.”

Is this an effort to correct administration policy? Or is Hillary Clinton getting out of the line of fire? After all, other Jewish groups may begin to digest the message from Obama (that the U.S. must distance itself from Israel, that the reason no progress was made in the Bush administration was excessive support for Israel by the U.S. and that settlements are the key to unlocking the stalemate). They too may decide they don’t much like what they are hearing — and really don’t like being told to engage in self-reflection. And after all, Hillary probably doesn’t want to be tagged as the most anti-Israel secretary of state since James Baker.

And while we are talking about the lack of progress in the “peace process” over the last eight years, a friend sends on this column, which recites the peace deal Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2008. Here was the reported deal:

Olmert’s map proposed that the Palestinians establish their state on 93.5 percent of the West Bank, receiving another 5.8 percent through a land exchange with Israel. The rest would come in a “safe passage” corridor from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. The map left the settlement blocs in Israel’s control – Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion – proposing in exchange lands in the southern Hebron Hills, the Judean Hills and the Beit She’an Valley. According to the Palestinians, Olmert also proposed dividing the no-man’s-land near Latrun. All told, Abbas was offered an area equal to the whole West Bank – 100 percent.

As for Jerusalem, Olmert proposed dividing sovereignty between the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, and leaving the Old City’s “holy basin” and its surroundings without sovereignty, under the management of an international committee with the participation of Israel, Palestine, the United States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The most original suggestion involved the refugee issue. Olmert did not recognize the Palestinians’ demand for a right of return. Rather, he agreed to take in a small number of refugees over five years, “about the number of people that can fit into the Muqata [Palestinian government headquarters] in Ramallah” – that is, between 2,000 and 3,000 people.

Well, perhaps friends of Israel could remind Obama of all this the next time they meet. Obama has a tendency to deny and rewrite history to serve his agenda. Calling him on it, setting the record straight and making the case for a policy based on facts and history would all be steps in a “better direction.” If nothing else, a more candid discussion both in private and public about the administration’s misguided and a-factual position regarding Israel might spur some healthy debate within the administration.

Yesterday I noted that one of the Jewish groups in attendance at Monday’s White House meeting, the Orthodox Union, openly criticized the president’s desire for “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. Today the OU is touting a speech by Hillary Clinton in which she included this:

We know that progress toward peace cannot be the responsibility of the United States – or Israel – alone. Ending the conflict requires action on all sides. Arab states have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel, and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel’s place in the region. The Saudi peace proposal, supported by more than twenty nations, was a positive step. But so far, those who embrace it seem unwilling to do anything until the Israelis and Palestinians reach an agreement. This may be understandable, but it is not helpful.”

[.  .  .]

“You can’t claim to be sending messages of peace until you also act against the cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict.”

The OU says this is “a step in a better direction.”

Is this an effort to correct administration policy? Or is Hillary Clinton getting out of the line of fire? After all, other Jewish groups may begin to digest the message from Obama (that the U.S. must distance itself from Israel, that the reason no progress was made in the Bush administration was excessive support for Israel by the U.S. and that settlements are the key to unlocking the stalemate). They too may decide they don’t much like what they are hearing — and really don’t like being told to engage in self-reflection. And after all, Hillary probably doesn’t want to be tagged as the most anti-Israel secretary of state since James Baker.

And while we are talking about the lack of progress in the “peace process” over the last eight years, a friend sends on this column, which recites the peace deal Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2008. Here was the reported deal:

Olmert’s map proposed that the Palestinians establish their state on 93.5 percent of the West Bank, receiving another 5.8 percent through a land exchange with Israel. The rest would come in a “safe passage” corridor from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. The map left the settlement blocs in Israel’s control – Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion – proposing in exchange lands in the southern Hebron Hills, the Judean Hills and the Beit She’an Valley. According to the Palestinians, Olmert also proposed dividing the no-man’s-land near Latrun. All told, Abbas was offered an area equal to the whole West Bank – 100 percent.

As for Jerusalem, Olmert proposed dividing sovereignty between the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, and leaving the Old City’s “holy basin” and its surroundings without sovereignty, under the management of an international committee with the participation of Israel, Palestine, the United States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The most original suggestion involved the refugee issue. Olmert did not recognize the Palestinians’ demand for a right of return. Rather, he agreed to take in a small number of refugees over five years, “about the number of people that can fit into the Muqata [Palestinian government headquarters] in Ramallah” – that is, between 2,000 and 3,000 people.

Well, perhaps friends of Israel could remind Obama of all this the next time they meet. Obama has a tendency to deny and rewrite history to serve his agenda. Calling him on it, setting the record straight and making the case for a policy based on facts and history would all be steps in a “better direction.” If nothing else, a more candid discussion both in private and public about the administration’s misguided and a-factual position regarding Israel might spur some healthy debate within the administration.

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Arlen Specter and Al Franken and Perry Mason

Al Franken, not wanting to be thought a lightweight, talked about Perry Mason. He also said some foolish things suggesting the Voting Rights Act, contrary to the views of all the sitting justices, isn’t constitutionally suspect in the least. Arlen Specter, not wanting to lose a Democratic primary, said everyone is making too much of a fuss about her speeches. In short, not much has happened in the last few hours.

A few points are in order. I must think that those who favored another nominee, a Diane Wood for example, must be shaking their heads. Sotomayor has given no indication she has much to offer for those seeking to further liberal jurisprudence. She was forced to mouth platitudes that liberals have sneered at for years (e.g. judges don’t make the law, empathy is not relevant). It is hard to think of her going toe-to-to with any of the five legal conservatives on the Court.

Second, Ricci is her weak point — the instance in which she allowed her racial politics to infect her judging. As Wendy Long points out, she has badly misrepresented what occured in that case. Her dissembling here is disturbing and bolsters the sense that in fact she tried to bury a “hard” case.

Third, I haven’t counted, but she said probably a dozen or more times that she will be “bound by precedent” or “follow precedent.” Hogwash. She is going to the Supreme Court where the cases without clear precendent, or with conflicting precedents, or with advocates seeking to overturn precedent wind up. It is a dodge to say she’ll just follow the Supreme Court. She will be on the Court. And this, of course, gets back to the nagging sense that her speeches and advocacy are not abberations but provide the real insight into how she will judge once given that lifetime appointment and freed from the constraints of a circuit court judge.

Al Franken, not wanting to be thought a lightweight, talked about Perry Mason. He also said some foolish things suggesting the Voting Rights Act, contrary to the views of all the sitting justices, isn’t constitutionally suspect in the least. Arlen Specter, not wanting to lose a Democratic primary, said everyone is making too much of a fuss about her speeches. In short, not much has happened in the last few hours.

A few points are in order. I must think that those who favored another nominee, a Diane Wood for example, must be shaking their heads. Sotomayor has given no indication she has much to offer for those seeking to further liberal jurisprudence. She was forced to mouth platitudes that liberals have sneered at for years (e.g. judges don’t make the law, empathy is not relevant). It is hard to think of her going toe-to-to with any of the five legal conservatives on the Court.

Second, Ricci is her weak point — the instance in which she allowed her racial politics to infect her judging. As Wendy Long points out, she has badly misrepresented what occured in that case. Her dissembling here is disturbing and bolsters the sense that in fact she tried to bury a “hard” case.

Third, I haven’t counted, but she said probably a dozen or more times that she will be “bound by precedent” or “follow precedent.” Hogwash. She is going to the Supreme Court where the cases without clear precendent, or with conflicting precedents, or with advocates seeking to overturn precedent wind up. It is a dodge to say she’ll just follow the Supreme Court. She will be on the Court. And this, of course, gets back to the nagging sense that her speeches and advocacy are not abberations but provide the real insight into how she will judge once given that lifetime appointment and freed from the constraints of a circuit court judge.

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Re: None of This Matters

Andy McCarthy also remarks on the Democrats’ new-found reticence to explore a Supreme Court nominee’s extracurricular activities. He observes that Democrats have elicited her testimony about her work for PRLDEF, but haven’t come forward with the documents evidencing her work there. He writes:

Democrats shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways. If the PRLDEF is relevant enough for Democrats to elicit testimony about, then it’s relevant enough for Republicans to press hard to get the pertinent documents and time to review them. In a legal trial — which is far less important than vetting a nominee for a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court — a judge in such a situation would routinely order the disclosure of the relevant documents and grant an adjournment so they could be reviewed; otherwise, disclosure is not meaningful or consistent with due process. Why should less than that be acceptable here?

Moreover, it wasn’t Sotomayor’s detractors who made her nomination all about her biography. The president did, touting her story and making “empathy” a key consideration. No detail — not even her Nancy Drew reading material — was too obscure. But then it turns out she has a load of wacky stuff in her biography — speeches that ascribe “inherent physiological differences” to different ethnic groups and denigrate impartiality, not to mention work for a left-wing advocacy group that insists women are “enslaved” unless taxpayers fund abortions. So now, Democrats tell us, biography is irrelevant. All they want to talk about are major league baseball and her judicial decisions.

But that doesn’t seem right. Let’s be honest here: in a day and a half of hearings she has not said one insightful or original thing about the law. She was not chosen for her legal brilliance. She was chosen for her biography and for being a “safe” liberal vote. So let’s talk about both and review her twelve year affiliation with PRLDEF. Both her biography and her legal philosophy would no doubt be elucidated by a thorough review of her work there. And that, of course, is why her supporters would rather skip the whole thing and forget about those 300 boxes of documents.

Andy McCarthy also remarks on the Democrats’ new-found reticence to explore a Supreme Court nominee’s extracurricular activities. He observes that Democrats have elicited her testimony about her work for PRLDEF, but haven’t come forward with the documents evidencing her work there. He writes:

Democrats shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways. If the PRLDEF is relevant enough for Democrats to elicit testimony about, then it’s relevant enough for Republicans to press hard to get the pertinent documents and time to review them. In a legal trial — which is far less important than vetting a nominee for a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court — a judge in such a situation would routinely order the disclosure of the relevant documents and grant an adjournment so they could be reviewed; otherwise, disclosure is not meaningful or consistent with due process. Why should less than that be acceptable here?

Moreover, it wasn’t Sotomayor’s detractors who made her nomination all about her biography. The president did, touting her story and making “empathy” a key consideration. No detail — not even her Nancy Drew reading material — was too obscure. But then it turns out she has a load of wacky stuff in her biography — speeches that ascribe “inherent physiological differences” to different ethnic groups and denigrate impartiality, not to mention work for a left-wing advocacy group that insists women are “enslaved” unless taxpayers fund abortions. So now, Democrats tell us, biography is irrelevant. All they want to talk about are major league baseball and her judicial decisions.

But that doesn’t seem right. Let’s be honest here: in a day and a half of hearings she has not said one insightful or original thing about the law. She was not chosen for her legal brilliance. She was chosen for her biography and for being a “safe” liberal vote. So let’s talk about both and review her twelve year affiliation with PRLDEF. Both her biography and her legal philosophy would no doubt be elucidated by a thorough review of her work there. And that, of course, is why her supporters would rather skip the whole thing and forget about those 300 boxes of documents.

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What Comes from Meekness

It seems that Obama’s obnoxious advice to American Jews to “engage in serious self-reflection” isn’t going over so well with some Democrats. Marty Peretz writes:

Frankly, I am sick and tired of President Obama’s eldering–more accurately, hectoring–Israel’s leaders. It is, after all, they whose country is the target of an armed and ideological cyclone that Obama has done precious little to ease. He brought nothing back from Riyadh and Cairo, absolutely nothing except the conviction of the Arab leaders that they need do nothing but sit and wait until the president squeezes one concession after another out of Jerusalem. Oops, I apologize. Maybe I should still say Tel Aviv. In any case, waiting is exactly what they are doing. Palestinian President Abbas has prided himself in doing just that. He had said so, as I pointed out in this space a few weeks ago.

Maybe you weren’t offended by Obama’s advice to Israel, via some 15 American Jewish leaders, that it had to “engage in serious self-reflection,” as if it took its perils frivolously. But I know many Democrats who are; they’re just a bit intimidated to say so.

What message did the president think he was giving the reactionary and cloistered Saudi monarch when he curtsied before him? That Abdullah should engage in serious self-reflection the way royals are accustomed to doing?

Well, Obama has certainly brought Bill Kristol and Marty Peretz together. Still, this can hardly be surprising. This is what comes from obsequiousness. When supposed “leaders” in their community go to the president and fail to object to a recitation of history and an assertion of a new American stance toward Israel which is antithetical to their views, they can hardly be surprised when their meekness is returned with condescension. If they act like doormats, they can’t expect to be treated as equals. If they would prefer the president to show respect for their political and intellectual positions and extend the same to Israel’s leaders, they might try a new tactic: speaking truth to power. Indeed, the president keeps saying we need more “honesty” when it comes to Israel. The same it’s true of the American Jewish leadership.

It seems that Obama’s obnoxious advice to American Jews to “engage in serious self-reflection” isn’t going over so well with some Democrats. Marty Peretz writes:

Frankly, I am sick and tired of President Obama’s eldering–more accurately, hectoring–Israel’s leaders. It is, after all, they whose country is the target of an armed and ideological cyclone that Obama has done precious little to ease. He brought nothing back from Riyadh and Cairo, absolutely nothing except the conviction of the Arab leaders that they need do nothing but sit and wait until the president squeezes one concession after another out of Jerusalem. Oops, I apologize. Maybe I should still say Tel Aviv. In any case, waiting is exactly what they are doing. Palestinian President Abbas has prided himself in doing just that. He had said so, as I pointed out in this space a few weeks ago.

Maybe you weren’t offended by Obama’s advice to Israel, via some 15 American Jewish leaders, that it had to “engage in serious self-reflection,” as if it took its perils frivolously. But I know many Democrats who are; they’re just a bit intimidated to say so.

What message did the president think he was giving the reactionary and cloistered Saudi monarch when he curtsied before him? That Abdullah should engage in serious self-reflection the way royals are accustomed to doing?

Well, Obama has certainly brought Bill Kristol and Marty Peretz together. Still, this can hardly be surprising. This is what comes from obsequiousness. When supposed “leaders” in their community go to the president and fail to object to a recitation of history and an assertion of a new American stance toward Israel which is antithetical to their views, they can hardly be surprised when their meekness is returned with condescension. If they act like doormats, they can’t expect to be treated as equals. If they would prefer the president to show respect for their political and intellectual positions and extend the same to Israel’s leaders, they might try a new tactic: speaking truth to power. Indeed, the president keeps saying we need more “honesty” when it comes to Israel. The same it’s true of the American Jewish leadership.

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Will They Walk the Plank Again?

Of the many aspects of the House Democratic health-care bill, none is more troubling than its impact on small business. This report explains:

House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled sweeping health-care legislation that would hit all but the smallest businesses with a penalty equal to 8% of payroll if they fail to provide health insurance to workers.

The House bill, which also would impose new taxes on the wealthy estimated to bring in more than $500 billion over a decade, came as lawmakers in the Senate raced against a self-imposed Thursday deadline to find ways to finance their health-care bill. Senators are weighing a combination of several more-modest tax increases, including some that would hit health-care industries.

Under the House measure, employers with payrolls exceeding $400,000 a year would have to provide health insurance or pay the 8% penalty. Employers with payrolls between $250,000 and $400,000 a year would pay a smaller penalty, and those less than $250,000 would be exempt.

The relatively low thresholds for penalties triggered criticism from Republicans, who said the burden on small business is too high.

In some ways, this is an eerie replay of the cap-and-trade vote. The liberal House leadership has thrown out a massive tax and regulatory scheme and is trying to force it down the throats of the less liberal (and more politically vulnerable) members of their caucus. And even if they succeed, the bill faces near-certain defeat — or severe re-design — in the Senate, which seems to have no stomach for this sort of approach:

Mr. [Max]Baucus spent much of the day meeting one-on-one with members of his committee, and he put on an optimistic face. “We’re going to pass very significant health reform this year,” the Montana Democrat said.

But the pre-recess deadline appeared in danger as Republicans expressed concern that the process is moving too quickly.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, a key Republican whom Mr. Baucus is trying to win over, said Tuesday that the legislation is far too complex to rush and that she saw little chance of moving a bill through the Senate before the August break.

“I frankly couldn’t imagine at this point bringing it to the floor and completing our deliberations…before the August recess,” the Maine senator said. She said “arbitrary, artificial time frames really are not realistic given the magnitude of the task we are assigned to do.”

[. . .]

A further complication is that if it looks as if the Senate can’t or won’t act this summer, many House Democrats are likely to hesitate about voting on a contentious issue — including raising taxes — for something that might never become law.

So the first move is up to the Blue Dogs in the House: do they roll over and play dead or do they push back? It is one thing to walk the plank once for a job-killing energy tax; it is quite another to do it twice, with a special kick in the shins for small business. But if they are inclined to vote for it, they might keep in mind the date of August 7. That’s the next release of national unemployment figures. How high must it go before Congress starts thinking of ideas to aid rather than cripple the private sector?

Of the many aspects of the House Democratic health-care bill, none is more troubling than its impact on small business. This report explains:

House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled sweeping health-care legislation that would hit all but the smallest businesses with a penalty equal to 8% of payroll if they fail to provide health insurance to workers.

The House bill, which also would impose new taxes on the wealthy estimated to bring in more than $500 billion over a decade, came as lawmakers in the Senate raced against a self-imposed Thursday deadline to find ways to finance their health-care bill. Senators are weighing a combination of several more-modest tax increases, including some that would hit health-care industries.

Under the House measure, employers with payrolls exceeding $400,000 a year would have to provide health insurance or pay the 8% penalty. Employers with payrolls between $250,000 and $400,000 a year would pay a smaller penalty, and those less than $250,000 would be exempt.

The relatively low thresholds for penalties triggered criticism from Republicans, who said the burden on small business is too high.

In some ways, this is an eerie replay of the cap-and-trade vote. The liberal House leadership has thrown out a massive tax and regulatory scheme and is trying to force it down the throats of the less liberal (and more politically vulnerable) members of their caucus. And even if they succeed, the bill faces near-certain defeat — or severe re-design — in the Senate, which seems to have no stomach for this sort of approach:

Mr. [Max]Baucus spent much of the day meeting one-on-one with members of his committee, and he put on an optimistic face. “We’re going to pass very significant health reform this year,” the Montana Democrat said.

But the pre-recess deadline appeared in danger as Republicans expressed concern that the process is moving too quickly.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, a key Republican whom Mr. Baucus is trying to win over, said Tuesday that the legislation is far too complex to rush and that she saw little chance of moving a bill through the Senate before the August break.

“I frankly couldn’t imagine at this point bringing it to the floor and completing our deliberations…before the August recess,” the Maine senator said. She said “arbitrary, artificial time frames really are not realistic given the magnitude of the task we are assigned to do.”

[. . .]

A further complication is that if it looks as if the Senate can’t or won’t act this summer, many House Democrats are likely to hesitate about voting on a contentious issue — including raising taxes — for something that might never become law.

So the first move is up to the Blue Dogs in the House: do they roll over and play dead or do they push back? It is one thing to walk the plank once for a job-killing energy tax; it is quite another to do it twice, with a special kick in the shins for small business. But if they are inclined to vote for it, they might keep in mind the date of August 7. That’s the next release of national unemployment figures. How high must it go before Congress starts thinking of ideas to aid rather than cripple the private sector?

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The Trillion Dollar Cat Is Out of the Bag

The House Democrats revealed their health-care bill — the most liberal and extreme measure one could imagine. And they immediately got the stamp of approval from the president. Well, at least we know where they stand. Politico reports:

House Democratic leaders on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping $1 trillion health care reform bill that would impose a surtax on the wealthy and create a robust government-run insurance program that would cover more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

The much anticipated rollout followed days of delays as Democratic leaders wrangled with conservative Democrats over many of the bill’s provisions. But the leadership said committee work would begin as early as Thursday in order to meet President Obama’s August deadline to pass a bill out of the chamber.

The bill includes a public option. It would hike marginal tax rates on high income earners and on small businesses that pay under the individual tax rates. It includes drug-price controls, thus making it clear the “deal” with the drug companies was no deal at all. It is over 1,000 pages long — and the Democrats in Congress and the White House intend to ram it home in less than two weeks.

But then there are all those moderate and conservative Democrats we keep hearing about. Is this what they can sign onto? Interestingly, Nancy Pelosi was meeting with them Tuesday night. (Having taken a beating over cap-and-trade, they may not be so amenable to swallow the newest bitter, ultra-liberal pill.) It is unclear how many can be strong-armed to vote for a government-take over of health care in its most extreme and expensive incarnation yet. And what about all the Senators who disclaimed interest in the public option? Sens. Kent Conrad, Joe Lieberman and the rest will need to decide whether they will sign on.

So stay tuned. The fate of the health-care debate and the political careers of numerous House and Senate members will likely be decided in the next fortnight.

The House Democrats revealed their health-care bill — the most liberal and extreme measure one could imagine. And they immediately got the stamp of approval from the president. Well, at least we know where they stand. Politico reports:

House Democratic leaders on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping $1 trillion health care reform bill that would impose a surtax on the wealthy and create a robust government-run insurance program that would cover more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

The much anticipated rollout followed days of delays as Democratic leaders wrangled with conservative Democrats over many of the bill’s provisions. But the leadership said committee work would begin as early as Thursday in order to meet President Obama’s August deadline to pass a bill out of the chamber.

The bill includes a public option. It would hike marginal tax rates on high income earners and on small businesses that pay under the individual tax rates. It includes drug-price controls, thus making it clear the “deal” with the drug companies was no deal at all. It is over 1,000 pages long — and the Democrats in Congress and the White House intend to ram it home in less than two weeks.

But then there are all those moderate and conservative Democrats we keep hearing about. Is this what they can sign onto? Interestingly, Nancy Pelosi was meeting with them Tuesday night. (Having taken a beating over cap-and-trade, they may not be so amenable to swallow the newest bitter, ultra-liberal pill.) It is unclear how many can be strong-armed to vote for a government-take over of health care in its most extreme and expensive incarnation yet. And what about all the Senators who disclaimed interest in the public option? Sens. Kent Conrad, Joe Lieberman and the rest will need to decide whether they will sign on.

So stay tuned. The fate of the health-care debate and the political careers of numerous House and Senate members will likely be decided in the next fortnight.

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Dr. Tom Coburn Outlawyers the Lawyers

Let’s be candid: We had some pretty poor questioning by the senators — on both sides. Orin Hatch was unintelligible on the Second Amendment. The Democrats are fawning.

But a non-lawyer, Tom Coburn, posed a series of concise and interesting questions on abortion and the Second Amendment. Can a 38-week unborn child with a birth defect be aborted? (Sotomayor hedges and wants to know the state law. Hmm. I think the U.S. Supreme Court has pretty much taken that option away.) If a fetus is viable at 21 weeks shouldn’t abortion law change? She doesn’t think it will “come up” like that. (Sure it will.) On the Second Amendment, why is a right like “privacy,” which isn’t spelled out specifically in the Constitution, “fundamental” but there is a question on the Second Amendment? (He even has some post-Civil War history.) I remain completely unimpressed by Sotomayor’s intellectual and legal reasoning (but to be fair, she has been told to say nothing). Coburn on the other hand, if he wants to leave the senate and the practice of medicine, seems like he’d be a fine judge.

UPDATE: Here is more on Sotomayor’s misstatement/misunderstanding on the role of state law regarding late term abortions.

UPDATE: Sotomayor says she has never used foreign law to determine the outcome of a case and she wouldn’t in the future. Foreign law should not “influence the outcome” but she and other judges would look at foreign law to educate themselves or “point something out.” Huh? But why? Isn’t a judge supposed to educate herself about the relevant texts? The Bible and novels have interesting ideas but are we to start citing those in decisions?

Let’s be candid: We had some pretty poor questioning by the senators — on both sides. Orin Hatch was unintelligible on the Second Amendment. The Democrats are fawning.

But a non-lawyer, Tom Coburn, posed a series of concise and interesting questions on abortion and the Second Amendment. Can a 38-week unborn child with a birth defect be aborted? (Sotomayor hedges and wants to know the state law. Hmm. I think the U.S. Supreme Court has pretty much taken that option away.) If a fetus is viable at 21 weeks shouldn’t abortion law change? She doesn’t think it will “come up” like that. (Sure it will.) On the Second Amendment, why is a right like “privacy,” which isn’t spelled out specifically in the Constitution, “fundamental” but there is a question on the Second Amendment? (He even has some post-Civil War history.) I remain completely unimpressed by Sotomayor’s intellectual and legal reasoning (but to be fair, she has been told to say nothing). Coburn on the other hand, if he wants to leave the senate and the practice of medicine, seems like he’d be a fine judge.

UPDATE: Here is more on Sotomayor’s misstatement/misunderstanding on the role of state law regarding late term abortions.

UPDATE: Sotomayor says she has never used foreign law to determine the outcome of a case and she wouldn’t in the future. Foreign law should not “influence the outcome” but she and other judges would look at foreign law to educate themselves or “point something out.” Huh? But why? Isn’t a judge supposed to educate herself about the relevant texts? The Bible and novels have interesting ideas but are we to start citing those in decisions?

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Blumenthal Feels the Hate

Max Blumenthal, son of former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, made quite a splash on the Internet recently when he posted a video portraying drunken Americans in Israel hurling racist epithets against President Barack Obama. One of his subjects even shouted “white power!” Blumenthal titled his video “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem,” as if inebriated ugly Americans abroad reflect in any way on the opinions of people who live in Jerusalem. You can’t watch the video because YouTube removed it due to a “terms of service violation.”

Blumenthal is back with a sequel, however. This one is called Feeling the Hate in Tel Aviv. The Huffington Post pulled the plug, but it’s still available on YouTube at the time of this writing.

This time around, he features Israelis, not foreigners, who might even live in Tel Aviv. But just like in the first installment of his juvenile series, he goes out of his way to showcase Israelis with offensive opinions. While attending the White Night music festival, for instance, he managed to find two individuals who don’t like Iranians. “I hate them,” said one. “I hate them all,” said another. If he asked anyone else what they thought of Iranians, their response did not make the cut.

It might have been interesting if Blumenthal had aired the opinions of a large number Israelis about their feelings for Iranians when Israel and Iran are in a state of cold war — especially now that millions have risked beatings and worse while taking to the Iranian streets and screaming “death to the dictator.” (It would also be worthwhile for a reporter to canvass Iranian public opinion among those attending anti-regime rallies and ask what they think about the people of Israel.) The “Green Revolution” broke out in Iran after Blumenthal shot his footage. But he apparently doesn’t care whether he makes Israelis look like anti-Iranian bigots at a time when most of the world has just learned that Iranians detest the deranged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as much as everyone else.

After editing out or ignoring the opinions of thousands of reasonable Israelis at the White Night festival, he proceeded toward Tel Aviv University, where he edited out or ignored the opinions of reasonable people on campus.

“Do you think they [Israeli Arabs] are traitors?” he asked a student. “Yeah,” said the student. Another said he wants to see Israelis of Arab descent at the university deported to Gaza. “If you want to keep democracy,” said yet another, “you can’t let people protest against the country.” And so on.

There’s nothing wrong with quoting extremists. And there’s nothing wrong with focusing exclusively on extremists if they’re the subject. I’ve done it. Lots of journalists do it. Responsible journalists, though, make it clear to their audience that extremists are, well, extremists.

Here’s the problem with Blumenthal’s series: I’ve met exactly one person in Israel who talked like the people he featured in his videos. And I’ve been there twice when tempers were flaring, when Israel was under mortar, rocket, and missile attack. It’s certainly possible that I’ve met more than one person like Blumenthal’s crowd without knowing it. Perhaps a few of my interview subjects had the good sense to keep their bigoted thoughts to themselves. I don’t wander around Israel, or any other country, trying to bait people like Borat. In any case, since Blumenthal can’t be bothered to acknowledge that he went quote shopping, those of us familiar with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv ought to point out to everyone else that his videos don’t remotely represent average people who live there.

Author, historian, and Jerusalem resident Yaacov Lozowick didn’t take kindly to the first episode Blumenthal shot in his home town. “Say you’re interviewing the locals at Time Square about some matter,” he wrote, “so as to figure out what Americans think. Inevitably, you’ll come across a lot of tourists, it being Time Square, but what are the chances you’ll find not a single card-carrying American? And if that happens, and you then post your video to Youtube to castigate America, what does that tell us about you?”

Alex Stein at the left-wing British blog Harry’s Place isn’t impressed with Blumenthal’s Tel Aviv episode. “Doing a serious vox-pop in Tel Aviv is not a complicated task,” he wrote. “Spend the entire day going from café to café, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, hummuseria to sushi bar, interview people and then edit it in such a way that accurately reflects the multiplicity of voices that you hear. In this case, there is simply no evidence that Blumenthal has bothered to be this rigorous.”

Stein’s method is the correct one. And Israelis aren’t the only people in the Middle East deserving this courtesy. When I visited the West Bank a few years ago, I quoted every single Palestinian I spoke to without exception, and I gave all of them more time to air their views than Blumenthal did with his subjects. I’ve spent twice as much time in Lebanon as I have in Israel and never once quoted or described Hezbollah supporters in such a way that even suggested they might represent the mainstream of the society.

Blumenthal says he set out “to probe the political opinions of young local residents.” If he meant to zero in on the most obnoxious people he could possibly find, he should have made it clear that the sample he featured was the result of selective editing. If he hoped to capture mainstream public opinion among Tel Aviv’s youths, or pretend to, he failed spectacularly.

Max Blumenthal, son of former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, made quite a splash on the Internet recently when he posted a video portraying drunken Americans in Israel hurling racist epithets against President Barack Obama. One of his subjects even shouted “white power!” Blumenthal titled his video “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem,” as if inebriated ugly Americans abroad reflect in any way on the opinions of people who live in Jerusalem. You can’t watch the video because YouTube removed it due to a “terms of service violation.”

Blumenthal is back with a sequel, however. This one is called Feeling the Hate in Tel Aviv. The Huffington Post pulled the plug, but it’s still available on YouTube at the time of this writing.

This time around, he features Israelis, not foreigners, who might even live in Tel Aviv. But just like in the first installment of his juvenile series, he goes out of his way to showcase Israelis with offensive opinions. While attending the White Night music festival, for instance, he managed to find two individuals who don’t like Iranians. “I hate them,” said one. “I hate them all,” said another. If he asked anyone else what they thought of Iranians, their response did not make the cut.

It might have been interesting if Blumenthal had aired the opinions of a large number Israelis about their feelings for Iranians when Israel and Iran are in a state of cold war — especially now that millions have risked beatings and worse while taking to the Iranian streets and screaming “death to the dictator.” (It would also be worthwhile for a reporter to canvass Iranian public opinion among those attending anti-regime rallies and ask what they think about the people of Israel.) The “Green Revolution” broke out in Iran after Blumenthal shot his footage. But he apparently doesn’t care whether he makes Israelis look like anti-Iranian bigots at a time when most of the world has just learned that Iranians detest the deranged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as much as everyone else.

After editing out or ignoring the opinions of thousands of reasonable Israelis at the White Night festival, he proceeded toward Tel Aviv University, where he edited out or ignored the opinions of reasonable people on campus.

“Do you think they [Israeli Arabs] are traitors?” he asked a student. “Yeah,” said the student. Another said he wants to see Israelis of Arab descent at the university deported to Gaza. “If you want to keep democracy,” said yet another, “you can’t let people protest against the country.” And so on.

There’s nothing wrong with quoting extremists. And there’s nothing wrong with focusing exclusively on extremists if they’re the subject. I’ve done it. Lots of journalists do it. Responsible journalists, though, make it clear to their audience that extremists are, well, extremists.

Here’s the problem with Blumenthal’s series: I’ve met exactly one person in Israel who talked like the people he featured in his videos. And I’ve been there twice when tempers were flaring, when Israel was under mortar, rocket, and missile attack. It’s certainly possible that I’ve met more than one person like Blumenthal’s crowd without knowing it. Perhaps a few of my interview subjects had the good sense to keep their bigoted thoughts to themselves. I don’t wander around Israel, or any other country, trying to bait people like Borat. In any case, since Blumenthal can’t be bothered to acknowledge that he went quote shopping, those of us familiar with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv ought to point out to everyone else that his videos don’t remotely represent average people who live there.

Author, historian, and Jerusalem resident Yaacov Lozowick didn’t take kindly to the first episode Blumenthal shot in his home town. “Say you’re interviewing the locals at Time Square about some matter,” he wrote, “so as to figure out what Americans think. Inevitably, you’ll come across a lot of tourists, it being Time Square, but what are the chances you’ll find not a single card-carrying American? And if that happens, and you then post your video to Youtube to castigate America, what does that tell us about you?”

Alex Stein at the left-wing British blog Harry’s Place isn’t impressed with Blumenthal’s Tel Aviv episode. “Doing a serious vox-pop in Tel Aviv is not a complicated task,” he wrote. “Spend the entire day going from café to café, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, hummuseria to sushi bar, interview people and then edit it in such a way that accurately reflects the multiplicity of voices that you hear. In this case, there is simply no evidence that Blumenthal has bothered to be this rigorous.”

Stein’s method is the correct one. And Israelis aren’t the only people in the Middle East deserving this courtesy. When I visited the West Bank a few years ago, I quoted every single Palestinian I spoke to without exception, and I gave all of them more time to air their views than Blumenthal did with his subjects. I’ve spent twice as much time in Lebanon as I have in Israel and never once quoted or described Hezbollah supporters in such a way that even suggested they might represent the mainstream of the society.

Blumenthal says he set out “to probe the political opinions of young local residents.” If he meant to zero in on the most obnoxious people he could possibly find, he should have made it clear that the sample he featured was the result of selective editing. If he hoped to capture mainstream public opinion among Tel Aviv’s youths, or pretend to, he failed spectacularly.

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Sotomayor Stands By Her Words

Perhaps it will be clear in the transcript, but Sotomayor’s answers to Sen. John Cornyn were frankly hard to follow, verging on incoherent. Her words in the “wise Latina” speech fell flat and were misunderstood, she says. But she says she stands by them. Cornyn zeroed in on the portion of her address in which she talked about “inherent physiological differences,” a cringe-inducing suggestion that different ethnic groups have different intellectual make-ups. She hedges and says she really doesn’t know how it will all play out. So does she subscribe to that view or not? Well, she does stand by her words so your guess is as good as mine.

Cornyn makes a bit of headway on the cursory treatment of Ricci but doesn’t really nail it down. Why such a terse treatment? Well, 75% get the same treatment she says. This, of course, overlooks the court rule that provides that only cases which are not significant in precedential value and on which there is agreement can be treated in this fashion.

My take: she is not swaying anyone who was not predisposed to vote for her and may be solidifying opposition from those who were looking for a persuasive, articulate witness. And her “explanation” of Ricci itself was baffling and inarticulate.

Perhaps it will be clear in the transcript, but Sotomayor’s answers to Sen. John Cornyn were frankly hard to follow, verging on incoherent. Her words in the “wise Latina” speech fell flat and were misunderstood, she says. But she says she stands by them. Cornyn zeroed in on the portion of her address in which she talked about “inherent physiological differences,” a cringe-inducing suggestion that different ethnic groups have different intellectual make-ups. She hedges and says she really doesn’t know how it will all play out. So does she subscribe to that view or not? Well, she does stand by her words so your guess is as good as mine.

Cornyn makes a bit of headway on the cursory treatment of Ricci but doesn’t really nail it down. Why such a terse treatment? Well, 75% get the same treatment she says. This, of course, overlooks the court rule that provides that only cases which are not significant in precedential value and on which there is agreement can be treated in this fashion.

My take: she is not swaying anyone who was not predisposed to vote for her and may be solidifying opposition from those who were looking for a persuasive, articulate witness. And her “explanation” of Ricci itself was baffling and inarticulate.

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He Said What??

Jan Crawford Greenburg captured one of the more egregious moments yesterday:

After he complained about the Democratic filibuster, Leahy tried to blame Republicans for failing to get him confirmed when they had a majority — and then tried to blame Estrada himself, for not answering questions because he may have been “distracted” by a high-paying job offer.

??? Did I hear that right?

Estrada had (and has) a high-paying job, at Gibson Dunn, which he was willing to leave to go on the federal bench. And, regardless, Estrada answered questions every bit as thoroughly as John Roberts, who was confirmed to the DC Circuit — despite his not turning over the same DOJ documents the Judiciary Committee wanted from Estrada.

Estrada was blocked by Democrats for one reason — the same reason they blocked Bush’s other minority and women nominees: They knew he would be on the short list for the Supreme Court if confirmed.  And they knew it’s a lot easier to block a nominee at the appeals court level, when no one is paying as much attention as the do to the Supreme Court. (Republicans are seeing that now with Sotomayor.) It was a deliberate, thought-through strategy.

Greenburg then gets in a well deserved dig at the Republicans:

But Leahy is right to blame Republicans: If Majority Leader Bill Frist had shown real leadership, he would never have allowed a Democratic majority to achieve the first-ever filibusters of appeals court nominees. If Trent Lott had been majority leader, Estrada would have been confirmed. And odds are, it would be Miguel Estrada, not Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic Justice on the Supreme Court.

Ouch. Yes, the Republicans were not exactly exemplars of political courage or skill. But the real point Greenburg aptly makes here is that Leahy’s is blatantly misrepresenting the facts. But there is a lot of that going on at these hearings.

Jan Crawford Greenburg captured one of the more egregious moments yesterday:

After he complained about the Democratic filibuster, Leahy tried to blame Republicans for failing to get him confirmed when they had a majority — and then tried to blame Estrada himself, for not answering questions because he may have been “distracted” by a high-paying job offer.

??? Did I hear that right?

Estrada had (and has) a high-paying job, at Gibson Dunn, which he was willing to leave to go on the federal bench. And, regardless, Estrada answered questions every bit as thoroughly as John Roberts, who was confirmed to the DC Circuit — despite his not turning over the same DOJ documents the Judiciary Committee wanted from Estrada.

Estrada was blocked by Democrats for one reason — the same reason they blocked Bush’s other minority and women nominees: They knew he would be on the short list for the Supreme Court if confirmed.  And they knew it’s a lot easier to block a nominee at the appeals court level, when no one is paying as much attention as the do to the Supreme Court. (Republicans are seeing that now with Sotomayor.) It was a deliberate, thought-through strategy.

Greenburg then gets in a well deserved dig at the Republicans:

But Leahy is right to blame Republicans: If Majority Leader Bill Frist had shown real leadership, he would never have allowed a Democratic majority to achieve the first-ever filibusters of appeals court nominees. If Trent Lott had been majority leader, Estrada would have been confirmed. And odds are, it would be Miguel Estrada, not Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic Justice on the Supreme Court.

Ouch. Yes, the Republicans were not exactly exemplars of political courage or skill. But the real point Greenburg aptly makes here is that Leahy’s is blatantly misrepresenting the facts. But there is a lot of that going on at these hearings.

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Defining Roadmap Obligations Up and Down

Jeffrey Goldberg has posted an interview with Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, who participated in the meeting of Jewish organizations with President Obama on Monday. Ben-Ami says that in the meeting, some suggested Obama had been one-sided in his demands on Israel, but that the president had an effective response:

[T]he president really again pushed back, very calmly but firmly, and said no, that he has on every occasion, where he has spoken out publicly, and where the [U.S.] government has taken a position, made it clear that there are obligations and steps that must be taken by Israel, and obligations and steps that must be taken by Palestinians and the broader Arab community. If we’re going to make progress, both sides have to live up to commitments and both sides have to take some steps.

The focus to date has been on Israel’s obligation to freeze settlement activity as part of Phase I of the Roadmap — and the president has taken the strictest possible position, interpreting the obligation in a manner different from how Israel understood it at the time it agreed to the Roadmap, and different from the informal understandings Israel has observed for six years.

A two-sided peace process would presumably require a similarly strict interpretation of the Palestinian obligations. Under Phase I, the Palestinian Authority is required to engage in “sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.” There is no ambiguity in that obligation; it was perfectly clear what it meant when the PA agreed to it: dismantle Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and every other terrorist group.

But the PA cannot do what it agreed to do because — among other reasons — the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group to control their government, and the PA no longer functions in half the putative state, which is run by the group they were supposed to dismantle.

So the unambiguous Palestinian Phase I obligation has been reduced to a rhetorical requirement. In Obama’s May 18 formulation, the Palestinian obligation is to “do a better job of providing the kinds of security assurances that Israelis would need to achieve a two-state solution.” The explicit dismantlement obligation has become simply the need to do a “better job” of providing “assurances.”

Similarly, the Phase I obligation for “[a]ll official Palestinian institutions [to] end incitement against Israel” — which was supposed to occur at the outset of Phase I six years ago — has been redefined downward. In Obama’s May 25 formulation, the Palestinian obligation is to “continue to make progress in reducing the incitement and anti-Israel sentiments that are sometimes expressed in schools and mosques and in the public square.” An absolute requirement to end incitement immediately is now only an obligation to “make progress” in “reducing” it. The soft bigotry of low expectations is a tougher standard than that.

Thus “both sides” have commitments — but for one side, there is an absolute and immediate requirement to meet a stricter, redefined obligation regarding settlements, restricting building even within existing settlements, even within settlements the U.S. has already assured Israel it will retain in any foreseeable peace agreement.

For the other side, however, there are reduced requirements, not stricter ones — to provide better “assurances” and “make progress” — with no timetable, no measurements, and no expectations that even the reduced requirements are anything other than a rhetorical assurance for credulous Jewish groups that the process is one in which “both sides” supposedly have commitments.

Jeffrey Goldberg has posted an interview with Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, who participated in the meeting of Jewish organizations with President Obama on Monday. Ben-Ami says that in the meeting, some suggested Obama had been one-sided in his demands on Israel, but that the president had an effective response:

[T]he president really again pushed back, very calmly but firmly, and said no, that he has on every occasion, where he has spoken out publicly, and where the [U.S.] government has taken a position, made it clear that there are obligations and steps that must be taken by Israel, and obligations and steps that must be taken by Palestinians and the broader Arab community. If we’re going to make progress, both sides have to live up to commitments and both sides have to take some steps.

The focus to date has been on Israel’s obligation to freeze settlement activity as part of Phase I of the Roadmap — and the president has taken the strictest possible position, interpreting the obligation in a manner different from how Israel understood it at the time it agreed to the Roadmap, and different from the informal understandings Israel has observed for six years.

A two-sided peace process would presumably require a similarly strict interpretation of the Palestinian obligations. Under Phase I, the Palestinian Authority is required to engage in “sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.” There is no ambiguity in that obligation; it was perfectly clear what it meant when the PA agreed to it: dismantle Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and every other terrorist group.

But the PA cannot do what it agreed to do because — among other reasons — the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group to control their government, and the PA no longer functions in half the putative state, which is run by the group they were supposed to dismantle.

So the unambiguous Palestinian Phase I obligation has been reduced to a rhetorical requirement. In Obama’s May 18 formulation, the Palestinian obligation is to “do a better job of providing the kinds of security assurances that Israelis would need to achieve a two-state solution.” The explicit dismantlement obligation has become simply the need to do a “better job” of providing “assurances.”

Similarly, the Phase I obligation for “[a]ll official Palestinian institutions [to] end incitement against Israel” — which was supposed to occur at the outset of Phase I six years ago — has been redefined downward. In Obama’s May 25 formulation, the Palestinian obligation is to “continue to make progress in reducing the incitement and anti-Israel sentiments that are sometimes expressed in schools and mosques and in the public square.” An absolute requirement to end incitement immediately is now only an obligation to “make progress” in “reducing” it. The soft bigotry of low expectations is a tougher standard than that.

Thus “both sides” have commitments — but for one side, there is an absolute and immediate requirement to meet a stricter, redefined obligation regarding settlements, restricting building even within existing settlements, even within settlements the U.S. has already assured Israel it will retain in any foreseeable peace agreement.

For the other side, however, there are reduced requirements, not stricter ones — to provide better “assurances” and “make progress” — with no timetable, no measurements, and no expectations that even the reduced requirements are anything other than a rhetorical assurance for credulous Jewish groups that the process is one in which “both sides” supposedly have commitments.

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None of It Matters — This Time Around

Deference to Supreme Court nominees is very big over at the Washington Post. The latest to trot it out is Ruth Marcus, who writes:

As [Sen. Lindsay] Graham told Sotomayor, “I can assure you that if I applied Sen. Obama’s standard to your nomination, I wouldn’t vote for you, because the standard that he articulated would make it impossible for anybody with my view of the law and society to vote for someone with your activism and background when it comes to lawyering and judging.”

The judicial confirmation wars are like conflict in the Middle East, with a never-ending cycle of attacks and recriminations over grievances past. Sotomayor ought to be confirmed by an overwhelming vote, and perhaps Graham’s colleagues will heed his counsel that “elections matter.”

Judging from the tone so far, the more likely outcome is a near party-line vote. In that case, the president won’t have only himself to blame — but he will have himself to blame in part.

Well actually, he might blame Marcus and other pundits who argued against deference to Bush’s nominees. In 2005, Marcus wrote that Republicans were misguided in demanding because they voted en masse to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that “Democrats now owe President Bush the same deference when weighing his choice of Samuel Alito.” Oh no, Marcus then argued. Ginsburg was the model of moderation but not Alito. She demanded to know: “Is his judicial philosophy within the ideological goalposts? Do those goalposts shift depending on the balance of the court, or the ideology of the departing justice?” In essence, Marcus and other liberal pundits have always required a de novo review (literally “a new trial”) for Supreme Court nominees.

Moreover, it is odd indeed to see liberals throwing such a fuss over the focus on Sotomayor’s writings and speeches and her advocacy for PRLDEF. Didn’t Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden spend hours grilling Sam Alito about his membership in a Princeton club, decades before his nomination? Didn’t we dwell endlessly on John Roberts’s involvement in the Federalist Society?

All of this new found devotion to considering only a nominee’s judicial decisions not only smacks of hypocrisy, but it overlooks a key consideration for elevating judges to a higher court: whether they have comported themselves in accordance with the cannons of judicial ethics.

Canon 2 provides: “A judge should respect and comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” At all times. The accompanying commentary explains:

An appearance of impropriety occurs when reasonable minds, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances disclosed by a reasonable inquiry, would conclude that the judge’s honesty, integrity, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge is impaired. Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. This prohibition applies to both professional and personal conduct. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny and accept freely and willingly restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.

This seems particularly relevant to Sotomayor’s track record of speeches, given that she conceded to Sens. Kyl and Graham that her “wise Latina” words may have been interpreted as evidencing bias. (To Kyl: “The words I chose, taking the rhetorical flourish, it was a bad idea. I do understand that there are some who have read this differently, and I understand why they might have concern.” To Graham: “I do understand how those words could be taken that way, particularly if read in isolation.”) Senators might then consider whether she, in trying to “inspire” students, was showing due consideration to avoiding the appearance of bias and the impression that she believes one gender or ethnic group possesses superior intellectual powers.

So when pundits and senators grouse that we are now taking the time to go through Sotomayor’s own words and probe her meaning and judicial philosophy, they are in essence telling us that none of this matters. It is a new day. Philosophy, judicial temperament, club membership, and fidelity to the canons of ethics? Pish posh. Get over it. Obama won — didn’t you hear?

Deference to Supreme Court nominees is very big over at the Washington Post. The latest to trot it out is Ruth Marcus, who writes:

As [Sen. Lindsay] Graham told Sotomayor, “I can assure you that if I applied Sen. Obama’s standard to your nomination, I wouldn’t vote for you, because the standard that he articulated would make it impossible for anybody with my view of the law and society to vote for someone with your activism and background when it comes to lawyering and judging.”

The judicial confirmation wars are like conflict in the Middle East, with a never-ending cycle of attacks and recriminations over grievances past. Sotomayor ought to be confirmed by an overwhelming vote, and perhaps Graham’s colleagues will heed his counsel that “elections matter.”

Judging from the tone so far, the more likely outcome is a near party-line vote. In that case, the president won’t have only himself to blame — but he will have himself to blame in part.

Well actually, he might blame Marcus and other pundits who argued against deference to Bush’s nominees. In 2005, Marcus wrote that Republicans were misguided in demanding because they voted en masse to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that “Democrats now owe President Bush the same deference when weighing his choice of Samuel Alito.” Oh no, Marcus then argued. Ginsburg was the model of moderation but not Alito. She demanded to know: “Is his judicial philosophy within the ideological goalposts? Do those goalposts shift depending on the balance of the court, or the ideology of the departing justice?” In essence, Marcus and other liberal pundits have always required a de novo review (literally “a new trial”) for Supreme Court nominees.

Moreover, it is odd indeed to see liberals throwing such a fuss over the focus on Sotomayor’s writings and speeches and her advocacy for PRLDEF. Didn’t Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden spend hours grilling Sam Alito about his membership in a Princeton club, decades before his nomination? Didn’t we dwell endlessly on John Roberts’s involvement in the Federalist Society?

All of this new found devotion to considering only a nominee’s judicial decisions not only smacks of hypocrisy, but it overlooks a key consideration for elevating judges to a higher court: whether they have comported themselves in accordance with the cannons of judicial ethics.

Canon 2 provides: “A judge should respect and comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” At all times. The accompanying commentary explains:

An appearance of impropriety occurs when reasonable minds, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances disclosed by a reasonable inquiry, would conclude that the judge’s honesty, integrity, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge is impaired. Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. This prohibition applies to both professional and personal conduct. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny and accept freely and willingly restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.

This seems particularly relevant to Sotomayor’s track record of speeches, given that she conceded to Sens. Kyl and Graham that her “wise Latina” words may have been interpreted as evidencing bias. (To Kyl: “The words I chose, taking the rhetorical flourish, it was a bad idea. I do understand that there are some who have read this differently, and I understand why they might have concern.” To Graham: “I do understand how those words could be taken that way, particularly if read in isolation.”) Senators might then consider whether she, in trying to “inspire” students, was showing due consideration to avoiding the appearance of bias and the impression that she believes one gender or ethnic group possesses superior intellectual powers.

So when pundits and senators grouse that we are now taking the time to go through Sotomayor’s own words and probe her meaning and judicial philosophy, they are in essence telling us that none of this matters. It is a new day. Philosophy, judicial temperament, club membership, and fidelity to the canons of ethics? Pish posh. Get over it. Obama won — didn’t you hear?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Cliff May on the non-scandal about CIA “brainstorming” ideas to bump off high level al Qaeda operatives: “In a sane world, the scandal would be that for eight years our multibillion-dollar intelligence community only ‘brainstormed’ about dispatching agents to eliminate al-Qaeda operative wherever they could be found.If this mindset had prevailed in an earlier generation, U.S. troops would have landed in Normandy about 1959.”

The latest bad news for Governor Jon Corzine: “Republican challenger Christopher Christie is pulling away from Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine and now holds a 53 – 41 percent lead among likely voters in the New Jersey Governor’s race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll…. By a 39 – 20 percent margin, New Jersey likely voters have a favorable opinion of Christie, while 40 percent say they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. Corzine gets a negative 34 – 58 percent favorability.” We’ll see just how much time Obama spends trying to help him.

This might be part of Corzine’s problem: “For the week ending on June 27th, New Jersey had the largest increase [for any state] in initial claims adding an addition 7,876 in just one week.”

Well, at least the president now is being honest: he says he doesn’t know “how high unemployement will go.”

And his economic advisor Christina Romer has given up on trying to make up a number for jobs “saved or created”: “It’s very hard to say exactly because you don’t know what the baseline is, right, because you don’t know what the economy would have done without it.”

Bob McDonnell has $5M (double what his opponent has) in cash on hand.

Marco Rubio doesn’t like the “wise Latina” message.

Can health care be jammed through on a 51-vote majority through the reconciliation process in the Senate? Maybe, but it gets very complicated. A good explanation is here.

The better question: would Democrats have the nerve to pass nationalized health care and a massive tax hikes with only 51 votes? Tom Daschle and Bob Dole both warn against a straight partisan vote. “‘I hope it doesn’t come to that,’ Dole said. ‘If there’s not a Senate Republican vote for the package, then the American people are going to be very skeptical.'” The Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate to 40 for the Republicans, and have a 255-178 advantage in the House, with two vacancies. Daschle said he “couldn’t agree more” with Dole’s warning about the political fallout from a partisan vote. Moreover, he expressed doubt that Democrats alone could prevail, because that scenario “assumes unanimity” he said, and that isn’t the case.

A helpful breakdown on the cost, the taxes, and just how dishonest the accounting is, here.

Will Obama really veto the F-22 funding bill? “Several senior Democrats may defy party leaders on an important defense vote — and the behind-the-scenes arm-twisting is dividing the party’s Senate majority. President Obama personally vowed to veto any defense bill containing additional funds for the F-22 fighter jet program.” After all they could “save or create” 95,000 jobs.

Cliff May on the non-scandal about CIA “brainstorming” ideas to bump off high level al Qaeda operatives: “In a sane world, the scandal would be that for eight years our multibillion-dollar intelligence community only ‘brainstormed’ about dispatching agents to eliminate al-Qaeda operative wherever they could be found.If this mindset had prevailed in an earlier generation, U.S. troops would have landed in Normandy about 1959.”

The latest bad news for Governor Jon Corzine: “Republican challenger Christopher Christie is pulling away from Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine and now holds a 53 – 41 percent lead among likely voters in the New Jersey Governor’s race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll…. By a 39 – 20 percent margin, New Jersey likely voters have a favorable opinion of Christie, while 40 percent say they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. Corzine gets a negative 34 – 58 percent favorability.” We’ll see just how much time Obama spends trying to help him.

This might be part of Corzine’s problem: “For the week ending on June 27th, New Jersey had the largest increase [for any state] in initial claims adding an addition 7,876 in just one week.”

Well, at least the president now is being honest: he says he doesn’t know “how high unemployement will go.”

And his economic advisor Christina Romer has given up on trying to make up a number for jobs “saved or created”: “It’s very hard to say exactly because you don’t know what the baseline is, right, because you don’t know what the economy would have done without it.”

Bob McDonnell has $5M (double what his opponent has) in cash on hand.

Marco Rubio doesn’t like the “wise Latina” message.

Can health care be jammed through on a 51-vote majority through the reconciliation process in the Senate? Maybe, but it gets very complicated. A good explanation is here.

The better question: would Democrats have the nerve to pass nationalized health care and a massive tax hikes with only 51 votes? Tom Daschle and Bob Dole both warn against a straight partisan vote. “‘I hope it doesn’t come to that,’ Dole said. ‘If there’s not a Senate Republican vote for the package, then the American people are going to be very skeptical.'” The Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate to 40 for the Republicans, and have a 255-178 advantage in the House, with two vacancies. Daschle said he “couldn’t agree more” with Dole’s warning about the political fallout from a partisan vote. Moreover, he expressed doubt that Democrats alone could prevail, because that scenario “assumes unanimity” he said, and that isn’t the case.

A helpful breakdown on the cost, the taxes, and just how dishonest the accounting is, here.

Will Obama really veto the F-22 funding bill? “Several senior Democrats may defy party leaders on an important defense vote — and the behind-the-scenes arm-twisting is dividing the party’s Senate majority. President Obama personally vowed to veto any defense bill containing additional funds for the F-22 fighter jet program.” After all they could “save or create” 95,000 jobs.

Read Less




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