Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite, RIP

Walter Cronkite has died at the age of 92, and it’s a mark of how the world has changed since his heyday that not a person under the age of 25 will have any idea who he was—and not a person under the age of 25 has probably ever watched the  program that made him, for a time, the most trusted man in America and the most august personage in the news business.

Cronkite was a key figure in many ways, but foremost among them, perhaps, was the fact that he cleared the way for the mainstream media and the Establishment to join what Lionel Trilling called “the adversary culture.” Cronkite, the gravelly voice of accepted American wisdom, whose comportment suggested he kept his money in bonds and would never even have considered exceeding the speed limit, devastated President Lyndon Johnson in the wake of the 1968 Tet Offensive by declaring that the United States “was mired in stalemate” in Vietnam—when Johnson knew that Tet had been a military triumph.

This on-air editorial, spoken during the most-watched newscast in the country when that meant 30 million people were watching (as opposed to 7 million today, with the nation having added more than 100 million in population), was a transformational  moment in American history.

“If I’ve lost Cronkite,” Johnson was reputed to have said, “I’ve lost middle America,” and shortly thereafter he announced he would not run for reelection. This was a mark of Johnson’s own poor political instincts—a president who thought a rich and powerful anchorman living the high life in New York city was the voice of the silent majority was a man out of touch with reality—but it was a leading indicator of how the media were changing. Cronkite didn’t know what he was talking about when it came to Tet, as the late Peter Braestrup demonstrated in his colossal expose of the scandalous media coverage of the battle, Big Story. But he knew that among the people who mattered to him, and who were the leading edge of ideological fashion, Tet was a failure because the war in Vietnam was bad, and he took to the airwaves to say so.

Cronkite’s retirement in 1982 put Dan Rather in the anchor chair, but Rather was never able to command the lofty heights of his predecessor. That was in part due to Rather’s own peculiar personality, but also to developments—technical developments involving the rise of cable television and, eventually, the personal computer—that would bring to a blessed end the shared monopoly over American news enjoyed by CBS, NBC, ABC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and Newsweek.

When Rather attempted, in 2004, to bring down a president in the midst of a close reelection bid with a report based on obviously forged papers—a greater journalistic sin than Cronkite’s, by far—he was undone in 12 hours by a lawyer in Atlanta commenting on a blog and a jazz musician in Los Angeles with a blog who demonstrated the papers in question had been produced at least a decade after the report claimed they had. Had there been an Internet in 1968, and military bloggers aplenty, Cronkite’s false conclusion about Tet would have been challenged immediately; we would not have had to wait for Braestrup to publish his enormous book nine years later.

So the passing of Walter Cronkite is a moment to remember an era that has passed, an era toward which we should not experience a moment’s nostalgia.

Walter Cronkite has died at the age of 92, and it’s a mark of how the world has changed since his heyday that not a person under the age of 25 will have any idea who he was—and not a person under the age of 25 has probably ever watched the  program that made him, for a time, the most trusted man in America and the most august personage in the news business.

Cronkite was a key figure in many ways, but foremost among them, perhaps, was the fact that he cleared the way for the mainstream media and the Establishment to join what Lionel Trilling called “the adversary culture.” Cronkite, the gravelly voice of accepted American wisdom, whose comportment suggested he kept his money in bonds and would never even have considered exceeding the speed limit, devastated President Lyndon Johnson in the wake of the 1968 Tet Offensive by declaring that the United States “was mired in stalemate” in Vietnam—when Johnson knew that Tet had been a military triumph.

This on-air editorial, spoken during the most-watched newscast in the country when that meant 30 million people were watching (as opposed to 7 million today, with the nation having added more than 100 million in population), was a transformational  moment in American history.

“If I’ve lost Cronkite,” Johnson was reputed to have said, “I’ve lost middle America,” and shortly thereafter he announced he would not run for reelection. This was a mark of Johnson’s own poor political instincts—a president who thought a rich and powerful anchorman living the high life in New York city was the voice of the silent majority was a man out of touch with reality—but it was a leading indicator of how the media were changing. Cronkite didn’t know what he was talking about when it came to Tet, as the late Peter Braestrup demonstrated in his colossal expose of the scandalous media coverage of the battle, Big Story. But he knew that among the people who mattered to him, and who were the leading edge of ideological fashion, Tet was a failure because the war in Vietnam was bad, and he took to the airwaves to say so.

Cronkite’s retirement in 1982 put Dan Rather in the anchor chair, but Rather was never able to command the lofty heights of his predecessor. That was in part due to Rather’s own peculiar personality, but also to developments—technical developments involving the rise of cable television and, eventually, the personal computer—that would bring to a blessed end the shared monopoly over American news enjoyed by CBS, NBC, ABC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and Newsweek.

When Rather attempted, in 2004, to bring down a president in the midst of a close reelection bid with a report based on obviously forged papers—a greater journalistic sin than Cronkite’s, by far—he was undone in 12 hours by a lawyer in Atlanta commenting on a blog and a jazz musician in Los Angeles with a blog who demonstrated the papers in question had been produced at least a decade after the report claimed they had. Had there been an Internet in 1968, and military bloggers aplenty, Cronkite’s false conclusion about Tet would have been challenged immediately; we would not have had to wait for Braestrup to publish his enormous book nine years later.

So the passing of Walter Cronkite is a moment to remember an era that has passed, an era toward which we should not experience a moment’s nostalgia.

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He Needs Some Serious Self-Reflection

Democratic veteran Ted Van Dyk does not like what he is seeing:

Frightened by the prospective costs of your health-care and energy plans — not to mention the bailouts of the financial and auto industries — independent voters who supported you in 2008 are falling away. FDR and LBJ, only two years after their 1932 and 1964 victories, saw their parties lose congressional seats even though their personal popularity remained stable. The party out of power traditionally gains seats in off-year elections, and 2010 is unlikely to be an exception.

Van Dyk thinks Obama has delegated too much power to Congress, is over-exposed, has over-promised, and has lost his high-minded tone. On the last point, he observes: “During your campaign, you called for bipartisanship and bridge-building. You promised to reduce the influence of single-issue and single-interest groups in the policy process. Yet, in your public statements, you keep using President Bush as a scapegoat.”

Van Dyk is right on a number of these tactical issues. But he overlooks the central problem with the Obama presidency: he over-estimated his ability to use his personal popularity and an economic crisis to pull the country to the Left. The country didn’t vote for a European welfare state. His mammoth spending plans and attempts to hugely expand government are meeting with skepticism. That is certainly the core of his problem. He’s pushing bad policy ideas to an unreceptive public.

But Van Dyk also is onto something about the atmospherics of the Obama presidency. This is not a man who has faced intense ideological criticism or practiced, as he instructed American Jewish leaders to do, “serious self-reflection.” He is certain of his liberal views, contemptuous of people who are stuck in “old thinking,” annoyed with even the minimal press criticism he receives and unpracticed in accommodation and negotiation with his political opponents. What was admired as a “cool temperament” in the campaign is now seen as remoteness or blindness to the realities that swirl around him. Yes, he’s perfectly stoic — in his utterly blindness to the ground-breaking events in Iran and his domestic economic failures. So calm! And stubborn, if not oblivious.

Can he adjust his policy and his personal governing style? He’ll have to if he wants to succeed. But that would take some recognition that the current path is, like his budget, “unsustainable” and that America has not become an ultra-liberal country. Unfortunately, he seems not inclined toward introspection. We can therefore expect, barring a political thumping in 2010, more of the same.

Democratic veteran Ted Van Dyk does not like what he is seeing:

Frightened by the prospective costs of your health-care and energy plans — not to mention the bailouts of the financial and auto industries — independent voters who supported you in 2008 are falling away. FDR and LBJ, only two years after their 1932 and 1964 victories, saw their parties lose congressional seats even though their personal popularity remained stable. The party out of power traditionally gains seats in off-year elections, and 2010 is unlikely to be an exception.

Van Dyk thinks Obama has delegated too much power to Congress, is over-exposed, has over-promised, and has lost his high-minded tone. On the last point, he observes: “During your campaign, you called for bipartisanship and bridge-building. You promised to reduce the influence of single-issue and single-interest groups in the policy process. Yet, in your public statements, you keep using President Bush as a scapegoat.”

Van Dyk is right on a number of these tactical issues. But he overlooks the central problem with the Obama presidency: he over-estimated his ability to use his personal popularity and an economic crisis to pull the country to the Left. The country didn’t vote for a European welfare state. His mammoth spending plans and attempts to hugely expand government are meeting with skepticism. That is certainly the core of his problem. He’s pushing bad policy ideas to an unreceptive public.

But Van Dyk also is onto something about the atmospherics of the Obama presidency. This is not a man who has faced intense ideological criticism or practiced, as he instructed American Jewish leaders to do, “serious self-reflection.” He is certain of his liberal views, contemptuous of people who are stuck in “old thinking,” annoyed with even the minimal press criticism he receives and unpracticed in accommodation and negotiation with his political opponents. What was admired as a “cool temperament” in the campaign is now seen as remoteness or blindness to the realities that swirl around him. Yes, he’s perfectly stoic — in his utterly blindness to the ground-breaking events in Iran and his domestic economic failures. So calm! And stubborn, if not oblivious.

Can he adjust his policy and his personal governing style? He’ll have to if he wants to succeed. But that would take some recognition that the current path is, like his budget, “unsustainable” and that America has not become an ultra-liberal country. Unfortunately, he seems not inclined toward introspection. We can therefore expect, barring a political thumping in 2010, more of the same.

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Bob Woodward on Obama

Bob Woodward was interviewed by Charlie Rose last night. The link is here:

I have certainly had my differences with Woodward over the years; I think, among other things, he has not given Bush nearly enough credit for his change in strategy in Iraq or the impact the surge has had on altering the course of events there. That said, I have found Woodward to be quite open to hearing views that challenge his assumptions or conclusions and interested in maintaining an on-going dialogue. That is more than can be said about many journalists and, in fact, even about many non-journalists. Also, Woodward is often fairly measured in his analysis of events, including where things stand with Obama. For example, in the interview with Rose, Woodward said this:

Once I had somebody count it up, and it was 131 major initiatives, legislation, major appointments, major ideas… He is undertaking just about everything. And all of those things are like planes unlanded at the airport. They’re circling and we don’t know what order they’re going to land in, whether they’re going to land at all.

And later, he said this:

And clearly what’s interesting about Obama is he’s very decisive. He has a process of, “We’ve got this problem. Let’s hear everyone out. Let’s look at it.” And then he decides, and in most cases announces it. And so, there are all of those unlanded planes. And I think people are, as you suggest, waiting to see what happens, seeing if they’re collisions, crashes, or if just some of these planes disappear from the radar, which is quite likely.

That sounds about right to me. What will determine the course and verdict of the Obama presidency isn’t Obama’s style or speeches, not the thrills he sends up the leg of Chris Matthews or the elevation to the deity we see from Evan Thomas. It will be, to stay true to Woodward’s metaphor, which planes Obama sends up and whether and how they land. We are still in the early stages of the Obama presidency, so whatever conclusions we draw about Obama, must, for now, be considered preliminary.

During the Rose interview, there was discussion about the difficulty in anticipating what issues will define a presidency (in the first half-year of the Bush presidency, Woodward was concentrating his efforts on tax cuts; then came 9/11). One of the temptations to which many of us who inhabit the political world fall victim, is taking a snapshot in time and assuming that what is will always be, or trying to predict the future based on a straight line trajectory of the present. Life and the world are often untidy; things will change, often quickly and sometimes dramatically. In that sense, Woodward is correct; the center of gravity for Obama is yet to be revealed. And even Obama himself may not know what it is, or what it will eventually be.

Bob Woodward was interviewed by Charlie Rose last night. The link is here:

I have certainly had my differences with Woodward over the years; I think, among other things, he has not given Bush nearly enough credit for his change in strategy in Iraq or the impact the surge has had on altering the course of events there. That said, I have found Woodward to be quite open to hearing views that challenge his assumptions or conclusions and interested in maintaining an on-going dialogue. That is more than can be said about many journalists and, in fact, even about many non-journalists. Also, Woodward is often fairly measured in his analysis of events, including where things stand with Obama. For example, in the interview with Rose, Woodward said this:

Once I had somebody count it up, and it was 131 major initiatives, legislation, major appointments, major ideas… He is undertaking just about everything. And all of those things are like planes unlanded at the airport. They’re circling and we don’t know what order they’re going to land in, whether they’re going to land at all.

And later, he said this:

And clearly what’s interesting about Obama is he’s very decisive. He has a process of, “We’ve got this problem. Let’s hear everyone out. Let’s look at it.” And then he decides, and in most cases announces it. And so, there are all of those unlanded planes. And I think people are, as you suggest, waiting to see what happens, seeing if they’re collisions, crashes, or if just some of these planes disappear from the radar, which is quite likely.

That sounds about right to me. What will determine the course and verdict of the Obama presidency isn’t Obama’s style or speeches, not the thrills he sends up the leg of Chris Matthews or the elevation to the deity we see from Evan Thomas. It will be, to stay true to Woodward’s metaphor, which planes Obama sends up and whether and how they land. We are still in the early stages of the Obama presidency, so whatever conclusions we draw about Obama, must, for now, be considered preliminary.

During the Rose interview, there was discussion about the difficulty in anticipating what issues will define a presidency (in the first half-year of the Bush presidency, Woodward was concentrating his efforts on tax cuts; then came 9/11). One of the temptations to which many of us who inhabit the political world fall victim, is taking a snapshot in time and assuming that what is will always be, or trying to predict the future based on a straight line trajectory of the present. Life and the world are often untidy; things will change, often quickly and sometimes dramatically. In that sense, Woodward is correct; the center of gravity for Obama is yet to be revealed. And even Obama himself may not know what it is, or what it will eventually be.

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Has the Magic Worn Off?

As Pete documents, Obama’s magical rhetoric seems to be losing its power. He may be selling, but the public isn’t buying.

Nowhere is this more vividly displayed than on health care. Rick Klein explains:

We’re seeing sticker shock spread through the Capitol. We’re seeing Democrats fight with each other. We’re seeing middle-of-the-night committee votes. We’re seeing the unemployment rate rising. We’re seeing a presidential approval rate falling. We’re seeing a story that just is not meant to be covered hour by hour examined in every ugly detail. President Obama always wanted to connect health care reform to the economy. He’s gotten that wish, but not quite in the way he envisioned.

Remember when Obama was telling us that health-care reform was part of our economic recovery? It never made much sense when unemployment was at 8% and it certainly doesn’t when unemployment is at 9.5%. The bait-and-switch seems to be faltering. (We have an economic crisis so the solution is…. government run health care! Huh?)

Rasmussen shows how stunning is the rejection of ObamaCare:

Just 35% of U.S. voters now support the creation of a government health insurance company to compete with private health insurers. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 50% of voters oppose setting up a government health insurance company as President Obama and congressional Democrats are now proposing in their health care reform plan. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided. In mid-June, 41% of American adults thought setting up a government health insurance company to compete with private health insurance companies was a good idea, but the identical number (41%) disagreed.

The president is often praised for his oratory. But so far his oratory is not convincing the public — or Congress — that we need a government-run health-care plan. And if he can’t do it in July when his approval rating is still in the mid-50’s, when can he? One can understand the push for health-care reform now. The longer they wait, the least attractive both it and its chief salesman seem.

UPDATE: In an interview this afternoon with Klein, House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced they were “going back to the drawing board” on healthcare. And to boot, he sounded less than certain that a bill would be passed in August. It seems the salesman-in-chief isn’t closing the deal.

As Pete documents, Obama’s magical rhetoric seems to be losing its power. He may be selling, but the public isn’t buying.

Nowhere is this more vividly displayed than on health care. Rick Klein explains:

We’re seeing sticker shock spread through the Capitol. We’re seeing Democrats fight with each other. We’re seeing middle-of-the-night committee votes. We’re seeing the unemployment rate rising. We’re seeing a presidential approval rate falling. We’re seeing a story that just is not meant to be covered hour by hour examined in every ugly detail. President Obama always wanted to connect health care reform to the economy. He’s gotten that wish, but not quite in the way he envisioned.

Remember when Obama was telling us that health-care reform was part of our economic recovery? It never made much sense when unemployment was at 8% and it certainly doesn’t when unemployment is at 9.5%. The bait-and-switch seems to be faltering. (We have an economic crisis so the solution is…. government run health care! Huh?)

Rasmussen shows how stunning is the rejection of ObamaCare:

Just 35% of U.S. voters now support the creation of a government health insurance company to compete with private health insurers. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 50% of voters oppose setting up a government health insurance company as President Obama and congressional Democrats are now proposing in their health care reform plan. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided. In mid-June, 41% of American adults thought setting up a government health insurance company to compete with private health insurance companies was a good idea, but the identical number (41%) disagreed.

The president is often praised for his oratory. But so far his oratory is not convincing the public — or Congress — that we need a government-run health-care plan. And if he can’t do it in July when his approval rating is still in the mid-50’s, when can he? One can understand the push for health-care reform now. The longer they wait, the least attractive both it and its chief salesman seem.

UPDATE: In an interview this afternoon with Klein, House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced they were “going back to the drawing board” on healthcare. And to boot, he sounded less than certain that a bill would be passed in August. It seems the salesman-in-chief isn’t closing the deal.

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We’ve Forgotten the Iranians

Remember this from Barack Obama?

The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days.  I strongly condemn these unjust actions…I’ve made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran’s affairs.  But we must also bear witness…This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they — and only they — will choose.

How quickly outrage dissipates. “The last few days” have stretched into more than a month of brutality and suppression, yet we’ve heard precious little from Barack Obama.

At the same time, Iranian protesters haven’t let up. During today’s Friday prayers at Tehran University “tens of thousands of government opponents” chanted, “freedom” and “death to the dictator.” They were then tear-gassed en masse by the regime’s riot police. For those who still think that “this is not a pro-West versus an anti-West competition in Iran,” as Gordon Brown said, consider this detail from today’s events:

When the hard-liners gave the traditional chant of “death to America,” Mousavi supporters countered with “death to Russia” and “death to China.”

It was a reference to Ahmadinejad’s alliance with both countries. Ahmadinejad has come under criticism in Iran for not criticizing Beijing over Muslim deaths in China’s western Xinjiang province.

Does Obama really want to form an alliance with Ahmadinejad? The Iranian people see through these cynical relationships and despise strong countries for enabling their tormenters. They aren’t afraid to stand up to Tehran and, pace Barack Obama, they’re setting the example the U.S. needs to follow.

Obama need not do anything that rises to the level of “meddling” in order to put the U.S. squarely on the side of Iran’s democrats. A new statement condemning the crackdown and calling for a second election would go a long way. The regime has lost the ability to deceive the people of Iran. This would be the very worst time to reach a “realist” arrangement with Tehran. A little outrage is in order once again.

Remember this from Barack Obama?

The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days.  I strongly condemn these unjust actions…I’ve made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran’s affairs.  But we must also bear witness…This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they — and only they — will choose.

How quickly outrage dissipates. “The last few days” have stretched into more than a month of brutality and suppression, yet we’ve heard precious little from Barack Obama.

At the same time, Iranian protesters haven’t let up. During today’s Friday prayers at Tehran University “tens of thousands of government opponents” chanted, “freedom” and “death to the dictator.” They were then tear-gassed en masse by the regime’s riot police. For those who still think that “this is not a pro-West versus an anti-West competition in Iran,” as Gordon Brown said, consider this detail from today’s events:

When the hard-liners gave the traditional chant of “death to America,” Mousavi supporters countered with “death to Russia” and “death to China.”

It was a reference to Ahmadinejad’s alliance with both countries. Ahmadinejad has come under criticism in Iran for not criticizing Beijing over Muslim deaths in China’s western Xinjiang province.

Does Obama really want to form an alliance with Ahmadinejad? The Iranian people see through these cynical relationships and despise strong countries for enabling their tormenters. They aren’t afraid to stand up to Tehran and, pace Barack Obama, they’re setting the example the U.S. needs to follow.

Obama need not do anything that rises to the level of “meddling” in order to put the U.S. squarely on the side of Iran’s democrats. A new statement condemning the crackdown and calling for a second election would go a long way. The regime has lost the ability to deceive the people of Iran. This would be the very worst time to reach a “realist” arrangement with Tehran. A little outrage is in order once again.

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Card Check Lite

The New York Times is reporting that Senate Democrats have dumped “card check” (the plan to do away with secret ballot elections) in an effort to craft a union-pleasing “compromise” bill that would assist in Big Labor organizing. Still in the “deal” are mandatory arbitration, which is an anathema to business, as well as rules to force quickie union elections (catching unwary employers off guard and preventing them from mounting opposition to organizing efforts) and a requirement forcing employers to allow unions on their premises to organize. (Private property rights? Fuggedaboutit.)

If there is such a deal, those Red state Democrats will be back on the hot seat. With unemployment heading for double-digits, will they vote for “card check lite”? So long as Big Labor is proposing that government-appointed arbitrators would have the power to set terms and conditions of employment for first labor agreements and that employers’ right to control their private property be sacrificed, you can expect a battle royale, including a filibuster from opponents.

Once again, we can only gape in awe at the misplaced priorities of certain Senate leaders. The economy is sputtering and we are bleeding jobs, but the Senate is dreaming up new ways to pummel employers. Surtaxes, energy taxes, mandatory arbitration, and on it goes. Quite a list. (Where do they think the jobs are going to come from?) If you wanted to make America an undesirable place to locate new businesses in or to expand your payroll, you’d be hard pressed to match the agenda coming out of Congress.

The New York Times is reporting that Senate Democrats have dumped “card check” (the plan to do away with secret ballot elections) in an effort to craft a union-pleasing “compromise” bill that would assist in Big Labor organizing. Still in the “deal” are mandatory arbitration, which is an anathema to business, as well as rules to force quickie union elections (catching unwary employers off guard and preventing them from mounting opposition to organizing efforts) and a requirement forcing employers to allow unions on their premises to organize. (Private property rights? Fuggedaboutit.)

If there is such a deal, those Red state Democrats will be back on the hot seat. With unemployment heading for double-digits, will they vote for “card check lite”? So long as Big Labor is proposing that government-appointed arbitrators would have the power to set terms and conditions of employment for first labor agreements and that employers’ right to control their private property be sacrificed, you can expect a battle royale, including a filibuster from opponents.

Once again, we can only gape in awe at the misplaced priorities of certain Senate leaders. The economy is sputtering and we are bleeding jobs, but the Senate is dreaming up new ways to pummel employers. Surtaxes, energy taxes, mandatory arbitration, and on it goes. Quite a list. (Where do they think the jobs are going to come from?) If you wanted to make America an undesirable place to locate new businesses in or to expand your payroll, you’d be hard pressed to match the agenda coming out of Congress.

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So Suez Us

Israel’s navy has now sent one Dolphin submarine and two Saar-V class corvettes, or frigate-size warships, through the Suez Canal over the last month — the most such activity in years. Israel has been able to send warships through the Canal since 1979, when an agreement for such transits was concluded with Egypt, but the Israeli Navy suspended them late in 2005 due to concerns about the Canal’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks. The flurry of transits this summer is reportedly intended, at least in part, as “a show of strategic reach in the face of Iran.”

While this “show” has been interpreted as a demonstration of Israel’s ability to reach Iran, there is good reason to conclude that the equally important reach being demonstrated is into the Red Sea. The value of Israel’s Dolphin submarines to an attack on Iran’s nuclear program is not that great, in comparison to the effort required to deploy the submarines into positions in the Persian Gulf, and the limited target-set submarine-launched missiles are useful for. Of course, given the other constraints under which Israel has to operate, the value of a submarine stand-off attack option is still greater than zero, so the possibility should not be dismissed. But there is an equal and more immediate value in sending the signal to Iran that its shipping, including both arms carriers and warships, can be held at risk in the Red Sea, any time Israel wants to.

Events earlier this year highlighted the importance of the Red Sea, and of ports in Sudan and Eritrea, to Iran’s arms supply route to Hamas in Gaza. These events included an air attack on a Gaza-bound arms convoy in Sudan, in January; the sinking of a ship carrying cargo from Iran in the Red Sea in February; and another Iranian cargo ship being sunk during its approach to a port in Sudan, in April. The media is speculating that all these attacks were mounted by Israel. A Ynet report from April suggests that yet a third attack on an Iranian cargo ship in Sudan, in January, was indeed carried out by Israeli special forces.

Reuters also, however, reported Israeli officials warning more than a year ago that the Red Sea-Suez maritime route was a more significant path for arms to Gaza than land routes running through Egypt and Sudan. The convoluted tale of still another arms carrier from Iran, M/V Monchegorsk (aka Iran Hedayat), which was stopped in the Red Sea during “Cast Lead” by the U.S. Navy and Egyptian authorities and eventually detained in Cyprus, featured extensive reporting on maritime smuggling methods. Arms carriers reportedly drop cargo overboard in agreed spots, and Palestinians in fishing boats move in to retrieve it. Interdicting arms carriers in the Red Sea before they are subject to the Egyptian Canal authorities is the most effective way to guarantee there will be no delivery.

The Red Sea arms-trafficking threat thus looms on multiple vectors. Israel’s incentive to exert a de facto maritime control of Red Sea shipping, stretches back to at least the early 1970’s, when a “fedayeen” attack on an Israel-bound tanker reportedly prompted the Israelis to establish a special-forces presence in the Hanish islands on the Yemeni side of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. The more recent December 1995 dispute between Yemen and Eritrea, in which Eritrea seized control of at least two of the islands, has been tied by analysts to Israel’s 1995 accord with President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea — as have Arab media reports, citing British intelligence, that Israel had a “naval base” (more likely a surveillance station) in Eritrea’s Dahlak Islands starting in the 1990s.

These reports, officially unsubstantiated but credible, give informative context to Iran’s own full-bore effort to demonstrate maritime reach into the Red Sea. Little noticed in the West, this initiative has been underway since late 2007, and in 2008 resulted in a naval basing concession for Iran — not just from any Red Sea nation, but from Eritrea, which is still ruled by Isaias Afewerki. Iran did not merely acquire a Red Sea partner, but lured away Israel’s. Using the pretext of anti-piracy patrols, Iran has had warships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea since November 2008, and the ships reportedly spend much of their time pierside in Assab, Eritrea.

Iran already knows Israel can attack its nuclear facilities from the air. Tehran’s leaders are unlikely to discount the threat of submarine-launched missile attack, given the IDF’s means, and its reputation for audacity. Israel is probably sending more complex signals than these with the Suez Canal transits. First, the message that Israel can hold Iran’s shipping at risk — including by submarine stealth — in the Red Sea. Second, that by interdicting Iran’s Red Sea arrangements, Israel can thwart retaliatory terrorist attacks after an air strike. And third, that Israel may well position herself, by routinely operating her most powerful and longest-range warships in the Red Sea, to interdict Iranian shipping before it even gets there.

The submarines, in particular, give Israel the option of sinking arms carriers coming from Iran in the open ocean of the Arabian Sea, before they transit the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. Making a submarine presence in the Red Sea mere routine could be a way to lull the regional suspicions that attend less frequent deployments. And of course, since no vessel can transit the Suez Canal without the knowledge and approval of the Egyptian authorities, Israeli warship transits clearly signal concerted action by Jerusalem and Cairo.

Regional reporting suggests the two Saar-V corvettes are heading for joint maneuvers with the U.S. Navy. The USS Bataan Expeditionary (Amphibious) Strike Group, with its embarked Marines, conducted tactical training in the Red Sea last week, and would be an impressive exercise partner for the Israeli warships. In conjunction with the IAF’s participation this month in exercises in Nevada and Washington State and Israel’s scheduled Arrow missile test at a U.S. rest range off California, also this month, the message about Israel’s tactical preparedness, and valuable strategic alliance, is a strong one. We will see how it holds up as the diplomatic messages evolve.

Israel’s navy has now sent one Dolphin submarine and two Saar-V class corvettes, or frigate-size warships, through the Suez Canal over the last month — the most such activity in years. Israel has been able to send warships through the Canal since 1979, when an agreement for such transits was concluded with Egypt, but the Israeli Navy suspended them late in 2005 due to concerns about the Canal’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks. The flurry of transits this summer is reportedly intended, at least in part, as “a show of strategic reach in the face of Iran.”

While this “show” has been interpreted as a demonstration of Israel’s ability to reach Iran, there is good reason to conclude that the equally important reach being demonstrated is into the Red Sea. The value of Israel’s Dolphin submarines to an attack on Iran’s nuclear program is not that great, in comparison to the effort required to deploy the submarines into positions in the Persian Gulf, and the limited target-set submarine-launched missiles are useful for. Of course, given the other constraints under which Israel has to operate, the value of a submarine stand-off attack option is still greater than zero, so the possibility should not be dismissed. But there is an equal and more immediate value in sending the signal to Iran that its shipping, including both arms carriers and warships, can be held at risk in the Red Sea, any time Israel wants to.

Events earlier this year highlighted the importance of the Red Sea, and of ports in Sudan and Eritrea, to Iran’s arms supply route to Hamas in Gaza. These events included an air attack on a Gaza-bound arms convoy in Sudan, in January; the sinking of a ship carrying cargo from Iran in the Red Sea in February; and another Iranian cargo ship being sunk during its approach to a port in Sudan, in April. The media is speculating that all these attacks were mounted by Israel. A Ynet report from April suggests that yet a third attack on an Iranian cargo ship in Sudan, in January, was indeed carried out by Israeli special forces.

Reuters also, however, reported Israeli officials warning more than a year ago that the Red Sea-Suez maritime route was a more significant path for arms to Gaza than land routes running through Egypt and Sudan. The convoluted tale of still another arms carrier from Iran, M/V Monchegorsk (aka Iran Hedayat), which was stopped in the Red Sea during “Cast Lead” by the U.S. Navy and Egyptian authorities and eventually detained in Cyprus, featured extensive reporting on maritime smuggling methods. Arms carriers reportedly drop cargo overboard in agreed spots, and Palestinians in fishing boats move in to retrieve it. Interdicting arms carriers in the Red Sea before they are subject to the Egyptian Canal authorities is the most effective way to guarantee there will be no delivery.

The Red Sea arms-trafficking threat thus looms on multiple vectors. Israel’s incentive to exert a de facto maritime control of Red Sea shipping, stretches back to at least the early 1970’s, when a “fedayeen” attack on an Israel-bound tanker reportedly prompted the Israelis to establish a special-forces presence in the Hanish islands on the Yemeni side of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. The more recent December 1995 dispute between Yemen and Eritrea, in which Eritrea seized control of at least two of the islands, has been tied by analysts to Israel’s 1995 accord with President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea — as have Arab media reports, citing British intelligence, that Israel had a “naval base” (more likely a surveillance station) in Eritrea’s Dahlak Islands starting in the 1990s.

These reports, officially unsubstantiated but credible, give informative context to Iran’s own full-bore effort to demonstrate maritime reach into the Red Sea. Little noticed in the West, this initiative has been underway since late 2007, and in 2008 resulted in a naval basing concession for Iran — not just from any Red Sea nation, but from Eritrea, which is still ruled by Isaias Afewerki. Iran did not merely acquire a Red Sea partner, but lured away Israel’s. Using the pretext of anti-piracy patrols, Iran has had warships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea since November 2008, and the ships reportedly spend much of their time pierside in Assab, Eritrea.

Iran already knows Israel can attack its nuclear facilities from the air. Tehran’s leaders are unlikely to discount the threat of submarine-launched missile attack, given the IDF’s means, and its reputation for audacity. Israel is probably sending more complex signals than these with the Suez Canal transits. First, the message that Israel can hold Iran’s shipping at risk — including by submarine stealth — in the Red Sea. Second, that by interdicting Iran’s Red Sea arrangements, Israel can thwart retaliatory terrorist attacks after an air strike. And third, that Israel may well position herself, by routinely operating her most powerful and longest-range warships in the Red Sea, to interdict Iranian shipping before it even gets there.

The submarines, in particular, give Israel the option of sinking arms carriers coming from Iran in the open ocean of the Arabian Sea, before they transit the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. Making a submarine presence in the Red Sea mere routine could be a way to lull the regional suspicions that attend less frequent deployments. And of course, since no vessel can transit the Suez Canal without the knowledge and approval of the Egyptian authorities, Israeli warship transits clearly signal concerted action by Jerusalem and Cairo.

Regional reporting suggests the two Saar-V corvettes are heading for joint maneuvers with the U.S. Navy. The USS Bataan Expeditionary (Amphibious) Strike Group, with its embarked Marines, conducted tactical training in the Red Sea last week, and would be an impressive exercise partner for the Israeli warships. In conjunction with the IAF’s participation this month in exercises in Nevada and Washington State and Israel’s scheduled Arrow missile test at a U.S. rest range off California, also this month, the message about Israel’s tactical preparedness, and valuable strategic alliance, is a strong one. We will see how it holds up as the diplomatic messages evolve.

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NRA Steps Up

As I noted in the last round of questioning of Sonia Sotomayor yesterday, Republican senators seemed increasingly focused on the Second Amendment. Sotomayor’s evasiveness did not help her cause. Shortly after her questioning ended, the NRA announced it would officially oppose her confirmation. Some question then arose in conservative circles as to whether the vote would be “scored” — that is, count for the score which the NRA uses to rate incumbents on Second Amendment issues. In a close race it can make the difference, particularly in a Red state. I contacted the NRA last night. A spokesman promptly replied by email: “It’s an important vote and it will count.”

What does that mean in practical terms? It may influence a shaky Republican or two who might think twice about “deferring” to the president’s nominee. But the real impact is not with regard to Sotomayor, but in the 2010 senate races. For each Democrat who votes for her, there will be at least a small price — a ding from the NRA. Might it be significant in races in Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln), Colorado (Michael Bennet), North Dakota (Byron Dorgan), and elsewhere? We’ll know in 2010. But if nothing else, Sotomayor’s evasive performance may cost some senators who vote for her some heartburn in 2010.

As I noted in the last round of questioning of Sonia Sotomayor yesterday, Republican senators seemed increasingly focused on the Second Amendment. Sotomayor’s evasiveness did not help her cause. Shortly after her questioning ended, the NRA announced it would officially oppose her confirmation. Some question then arose in conservative circles as to whether the vote would be “scored” — that is, count for the score which the NRA uses to rate incumbents on Second Amendment issues. In a close race it can make the difference, particularly in a Red state. I contacted the NRA last night. A spokesman promptly replied by email: “It’s an important vote and it will count.”

What does that mean in practical terms? It may influence a shaky Republican or two who might think twice about “deferring” to the president’s nominee. But the real impact is not with regard to Sotomayor, but in the 2010 senate races. For each Democrat who votes for her, there will be at least a small price — a ding from the NRA. Might it be significant in races in Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln), Colorado (Michael Bennet), North Dakota (Byron Dorgan), and elsewhere? We’ll know in 2010. But if nothing else, Sotomayor’s evasive performance may cost some senators who vote for her some heartburn in 2010.

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Obama’s Summer of Discontent

President Obama remains in a fairly strong — but no longer commanding — political position. The RCP poll average of Obama’s job approval rating is 56 percent. But if one carefully tracks the evolution of public sentiment since Obama assumed office, one would notice several trends — nascent but discernible — that should concern Obama and encourage conservatives.

The first has to do with the basic philosophical orientation of Americans. A recent Gallup poll found 40 percent of Americans described their political views as conservative, while only 21 percent as liberal. Gallup also found that Americans, by a two-to-one margin, say their political views in recent years have become more conservative rather than more liberal. And a Pew survey released in May found that since the election, there has been “no consistent movement away from conservatism, nor a shift toward liberalism.”

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

President Obama remains in a fairly strong — but no longer commanding — political position. The RCP poll average of Obama’s job approval rating is 56 percent. But if one carefully tracks the evolution of public sentiment since Obama assumed office, one would notice several trends — nascent but discernible — that should concern Obama and encourage conservatives.

The first has to do with the basic philosophical orientation of Americans. A recent Gallup poll found 40 percent of Americans described their political views as conservative, while only 21 percent as liberal. Gallup also found that Americans, by a two-to-one margin, say their political views in recent years have become more conservative rather than more liberal. And a Pew survey released in May found that since the election, there has been “no consistent movement away from conservatism, nor a shift toward liberalism.”

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

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Olmert Says Obama Team Is Lying

A few weeks ago, Elliott Abrams called out the Obama administration for re-writing the history of U.S.-Israeli agreements on the settlements. Now Ehud Olmert steps forward to do the same. He writes:

– No new settlements would be constructed.

— No new land would be allocated or confiscated for settlement construction.

— Any construction in the settlements would be within current building lines

— There would be no provision of economic incentives promoting settlement growth.

— The unauthorized outposts built after March 2001 would be dismantled (a commitment that Israel, regrettably, has not yet fulfilled).

These understandings provided a working platform and, in my opinion, a proper balance to allow essential elements of stability and normality for Israelis living in settlements until their future would be determined in a permanent-status agreement. I adopted these understandings and followed them in close coordination with the Bush administration.

Moreover, during the run-up to Annapolis and in meetings there, I elaborated to the U.S. administration and the Palestinian leadership that Israel would continue to build in the settlements in accordance with the above criteria.

Let me be clear: Without those understandings, the Annapolis process would not have taken on any form. Therefore, the focus on settlement construction now is not useful.

He goes on to recap his peace settlement offer in 2008:

It would be worth exploring the reasons that the Palestinians rejected my offer and preferred, instead, to drag their feet, avoiding real decisions. My proposal would have helped realize the “two-state solution” in accordance with the principles of the U.S. administration, the Israeli government I led and the criteria the Palestinian leadership has followed throughout the years.

Olmert has in essence called out the Obama administration for reneging on U.S. commitments and misrepresenting recent history in order to pursue its misguided and wholly unproductive focus on the settlements. We now have both sides of the relevant history corroborating the applicable understandings and making clear that were it not for the U.S. assurances, Israel would not have proceeded with discussions (however unproductive) at Annapolis. And by bringing up the latest instance of Israeli peace gestures, Olmert strikes at the heart of Obama’s fractured history — the false premise that settlements, rather than Palestinian violence and rejectionism, are the main impediment to lasting peace.

The Obama administration took a gamble — banking that they could recast history to suit their ends. But now their version of history, one-sided and false, has been revealed. They have sacrificed credibility and the trust of our one true ally. And for what? They have simply encouraged the very same rejectionism that is at the root of the stalemate.

It is time for the Obama team to engage in some serious self-reflection and examine the damage done by reneging on agreements and by fabricating history. That might be a good topic of discussion next time Jewish American “leaders” convene in the White House.

A few weeks ago, Elliott Abrams called out the Obama administration for re-writing the history of U.S.-Israeli agreements on the settlements. Now Ehud Olmert steps forward to do the same. He writes:

– No new settlements would be constructed.

— No new land would be allocated or confiscated for settlement construction.

— Any construction in the settlements would be within current building lines

— There would be no provision of economic incentives promoting settlement growth.

— The unauthorized outposts built after March 2001 would be dismantled (a commitment that Israel, regrettably, has not yet fulfilled).

These understandings provided a working platform and, in my opinion, a proper balance to allow essential elements of stability and normality for Israelis living in settlements until their future would be determined in a permanent-status agreement. I adopted these understandings and followed them in close coordination with the Bush administration.

Moreover, during the run-up to Annapolis and in meetings there, I elaborated to the U.S. administration and the Palestinian leadership that Israel would continue to build in the settlements in accordance with the above criteria.

Let me be clear: Without those understandings, the Annapolis process would not have taken on any form. Therefore, the focus on settlement construction now is not useful.

He goes on to recap his peace settlement offer in 2008:

It would be worth exploring the reasons that the Palestinians rejected my offer and preferred, instead, to drag their feet, avoiding real decisions. My proposal would have helped realize the “two-state solution” in accordance with the principles of the U.S. administration, the Israeli government I led and the criteria the Palestinian leadership has followed throughout the years.

Olmert has in essence called out the Obama administration for reneging on U.S. commitments and misrepresenting recent history in order to pursue its misguided and wholly unproductive focus on the settlements. We now have both sides of the relevant history corroborating the applicable understandings and making clear that were it not for the U.S. assurances, Israel would not have proceeded with discussions (however unproductive) at Annapolis. And by bringing up the latest instance of Israeli peace gestures, Olmert strikes at the heart of Obama’s fractured history — the false premise that settlements, rather than Palestinian violence and rejectionism, are the main impediment to lasting peace.

The Obama administration took a gamble — banking that they could recast history to suit their ends. But now their version of history, one-sided and false, has been revealed. They have sacrificed credibility and the trust of our one true ally. And for what? They have simply encouraged the very same rejectionism that is at the root of the stalemate.

It is time for the Obama team to engage in some serious self-reflection and examine the damage done by reneging on agreements and by fabricating history. That might be a good topic of discussion next time Jewish American “leaders” convene in the White House.

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Re: Wheels off the Bus

A health-care bill by August, says the president. But what health-care bill? So far there is no consensus:

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) suggested Thursday evening that Congress should steer clear of the health care reform bill being marked up in the House as well as the legislation approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday.

Conrad, working to negotiate a bipartisan deal on health care reform in the Finance Committee, cited testimony earlier today by Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf in which he told members of the Budget Committee that the House and HELP bills will actually increase health care costs. Conrad said that outcome is unacceptable.

“Everybody has said you’ve got to bend the cost curve in the right way,” Conrad told reporters on his way into Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) office to resume negotiations.

“The director of CBO said in very clear testimony, in response to my questions … [that] the other proposals bend the cost curve the wrong way — will increase costs.”

And that really is the issue. If we are going to increase costs and the deficit, not reduce them, then moderate Democrats (not to mention Republicans) who can read the polls and understand the public’s antipathy to the spend-a-thon and debt accumulation, will have little reason to vote for the bill.

So where is the “deal”? Not at all clear. But as we pass the trillion dollar deficit mark and unemployment heads upward I suspect it will get harder to sell the Obama-Pelosi trillion dollar health-care bill.

A health-care bill by August, says the president. But what health-care bill? So far there is no consensus:

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) suggested Thursday evening that Congress should steer clear of the health care reform bill being marked up in the House as well as the legislation approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday.

Conrad, working to negotiate a bipartisan deal on health care reform in the Finance Committee, cited testimony earlier today by Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf in which he told members of the Budget Committee that the House and HELP bills will actually increase health care costs. Conrad said that outcome is unacceptable.

“Everybody has said you’ve got to bend the cost curve in the right way,” Conrad told reporters on his way into Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) office to resume negotiations.

“The director of CBO said in very clear testimony, in response to my questions … [that] the other proposals bend the cost curve the wrong way — will increase costs.”

And that really is the issue. If we are going to increase costs and the deficit, not reduce them, then moderate Democrats (not to mention Republicans) who can read the polls and understand the public’s antipathy to the spend-a-thon and debt accumulation, will have little reason to vote for the bill.

So where is the “deal”? Not at all clear. But as we pass the trillion dollar deficit mark and unemployment heads upward I suspect it will get harder to sell the Obama-Pelosi trillion dollar health-care bill.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

If you thought Sen. Barbara Boxer hit rock-bottom in castigating a general for calling her “Ma’am,” watch this. It perfectly exemplifies the liberal mindset in  which everyone is simply a member of a racial group whose views are best rebutted from others from that racial group. What is so stunning about the video is Boxer’s lack of recognition that she is being racist.

Max Baucus comes crawling back to apologize to the White House for saying the president is being “difficult” on health care.

Sen. Ben Nelson doesn’t want to be rushed on health-care reform. And Baucus agrees: “Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) acknowledged Thursday that though he appreciates President Barack Obama’s request that the Senate approve health care reform legislation before the August recess, he has no intention of rushing bipartisan negotiations in his committee that he said are bearing fruit.”

Maybe they should slow down and think this through. Cesar Conda: “I’m not aware of any economic theory that says raising taxes during a recession would strengthen the economy. Nevertheless, the proposed bill would impose a surtax between 1%-5.4% on adjusted gross incomes, which impacts taxpayers earning as little as $280,000 per annum, while raising the maximum income tax rate on the so-called ‘wealthy’ to 45% by 2011. The plan would raise the top capital gains and dividends tax, thereby discouraging capital formation which is the key to restoring long-term economic growth. By 2011, maximum capital gains and dividend tax would rise from the current 15 percent to 26.5 percent and 46 percent, respectively. Most disturbingly, the Democrats health care plan would raise taxes for small businesses, which create the majority of the net new jobs in our economy.”

More trouble in paradise: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) slammed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Thursday for running ads designed to pressure centrist Democrats into supporting the president’s healthcare plan, calling the effort a ‘waste of money.’ Reid’s comments sent his staff into damage control mode, as they sought to clarify his remarks, but also reflect a growing frustration among those centrists who have been reluctant to back a government-run health insurance plan at the center of President Obama’s health care proposal.”

That “get a quick win” strategy on cap-and-trade by Nancy Pelosi seems to have misfired — badly. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is paying a price on healthcare reform for the arm-twisting she did on the climate change bill last month. Democratic House members were rankled by how the climate bill passed — and stunned by the criticism they got at home. Those memories are fueling a revolt among conservative Blue Dogs and a drive among freshman lawmakers to drop plans for a surtax on the wealthy in healthcare reform. An aide to one conservative Democratic lawmaker said the climate bill was ‘really rammed down our throats.'”

Joe Biden comes to Virginia and acts, well, like Joe Biden: “‘We’re going to go bankrupt as a nation. Now, people when I say that look at me and say, ‘What are you talking about, Joe? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt? The answer is yes, that’s what I’m telling you.” Got that? And then he hollered at the critics of the non-stimulus plan. And people wonder why the administration is losing voters’ confidence on the economy.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va) seemed delighted to have Biden stop in his district: “Where I’m looking is where families of Virginia and America are looking and that’s at the unemployment rate, which is skyrocketing. The reality is that people are losing their jobs. Families are going into economic free-fall.” I imagine the GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell was pleased too.

The CNN reporter who argued with the tea party protestors gets laid off. Maybe MSNBC is more her speed.

The president preaches to the NAACP: “Your destiny is in your hands, and don’t you forget that. That’s what we have to teach all of our children! No excuses! No excuses!” Then we can end racial preferences?

If you thought Sen. Barbara Boxer hit rock-bottom in castigating a general for calling her “Ma’am,” watch this. It perfectly exemplifies the liberal mindset in  which everyone is simply a member of a racial group whose views are best rebutted from others from that racial group. What is so stunning about the video is Boxer’s lack of recognition that she is being racist.

Max Baucus comes crawling back to apologize to the White House for saying the president is being “difficult” on health care.

Sen. Ben Nelson doesn’t want to be rushed on health-care reform. And Baucus agrees: “Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) acknowledged Thursday that though he appreciates President Barack Obama’s request that the Senate approve health care reform legislation before the August recess, he has no intention of rushing bipartisan negotiations in his committee that he said are bearing fruit.”

Maybe they should slow down and think this through. Cesar Conda: “I’m not aware of any economic theory that says raising taxes during a recession would strengthen the economy. Nevertheless, the proposed bill would impose a surtax between 1%-5.4% on adjusted gross incomes, which impacts taxpayers earning as little as $280,000 per annum, while raising the maximum income tax rate on the so-called ‘wealthy’ to 45% by 2011. The plan would raise the top capital gains and dividends tax, thereby discouraging capital formation which is the key to restoring long-term economic growth. By 2011, maximum capital gains and dividend tax would rise from the current 15 percent to 26.5 percent and 46 percent, respectively. Most disturbingly, the Democrats health care plan would raise taxes for small businesses, which create the majority of the net new jobs in our economy.”

More trouble in paradise: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) slammed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Thursday for running ads designed to pressure centrist Democrats into supporting the president’s healthcare plan, calling the effort a ‘waste of money.’ Reid’s comments sent his staff into damage control mode, as they sought to clarify his remarks, but also reflect a growing frustration among those centrists who have been reluctant to back a government-run health insurance plan at the center of President Obama’s health care proposal.”

That “get a quick win” strategy on cap-and-trade by Nancy Pelosi seems to have misfired — badly. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is paying a price on healthcare reform for the arm-twisting she did on the climate change bill last month. Democratic House members were rankled by how the climate bill passed — and stunned by the criticism they got at home. Those memories are fueling a revolt among conservative Blue Dogs and a drive among freshman lawmakers to drop plans for a surtax on the wealthy in healthcare reform. An aide to one conservative Democratic lawmaker said the climate bill was ‘really rammed down our throats.'”

Joe Biden comes to Virginia and acts, well, like Joe Biden: “‘We’re going to go bankrupt as a nation. Now, people when I say that look at me and say, ‘What are you talking about, Joe? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt? The answer is yes, that’s what I’m telling you.” Got that? And then he hollered at the critics of the non-stimulus plan. And people wonder why the administration is losing voters’ confidence on the economy.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va) seemed delighted to have Biden stop in his district: “Where I’m looking is where families of Virginia and America are looking and that’s at the unemployment rate, which is skyrocketing. The reality is that people are losing their jobs. Families are going into economic free-fall.” I imagine the GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell was pleased too.

The CNN reporter who argued with the tea party protestors gets laid off. Maybe MSNBC is more her speed.

The president preaches to the NAACP: “Your destiny is in your hands, and don’t you forget that. That’s what we have to teach all of our children! No excuses! No excuses!” Then we can end racial preferences?

Read Less




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