Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 27, 2009

Iran, Without Preconditions

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohammad Ali Jaafari, made headlines on July 25 with his announcement that Iran “will surely strike” Israel with missiles in the event of an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities. His comments ensued on a July 17 AP report that Iran was blocking access by IAEA inspectors to expanded uranium-enrichment operations at Natanz. The possibility of Iran diverting low-enriched uranium from IAEA-monitored storage there is considered a key indicator that warhead development may be in progress. Less remarked by Western media is the consistency of Jaafari’s warning with the long series of threats against Israel from Iranian officials.

Regular army commander Ataollah Salehi proclaimed in a TV interview in May 2009 that in the event of an Israeli strike, Iran would not need “more than 11 days to wipe Israel out of existence.” In July 2008 a senior cleric in Ayatollah Khamenei’s circle, Mojtaba Zolnour, promised to destroy Israel and 32 U.S. military bases in the region if Iran’s facilities were attacked. Guard Commander Jaafari himself swore in February 2008, after the assassination of Imad Mugniyah, that “the cancerous bacterium called Israel” would vanish soon. In November 2006, Manouchehr Mottaki, then Iran’s foreign minister, called on an OIC gathering to destroy Israel and restore the people of “occupied Palestine” to power. At his October 2005 “World Without Zionism” conference, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously said Israel must be “wiped off the map” and that “anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.”

Jaafari’s appointment as Guard commander demonstrated another pattern that was repeated on Friday with Ahmadinejad’s choice for the office of first vice-president. In 2007, Jaafari, a hard-liner and protégé of Khamenei, replaced a predecessor who had not taken a sufficiently tough stance against Israel and the U.S. Ahmadinejad’s recent pick for first vice-president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, offended hard-liners on the Guardian Council in 2008 when he made friendly comments about Israel. Ahmadinejad was forced to dismiss him on July 24, after a week of holding out against Khamenei’s demands.

The same Iranian patterns continue in spite of the Obama administration’s rejection of preconditions and the proclamation of a new era in relations. Tehran has at least noticed the Obama rhetoric. The mullah’s regime found time in June to send a letter to the IAEA complaining that U.S. protestations have so far been meaningless:

A certain country is publicizing that there is a drastic change in its foreign policy, pursuant to the world’s concern about the creation of conflicts and war in all over the world [sic]. There was an announcement of change and compensation of the past mistakes. Today, having listened to the US statement, we are witnessing that there is no change in policies and actions vis-à-vis the IAEA.

There seems to be a lot of that going around.

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohammad Ali Jaafari, made headlines on July 25 with his announcement that Iran “will surely strike” Israel with missiles in the event of an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities. His comments ensued on a July 17 AP report that Iran was blocking access by IAEA inspectors to expanded uranium-enrichment operations at Natanz. The possibility of Iran diverting low-enriched uranium from IAEA-monitored storage there is considered a key indicator that warhead development may be in progress. Less remarked by Western media is the consistency of Jaafari’s warning with the long series of threats against Israel from Iranian officials.

Regular army commander Ataollah Salehi proclaimed in a TV interview in May 2009 that in the event of an Israeli strike, Iran would not need “more than 11 days to wipe Israel out of existence.” In July 2008 a senior cleric in Ayatollah Khamenei’s circle, Mojtaba Zolnour, promised to destroy Israel and 32 U.S. military bases in the region if Iran’s facilities were attacked. Guard Commander Jaafari himself swore in February 2008, after the assassination of Imad Mugniyah, that “the cancerous bacterium called Israel” would vanish soon. In November 2006, Manouchehr Mottaki, then Iran’s foreign minister, called on an OIC gathering to destroy Israel and restore the people of “occupied Palestine” to power. At his October 2005 “World Without Zionism” conference, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously said Israel must be “wiped off the map” and that “anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.”

Jaafari’s appointment as Guard commander demonstrated another pattern that was repeated on Friday with Ahmadinejad’s choice for the office of first vice-president. In 2007, Jaafari, a hard-liner and protégé of Khamenei, replaced a predecessor who had not taken a sufficiently tough stance against Israel and the U.S. Ahmadinejad’s recent pick for first vice-president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, offended hard-liners on the Guardian Council in 2008 when he made friendly comments about Israel. Ahmadinejad was forced to dismiss him on July 24, after a week of holding out against Khamenei’s demands.

The same Iranian patterns continue in spite of the Obama administration’s rejection of preconditions and the proclamation of a new era in relations. Tehran has at least noticed the Obama rhetoric. The mullah’s regime found time in June to send a letter to the IAEA complaining that U.S. protestations have so far been meaningless:

A certain country is publicizing that there is a drastic change in its foreign policy, pursuant to the world’s concern about the creation of conflicts and war in all over the world [sic]. There was an announcement of change and compensation of the past mistakes. Today, having listened to the US statement, we are witnessing that there is no change in policies and actions vis-à-vis the IAEA.

There seems to be a lot of that going around.

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What Are They Thinking?

This report sums up the incomprehensible status of our policy toward Iran:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting Israeli authorities on Monday, said President Obama “is fully aware that the Iranians may simply try to run out the clock” in negotiations over their nuclear program.

Gates, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said during a news conference with Barak that persuasion was still very much on the table to deal with the Islamic Republic’s blossoming nuclear program.

“I think the president is hoping for some kind of response by this fall” at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, Gates said.

We are about to be played, we know we’re about to be played, and we are doing it anyway? We have no intention of using the variety of diplomatic and economic tools (which the administration saves for poor democracies like Honduras) to tip the balance of power within Iran. The administration is passive in the effort gaining steam in the Senate to enact sanctions. Yet Hillary Clinton insists with great bluster that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is “futile.” What’s missing? Well, a coherent plan for denying Iran nuclear weapons.

One is left with two possible interpretations. One may be that despite denials to the contrary that he is living in a diplomatic fantasyland, Obama is convinced of his own powers of persuasion and believes the Iranian mullahs will fall under his spell and give up their nuclear weapons. After all, we are setting such a good example by proposing all sorts of disarmament agreements; the mullahs would be foolish not to go along, right? This supposes the administration is stocked with fools who are oblivious to the nature of the Iranian regime. Possibly.

The other alternative is that Clinton knows Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is futile because eventually Israel will “take care of it.” This is actually a less charitable explanation than the “they are foolish” option. It supposes a level of timidity, an unwillingness to assume American responsibilities, and a level of deceit. Having bashed Israel for six months and declared that no country has the right to tell another whether it can pursue nuclear power, Obama and his team now are banking on Israel to do their dirty work. They will complain after the fact, of course. Is this possible? Well, unless you think Obama and his team are fools, it is the only explanation.

Now perhaps the Senate will step to the forefront, forcing the administration’s hand to pursue serious and meaningful sanctions. But one senses Obama’s heart isn’t in it. After all, he has Israel as Plan B.

This report sums up the incomprehensible status of our policy toward Iran:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting Israeli authorities on Monday, said President Obama “is fully aware that the Iranians may simply try to run out the clock” in negotiations over their nuclear program.

Gates, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said during a news conference with Barak that persuasion was still very much on the table to deal with the Islamic Republic’s blossoming nuclear program.

“I think the president is hoping for some kind of response by this fall” at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, Gates said.

We are about to be played, we know we’re about to be played, and we are doing it anyway? We have no intention of using the variety of diplomatic and economic tools (which the administration saves for poor democracies like Honduras) to tip the balance of power within Iran. The administration is passive in the effort gaining steam in the Senate to enact sanctions. Yet Hillary Clinton insists with great bluster that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is “futile.” What’s missing? Well, a coherent plan for denying Iran nuclear weapons.

One is left with two possible interpretations. One may be that despite denials to the contrary that he is living in a diplomatic fantasyland, Obama is convinced of his own powers of persuasion and believes the Iranian mullahs will fall under his spell and give up their nuclear weapons. After all, we are setting such a good example by proposing all sorts of disarmament agreements; the mullahs would be foolish not to go along, right? This supposes the administration is stocked with fools who are oblivious to the nature of the Iranian regime. Possibly.

The other alternative is that Clinton knows Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is futile because eventually Israel will “take care of it.” This is actually a less charitable explanation than the “they are foolish” option. It supposes a level of timidity, an unwillingness to assume American responsibilities, and a level of deceit. Having bashed Israel for six months and declared that no country has the right to tell another whether it can pursue nuclear power, Obama and his team now are banking on Israel to do their dirty work. They will complain after the fact, of course. Is this possible? Well, unless you think Obama and his team are fools, it is the only explanation.

Now perhaps the Senate will step to the forefront, forcing the administration’s hand to pursue serious and meaningful sanctions. But one senses Obama’s heart isn’t in it. After all, he has Israel as Plan B.

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Are Millionaires All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

In trying to pay for the Democrats’ grandiose health-care plan, President Obama has endorsed the concept of a “millionaires’ surtax.” Leave aside for a moment the consideration that not even this would raise the revenues necessary to pay for the Democrats’ designs; they will be forced to increase taxes on those earning considerably less than $1 million a year. Still, it’s clear why they’ve focused on milking millionaires as the way to fund their plans. Millionaires are seen as the symbols of excess — far removed from the “middle class” to which all politicians pay obeisance. Surely they can afford to pay more, the president and his supporters no doubt figure.

But are millionaires all they’re cracked up to be? The term was coined in the 19th century. The Oxford English Dictionary credits Lord Byron with inventing it in 1816 (“He is still worth at least 50-000 pounds being what is called here [sc. Evian] a ‘Millionaire’ that is in Francs & such Lilliputian coinage”). At the time, a million pounds (or even a million francs) was a vast sum. This was a time when the average English worker earned less than 55 pounds a year. (Today the average full-time worker in the United Kingdom takes home almost 25,000 pounds a year.) But times change, and a million pounds ain’t what it used to be. Neither is a million dollars.

Comparisons of monetary value over the centuries are necessarily inexact because there are many different yardsticks one can use, and it’s hard to account for changing standards of living. But employing this handy website, my research associate, Rick Bennet, calculated that a million pounds in 1830 would be worth 73 million pounds today (or $120 million). A million dollars from 1830 is worth $24 million today. (That’s based on the Consumer Price Index. Utilizing other measurements, today’s dollar equivalent is even higher.)

If only someone had been clever enough to coin a term for today’s truly wealthy — those who make $120 million a year, or at least $24 million. Not that they should be hit with more taxes either. But at least if we’re going to talk about “the rich,” let’s talk about those who are wealthy in today’s terms rather than employing a metric that is 200 years out of date.

In trying to pay for the Democrats’ grandiose health-care plan, President Obama has endorsed the concept of a “millionaires’ surtax.” Leave aside for a moment the consideration that not even this would raise the revenues necessary to pay for the Democrats’ designs; they will be forced to increase taxes on those earning considerably less than $1 million a year. Still, it’s clear why they’ve focused on milking millionaires as the way to fund their plans. Millionaires are seen as the symbols of excess — far removed from the “middle class” to which all politicians pay obeisance. Surely they can afford to pay more, the president and his supporters no doubt figure.

But are millionaires all they’re cracked up to be? The term was coined in the 19th century. The Oxford English Dictionary credits Lord Byron with inventing it in 1816 (“He is still worth at least 50-000 pounds being what is called here [sc. Evian] a ‘Millionaire’ that is in Francs & such Lilliputian coinage”). At the time, a million pounds (or even a million francs) was a vast sum. This was a time when the average English worker earned less than 55 pounds a year. (Today the average full-time worker in the United Kingdom takes home almost 25,000 pounds a year.) But times change, and a million pounds ain’t what it used to be. Neither is a million dollars.

Comparisons of monetary value over the centuries are necessarily inexact because there are many different yardsticks one can use, and it’s hard to account for changing standards of living. But employing this handy website, my research associate, Rick Bennet, calculated that a million pounds in 1830 would be worth 73 million pounds today (or $120 million). A million dollars from 1830 is worth $24 million today. (That’s based on the Consumer Price Index. Utilizing other measurements, today’s dollar equivalent is even higher.)

If only someone had been clever enough to coin a term for today’s truly wealthy — those who make $120 million a year, or at least $24 million. Not that they should be hit with more taxes either. But at least if we’re going to talk about “the rich,” let’s talk about those who are wealthy in today’s terms rather than employing a metric that is 200 years out of date.

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Obama’s Waiting Until Fall to Think About Getting Tough with Iran

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in Israel today, where the Israeli government was eager to get as much as possible out of him on Iran. Gates is considered the most friendly toward Israel among all of Obama’s cabinet senior members and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was expected to push him to make a statement assuring Israel that there is more to Washington’s approach to Tehran’s nuclear threat than a confused call for “engagement” and lukewarm support for sanctions.

But it is doubtful that Ayatollah Khamenei or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are shaking in their shoes at the rhetoric Gates used in either Jerusalem or in Amman, Jordan. Claiming that Israel and the U.S. see eye-to-eye on the Iranian issue, the Jerusalem Post reports that Gates said:

If the engagement process is not successful, the United States is prepared to press for significant additional sanctions.

Acknowledging that the current policy of mild sanctions, which actually dates back to George W. Bush’s weak position on Iran, hasn’t worked, Gates said that if engagement fails, “We would try to get international support for a much tougher position,” and that “Our hope remains that Iran would respond to the president’s outstretched hand in a positive and constructive way, but we’ll see.”

The good news about this situation is that Gates said Obama’s belief in engagement is “not an open-ended offer” and that they were aware that Iran has been trying (successfully) to “run out the clock” on diplomacy to buy time for its nuclear ambitions. Gates said that Obama was hoping for “some kind of response” from Iran before the U.N. General Assembly meets this fall and that sanctions were a possibility if diplomacy failed. He also repeated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s offer of a “defense umbrella” to shelter Israel and moderate Arab states from Iran’s nukes.

The bad news is that if Obama’s team thinks this is the sort of talk that will serve as a tough signal to scare the Iranian regime into backing down on their nuclear program, then they are kidding themselves. Obama has been reaching out to Iran since he took office in January. The result has been a big fat nothing in the way of even the faintest signal from Tehran of a willingness to talk sense about nuclear development. Nor did the regime respond via diplomacy to Obama’s feckless dithering about the stolen Iranian presidential election and the repression of dissent there.

The loose talk in Washington over the past few months about supposedly trading a tougher stand on Iran in exchange for Israeli concessions on settlements can also only have convinced Tehran that Obama isn’t serious. Indeed, the Iranians would be forgiven for interpreting the talk about U.S. defense shields for Israel as a signal that the administration has no intention of keeping the president’s campaign promises not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

One thing this statement does accomplish is to start a new clock running in addition to the one already ticking toward the day Ahmadinejad announces nuclear success. The countdown until the General Assembly gives Obama a few months of breathing room during which he can still act as if diplomacy had a real chance of working. The problem is that nothing that has happened before either on Obama’s part or on the Iranians’ would lead any reasonable person to believe that real progress toward ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions is realistic. Moreover, if work toward tougher sanctions cannot start until after October, given the difficulty of achieving international support for even minimal sanctions on this issue, what Obama has done is exactly what Gates said he doesn’t want to do: give the Iranians more time to build nukes while the rest of the world waits.

No one who understands the existential threat Iran poses to Israel and to the stability of the Middle East ought to feel good about any of this.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in Israel today, where the Israeli government was eager to get as much as possible out of him on Iran. Gates is considered the most friendly toward Israel among all of Obama’s cabinet senior members and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was expected to push him to make a statement assuring Israel that there is more to Washington’s approach to Tehran’s nuclear threat than a confused call for “engagement” and lukewarm support for sanctions.

But it is doubtful that Ayatollah Khamenei or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are shaking in their shoes at the rhetoric Gates used in either Jerusalem or in Amman, Jordan. Claiming that Israel and the U.S. see eye-to-eye on the Iranian issue, the Jerusalem Post reports that Gates said:

If the engagement process is not successful, the United States is prepared to press for significant additional sanctions.

Acknowledging that the current policy of mild sanctions, which actually dates back to George W. Bush’s weak position on Iran, hasn’t worked, Gates said that if engagement fails, “We would try to get international support for a much tougher position,” and that “Our hope remains that Iran would respond to the president’s outstretched hand in a positive and constructive way, but we’ll see.”

The good news about this situation is that Gates said Obama’s belief in engagement is “not an open-ended offer” and that they were aware that Iran has been trying (successfully) to “run out the clock” on diplomacy to buy time for its nuclear ambitions. Gates said that Obama was hoping for “some kind of response” from Iran before the U.N. General Assembly meets this fall and that sanctions were a possibility if diplomacy failed. He also repeated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s offer of a “defense umbrella” to shelter Israel and moderate Arab states from Iran’s nukes.

The bad news is that if Obama’s team thinks this is the sort of talk that will serve as a tough signal to scare the Iranian regime into backing down on their nuclear program, then they are kidding themselves. Obama has been reaching out to Iran since he took office in January. The result has been a big fat nothing in the way of even the faintest signal from Tehran of a willingness to talk sense about nuclear development. Nor did the regime respond via diplomacy to Obama’s feckless dithering about the stolen Iranian presidential election and the repression of dissent there.

The loose talk in Washington over the past few months about supposedly trading a tougher stand on Iran in exchange for Israeli concessions on settlements can also only have convinced Tehran that Obama isn’t serious. Indeed, the Iranians would be forgiven for interpreting the talk about U.S. defense shields for Israel as a signal that the administration has no intention of keeping the president’s campaign promises not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

One thing this statement does accomplish is to start a new clock running in addition to the one already ticking toward the day Ahmadinejad announces nuclear success. The countdown until the General Assembly gives Obama a few months of breathing room during which he can still act as if diplomacy had a real chance of working. The problem is that nothing that has happened before either on Obama’s part or on the Iranians’ would lead any reasonable person to believe that real progress toward ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions is realistic. Moreover, if work toward tougher sanctions cannot start until after October, given the difficulty of achieving international support for even minimal sanctions on this issue, what Obama has done is exactly what Gates said he doesn’t want to do: give the Iranians more time to build nukes while the rest of the world waits.

No one who understands the existential threat Iran poses to Israel and to the stability of the Middle East ought to feel good about any of this.

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Budget Buster

A few others have noticed the body blow dealt by the CBO to ObamaCare. The key graph from the CBO’s letter to Rep. Dave Camp:

Looking ahead to the decade beyond 2019, CBO tries to evaluate the rate at which the budgetary impact of each of those broad categories would be likely to change over time. The net cost of the coverage provisions would be growing at a rate of more than 8 percent per year in nominal terms between 2017 and 2019; we would anticipate a similar trend in the subsequent decade. The reductions in direct spending would also be larger in the second decade than in the first, and they would represent an increasing share of spending on Medicare over that period; however, they would be much smaller at the end of the 10-year budget window than the cost of the coverage provisions, so they would not be likely to keep pace in dollar terms with the rising cost of the coverage expansion. Revenue from the surcharge on high-income individuals would be growing at about 5 percent per year in nominal terms between 2017 and 2019; that component would continue to grow at a slower rate than the cost of the coverage expansion in the following decade. In sum, relative to current law, the proposal would probably generate substantial increases in federal budget deficits during the decade beyond the current 10-year budget window.

Translation: ObamaCare, far from reducing health-care costs and the deficit, increases them — dramatically and with no funding source identified to pay for the expansion. As Yuval Levin puts it: “This makes the ongoing mad dash to find a way to make the bill look deficit neutral within a 10-year budget window seem silly.” We would in fact be setting off a time bomb within the already imploding federal budget.

Irresponsible? Foolhardy? Yes. And further grounds, if any were needed, to scrap this mess and start over. ObamaCare does not “bend the cost curve” — it accelerates it. It does not guarantee you will be able to keep your plan — it rigs the rules to force you into a public plan. It does not preserve the doctor-patient relationship — it eradicates it. There is a reason liberals are deathly afraid of allowing this to sit out there and of the public learning more about it. If Congress’s own budget gurus can’t defend this monstrosity, how will their bosses in Congress? At some point, it is time to admit that ObamaCare bears as much resemblance to health-care “reform” as Obama’s account does to the facts of the Gates-Crowley incident. In short: none at all.

A few others have noticed the body blow dealt by the CBO to ObamaCare. The key graph from the CBO’s letter to Rep. Dave Camp:

Looking ahead to the decade beyond 2019, CBO tries to evaluate the rate at which the budgetary impact of each of those broad categories would be likely to change over time. The net cost of the coverage provisions would be growing at a rate of more than 8 percent per year in nominal terms between 2017 and 2019; we would anticipate a similar trend in the subsequent decade. The reductions in direct spending would also be larger in the second decade than in the first, and they would represent an increasing share of spending on Medicare over that period; however, they would be much smaller at the end of the 10-year budget window than the cost of the coverage provisions, so they would not be likely to keep pace in dollar terms with the rising cost of the coverage expansion. Revenue from the surcharge on high-income individuals would be growing at about 5 percent per year in nominal terms between 2017 and 2019; that component would continue to grow at a slower rate than the cost of the coverage expansion in the following decade. In sum, relative to current law, the proposal would probably generate substantial increases in federal budget deficits during the decade beyond the current 10-year budget window.

Translation: ObamaCare, far from reducing health-care costs and the deficit, increases them — dramatically and with no funding source identified to pay for the expansion. As Yuval Levin puts it: “This makes the ongoing mad dash to find a way to make the bill look deficit neutral within a 10-year budget window seem silly.” We would in fact be setting off a time bomb within the already imploding federal budget.

Irresponsible? Foolhardy? Yes. And further grounds, if any were needed, to scrap this mess and start over. ObamaCare does not “bend the cost curve” — it accelerates it. It does not guarantee you will be able to keep your plan — it rigs the rules to force you into a public plan. It does not preserve the doctor-patient relationship — it eradicates it. There is a reason liberals are deathly afraid of allowing this to sit out there and of the public learning more about it. If Congress’s own budget gurus can’t defend this monstrosity, how will their bosses in Congress? At some point, it is time to admit that ObamaCare bears as much resemblance to health-care “reform” as Obama’s account does to the facts of the Gates-Crowley incident. In short: none at all.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: America to the Rescue

It has become fashionable once again to proclaim America’s decline. Books herald a “post-American world” and the “end of the American era.” The question is no longer whether America is Rome but how best to manage our inevitable fall. Few of the international-relations pundits who prophesy the decline of America and the concomitant advancement of China, India, Russia, and regional bodies like the European Union, appear worried about the prospect. Indeed, many seem downright pleased by “the rise of the rest.”

Recent events in the Central American nation of Honduras, however, put a dent in the grand theory of American decline.

The ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, which occurred after his brazen gambit to subvert the Honduran constitution by holding an illegal referendum in an attempt to end presidential term limits, has created one of the most nail-biting political crises in recent Latin American history. Whatever the circumstances of Zelaya’s expulsion (claims that what transpired in Honduras constituted a “coup” are weakened by the validation bestowed on the military’s actions by the Supreme Court and attorney general, as well as the consideration that the country is currently run by a civilian government), the situation remains tense. It reached its most dramatic point when, a little over a week after his ouster, Zelaya attempted to land a plane in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, only to be prevented from doing so by a military blockade of the runway. Most nations have recalled their ambassadors and cut off much-needed aid.

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

It has become fashionable once again to proclaim America’s decline. Books herald a “post-American world” and the “end of the American era.” The question is no longer whether America is Rome but how best to manage our inevitable fall. Few of the international-relations pundits who prophesy the decline of America and the concomitant advancement of China, India, Russia, and regional bodies like the European Union, appear worried about the prospect. Indeed, many seem downright pleased by “the rise of the rest.”

Recent events in the Central American nation of Honduras, however, put a dent in the grand theory of American decline.

The ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, which occurred after his brazen gambit to subvert the Honduran constitution by holding an illegal referendum in an attempt to end presidential term limits, has created one of the most nail-biting political crises in recent Latin American history. Whatever the circumstances of Zelaya’s expulsion (claims that what transpired in Honduras constituted a “coup” are weakened by the validation bestowed on the military’s actions by the Supreme Court and attorney general, as well as the consideration that the country is currently run by a civilian government), the situation remains tense. It reached its most dramatic point when, a little over a week after his ouster, Zelaya attempted to land a plane in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, only to be prevented from doing so by a military blockade of the runway. Most nations have recalled their ambassadors and cut off much-needed aid.

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

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Rush, Rush, Rush

Nancy Pelosi is facing a backlash from her own caucus over her efforts to jam through the liberal Democrats’ massive health-care overhaul. As the Washington Post explains, part of the problem is simple fatigue and confusion:

“I think the people are shellshocked,” said Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.), linking the recent passage of the $700 billion financial bailout, the $787 billion economic recovery package, climate change and other major bills approved this year. “So much is happening so quickly that what is happening is people are blending it all together,” said Arcuri, who was elected in 2006.

Most troubling in the short term is how few in the caucus of 256 House Democrats understand the emerging 1,000-page bill. Leaders organized a five-hour seminar for Monday to brief lawmakers. “The bill is so complex,” said Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), a co-author. When staff members agreed to hold the session, Rangel said, “response was overwhelming.”

The very reason Pelosi wanted to rush — getting a politically untenable and ill-thought-out scheme through without full scrutiny — is precisely why members are in revolt. But that’s not the only reason for the Democrats’ angst; they have already been burned and are wary of incinerating their political careers:

The climate-change win was initially cast as a major Pelosi victory, because of her investment in securing the necessary votes.

“I don’t know whose decision it was to put cap-and-trade first, but it was a huge mistake,” said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), a conservative leader on the Energy and Commerce Committee. “It’s a divisive issue. I felt like we had the opportunity to do one thing before the August recess . . . and everybody agrees we need to reform health care.”

Pelosi defended her decision. “A number of the people who are having a problem now didn’t vote for the climate bill,” she said. Those include Ross, a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. But freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D), who represents rural parts of central and southern Virginia, voted for the cap-and-trade bill and is urging leadership to give him time to vet the health-care package with his constituents. “You want to come up with your best ideas and take them out on the road and make them better,” he said, adding that the climate vote had already “unleashed a full range of emotions” back home.

[. . .]

Rep. Jared Polis, a first-term Democrat who represents the affluent Boulder, Colo., area, signed a letter with 20 fellow freshmen and one sophomore member objecting to the tax, which would apply to families with incomes of $350,000 and higher. Polis and his allies worry about the tax hitting small businesses, like the thriving Boulder Book Store and the Mountain Sun brewery in his home town.

This doesn’t mean that Pelosi won’t be able to wrangle votes at some point to pass some sort of health-care bill. But it does show there is a limit to the number of harebrained pieces of legislation lawmakers are willing to pass without reading them first.

Nancy Pelosi is facing a backlash from her own caucus over her efforts to jam through the liberal Democrats’ massive health-care overhaul. As the Washington Post explains, part of the problem is simple fatigue and confusion:

“I think the people are shellshocked,” said Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.), linking the recent passage of the $700 billion financial bailout, the $787 billion economic recovery package, climate change and other major bills approved this year. “So much is happening so quickly that what is happening is people are blending it all together,” said Arcuri, who was elected in 2006.

Most troubling in the short term is how few in the caucus of 256 House Democrats understand the emerging 1,000-page bill. Leaders organized a five-hour seminar for Monday to brief lawmakers. “The bill is so complex,” said Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), a co-author. When staff members agreed to hold the session, Rangel said, “response was overwhelming.”

The very reason Pelosi wanted to rush — getting a politically untenable and ill-thought-out scheme through without full scrutiny — is precisely why members are in revolt. But that’s not the only reason for the Democrats’ angst; they have already been burned and are wary of incinerating their political careers:

The climate-change win was initially cast as a major Pelosi victory, because of her investment in securing the necessary votes.

“I don’t know whose decision it was to put cap-and-trade first, but it was a huge mistake,” said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), a conservative leader on the Energy and Commerce Committee. “It’s a divisive issue. I felt like we had the opportunity to do one thing before the August recess . . . and everybody agrees we need to reform health care.”

Pelosi defended her decision. “A number of the people who are having a problem now didn’t vote for the climate bill,” she said. Those include Ross, a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. But freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D), who represents rural parts of central and southern Virginia, voted for the cap-and-trade bill and is urging leadership to give him time to vet the health-care package with his constituents. “You want to come up with your best ideas and take them out on the road and make them better,” he said, adding that the climate vote had already “unleashed a full range of emotions” back home.

[. . .]

Rep. Jared Polis, a first-term Democrat who represents the affluent Boulder, Colo., area, signed a letter with 20 fellow freshmen and one sophomore member objecting to the tax, which would apply to families with incomes of $350,000 and higher. Polis and his allies worry about the tax hitting small businesses, like the thriving Boulder Book Store and the Mountain Sun brewery in his home town.

This doesn’t mean that Pelosi won’t be able to wrangle votes at some point to pass some sort of health-care bill. But it does show there is a limit to the number of harebrained pieces of legislation lawmakers are willing to pass without reading them first.

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The Right Pols for the Right Jobs

The New York Times compares the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mitch McConnell “brands” of Republicanism. The former, a Democratic-lite, hasn’t panned out well. As to the latter, McConnell is holding his caucus together and earning kudos from the base for opposing Obama’s ultraliberal agenda. The Times notes:

Inside the Capitol, Mr. McConnell has a different Republican message: stick together in resisting Mr. Obama’s ambition.

“We have an example, in my view, of not doing it right, and that was the hurry-up job on the stimulus,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview. “They said we had to get it done almost immediately. If we didn’t do it, unemployment would go over 8 percent. We did do it; unemployment is now going to go over 10 percent.”

He continued, “And the assumption that doing health care is going to help the economy, which the president’s been selling, is utter nonsense.”

That message gains traction with every new caution from the Congressional Budget Office, every tick up in unemployment, every slip in Mr. Obama’s approval ratings. It emboldens a cadre of Senate Republicans — including Senators Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine — in their protracted negotiations with the Finance Committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, on a possible compromise.

“I view them as somewhat like agents of the rest of our conference,” Mr. McConnell said. “They don’t want to be part of an agreement that doesn’t have widespread support among Republican senators.”

Now, to some degree the comparison is unfair (and not simply because California is falling off the fiscal cliff). McConnell would likely not win office in California, and the jobs of governors in liberal-leaning states are fundamentally different from the Senate minority leader’s job. So McConnell-ism won’t work everywhere. But it doesn’t have to.

This is seen as the mistake that pundits and Republican strategists continually make. They search for a single model of success, the key to unlocking the Republicans’ political fortunes. But there is no such silver bullet. Before being the less-than-successful chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel was the very successful congressional recruiter for the Democrats who, along with Sen. Chuck Schumer, found just the right candidates with just the right message in diverse states and congressional districts to deliver a majority. (Yes, that diversity in the Democratic caucus is bedeviling them now but only because the president has chosen to defer to the far Left of the caucus rather than aim down the middle.)

The lesson here is not that there is a single formula for political success. It is that capable people who understand their role and their electorate are essential to building successful political parties. McConnell has mastered his job; Arnold, not at all. One-size-fits-all politics rarely works. We’ll see in 2010 which party has better internalized this lesson.

The New York Times compares the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mitch McConnell “brands” of Republicanism. The former, a Democratic-lite, hasn’t panned out well. As to the latter, McConnell is holding his caucus together and earning kudos from the base for opposing Obama’s ultraliberal agenda. The Times notes:

Inside the Capitol, Mr. McConnell has a different Republican message: stick together in resisting Mr. Obama’s ambition.

“We have an example, in my view, of not doing it right, and that was the hurry-up job on the stimulus,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview. “They said we had to get it done almost immediately. If we didn’t do it, unemployment would go over 8 percent. We did do it; unemployment is now going to go over 10 percent.”

He continued, “And the assumption that doing health care is going to help the economy, which the president’s been selling, is utter nonsense.”

That message gains traction with every new caution from the Congressional Budget Office, every tick up in unemployment, every slip in Mr. Obama’s approval ratings. It emboldens a cadre of Senate Republicans — including Senators Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine — in their protracted negotiations with the Finance Committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, on a possible compromise.

“I view them as somewhat like agents of the rest of our conference,” Mr. McConnell said. “They don’t want to be part of an agreement that doesn’t have widespread support among Republican senators.”

Now, to some degree the comparison is unfair (and not simply because California is falling off the fiscal cliff). McConnell would likely not win office in California, and the jobs of governors in liberal-leaning states are fundamentally different from the Senate minority leader’s job. So McConnell-ism won’t work everywhere. But it doesn’t have to.

This is seen as the mistake that pundits and Republican strategists continually make. They search for a single model of success, the key to unlocking the Republicans’ political fortunes. But there is no such silver bullet. Before being the less-than-successful chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel was the very successful congressional recruiter for the Democrats who, along with Sen. Chuck Schumer, found just the right candidates with just the right message in diverse states and congressional districts to deliver a majority. (Yes, that diversity in the Democratic caucus is bedeviling them now but only because the president has chosen to defer to the far Left of the caucus rather than aim down the middle.)

The lesson here is not that there is a single formula for political success. It is that capable people who understand their role and their electorate are essential to building successful political parties. McConnell has mastered his job; Arnold, not at all. One-size-fits-all politics rarely works. We’ll see in 2010 which party has better internalized this lesson.

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Running Against Obamaism

As the Washington Post points out, Republican candidate Bob McDonnell is nationalizing the Virginia gubernatorial race. That might have sounded crazy a few months ago, taking on a popular president in a state that went Democrat for the first time since LBJ, but it doesn’t seem like a bad plan now. As the Post notes, this may work as the public, including the more conservative electorate likely to turn out for a gubernatorial race in an off year, sees Obama and the Beltway Democrats slinging further and further to the Left:

“Socialized medicine” is being debated on Capitol Hill,” McDonnell said. “New intrusions into the free enterprise system” have emerged in Obama’s response to the recession. Federal legislation making it easier for unions to organize “undermines our right-to-work laws, and every employer in Virginia agrees with me on that,” he said.

“It’s not just a federal issue,” the former state attorney general added as he pressed Deeds for his views, “because when Congress passes things, it affects Virginians.”

That puts Deeds in a bind. Does he buck the president or embrace an agenda far more liberal than that of the electorate which will vote in November? So far, Deeds has been stalling, trying to avoid taking a stance on card check and cap-and-trade, but that’s not going to work for long. Instead, it may only fuel concerns that he is wishy-washy and a bit unfocused.

All this takes place in the context of a Virginia tradition dating back to 1977. In each gubernatorial race since then, the party that won the White House lost the gubernatorial race. McDonnell’s strategy then plays into the independent streak in Virginia and seems well timed to match the rough patch in which Obama finds himself. Moreover, it places him on the offensive, siding with both conservatives and independents who want to push back against a more liberal national government than many imagined they were getting.

If it works, Republicans will take this as a sign of Obama’s vulnerability and of their improved prospects in the 2010 congressional race. And if not, Obama-Pelosi-Reid will take this as a referendum on their left-leaning agenda. Elections are about choices, and Virginia’s gubernatorial race is turning out to be a more stark and significant one than many anticipated.

As the Washington Post points out, Republican candidate Bob McDonnell is nationalizing the Virginia gubernatorial race. That might have sounded crazy a few months ago, taking on a popular president in a state that went Democrat for the first time since LBJ, but it doesn’t seem like a bad plan now. As the Post notes, this may work as the public, including the more conservative electorate likely to turn out for a gubernatorial race in an off year, sees Obama and the Beltway Democrats slinging further and further to the Left:

“Socialized medicine” is being debated on Capitol Hill,” McDonnell said. “New intrusions into the free enterprise system” have emerged in Obama’s response to the recession. Federal legislation making it easier for unions to organize “undermines our right-to-work laws, and every employer in Virginia agrees with me on that,” he said.

“It’s not just a federal issue,” the former state attorney general added as he pressed Deeds for his views, “because when Congress passes things, it affects Virginians.”

That puts Deeds in a bind. Does he buck the president or embrace an agenda far more liberal than that of the electorate which will vote in November? So far, Deeds has been stalling, trying to avoid taking a stance on card check and cap-and-trade, but that’s not going to work for long. Instead, it may only fuel concerns that he is wishy-washy and a bit unfocused.

All this takes place in the context of a Virginia tradition dating back to 1977. In each gubernatorial race since then, the party that won the White House lost the gubernatorial race. McDonnell’s strategy then plays into the independent streak in Virginia and seems well timed to match the rough patch in which Obama finds himself. Moreover, it places him on the offensive, siding with both conservatives and independents who want to push back against a more liberal national government than many imagined they were getting.

If it works, Republicans will take this as a sign of Obama’s vulnerability and of their improved prospects in the 2010 congressional race. And if not, Obama-Pelosi-Reid will take this as a referendum on their left-leaning agenda. Elections are about choices, and Virginia’s gubernatorial race is turning out to be a more stark and significant one than many anticipated.

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Dirty Hands and Clenched Fists

Sunday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did a full hour with David Gregory on Meet the Press. She is, above all else, a committed Obama team member, echoing the president’s line on everything from engagement to restarts and artfully smoothing over Joe Biden’s head-scratchers. One of the most depressing moments of the hour came with this:

MR. GREGORY: But if the United States decides to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program, as has been the stated policy of the willingness to engage, are you not betraying this democratic movement trying to overthrow that regime?

SEC’Y CLINTON: I don’t think so, David, because you can go back in history — and not, you know, very long back — where we have negotiated with many governments who we did not believe represented the will of their people.

Right she is, and that’s what made us less legitimate when we sought to topple Saddam’s Ba’athist regime in the name of freedom. The dirty-hands argument was extremely popular among those who opposed the Iraq war. Given America’s historical inclination to seek convenient relationships with autocrats, so the line went, why should Bush be believed about all that liberty and democracy stuff? As it turned out, the U.S. did not prop up a puppet or suck up Iraq’s natural resources for itself.

Whatever legitimacy our commitment in Iraq may have earned us among skeptics gets swiftly undermined by Mrs. Clinton’s enthusiastic reminder that America has a storied history of accommodating bad regimes. After 9/11, the idea was to set that history on a new course, one whose cynicism wouldn’t come back to bite us. That was then, I suppose. Now engagement with antidemocratic forces is cited by the State Department as a good thing that needs to be reinstated.

Gregory really got to the crux of Obama’s foreign policy failures with this:

MR. GREGORY: Let’s take a step back and look at the larger vision for the president’s foreign policy. This is what the president said during his inaugural address, which was something of a mission statement. Let’s watch.

(Videotape, January 20, 2009)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: And yet isn’t the problem, six months in, that there may be a willingness to change the tone, there may be more engagement, but nobody’s unclenching their fist yet?

Mrs. Clinton never got around to answering that question, but the world answers it for her every day. In North Korea, Iran, and Russia, the administration’s outstretched hand has been getting mangled for six months. Meanwhile, those who wanted to believe in America’s commitment to human rights and democracy promotion feel like dupes.

Sunday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did a full hour with David Gregory on Meet the Press. She is, above all else, a committed Obama team member, echoing the president’s line on everything from engagement to restarts and artfully smoothing over Joe Biden’s head-scratchers. One of the most depressing moments of the hour came with this:

MR. GREGORY: But if the United States decides to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program, as has been the stated policy of the willingness to engage, are you not betraying this democratic movement trying to overthrow that regime?

SEC’Y CLINTON: I don’t think so, David, because you can go back in history — and not, you know, very long back — where we have negotiated with many governments who we did not believe represented the will of their people.

Right she is, and that’s what made us less legitimate when we sought to topple Saddam’s Ba’athist regime in the name of freedom. The dirty-hands argument was extremely popular among those who opposed the Iraq war. Given America’s historical inclination to seek convenient relationships with autocrats, so the line went, why should Bush be believed about all that liberty and democracy stuff? As it turned out, the U.S. did not prop up a puppet or suck up Iraq’s natural resources for itself.

Whatever legitimacy our commitment in Iraq may have earned us among skeptics gets swiftly undermined by Mrs. Clinton’s enthusiastic reminder that America has a storied history of accommodating bad regimes. After 9/11, the idea was to set that history on a new course, one whose cynicism wouldn’t come back to bite us. That was then, I suppose. Now engagement with antidemocratic forces is cited by the State Department as a good thing that needs to be reinstated.

Gregory really got to the crux of Obama’s foreign policy failures with this:

MR. GREGORY: Let’s take a step back and look at the larger vision for the president’s foreign policy. This is what the president said during his inaugural address, which was something of a mission statement. Let’s watch.

(Videotape, January 20, 2009)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: And yet isn’t the problem, six months in, that there may be a willingness to change the tone, there may be more engagement, but nobody’s unclenching their fist yet?

Mrs. Clinton never got around to answering that question, but the world answers it for her every day. In North Korea, Iran, and Russia, the administration’s outstretched hand has been getting mangled for six months. Meanwhile, those who wanted to believe in America’s commitment to human rights and democracy promotion feel like dupes.

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Stupidly, Once Again

Obama’s stupidly uninformed comments on the arrest of his Harvard professor friend distracted us from his other ridiculous gaffe: the accusation that doctors are taking out kids’ tonsils for no good reason. As with Gates-gate, Obama got it wrong. Tonsillectomies are less common than they used to be but are still essential for certain patients. In short, Dr. Obama is in no position to judge who’s getting the right tonsillectomy treatment and who’s not.

But there’s the rub: ObamaCare envisions a system in which government bureaucrats are going to be making that decision as well as millions of others. As the Wall Street Journal explains:

Mr. Obama seems to think that such judgments are easy. “If there’s a blue pill and a red pill and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well,” he asked, “why not pay half price for the thing that’s going to make you well?” But usually the red and blue treatments are available — as well as the green, yellow, etc. — because of the variability of disease, human biology and patient preference. And the really hard cases, especially when government is paying for health care, are those for which there’s only a red pill and it happens to be very expensive.

Under the system Democrats are trying to ram through Congress, these case-by-case choices, currently made between patients and care-givers, will gradually be replaced by rigid government schemes.

So we shouldn’t personalize the criticism of  Obama’s medical illiteracy. It is not any failing of his. It is simply impossible for all medical knowledge and the needed wisdom and flexibility to treat 300 million people to be dispensed from Washington. That’s why we shouldn’t try. And that’s as good a reason as any to junk ObamaCare and start over.

Obama’s stupidly uninformed comments on the arrest of his Harvard professor friend distracted us from his other ridiculous gaffe: the accusation that doctors are taking out kids’ tonsils for no good reason. As with Gates-gate, Obama got it wrong. Tonsillectomies are less common than they used to be but are still essential for certain patients. In short, Dr. Obama is in no position to judge who’s getting the right tonsillectomy treatment and who’s not.

But there’s the rub: ObamaCare envisions a system in which government bureaucrats are going to be making that decision as well as millions of others. As the Wall Street Journal explains:

Mr. Obama seems to think that such judgments are easy. “If there’s a blue pill and a red pill and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well,” he asked, “why not pay half price for the thing that’s going to make you well?” But usually the red and blue treatments are available — as well as the green, yellow, etc. — because of the variability of disease, human biology and patient preference. And the really hard cases, especially when government is paying for health care, are those for which there’s only a red pill and it happens to be very expensive.

Under the system Democrats are trying to ram through Congress, these case-by-case choices, currently made between patients and care-givers, will gradually be replaced by rigid government schemes.

So we shouldn’t personalize the criticism of  Obama’s medical illiteracy. It is not any failing of his. It is simply impossible for all medical knowledge and the needed wisdom and flexibility to treat 300 million people to be dispensed from Washington. That’s why we shouldn’t try. And that’s as good a reason as any to junk ObamaCare and start over.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The massive corruption bust in New Jersey is one more negative for Gov. Jon Corzine, who saw a cabinet official’s home raided and some close political allies snared. “The arrests could not have come at a worse time for Corzine, who has trailed Christie in recent polls by 12 to 15 percentage points. President Obama visited the state last week in a bid to rally enthusiasm among Democratic voters. ‘Clearly, this is negative for Corzine,’ said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University. ‘Because so many of the elected officials are Democrats, this gives the Republican opposition cannon fodder to paint Corzine with the brush of Democratic Party corruption.’”

Nothing we can do to affect events in Iran? Poppycock. Eli Lake reports on the latest legislation co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman: “Targeting the repressive methods of what one senator called a ‘cruel regime,’ the U.S. Senate has authorized up to $50 million to help Iranians evade their government’s attempts to censor the Internet and to pressure foreign corporations not to help Iran clamp down on communication.”

Michael Goodwin on Gates-gate: “In fact, there is no evidence of a racial component other than that Gates is black and Crowley is white. Not every mixed-race argument, even one involving the police, automatically qualifies as a racial incident. Obama, by linking the case to the historically legitimate issue of police abuse of minorities, gave it a gravity it doesn’t deserve. Even worse, making that linkage suggests he buys Gates’ unsupported claim that Crowley’s actions were racist. On what evidence?” Obama doesn’t need evidence; he is teaching us.

Brit Hume says Obama “couldn’t bring himself to apologize” to Sergeant Crowley despite the fact that he “travels the world apologizing for his country.” Bill Kristol is blunt: “He is an arrogant man.”

Another voice warns that Obama is overexposed: “Yes, the President of the United States has become omnipresent on the tube, most recently talking about health-care reform, the deficit and race in his address to the nation on Wednesday night. The hour-long broadcast was his fourth prime-time presidential press conference. But he is risking the possibility of turning off the media — and, in turn, the nation — by continuously failing to make detailed proposals. He has to do more than show up.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell confirms there are no Republican senators who support the public option.

Sen. Kent Conrad says they can’t pass health-care reform without Republican votes. Well, that would mean the public option is a goner.

Rep. Jim Cooper says Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the votes to pass the liberal Democrats’ health-care bill.

Now this is atrocious marketing: Pelosi tells us health care is another stimulus bill. Right. And since that worked out so splendidly, we should do it again?

Greg Mankiw on CBO’s insistence on playing it straight with the cost of ObamaCare: “Damn that CBO! They keep killing all these great ideas with, like, analysis and numbers and all that stuff. Everything would work out just fine if only they would close their eyes, click their heels together three times, and say, ‘There is no policy like reform . . . there is no policy like reform.”

Pro-Zelaya protests fizzle.

Hillary Clinton tells Moscow to ignore crazy Joe Biden. Well, everyone else does.

The massive corruption bust in New Jersey is one more negative for Gov. Jon Corzine, who saw a cabinet official’s home raided and some close political allies snared. “The arrests could not have come at a worse time for Corzine, who has trailed Christie in recent polls by 12 to 15 percentage points. President Obama visited the state last week in a bid to rally enthusiasm among Democratic voters. ‘Clearly, this is negative for Corzine,’ said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University. ‘Because so many of the elected officials are Democrats, this gives the Republican opposition cannon fodder to paint Corzine with the brush of Democratic Party corruption.’”

Nothing we can do to affect events in Iran? Poppycock. Eli Lake reports on the latest legislation co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman: “Targeting the repressive methods of what one senator called a ‘cruel regime,’ the U.S. Senate has authorized up to $50 million to help Iranians evade their government’s attempts to censor the Internet and to pressure foreign corporations not to help Iran clamp down on communication.”

Michael Goodwin on Gates-gate: “In fact, there is no evidence of a racial component other than that Gates is black and Crowley is white. Not every mixed-race argument, even one involving the police, automatically qualifies as a racial incident. Obama, by linking the case to the historically legitimate issue of police abuse of minorities, gave it a gravity it doesn’t deserve. Even worse, making that linkage suggests he buys Gates’ unsupported claim that Crowley’s actions were racist. On what evidence?” Obama doesn’t need evidence; he is teaching us.

Brit Hume says Obama “couldn’t bring himself to apologize” to Sergeant Crowley despite the fact that he “travels the world apologizing for his country.” Bill Kristol is blunt: “He is an arrogant man.”

Another voice warns that Obama is overexposed: “Yes, the President of the United States has become omnipresent on the tube, most recently talking about health-care reform, the deficit and race in his address to the nation on Wednesday night. The hour-long broadcast was his fourth prime-time presidential press conference. But he is risking the possibility of turning off the media — and, in turn, the nation — by continuously failing to make detailed proposals. He has to do more than show up.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell confirms there are no Republican senators who support the public option.

Sen. Kent Conrad says they can’t pass health-care reform without Republican votes. Well, that would mean the public option is a goner.

Rep. Jim Cooper says Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the votes to pass the liberal Democrats’ health-care bill.

Now this is atrocious marketing: Pelosi tells us health care is another stimulus bill. Right. And since that worked out so splendidly, we should do it again?

Greg Mankiw on CBO’s insistence on playing it straight with the cost of ObamaCare: “Damn that CBO! They keep killing all these great ideas with, like, analysis and numbers and all that stuff. Everything would work out just fine if only they would close their eyes, click their heels together three times, and say, ‘There is no policy like reform . . . there is no policy like reform.”

Pro-Zelaya protests fizzle.

Hillary Clinton tells Moscow to ignore crazy Joe Biden. Well, everyone else does.

Read Less




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