Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 10, 2009

New Social Media and U.S. Armed Forces

The continuing controversy over the bombing in northern Afghanistan ordered by German forces has got me thinking of a pamphlet I read recently: “ ‘Skyful of Lies’ and Black Swans: The new tyranny of shifting information power in crises.” The author is Nik Gowing, a BBC anchor, and his subject is the impact of pervasive 24/7 media coverage on stodgy institutions, whether corporations or governments. The bombing in Afghanistan is an illustration of the problem, with the Taliban making undoubtedly exaggerated claims about the number of civilian casualties and coalition forces having no effective rebuttal.

For the U.S. military this is by now an old story—our armed forces (and those of our allies) have been hammered by the media ever since the Vietnam War. The growth of the Internet and satellite television has only exacerbated the problem.

I don’t agree with everything Gowing has to say. As might be expected, given his employer, he displays a pervasive anti-American and anti-Israeli bias. And his writing is sometimes just plain awful (“throw open the institutional windows, pull down those mind-walls and shed those feet of clay”)—as you might expect from someone more comfortable with the spoken rather than the written word. But he does come up with some useful recommendations. He writes:

Don’t view the new real-time information realities as a threat but an opportunity. Identify those elements of the fast-growing, almost infinite multi-media language where you can compete effectively for the information high ground, then do so with self-confidence. … Not to enter the immediate post-crisis media space will often carry a higher price than entering it imperfectly. The aim must remain to act assertively and swiftly in the hope of commanding that space, however briefly or imperfectly. … Remove any entrenched institutional resistance to being force to feed the news beast. … Shed the instinct of hierarchy and the need for executive control from the highest level. … Empower the junior officers, NCOs, officials, executives, and public servants to respond. … Devolve responsibility for handling real-time information to lower levels of ‘mission command.’

That’s advice that the U.S. armed forces, which remain generally leery (for understandable reasons) of the news media, should take to heart as they try to win the “battle of the narrative” against the ruthless liars on the other side. Instead, elements of the military are going the other way by trying to ban Facebook, Twitter, and other “social media” from military computer systems. That amounts to unilateral disarmament in the battle of ideas.

The continuing controversy over the bombing in northern Afghanistan ordered by German forces has got me thinking of a pamphlet I read recently: “ ‘Skyful of Lies’ and Black Swans: The new tyranny of shifting information power in crises.” The author is Nik Gowing, a BBC anchor, and his subject is the impact of pervasive 24/7 media coverage on stodgy institutions, whether corporations or governments. The bombing in Afghanistan is an illustration of the problem, with the Taliban making undoubtedly exaggerated claims about the number of civilian casualties and coalition forces having no effective rebuttal.

For the U.S. military this is by now an old story—our armed forces (and those of our allies) have been hammered by the media ever since the Vietnam War. The growth of the Internet and satellite television has only exacerbated the problem.

I don’t agree with everything Gowing has to say. As might be expected, given his employer, he displays a pervasive anti-American and anti-Israeli bias. And his writing is sometimes just plain awful (“throw open the institutional windows, pull down those mind-walls and shed those feet of clay”)—as you might expect from someone more comfortable with the spoken rather than the written word. But he does come up with some useful recommendations. He writes:

Don’t view the new real-time information realities as a threat but an opportunity. Identify those elements of the fast-growing, almost infinite multi-media language where you can compete effectively for the information high ground, then do so with self-confidence. … Not to enter the immediate post-crisis media space will often carry a higher price than entering it imperfectly. The aim must remain to act assertively and swiftly in the hope of commanding that space, however briefly or imperfectly. … Remove any entrenched institutional resistance to being force to feed the news beast. … Shed the instinct of hierarchy and the need for executive control from the highest level. … Empower the junior officers, NCOs, officials, executives, and public servants to respond. … Devolve responsibility for handling real-time information to lower levels of ‘mission command.’

That’s advice that the U.S. armed forces, which remain generally leery (for understandable reasons) of the news media, should take to heart as they try to win the “battle of the narrative” against the ruthless liars on the other side. Instead, elements of the military are going the other way by trying to ban Facebook, Twitter, and other “social media” from military computer systems. That amounts to unilateral disarmament in the battle of ideas.

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Two-Track Justice Department?

On the day we hear that an internal Justice Department investigation into dismissal of the default judgment against the New Black Panthers has been ordered, the DOJ issues a press release boasting of a significant court victory:

The Justice Department announced that four men who committed three hate crime assaults in response to President Barack Obama’s election victory were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Carol B. Amon in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y. Ralph Nicoletti, 19, was sentenced to 108 months in prison; Bryan Garaventa, 18, was sentenced to 60 months; Michael Contreras, 19, was sentenced to 55 months; and Brian Carranza, 21, was sentenced to 70 months.

The Justice Department is rightfully proud of their efforts:

“By their own admission these defendants, motivated by racial hatred and a desire to punish those they believed had voted for Barack Obama, participated in violent attacks that nearly killed one of their victims,”said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Joseph M. Demarest Jr. of the New York Field Office. “Free exercise of the right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, and a fundamental civil right that the FBI will always safeguard vigorously.”

“It is appalling that such hateful acts of racially motivated violence continue to persist in our nation. These sentences should remind those inspired to violence by hate that they will be brought to justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud the prosecutors and law enforcement agencies that participated in this investigation and prosecution. The Civil Rights Division will remain vigilant in our efforts to combat hate crimes that tear at the very fabric of our great nation and seek to undermine the progress we’ve made in advancing civil rights for all.”

“The significant sentences imposed by the court reflect the seriousness of the defendants’ shocking and deplorable conduct,” stated Benton J. Campbell, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “These sentences send a clear message that those who engage in racially motivated violence that seeks to deprive individuals of their fundamental right to vote will be punished. We are grateful for our partnership with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the FBI and the New York City Police Department in this matter, and I also wish to thank the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office for its assistance.”

This, of course, stands in glaring contrast to the department’s handling of the New Black Panther case, one in which Acting Assistant General Loretta King also played a central role. (She instructed the career attorney who filed the case to dismiss it.)

The cases are not identical. The convictions today do not stem from election violations, although they occurred in the context of an election. And no one doubts that the Justice Department should be commended for prosecuting egregious acts of violence. But the question remains whether the Obama Justice Department simply doesn’t conceive of federal civil-rights laws as applying to situations other than the traditional context of black vs. white violence. Is there a different standard when the defendants are African American? A Justice Department source remarks that “it does demonstrate the difference in zeal over two separate clear violations of federal law.”

On the day we hear that an internal Justice Department investigation into dismissal of the default judgment against the New Black Panthers has been ordered, the DOJ issues a press release boasting of a significant court victory:

The Justice Department announced that four men who committed three hate crime assaults in response to President Barack Obama’s election victory were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Carol B. Amon in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y. Ralph Nicoletti, 19, was sentenced to 108 months in prison; Bryan Garaventa, 18, was sentenced to 60 months; Michael Contreras, 19, was sentenced to 55 months; and Brian Carranza, 21, was sentenced to 70 months.

The Justice Department is rightfully proud of their efforts:

“By their own admission these defendants, motivated by racial hatred and a desire to punish those they believed had voted for Barack Obama, participated in violent attacks that nearly killed one of their victims,”said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Joseph M. Demarest Jr. of the New York Field Office. “Free exercise of the right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, and a fundamental civil right that the FBI will always safeguard vigorously.”

“It is appalling that such hateful acts of racially motivated violence continue to persist in our nation. These sentences should remind those inspired to violence by hate that they will be brought to justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud the prosecutors and law enforcement agencies that participated in this investigation and prosecution. The Civil Rights Division will remain vigilant in our efforts to combat hate crimes that tear at the very fabric of our great nation and seek to undermine the progress we’ve made in advancing civil rights for all.”

“The significant sentences imposed by the court reflect the seriousness of the defendants’ shocking and deplorable conduct,” stated Benton J. Campbell, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “These sentences send a clear message that those who engage in racially motivated violence that seeks to deprive individuals of their fundamental right to vote will be punished. We are grateful for our partnership with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the FBI and the New York City Police Department in this matter, and I also wish to thank the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office for its assistance.”

This, of course, stands in glaring contrast to the department’s handling of the New Black Panther case, one in which Acting Assistant General Loretta King also played a central role. (She instructed the career attorney who filed the case to dismiss it.)

The cases are not identical. The convictions today do not stem from election violations, although they occurred in the context of an election. And no one doubts that the Justice Department should be commended for prosecuting egregious acts of violence. But the question remains whether the Obama Justice Department simply doesn’t conceive of federal civil-rights laws as applying to situations other than the traditional context of black vs. white violence. Is there a different standard when the defendants are African American? A Justice Department source remarks that “it does demonstrate the difference in zeal over two separate clear violations of federal law.”

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An American Socrates and Other Myths

There has been a lot of commentary on President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress last night. There is one area in particular I want to focus on.
In his speech, Obama said this:

But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned. Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care. … Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost.

This is a case of what is known as projection. It is by now hard for one person to keep up with all the false, misleading, or fantastic claims President Obama has made about his efforts to nationalize our health-care system. They include, but are not limited to, Obama’s claim that the reforms he has endorsed would cut the cost of health care (they would increase them); that they would not add to the deficit (they would add hugely to it); that Medicare benefits would not be cut (they most certainly would); that eliminating “waste and fraud” is enough to cover their proposed reductions in future Medicare spending (the claim is risible); that under his reform, “if you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period” (millions would not); that his plan would not mean government funding for abortion (it would).

It is not enough for Obama to repeat his false claims, day after day, speech after speech. No, he must also portray himself as America’s Socrates, our voice of reason amidst the angry mob, an intrepid truth teller, a singularly unifying and visionary figure, and a man astonishingly free from the ideological baggage that defines his critics. He views himself as the adult in a world of children.

This is all quite silly. Obama is, in almost every respect, the opposite of what he portrays himself to be. He is a divisive, polarizing figure, among the most divisive and polarizing we have ever seen. He has shown no interest at all in reaching across the aisle and working with the opposition party. He is an orthodox liberal through and through. He denigrates his critics and questions their motives. He has made the health-care debate more muddled, more confused, and less honest. He has hardened the disdain many Americans have toward their government. And he is increasing cynicism among the polity.

He is also a man of astonishing arrogance. “I am not the first President to take up this cause [health care],” Obama said last night, “but I am determined to be the last.”

The last president to take up the issue of health care? Are we to take from this that Obama’s plan will be so perfect that this issue—among the most complicated public policy issues of all— will be solved now and forever more?

What is most remarkable, and in some ways most unsettling, is that President Obama seems to believe all this. Even as he has, in the span of eight months, lost more support than any president before him, he continues to view himself in almost mythical terms. None of this, of course, was ever warranted. But by now his act has worn thin, his posturing and hectoring beyond tiresome.

There has been a lot of commentary on President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress last night. There is one area in particular I want to focus on.
In his speech, Obama said this:

But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned. Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care. … Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost.

This is a case of what is known as projection. It is by now hard for one person to keep up with all the false, misleading, or fantastic claims President Obama has made about his efforts to nationalize our health-care system. They include, but are not limited to, Obama’s claim that the reforms he has endorsed would cut the cost of health care (they would increase them); that they would not add to the deficit (they would add hugely to it); that Medicare benefits would not be cut (they most certainly would); that eliminating “waste and fraud” is enough to cover their proposed reductions in future Medicare spending (the claim is risible); that under his reform, “if you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period” (millions would not); that his plan would not mean government funding for abortion (it would).

It is not enough for Obama to repeat his false claims, day after day, speech after speech. No, he must also portray himself as America’s Socrates, our voice of reason amidst the angry mob, an intrepid truth teller, a singularly unifying and visionary figure, and a man astonishingly free from the ideological baggage that defines his critics. He views himself as the adult in a world of children.

This is all quite silly. Obama is, in almost every respect, the opposite of what he portrays himself to be. He is a divisive, polarizing figure, among the most divisive and polarizing we have ever seen. He has shown no interest at all in reaching across the aisle and working with the opposition party. He is an orthodox liberal through and through. He denigrates his critics and questions their motives. He has made the health-care debate more muddled, more confused, and less honest. He has hardened the disdain many Americans have toward their government. And he is increasing cynicism among the polity.

He is also a man of astonishing arrogance. “I am not the first President to take up this cause [health care],” Obama said last night, “but I am determined to be the last.”

The last president to take up the issue of health care? Are we to take from this that Obama’s plan will be so perfect that this issue—among the most complicated public policy issues of all— will be solved now and forever more?

What is most remarkable, and in some ways most unsettling, is that President Obama seems to believe all this. Even as he has, in the span of eight months, lost more support than any president before him, he continues to view himself in almost mythical terms. None of this, of course, was ever warranted. But by now his act has worn thin, his posturing and hectoring beyond tiresome.

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A Serious Iran Policy vs. Wishful Thinking

The New York Times reports that, in the view of U.S. intelligence agencies, Iran has “possible breakout capacity” to enrich and weaponize its stockpile of uranium. The article further suggests a difference of views between Israeli and American intelligence, with the latter taking a more sanguine view of the danger. The article claims:

The American position is that the United States and its allies would probably have considerable warning time if Iran moved to convert its growing stockpile of low-enriched nuclear fuel to make it usable for weapons. …

The Israelis have argued that there could be little or no warning time — especially if Iran has hidden facilities — and they contended that in the aftermath of Iraq, American intelligence agencies were being far too cautious in assessing Iran’s capability.

Given how wrong U.S. intelligence was about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (minimizing the danger prior to 1991 and then exaggerating the danger prior to 2003), it is hard to know why anyone would credit the assurances of American officials that they “would probably have considerable warning time” before Iran went nuclear. For that matter, U.S. intelligence also failed to foresee Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons tests in 1998 and the North Korean test in 2006. What reason is there to believe that we have better knowledge of the inner workings of Iran’s program? If anything, all indications are that the Iranian program is even more opaque.

The upshot is that we should err on the side of safety—act as if Iran could go nuclear very, very soon, because it could. That means we need a more serious policy than hoping against hope that the Iranians will give up their program in return for the privilege of chatting with President Obama.

The New York Times reports that, in the view of U.S. intelligence agencies, Iran has “possible breakout capacity” to enrich and weaponize its stockpile of uranium. The article further suggests a difference of views between Israeli and American intelligence, with the latter taking a more sanguine view of the danger. The article claims:

The American position is that the United States and its allies would probably have considerable warning time if Iran moved to convert its growing stockpile of low-enriched nuclear fuel to make it usable for weapons. …

The Israelis have argued that there could be little or no warning time — especially if Iran has hidden facilities — and they contended that in the aftermath of Iraq, American intelligence agencies were being far too cautious in assessing Iran’s capability.

Given how wrong U.S. intelligence was about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (minimizing the danger prior to 1991 and then exaggerating the danger prior to 2003), it is hard to know why anyone would credit the assurances of American officials that they “would probably have considerable warning time” before Iran went nuclear. For that matter, U.S. intelligence also failed to foresee Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons tests in 1998 and the North Korean test in 2006. What reason is there to believe that we have better knowledge of the inner workings of Iran’s program? If anything, all indications are that the Iranian program is even more opaque.

The upshot is that we should err on the side of safety—act as if Iran could go nuclear very, very soon, because it could. That means we need a more serious policy than hoping against hope that the Iranians will give up their program in return for the privilege of chatting with President Obama.

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Civil Discourse and an End to “Lies!”

A word about Representative Joe Wilson, who shouted out “You lie!” during Barack Obama’s address last night. I don’t like it when members of Congress accuse the president of the United States of lying. It especially shouldn’t be done during a formal speech like last evening. It’s unhelpful to the debate and, I think, unhelpful to Wilson’s own party. He was, in my judgment, right to apologize.

With all that said, it’s worth making several points. The first is that it is President Obama who has accused his critics, on two separate occasions this week (in his Labor Day speech and in his joint session address on Wednesday), of spreading “lies.” It is Obama who has decided to rip into his critics, to impugn their motives, to make them out to be liars rather than misguided or ill-informed.

Second, here is what the President said immediately before Representative Wilson spoke out:

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple. There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

At this point, Wilson shouted out, “You lie!” This was obviously a response to Obama having accused his critics—in this case, clearly Sarah Palin and Charles Grassley—of spreading lies. It’s important to add that whatever one thinks of the “death panel” claim—and I happen to believe it is imprecise and over the top—it is Obama himself who has made more false and misleading claims than perhaps any public figure who is engaged in the health-care debate. He is hardly in a position to lecture others about spreading falsehoods. That point isn’t made nearly often enough.

I would ask, too: Where was the outrage from the Left, from Democrats, and from the mainstream press when Senator Ted Kennedy declared, from the well of the United States Senate, that “before the [Iraq] war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie.” Or when Kennedy accused President Bush of hatching a phony war, “a fraud . . . made up in Texas” to boost his political career. I was in the White House when Kennedy made those charges—and he was not the only prominent Democrat who did. They were incendiary, false, and terribly damaging to public discourse. Yet at the time, Kennedy’s remarks were applauded, or ignored, or taken as evidence that President Bush was responsible for dividing the country.

It’s worth pointing out as well that many more conservatives and Republicans have condemned Representative Wilson’s remarks than liberals and Democrats condemned Senator Kennedy’s remarks.

I have argued before that civility is, as Stephen Carter has written, a precondition for democratic dialogue. There is such a thing as an “etiquette of democracy.” That doesn’t mean political debate shouldn’t be vigorous and passionate; it simply means there are certain lines we should not cross. And because charging someone with lying goes to motivation instead of simply the merits of an argument, I would hope the term would be used less often than it is. That applies to both presidents and members of Congress.

A word about Representative Joe Wilson, who shouted out “You lie!” during Barack Obama’s address last night. I don’t like it when members of Congress accuse the president of the United States of lying. It especially shouldn’t be done during a formal speech like last evening. It’s unhelpful to the debate and, I think, unhelpful to Wilson’s own party. He was, in my judgment, right to apologize.

With all that said, it’s worth making several points. The first is that it is President Obama who has accused his critics, on two separate occasions this week (in his Labor Day speech and in his joint session address on Wednesday), of spreading “lies.” It is Obama who has decided to rip into his critics, to impugn their motives, to make them out to be liars rather than misguided or ill-informed.

Second, here is what the President said immediately before Representative Wilson spoke out:

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple. There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

At this point, Wilson shouted out, “You lie!” This was obviously a response to Obama having accused his critics—in this case, clearly Sarah Palin and Charles Grassley—of spreading lies. It’s important to add that whatever one thinks of the “death panel” claim—and I happen to believe it is imprecise and over the top—it is Obama himself who has made more false and misleading claims than perhaps any public figure who is engaged in the health-care debate. He is hardly in a position to lecture others about spreading falsehoods. That point isn’t made nearly often enough.

I would ask, too: Where was the outrage from the Left, from Democrats, and from the mainstream press when Senator Ted Kennedy declared, from the well of the United States Senate, that “before the [Iraq] war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie.” Or when Kennedy accused President Bush of hatching a phony war, “a fraud . . . made up in Texas” to boost his political career. I was in the White House when Kennedy made those charges—and he was not the only prominent Democrat who did. They were incendiary, false, and terribly damaging to public discourse. Yet at the time, Kennedy’s remarks were applauded, or ignored, or taken as evidence that President Bush was responsible for dividing the country.

It’s worth pointing out as well that many more conservatives and Republicans have condemned Representative Wilson’s remarks than liberals and Democrats condemned Senator Kennedy’s remarks.

I have argued before that civility is, as Stephen Carter has written, a precondition for democratic dialogue. There is such a thing as an “etiquette of democracy.” That doesn’t mean political debate shouldn’t be vigorous and passionate; it simply means there are certain lines we should not cross. And because charging someone with lying goes to motivation instead of simply the merits of an argument, I would hope the term would be used less often than it is. That applies to both presidents and members of Congress.

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Re: Getting to “No”?

This report suggests that the administration doesn’t comprehend that the U.S. and “international community” have been given the brush off by the Iranian regime—or they do and they aren’t yet ready to answer the “What now?” question. Laura Rozen reports that Dennis Ross, NSC Middle East adviser, and William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, met with a few hundred Jewish activists. Here is the gist:

Essentially, Ross and Burns reiterated that the administration’s objective is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The strategy has been “engagement without illusions.” But the President will take stock in September and revisit further at year’s end, the conference was told.

They are engaging countries around the globe to help the effort. Burns did say they are starting the planning of the tough sanctions steps now, so that if/when the President decides to take that decision, they are ready to go.

Did you catch the “year end” part? Well, that September deadline is now, it seems, a December 31 deadline. The attendees told Rozen that the bottom line is, aside from the fact that there isn’t really a bottom line, that “it’s time to get the wheels of tough sanctions turning.” But the president is going to take stock. And check back at year’s end. And so it goes. One imagines the Iranians are not exactly quaking in their boots.

This report suggests that the administration doesn’t comprehend that the U.S. and “international community” have been given the brush off by the Iranian regime—or they do and they aren’t yet ready to answer the “What now?” question. Laura Rozen reports that Dennis Ross, NSC Middle East adviser, and William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, met with a few hundred Jewish activists. Here is the gist:

Essentially, Ross and Burns reiterated that the administration’s objective is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The strategy has been “engagement without illusions.” But the President will take stock in September and revisit further at year’s end, the conference was told.

They are engaging countries around the globe to help the effort. Burns did say they are starting the planning of the tough sanctions steps now, so that if/when the President decides to take that decision, they are ready to go.

Did you catch the “year end” part? Well, that September deadline is now, it seems, a December 31 deadline. The attendees told Rozen that the bottom line is, aside from the fact that there isn’t really a bottom line, that “it’s time to get the wheels of tough sanctions turning.” But the president is going to take stock. And check back at year’s end. And so it goes. One imagines the Iranians are not exactly quaking in their boots.

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Seems Like Same Old, Same Old

You can sense that the game hasn’t been changed by the president’s speech. How? Well not by the comically Democrat-over-sampled CNN poll. (Next time, they’ll just call relatives of the president.) You can tell by the obsession of Democrats and the media (pardon the repetition) with Joe Wilson. That, rather than the speech or a load of new converts to the ObamaCare cause, was the focus and source of great tumult. Yet you knew this contrived flap wasn’t exactly helping the cause, and sure enough Nancy Pelosi and the president tried to snuff it out.

But there wasn’t much talking about how the president’s speech has changed the landscape, because there is no evidence it has. The Hill reporters write:

President Barack Obama’s address to Congress on healthcare reform was short on specifics and long on ideas he and his advisers had already floated this year. The historic speech left some liberals wanting more details and conservatives emboldened to torpedo the president’s top domestic priority. The big question of the night was how Obama was going to address the public health insurance option, but he largely repeated what he has said for weeks: He supports it, but will sign a bill that does not have it.

[. . .]

Yet, even on Obama’s concessions to the GOP, the president stopped short of offering the kind of specifics that would attract Republican support.

The partisan congressional reaction to the speech was predictable. Perhaps more importantly, it was an indication that Congress is not ready to stop bickering. And Obama’s calling on lawmakers to behave differently is also an acknowledgement that, like his predecessor, he has not significantly changed the partisan tone of Washington.

And we therefore return to the key pre-speech question: Why did he give it? It is even more curious now, given that he did not formally toss the public option under the bus, and if anything, ramped up the partisanship. At best it was an effort to stem the panic on the Left and show how “tough” Obama is. (Hence, the angry tone and excessive shouting.) But a speech isn’t governance, and the people don’t want government running their health care. So not much is different today.

You can sense that the game hasn’t been changed by the president’s speech. How? Well not by the comically Democrat-over-sampled CNN poll. (Next time, they’ll just call relatives of the president.) You can tell by the obsession of Democrats and the media (pardon the repetition) with Joe Wilson. That, rather than the speech or a load of new converts to the ObamaCare cause, was the focus and source of great tumult. Yet you knew this contrived flap wasn’t exactly helping the cause, and sure enough Nancy Pelosi and the president tried to snuff it out.

But there wasn’t much talking about how the president’s speech has changed the landscape, because there is no evidence it has. The Hill reporters write:

President Barack Obama’s address to Congress on healthcare reform was short on specifics and long on ideas he and his advisers had already floated this year. The historic speech left some liberals wanting more details and conservatives emboldened to torpedo the president’s top domestic priority. The big question of the night was how Obama was going to address the public health insurance option, but he largely repeated what he has said for weeks: He supports it, but will sign a bill that does not have it.

[. . .]

Yet, even on Obama’s concessions to the GOP, the president stopped short of offering the kind of specifics that would attract Republican support.

The partisan congressional reaction to the speech was predictable. Perhaps more importantly, it was an indication that Congress is not ready to stop bickering. And Obama’s calling on lawmakers to behave differently is also an acknowledgement that, like his predecessor, he has not significantly changed the partisan tone of Washington.

And we therefore return to the key pre-speech question: Why did he give it? It is even more curious now, given that he did not formally toss the public option under the bus, and if anything, ramped up the partisanship. At best it was an effort to stem the panic on the Left and show how “tough” Obama is. (Hence, the angry tone and excessive shouting.) But a speech isn’t governance, and the people don’t want government running their health care. So not much is different today.

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A Penny Saved … Is Not Overhead

John reported last night on a short passage in Obama’s speech that he regarded as revealing. I agree totally. “But by avoiding some of the overhead,” Obama said, “that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers.”

As John noted, profits are not part of overhead. Indeed, reducing overhead automatically increases profits because, as Henry Fielding explained in The Miser, a “penny saved is a penny got.”

But I suspect Obama—who obviously knows nothing about business—was just buying into the conventional liberal wisdom regarding “profits” and the evil thereof that dates back more than a hundred years. This “wisdom” is in two parts. First, that business is a zero-sum game, that the profit earned by a business is, in effect, theft. Because public entities don’t make a profit, liberals reason, they are inherently morally superior to private entities. They are not, of course, as profit represents the wealth created by trading what someone wants less for something he wants more. In a trade, both sides benefit (otherwise the trade doesn’t take place—no one trades a $10 bill for a five). In buying insurance, a person trades money in exchange for risk reduction. Many young people, facing little risk, don’t make the trade because they reason, rightly, that they are being overcharged.

Liberals also think that public entities are economically superior to private entities. The lack of need to make a profit, they argue, means that prices can be lower. This is, of course, utter nonsense. Capital costs money, whether that cost is accounted for or not. In government agencies, it is not. Also, it is the need for profit, and the need for profit alone, that forces companies to be efficient and to innovate, in order to increase, or at least maintain, profits in a competitive marketplace. The idea that it is private companies that suffer from excess administrative costs is laughable. Even Obama himself noted a month or so ago that it is not UPS and FedEx that are in trouble—it the United States Postal Service.

In 1917, the federal government, claiming a wartime emergency, took over the telephone and telegraph companies and turned them over to the post office. The Wilson administration claimed that because there was now no need to make a profit, the cost of telephoning and wiring would be less. Practically the first thing that the Post Office did on taking control was to raise prices.

John reported last night on a short passage in Obama’s speech that he regarded as revealing. I agree totally. “But by avoiding some of the overhead,” Obama said, “that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers.”

As John noted, profits are not part of overhead. Indeed, reducing overhead automatically increases profits because, as Henry Fielding explained in The Miser, a “penny saved is a penny got.”

But I suspect Obama—who obviously knows nothing about business—was just buying into the conventional liberal wisdom regarding “profits” and the evil thereof that dates back more than a hundred years. This “wisdom” is in two parts. First, that business is a zero-sum game, that the profit earned by a business is, in effect, theft. Because public entities don’t make a profit, liberals reason, they are inherently morally superior to private entities. They are not, of course, as profit represents the wealth created by trading what someone wants less for something he wants more. In a trade, both sides benefit (otherwise the trade doesn’t take place—no one trades a $10 bill for a five). In buying insurance, a person trades money in exchange for risk reduction. Many young people, facing little risk, don’t make the trade because they reason, rightly, that they are being overcharged.

Liberals also think that public entities are economically superior to private entities. The lack of need to make a profit, they argue, means that prices can be lower. This is, of course, utter nonsense. Capital costs money, whether that cost is accounted for or not. In government agencies, it is not. Also, it is the need for profit, and the need for profit alone, that forces companies to be efficient and to innovate, in order to increase, or at least maintain, profits in a competitive marketplace. The idea that it is private companies that suffer from excess administrative costs is laughable. Even Obama himself noted a month or so ago that it is not UPS and FedEx that are in trouble—it the United States Postal Service.

In 1917, the federal government, claiming a wartime emergency, took over the telephone and telegraph companies and turned them over to the post office. The Wilson administration claimed that because there was now no need to make a profit, the cost of telephoning and wiring would be less. Practically the first thing that the Post Office did on taking control was to raise prices.

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Black Panther Politicization to Be Investigated

The Washington Times reports that the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has opened an investigation into the dismissal of the default judgment obtained by career lawyers. The Times reports that DOJ on August 28 sent Rep. Lamar Smith, who has been hounding the Justice Department for answers, a letter confirming that an investigation is underway. (I have also obtained what appears to be an identical letter sent to Rep. Frank Wolf, who has likewise been attempting to drag an explanation out of Eric Holder and his department.)

For months now, the Justice Department has insisted, first, that career lawyers made the call to dismiss the case and, second, that it was justified by the “law and the facts.” What we now know is that career attorneys involved in investigating and filing the case did not agree with the decision, nor did the appellate section. Now OPR will look to see whether professional misconduct occurred—i.e., whether political considerations played a role in the dismissal of an egregious case of voter intimidation that was captured on video on Election Day in 2008 and widely circulated on the Internet.

There are two schools of thought on how this will play out. A career DOJ attorney expressed skepticism that OPR will really get to the bottom of it. The attorney says: “I can write for you right now the letter Smith will get in 9 or 12 months. Nothing to see here. Move along. We looked carefully, etc.” But a Capitol Hill source is more optimistic: “We’re hearing that they’re moving quickly inside the civil rights office collecting info. . . definitely a major step forward.”

Holder now has an opportunity to demonstrate whether he is truly the defender of the career attorneys in his department. He seems to have taken a liking to the work of OPR—using that office to go far afield of its normal role (i.e., investigating attorney misconduct) to instigate a reinvestigation of CIA operatives employing enhanced interrogation techniques. Let’s see whether both OPR and Holder can repair their reputations and assure DOJ, Congress, and the public that “politicization” of the Justice Department won’t be tolerated.

The Washington Times reports that the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has opened an investigation into the dismissal of the default judgment obtained by career lawyers. The Times reports that DOJ on August 28 sent Rep. Lamar Smith, who has been hounding the Justice Department for answers, a letter confirming that an investigation is underway. (I have also obtained what appears to be an identical letter sent to Rep. Frank Wolf, who has likewise been attempting to drag an explanation out of Eric Holder and his department.)

For months now, the Justice Department has insisted, first, that career lawyers made the call to dismiss the case and, second, that it was justified by the “law and the facts.” What we now know is that career attorneys involved in investigating and filing the case did not agree with the decision, nor did the appellate section. Now OPR will look to see whether professional misconduct occurred—i.e., whether political considerations played a role in the dismissal of an egregious case of voter intimidation that was captured on video on Election Day in 2008 and widely circulated on the Internet.

There are two schools of thought on how this will play out. A career DOJ attorney expressed skepticism that OPR will really get to the bottom of it. The attorney says: “I can write for you right now the letter Smith will get in 9 or 12 months. Nothing to see here. Move along. We looked carefully, etc.” But a Capitol Hill source is more optimistic: “We’re hearing that they’re moving quickly inside the civil rights office collecting info. . . definitely a major step forward.”

Holder now has an opportunity to demonstrate whether he is truly the defender of the career attorneys in his department. He seems to have taken a liking to the work of OPR—using that office to go far afield of its normal role (i.e., investigating attorney misconduct) to instigate a reinvestigation of CIA operatives employing enhanced interrogation techniques. Let’s see whether both OPR and Holder can repair their reputations and assure DOJ, Congress, and the public that “politicization” of the Justice Department won’t be tolerated.

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Attention Disorder

The Washington Post‘s editors are concerned that Obama has an attention-deficit problem when it comes to Hugo Chavez. They trace Chavez’s cozy relationship with Ahmadinejad and the evidence uncovered by the New York City district attorney that Chavez has been acting as Iran’s banker to evade international sanctions. They explain:

“The opening of Venezuela’s banks to the Iranians guarantees the continued development of nuclear technology and long-range missiles,” Mr. [Robert] Morgenthau said in a briefing this week in Washington at the Brookings Institution. “The mysterious manufacturing plants, controlled by Iran deep in the interior of Venezuela, give even greater concern.”

Mr. Morgenthau’s report was brushed off by the State Department, which is deeply invested in the Chávez-is-no-threat theory. State “will look into” Mr. Morgenthau’s allegations, spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday. Meanwhile, Mr. Chávez is off to Moscow, where, according to the Russian press, he plans to increase the $4 billion he has already spent on weapons by another $500 million or so. Mr. Chávez recently promised to buy “several battalions” of Russian tanks. Not a threat? Give him time.

The editors leave out, however, that Obama’s Honduras policy is yet another gift to Chavez and, in turn, to Ahmadinejad. The Post‘s editors have been quite critical of those who have taken exception to Obama’s bullying of Honduras. But maybe they should start to connect the dots. Obama’s actions in our hemisphere and in Iran both in deed and in willful ignorance have an unmistakable result: despots breathe easier, democracy and human rights get thrown under the bus, and America is less secure.

The Washington Post‘s editors are concerned that Obama has an attention-deficit problem when it comes to Hugo Chavez. They trace Chavez’s cozy relationship with Ahmadinejad and the evidence uncovered by the New York City district attorney that Chavez has been acting as Iran’s banker to evade international sanctions. They explain:

“The opening of Venezuela’s banks to the Iranians guarantees the continued development of nuclear technology and long-range missiles,” Mr. [Robert] Morgenthau said in a briefing this week in Washington at the Brookings Institution. “The mysterious manufacturing plants, controlled by Iran deep in the interior of Venezuela, give even greater concern.”

Mr. Morgenthau’s report was brushed off by the State Department, which is deeply invested in the Chávez-is-no-threat theory. State “will look into” Mr. Morgenthau’s allegations, spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday. Meanwhile, Mr. Chávez is off to Moscow, where, according to the Russian press, he plans to increase the $4 billion he has already spent on weapons by another $500 million or so. Mr. Chávez recently promised to buy “several battalions” of Russian tanks. Not a threat? Give him time.

The editors leave out, however, that Obama’s Honduras policy is yet another gift to Chavez and, in turn, to Ahmadinejad. The Post‘s editors have been quite critical of those who have taken exception to Obama’s bullying of Honduras. But maybe they should start to connect the dots. Obama’s actions in our hemisphere and in Iran both in deed and in willful ignorance have an unmistakable result: despots breathe easier, democracy and human rights get thrown under the bus, and America is less secure.

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The Swamp

While the focus is now on health-care reform and the economy, and political prognosticators try to divine the implications of both for the 2010 elections, there is another issue bubbling: corruption. Nancy Pelosi famously promised to “drain the swamp,” but the swamp is overflowing. The Hill reports:

The ethics spotlight on House Democrats is intensifying amid predictions from political analysts that Republicans will pick up many seats in next year’s midterm elections. Few are going so far as to say that the GOP will win back the House, but ethics controversies are key to the rise of the minority party in the lower chamber. Republicans capitalized on Democratic ethics woes to win the House in 1994 and Democrats turned the tables on the GOP in 2006, catapulting Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Speaker.

Well, few said the House would flip in 1994—before it did. But then in 2006, corruption helped fuel a growing backlash against incumbents that turned an off-year election into a “wave” election wherein voters decided those in power had not only mishandled the pressing issue of the day (in 2006, it was the Iraq War) but had also violated the public trust.

After the 2006 elections, pundits squabbled: Was it the Iraq war (pre-surge) that had riled up the country, or was it the spate of corruption scandals—from Tom DeLay to Mark Foley—that jettisoned the Republicans from power? Both perhaps. Wave elections, or the “perfect storm,” as Republicans referred to the 2006 debacle, occur when multiple factors push and prod voters into turning out in force to “throw the bums out.”

In 2010, the substantive issues are likely to be high unemployment and the mounds of accumulated debt. But just as the minority party in 1994 and in 2006 claimed that corruption scandals were evidence of the majority’s self-enrichment at the expense of the public, so too in 2010 you can expect to hear challengers claim that congressmen enriched themselves or evaded taxes even as ordinary people lost their jobs and the debt exploded. How effective that argument will be depends in large part on how serious the Democratic leadership is about draining the swamp and getting our fiscal house in order now.

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While the focus is now on health-care reform and the economy, and political prognosticators try to divine the implications of both for the 2010 elections, there is another issue bubbling: corruption. Nancy Pelosi famously promised to “drain the swamp,” but the swamp is overflowing. The Hill reports:

The ethics spotlight on House Democrats is intensifying amid predictions from political analysts that Republicans will pick up many seats in next year’s midterm elections. Few are going so far as to say that the GOP will win back the House, but ethics controversies are key to the rise of the minority party in the lower chamber. Republicans capitalized on Democratic ethics woes to win the House in 1994 and Democrats turned the tables on the GOP in 2006, catapulting Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Speaker.

Well, few said the House would flip in 1994—before it did. But then in 2006, corruption helped fuel a growing backlash against incumbents that turned an off-year election into a “wave” election wherein voters decided those in power had not only mishandled the pressing issue of the day (in 2006, it was the Iraq War) but had also violated the public trust.

After the 2006 elections, pundits squabbled: Was it the Iraq war (pre-surge) that had riled up the country, or was it the spate of corruption scandals—from Tom DeLay to Mark Foley—that jettisoned the Republicans from power? Both perhaps. Wave elections, or the “perfect storm,” as Republicans referred to the 2006 debacle, occur when multiple factors push and prod voters into turning out in force to “throw the bums out.”

In 2010, the substantive issues are likely to be high unemployment and the mounds of accumulated debt. But just as the minority party in 1994 and in 2006 claimed that corruption scandals were evidence of the majority’s self-enrichment at the expense of the public, so too in 2010 you can expect to hear challengers claim that congressmen enriched themselves or evaded taxes even as ordinary people lost their jobs and the debt exploded. How effective that argument will be depends in large part on how serious the Democratic leadership is about draining the swamp and getting our fiscal house in order now.

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The Foreign Policy of Unintended Consequences

David Ignatius goes pawing through the tea leaves trying to get a read on internal Iranian politics. This exercise is nothing new and has befuddled many administrations. To quote Donald Rumsfeld, these are the “known unknowns.” We have only the vaguest idea which “side” the players are on and if those “sides” have any significance with regard to Iran’s relationship with the West and to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But Ignatius buries the lede, leaving his morsel for the last third of his column:

One Iranian political figure has told a Western intermediary that the Obama administration may have unwittingly encouraged the regime’s power grab by sending two letters to Khamenei before the June election. The first, delivered through Iran’s mission to the United Nations, was a general invitation to dialogue. Khamenei is said to have taken a month to answer, and then only in vague terms. A second Obama administration letter reiterated U.S. interest in engagement. According to the Iranian political figure, this may have emboldened Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to think they had a free hand on June 12.

Say again?! Might it be that the Grand Gesturer actually made things markedly worse with an in ill-conceived attempt to ingratiate himself with the Iranian regime? That would be a blunder of the first order, a monumental act of stupidity born of ego, if in fact his great act of “statesmanship” triggered a stolen election and the resulting murderous crackdown on Iran’s citizens. Talk about your unintended consequences. (It would make JFK’s misstep at the Vienna Summit, generally credited with emboldening the Russians to move missiles into Cuba, seem trivial in comparison; after all, no one died because of JFK’s diplomatic shortcomings.)

If Obama’s naiveté triggered the mullahs’ crackdown, that certainly would be news, and would be worse than encouraging Palestinian intransigence by an effort to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. It’d be much more egregious than signaling that Syria can continue its misbehavior (e.g., leave its border open to terrorists traveling into Iraq to kill Americans) by neglecting to place any conditions on improved relations with the West. It would be far more damaging than bolstering Hugo Chavez by misreading the Honduran constitution.

In sum, it would suggest a level of monumental incompetence and self-centeredness at work—beyond what we have come to expect from the Obama team. Could it be that the administration’s foreign-policy brain trust fails to understand the motives, ambitions, and internal political conditions of other nations and remains obsessed with our president’s self-regard and image? Much evidence, even absent Ignatius’ revelation, suggests that is precisely the case.

It’s enough to make a secretary of state quit and flee for the safety of her home state’s gubernatorial election.

David Ignatius goes pawing through the tea leaves trying to get a read on internal Iranian politics. This exercise is nothing new and has befuddled many administrations. To quote Donald Rumsfeld, these are the “known unknowns.” We have only the vaguest idea which “side” the players are on and if those “sides” have any significance with regard to Iran’s relationship with the West and to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But Ignatius buries the lede, leaving his morsel for the last third of his column:

One Iranian political figure has told a Western intermediary that the Obama administration may have unwittingly encouraged the regime’s power grab by sending two letters to Khamenei before the June election. The first, delivered through Iran’s mission to the United Nations, was a general invitation to dialogue. Khamenei is said to have taken a month to answer, and then only in vague terms. A second Obama administration letter reiterated U.S. interest in engagement. According to the Iranian political figure, this may have emboldened Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to think they had a free hand on June 12.

Say again?! Might it be that the Grand Gesturer actually made things markedly worse with an in ill-conceived attempt to ingratiate himself with the Iranian regime? That would be a blunder of the first order, a monumental act of stupidity born of ego, if in fact his great act of “statesmanship” triggered a stolen election and the resulting murderous crackdown on Iran’s citizens. Talk about your unintended consequences. (It would make JFK’s misstep at the Vienna Summit, generally credited with emboldening the Russians to move missiles into Cuba, seem trivial in comparison; after all, no one died because of JFK’s diplomatic shortcomings.)

If Obama’s naiveté triggered the mullahs’ crackdown, that certainly would be news, and would be worse than encouraging Palestinian intransigence by an effort to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. It’d be much more egregious than signaling that Syria can continue its misbehavior (e.g., leave its border open to terrorists traveling into Iraq to kill Americans) by neglecting to place any conditions on improved relations with the West. It would be far more damaging than bolstering Hugo Chavez by misreading the Honduran constitution.

In sum, it would suggest a level of monumental incompetence and self-centeredness at work—beyond what we have come to expect from the Obama team. Could it be that the administration’s foreign-policy brain trust fails to understand the motives, ambitions, and internal political conditions of other nations and remains obsessed with our president’s self-regard and image? Much evidence, even absent Ignatius’ revelation, suggests that is precisely the case.

It’s enough to make a secretary of state quit and flee for the safety of her home state’s gubernatorial election.

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He Is the Change He Was Waiting For

Obama campaigned with the affectation that it was all about us, all about the little people getting together to change the government and live up to America’s best ideals. Now that he’s the government (an ever bigger share of the federal government, with czar-mania breaking out), the little people are a mob in his eyes, an impediment to what he wants.

And what does he want? The most grandiose and ambitious scheme attainable for regulating, taxing, and controlling health care. As Bill Kristol explains, Obama has invented or reinvented a health-care “crisis” so enormous as to justify his ambitions:

But isn’t health care a crisis? No.

Indeed, the president acknowledged it isn’t: “But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future — and that is the issue of health care.” In other words, health care — unlike, say, the financial system a few months ago — is not in a state of crisis.

So there is no health care crisis. There are a host of normal public policy issues dealing with health care that can be dealt with through the normal political process.

But that doesn’t suit Obama. He’s decided a big victory on health care is key to his political success. He’s decided we all have to acquiesce in a massive overhaul of our health care system because … he’s decided he wants it.

He said, “I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” This suggests how grandiloquent his self-understanding is. After all, even if he were to prevail with some form of his legislation, others would come along with further and other reforms. Obama really isn’t our last, best hope for public policy changes in this area — or in any other.

But it is hard to convince the vast majority of Americans who have health-care insurance (and like it) that we should turn over their most significant health-care decisions to the government, which can’t manage mundane tasks like spending stimulus money in a useful fashion or getting car dealers paid in a timely manner for the clunker cars. Now it’s not about us; it’s about him and his magnificent and final (there shall be none after his!) conception of affordable care for all, taxes only on the wealthy, and no increase in the debt. (Unicorns are optional.)

The scope of his ambition and the disdain with which he regards his opponents are startling. Never once in his speech did he concede the merits of his opponents’ concerns. It is all silliness, lies, misunderstanding, and partisanship—by the other guys.

So we come full circle. It is no longer about empowering people but about running them over. But meanwhile, the public is in revolt. In the new AP-Gfk poll, 42 percent of voters approve of his handling of the economy and of health care (52 percent disapprove of both); only 33 percent approve of his handling of the deficit and 40% of his handling of unemployment. Moreover, by a 49-34 percent margin, voters oppose the current health-care scheme floating around Congress.

Can Obama convince everyone they are wrong? In politics, never say never. But the voters thought it was about them, not his big-government ambitions. And now they find out it wasn’t ever about them.

Obama campaigned with the affectation that it was all about us, all about the little people getting together to change the government and live up to America’s best ideals. Now that he’s the government (an ever bigger share of the federal government, with czar-mania breaking out), the little people are a mob in his eyes, an impediment to what he wants.

And what does he want? The most grandiose and ambitious scheme attainable for regulating, taxing, and controlling health care. As Bill Kristol explains, Obama has invented or reinvented a health-care “crisis” so enormous as to justify his ambitions:

But isn’t health care a crisis? No.

Indeed, the president acknowledged it isn’t: “But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future — and that is the issue of health care.” In other words, health care — unlike, say, the financial system a few months ago — is not in a state of crisis.

So there is no health care crisis. There are a host of normal public policy issues dealing with health care that can be dealt with through the normal political process.

But that doesn’t suit Obama. He’s decided a big victory on health care is key to his political success. He’s decided we all have to acquiesce in a massive overhaul of our health care system because … he’s decided he wants it.

He said, “I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” This suggests how grandiloquent his self-understanding is. After all, even if he were to prevail with some form of his legislation, others would come along with further and other reforms. Obama really isn’t our last, best hope for public policy changes in this area — or in any other.

But it is hard to convince the vast majority of Americans who have health-care insurance (and like it) that we should turn over their most significant health-care decisions to the government, which can’t manage mundane tasks like spending stimulus money in a useful fashion or getting car dealers paid in a timely manner for the clunker cars. Now it’s not about us; it’s about him and his magnificent and final (there shall be none after his!) conception of affordable care for all, taxes only on the wealthy, and no increase in the debt. (Unicorns are optional.)

The scope of his ambition and the disdain with which he regards his opponents are startling. Never once in his speech did he concede the merits of his opponents’ concerns. It is all silliness, lies, misunderstanding, and partisanship—by the other guys.

So we come full circle. It is no longer about empowering people but about running them over. But meanwhile, the public is in revolt. In the new AP-Gfk poll, 42 percent of voters approve of his handling of the economy and of health care (52 percent disapprove of both); only 33 percent approve of his handling of the deficit and 40% of his handling of unemployment. Moreover, by a 49-34 percent margin, voters oppose the current health-care scheme floating around Congress.

Can Obama convince everyone they are wrong? In politics, never say never. But the voters thought it was about them, not his big-government ambitions. And now they find out it wasn’t ever about them.

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Democrats’ Dilemma

Karl Rove observes:

Team Obama is essentially asking congressional Democrats to take a huge gamble. The White House is arguing that ramming through a controversial bill is safer for Democrats than not passing anything. This is based on the false premise that the death of HillaryCare is what doomed Democrats in 1994. Mr. Obama told a reporter in July that the defeat of HillaryCare “Helped [Republicans] regain the House.” Former President Bill Clinton echoed that thought recently by saying “doing nothing” today is “the worst thing we can do for the Democrats.”

Actually, attempting to pass HillaryCare is what brought down the party. Voters rejected a massively complicated, hugely expensive government takeover of health care and the Democrats who pushed it.

In reality, it is riskier to be at odds with where Americans are than just standing by as an unpopular proposal goes down. The problem for Democrats is they are scaring voters by proposing a takeover of health care that spends too much money, creates too much debt, gives Washington too much power, and takes too much decision-making away from doctors and patients.

But Democrats, at least the liberal leadership, have convinced themselves of the “doing nothing is political death” narrative. And, of course, Obama has staked his presidency on health-care reform. (Well that and the economy, but if unemployment isn’t in low single digits by 2012, he better have something else to point to.) Therefore, in all likelihood, something will pass. When Obama talks about the status quo being unacceptable, he’s talking not to free-market conservatives but to nervous Democrats, trying to prod them into action. But what to do?

The Obama team must now disabuse his own party of the notion that real voters hate the ideas they already have come up with (e.g., a public option, a series of government mandates, a big tax bill). He seems to be daring them: “Who are you going to believe—your own town-hall experience or me?” Well politicians are funny creatures. They may not all have a firm grasp of economics and they often don’t read the bills they are voting on. But they have a knack of discerning how a room of voters is tilting and how serious their risk of losing re-election. The survival instinct trumps all.

Obama must now wipe away the memories of August, persuade them that HillaryCare’s failure instead of HillaryCare itself was the reason they lost Congress in 1994, and convince Democrats to disregard their own political judgment and self-interest to rescue his own political fortunes. And that explains why Obama must dismiss and denigrate the popular uprising we all have witnessed. If members of his own party come to believe that populist rebellion is real and a threat to their own political future, you can bet they won’t roll the dice just to spare Obama a humiliating defeat. He, after all, has more than three years to recover; they have 14 months.

Karl Rove observes:

Team Obama is essentially asking congressional Democrats to take a huge gamble. The White House is arguing that ramming through a controversial bill is safer for Democrats than not passing anything. This is based on the false premise that the death of HillaryCare is what doomed Democrats in 1994. Mr. Obama told a reporter in July that the defeat of HillaryCare “Helped [Republicans] regain the House.” Former President Bill Clinton echoed that thought recently by saying “doing nothing” today is “the worst thing we can do for the Democrats.”

Actually, attempting to pass HillaryCare is what brought down the party. Voters rejected a massively complicated, hugely expensive government takeover of health care and the Democrats who pushed it.

In reality, it is riskier to be at odds with where Americans are than just standing by as an unpopular proposal goes down. The problem for Democrats is they are scaring voters by proposing a takeover of health care that spends too much money, creates too much debt, gives Washington too much power, and takes too much decision-making away from doctors and patients.

But Democrats, at least the liberal leadership, have convinced themselves of the “doing nothing is political death” narrative. And, of course, Obama has staked his presidency on health-care reform. (Well that and the economy, but if unemployment isn’t in low single digits by 2012, he better have something else to point to.) Therefore, in all likelihood, something will pass. When Obama talks about the status quo being unacceptable, he’s talking not to free-market conservatives but to nervous Democrats, trying to prod them into action. But what to do?

The Obama team must now disabuse his own party of the notion that real voters hate the ideas they already have come up with (e.g., a public option, a series of government mandates, a big tax bill). He seems to be daring them: “Who are you going to believe—your own town-hall experience or me?” Well politicians are funny creatures. They may not all have a firm grasp of economics and they often don’t read the bills they are voting on. But they have a knack of discerning how a room of voters is tilting and how serious their risk of losing re-election. The survival instinct trumps all.

Obama must now wipe away the memories of August, persuade them that HillaryCare’s failure instead of HillaryCare itself was the reason they lost Congress in 1994, and convince Democrats to disregard their own political judgment and self-interest to rescue his own political fortunes. And that explains why Obama must dismiss and denigrate the popular uprising we all have witnessed. If members of his own party come to believe that populist rebellion is real and a threat to their own political future, you can bet they won’t roll the dice just to spare Obama a humiliating defeat. He, after all, has more than three years to recover; they have 14 months.

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The Insurance Salesman-in-Chief

In his speech to Congress last night, President Obama said there are “now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get [health insurance] coverage.” In his July 22 press conference (when he urged immediate passage of ObamaCare before Congress could adjourn and meet constituents), the president said there were “47 million Americans who have no health insurance.”

How did the situation change by 17 million Americans in less than two months?

The answer is that the president’s 47 million figure included some 9.7 million people who are not U.S. citizens, as well as some 11 million people “thought to be eligible for public insurance programs but have failed to enroll,” according to the figures in the August 23 New York Times editorial entitled “The Uninsured.” If those two categories are subtracted, the actual number of uninsured Americans is about 26 million, even lower than the figure the president used last night.

The Times editorial listed another 4.7 million people from households with incomes of $88,000 or more (which “many experts use to define who can afford to buy their own insurance”), which if subtracted from the 26 million figure would bring the number down to about 21 million.

Another 4.3 million people (according to the Times) are from households with incomes of $75,000 or more—who perhaps could afford insurance if relatively simple reforms made it less expensive (such as interstate insurance competition and tort/regulatory reform that would reduce costly defensive medicine).

That would bring the number down to about 17 million—a number that itself includes young people who choose to bear their own medical expenses rather than purchase expensive insurance they feel they are not likely to need, and people who are between jobs or otherwise only temporarily uninsured.

Whatever the correct net figure, it is substantially below the 47 million figure the president used in July and the 30 million figure he used last night.

This is not to suggest that the proper response is to “do nothing”; nor that “only” 17 million people is not a problem; nor even that illegal aliens are properly excluded from our concern. It is rather to observe that the president sounds like an unregulated insurance salesman—pitching a policy he tells us we must buy right now (it may not be available after next November), promising it will virtually pay for itself (through “savings” and elimination of “waste”), be financed by taxes he’ll get others to pay, provide better coverage than we’ve ever had before, and warning us not to listen to competing salesmen because they (unlike him) use scare tactics and false assertions.

In his speech to Congress last night, President Obama said there are “now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get [health insurance] coverage.” In his July 22 press conference (when he urged immediate passage of ObamaCare before Congress could adjourn and meet constituents), the president said there were “47 million Americans who have no health insurance.”

How did the situation change by 17 million Americans in less than two months?

The answer is that the president’s 47 million figure included some 9.7 million people who are not U.S. citizens, as well as some 11 million people “thought to be eligible for public insurance programs but have failed to enroll,” according to the figures in the August 23 New York Times editorial entitled “The Uninsured.” If those two categories are subtracted, the actual number of uninsured Americans is about 26 million, even lower than the figure the president used last night.

The Times editorial listed another 4.7 million people from households with incomes of $88,000 or more (which “many experts use to define who can afford to buy their own insurance”), which if subtracted from the 26 million figure would bring the number down to about 21 million.

Another 4.3 million people (according to the Times) are from households with incomes of $75,000 or more—who perhaps could afford insurance if relatively simple reforms made it less expensive (such as interstate insurance competition and tort/regulatory reform that would reduce costly defensive medicine).

That would bring the number down to about 17 million—a number that itself includes young people who choose to bear their own medical expenses rather than purchase expensive insurance they feel they are not likely to need, and people who are between jobs or otherwise only temporarily uninsured.

Whatever the correct net figure, it is substantially below the 47 million figure the president used in July and the 30 million figure he used last night.

This is not to suggest that the proper response is to “do nothing”; nor that “only” 17 million people is not a problem; nor even that illegal aliens are properly excluded from our concern. It is rather to observe that the president sounds like an unregulated insurance salesman—pitching a policy he tells us we must buy right now (it may not be available after next November), promising it will virtually pay for itself (through “savings” and elimination of “waste”), be financed by taxes he’ll get others to pay, provide better coverage than we’ve ever had before, and warning us not to listen to competing salesmen because they (unlike him) use scare tactics and false assertions.

Read Less

A Contrary View: Free Is Bad

Jim Prevor considers whether conservatives haven’t missed the bigger picture on health-care reform. He writes:

So much of the argument against Obamacare is presented on prudential grounds—it is too expensive, the budget is too high, people will lose the chance to go the doctor they prefer, etc. Yet the bigger argument is that if you give people guarantees of material things—food, shelter, health care—regardless of how they behave, then more people will behave irresponsibly.

There is a whole literature out there on how welfare, subsidized housing, food stamps, and Medicaid all helped to diminish the importance of low wage earning men in their own eyes and the eyes of their family. Poor working men, who were once the best chance a family had, suddenly were superfluous; thus the explosion of children growing up without their fathers at home.

Now Obamacare promises to make breadwinners less important to all families–that is unlikely to encourage more responsible behavior among the citizenry.

It is worthwhile to ask why conservatives, who are supposed to be conserving values and not just the free market, aren’t making this case more often and more rigorously. It is perhaps not hard to figure out why. Politicians, even devoted conservatives, often get lured into the contest of “giving away goodies.” Obama has lots of them, the most extravagant being free or highly subsidized health care with no taxes. (There won’t be many jobs, but that’s a different problem.)  So conservatives play along. “We have goodies too—less expensive and more effective!” And who wants to be a scold, lecturing his constituents about the dangers of getting something for nothing?

We therefore have paid insufficient attention to the question of whether “free” is better. Encouraging everyone to overuse virtually free services is in part what got us into the fix we are in. Now, there have been many conservative proposals (contrary to what Obama would have us believe)  to address a key underlying  factor in rising health-care costs—namely that the payer and the consumer are not the same, so the consumer isn’t inclined to watch the bottom line.  But conservatives have been making this an economic argument, contending that individual purchase of insurance will help contain costs. Prevor reminds us that there are moral and social components as well.

At a time when the president is offering mounds of freebies for seemingly no cost, perhaps there is room for another perspective, which not only comports with reality but also with the values we want to promote.

Jim Prevor considers whether conservatives haven’t missed the bigger picture on health-care reform. He writes:

So much of the argument against Obamacare is presented on prudential grounds—it is too expensive, the budget is too high, people will lose the chance to go the doctor they prefer, etc. Yet the bigger argument is that if you give people guarantees of material things—food, shelter, health care—regardless of how they behave, then more people will behave irresponsibly.

There is a whole literature out there on how welfare, subsidized housing, food stamps, and Medicaid all helped to diminish the importance of low wage earning men in their own eyes and the eyes of their family. Poor working men, who were once the best chance a family had, suddenly were superfluous; thus the explosion of children growing up without their fathers at home.

Now Obamacare promises to make breadwinners less important to all families–that is unlikely to encourage more responsible behavior among the citizenry.

It is worthwhile to ask why conservatives, who are supposed to be conserving values and not just the free market, aren’t making this case more often and more rigorously. It is perhaps not hard to figure out why. Politicians, even devoted conservatives, often get lured into the contest of “giving away goodies.” Obama has lots of them, the most extravagant being free or highly subsidized health care with no taxes. (There won’t be many jobs, but that’s a different problem.)  So conservatives play along. “We have goodies too—less expensive and more effective!” And who wants to be a scold, lecturing his constituents about the dangers of getting something for nothing?

We therefore have paid insufficient attention to the question of whether “free” is better. Encouraging everyone to overuse virtually free services is in part what got us into the fix we are in. Now, there have been many conservative proposals (contrary to what Obama would have us believe)  to address a key underlying  factor in rising health-care costs—namely that the payer and the consumer are not the same, so the consumer isn’t inclined to watch the bottom line.  But conservatives have been making this an economic argument, contending that individual purchase of insurance will help contain costs. Prevor reminds us that there are moral and social components as well.

At a time when the president is offering mounds of freebies for seemingly no cost, perhaps there is room for another perspective, which not only comports with reality but also with the values we want to promote.

Read Less

Marc Garlasco and SS Chic

The story that broke two days ago about the Nazi memorabilia hobby of Human Rights Watch’s “senior military analyst,” Marc Garlasco, has now broke into the MSM with a piece in the Jerusalem Post.

In it, HRW defends Garlasco by claiming that he is merely a history buff:

“To imply that Garlasco’s collection is evidence of Nazi sympathies is not only absurd but an attempt to deflect attention from his deeply felt efforts to uphold the laws of war and minimize civilian suffering in wartime,” the statement read. “These falsehoods are an affront to Garlasco and thousands of other serious military historians.”

Garlasco clearly has Nazi sympathies—why else would so much of his time be devoted to collecting and writing about Nazi paraphernalia? This does not mean that he sympathizes with the Final Solution, although Garlasco surely is capable of understanding why people find it difficult to fathom how someone could be such an enthusiast for Nazi memorabilia while maintaining a proper abhorrence of the Nazi genocidal project. Garlasco, after all, makes his living as a human-rights activist.

And then there are things that do indeed undermine one’s confidence that Garlasco understands the moral significance of the Nazis. Here he is in a 2005 post on the “Wehrmacht Awards” forum gushing over a particularly vile item of clothing:

That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!
Marc

These are certainly not the words of a “serious military historian,” as HRW characterizes him. They appear rather more like the words of someone with sympathies.

The story that broke two days ago about the Nazi memorabilia hobby of Human Rights Watch’s “senior military analyst,” Marc Garlasco, has now broke into the MSM with a piece in the Jerusalem Post.

In it, HRW defends Garlasco by claiming that he is merely a history buff:

“To imply that Garlasco’s collection is evidence of Nazi sympathies is not only absurd but an attempt to deflect attention from his deeply felt efforts to uphold the laws of war and minimize civilian suffering in wartime,” the statement read. “These falsehoods are an affront to Garlasco and thousands of other serious military historians.”

Garlasco clearly has Nazi sympathies—why else would so much of his time be devoted to collecting and writing about Nazi paraphernalia? This does not mean that he sympathizes with the Final Solution, although Garlasco surely is capable of understanding why people find it difficult to fathom how someone could be such an enthusiast for Nazi memorabilia while maintaining a proper abhorrence of the Nazi genocidal project. Garlasco, after all, makes his living as a human-rights activist.

And then there are things that do indeed undermine one’s confidence that Garlasco understands the moral significance of the Nazis. Here he is in a 2005 post on the “Wehrmacht Awards” forum gushing over a particularly vile item of clothing:

That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!
Marc

These are certainly not the words of a “serious military historian,” as HRW characterizes him. They appear rather more like the words of someone with sympathies.

Read Less

Getting to “No”?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Iran rejected any compromise with the West over its nuclear program Wednesday, as blunt comments from the Obama administration over Tehran’s bomb-making capability suggested that the two sides were headed toward a renewed diplomatic crisis. Iran offered Western officials a long-awaited package of proposals to restart negotiations over its nuclear program. But diplomats who viewed the offer Wednesday said the document of fewer than 10 pages essentially ignored questions over Iran’s production of nuclear fuel and instead focused broadly on other international issues. It made no mention of Tehran’s willingness to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities or to enter into substantive talks about the future of its nuclear program, they said.

This will be hard even for Foggy Bottom to spin as anything other than an utter rejection of Obama’s “engagement” offer. They appear unmoved by his restraint during the repression of the Iranian protests. Their hearts were not melted by letters or a video valentine.

And the U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency perked up as well, making “the Obama administration’s strongest comments yet on Iran’s nuclear threat.” The Journal reports:

Speaking at the board meeting of the IAEA in Vienna, Glyn Davies warned on Wednesday that Iran has enough fissile material to produce a nuclear bomb, if Tehran enriches the uranium to weapons-grade level. “Ongoing enrichment activity…moves Iran closer to a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity,” he said. Iran denied the U.S. allegations.

U.S. officials have made generally similar warnings before, but Mr. Davies’s remarks were the most public and specific. U.S. officials said the comments were made to stress to the international community the need for a united response to Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities.

It seems that, like the North Koreans, the Iranian leaders are immune to Obama’s charms. With no engagement (let alone a first date) in sight, the question turns to what we do next. Can Obama’s smart diplomacy move the Russians and Europeans to enact meaningful sanctions? It seems that Obama must abandon the fantasy that progress must be made on the Palestinian problem before we can address the Iranian threat. (It was never clear why.)

We will see now if, after having been disabused of the fantasy that good manners would induce the mullahs into meaningful discussions, Obama can rally world opinion to change the cost-benefit analysis for the Iranian regime. And if sanctions are not forthcoming, or if they have no impact, Obama then will be faced with a choice that isn’t one of the “false” ones he is fond of deriding—pursue a military option or live with a nuclear-armed Iran (and the threat of Iranian-backed terrorists with access to the same).

Obama is going to chair the Security Council—a dream come true, no doubt, for a citizen of the world. He can raise the issue there with the “international community” he has courted so assiduously. Let’s hope they are more enamored of his invitations than the mullahs.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Iran rejected any compromise with the West over its nuclear program Wednesday, as blunt comments from the Obama administration over Tehran’s bomb-making capability suggested that the two sides were headed toward a renewed diplomatic crisis. Iran offered Western officials a long-awaited package of proposals to restart negotiations over its nuclear program. But diplomats who viewed the offer Wednesday said the document of fewer than 10 pages essentially ignored questions over Iran’s production of nuclear fuel and instead focused broadly on other international issues. It made no mention of Tehran’s willingness to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities or to enter into substantive talks about the future of its nuclear program, they said.

This will be hard even for Foggy Bottom to spin as anything other than an utter rejection of Obama’s “engagement” offer. They appear unmoved by his restraint during the repression of the Iranian protests. Their hearts were not melted by letters or a video valentine.

And the U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency perked up as well, making “the Obama administration’s strongest comments yet on Iran’s nuclear threat.” The Journal reports:

Speaking at the board meeting of the IAEA in Vienna, Glyn Davies warned on Wednesday that Iran has enough fissile material to produce a nuclear bomb, if Tehran enriches the uranium to weapons-grade level. “Ongoing enrichment activity…moves Iran closer to a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity,” he said. Iran denied the U.S. allegations.

U.S. officials have made generally similar warnings before, but Mr. Davies’s remarks were the most public and specific. U.S. officials said the comments were made to stress to the international community the need for a united response to Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities.

It seems that, like the North Koreans, the Iranian leaders are immune to Obama’s charms. With no engagement (let alone a first date) in sight, the question turns to what we do next. Can Obama’s smart diplomacy move the Russians and Europeans to enact meaningful sanctions? It seems that Obama must abandon the fantasy that progress must be made on the Palestinian problem before we can address the Iranian threat. (It was never clear why.)

We will see now if, after having been disabused of the fantasy that good manners would induce the mullahs into meaningful discussions, Obama can rally world opinion to change the cost-benefit analysis for the Iranian regime. And if sanctions are not forthcoming, or if they have no impact, Obama then will be faced with a choice that isn’t one of the “false” ones he is fond of deriding—pursue a military option or live with a nuclear-armed Iran (and the threat of Iranian-backed terrorists with access to the same).

Obama is going to chair the Security Council—a dream come true, no doubt, for a citizen of the world. He can raise the issue there with the “international community” he has courted so assiduously. Let’s hope they are more enamored of his invitations than the mullahs.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Marty Peretz takes issues with just about all his colleagues at TNR, declaring Van Jones to be unfit for office, since he was a Communist, “does not wish America well,” and is “a racialist.” What’s more, he points out, “Jones’ vulgar hatred of Israel is, alas, also a hatred of Jews.” And he reminds us of the rest of the “loonie bin” set drawn to Obama, including Bill Ayers, Rashid Khalidi, and Reverend Wright. My! Read the whole thing and send it to your friends.

John Bolton is pleased that Sen. Frank Lautenberg is calling for an investigation into the release of Libyan terrorist and Lockerbie bomber Abdel Bassett al-Megrahi. The question remains whether the Obama team dropped the diplomatic ball. “It is simply inconceivable that Britain and Scotland would free Megrahi if President Obama had clearly and forcefully articulated his opposition.”

As I suspected, cap-and-trade appears headed for the legislative graveyard: “Several U.S. Senate Democrats, including a top leader, on Wednesday questioned whether it would be possible to vote on a climate change bill this year, especially with healthcare reform eating up so much of the lawmakers’ time.” Wonder how all the freshmen House Democrats forced to vote for it feel about it now.

From AP on Obama’s health-care speech: “The president’s speech to Congress contained a variety of oversimplifications and omissions in laying out what he wants to do about health insurance.” It is quite devastating and echoes just about every point the president’s critics have been making.

James Capretta on the health-care speech: “It’s as if the president and his team haven’t read anything that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said about the health-care bills under consideration. The truth is that these bills would add an additional runaway health-care entitlement to the ones already on the federal books. CBO has said that the House bill would set in motion new spending that would grow at about 8 percent rate per year, while the revenue to pay for it would increase only about 5 percent per year. You don’t have to be a financial genius to see a problem here.”

Mickey Kaus unspins Marc Ambinder’s spin. It’s embarrassing, really.

Maybe an Ivy League education isn’t what it used to be: “First, Yale censors Muhammad cartoons in a new book, then the Harvard Crimson runs an ad from a Holocaust denier, notes Gawker. ‘Can you provide, with proof, the name of one person killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?’ asks the ad from the ‘Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust.’ A letter from the Crimson president explained the following day that the ad was run in error due to ‘miscommunication’ and that the remaining ad run has been cancelled.”

And if you think that’s a jaw-dropper: “A local district court in the West German city of Bochum fined a student 300 Euro on Wednesday for displaying an Israel flag at a demonstration organized by Muslim organizations against the IDF Operation Cast Lead in January. According to Der Westen, a regional paper in Bochum, the public prosecutor termed the Israeli flag as ‘provoking’ within a special situation.”

Almost like he wants to win in a solidly Blue State, huh? “Amid widespread conservative criticism of President Obama’s address on Tuesday to school children, former Pennsylvania representative Pat Toomey (R) sung the president’s praises. ‘The President’s emphasis on responsibility and the personal stories about his own education are exactly the kind of inspiring messages our children need to hear from our country’s leaders,’ said Toomey. Toomey continues to smartly move to the ideological center in advance of next year’s Pennsylvania Senate race even as Sen. Arlen Specter (D) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D) continue to brace for a no-holds-barred primary fight.”

Michael Ledeen explains succinctly why we can’t have losses in the battlefield against an Islamic fundamentalist enemy: “Nothing is more devastating to a messianic movement than defeat on the ground.” His pitch to the “Muslim world”: “You’ve tried the radical versions of both Sunni and Shi’a. They declared war on us, and we defeated them. We defeated Sunni regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a Shi’ite regime in Iran, and Sunni and Shi’ite terrorists in Iraq. We defeated them primarily because the Muslim peoples of those countries did not like them. There is a better way. Abandon the doomed doctrines of the defeated forces, and join the victorious modern world.” He adds: “I still think that’s the message we want to deliver, and I think it would be a devastating blow to jihadism.”

Abigail Thernstrom makes the good point that the problem with Obama’s school speech is that it was a bore and a missed opportunity. Why not take on the anti-testing crowd that wants to mask the very real, persistent gap between white and minority achievement?

Wow—the taxpayers are unlikely to get their money back from the car bailouts. Who’d have thought?

Daniel Henninger: “To save himself and his party from enduring another health-care debacle, Barack Obama should put his agenda on the back burner, bend his efforts to raising the economy, and rebuild his political capital by taking credit for the inevitable rebound. That just might minimize the impending loss of House seats and allow him to revisit his wish list in 2011. The alternative is promising big, accomplishing little and getting credit for nothing. This could be America’s greatest failed presidency.”

I know you’re shocked that the Washington Post seems to be out to get Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, now making it seem that McDonnell’s qualms about the reappointment of a judge was based on homophobia. Actually, it seemed to have been based on concern about a sexual-harassment claim and the judge’s poor performance rating.

And John McCormack with a scoop prints the news not fit for the Post: it turns out Creigh Deeds was not so enlightened on gay issues. But there won’t be a page-one story in the Post—on that I am certain.

Marty Peretz takes issues with just about all his colleagues at TNR, declaring Van Jones to be unfit for office, since he was a Communist, “does not wish America well,” and is “a racialist.” What’s more, he points out, “Jones’ vulgar hatred of Israel is, alas, also a hatred of Jews.” And he reminds us of the rest of the “loonie bin” set drawn to Obama, including Bill Ayers, Rashid Khalidi, and Reverend Wright. My! Read the whole thing and send it to your friends.

John Bolton is pleased that Sen. Frank Lautenberg is calling for an investigation into the release of Libyan terrorist and Lockerbie bomber Abdel Bassett al-Megrahi. The question remains whether the Obama team dropped the diplomatic ball. “It is simply inconceivable that Britain and Scotland would free Megrahi if President Obama had clearly and forcefully articulated his opposition.”

As I suspected, cap-and-trade appears headed for the legislative graveyard: “Several U.S. Senate Democrats, including a top leader, on Wednesday questioned whether it would be possible to vote on a climate change bill this year, especially with healthcare reform eating up so much of the lawmakers’ time.” Wonder how all the freshmen House Democrats forced to vote for it feel about it now.

From AP on Obama’s health-care speech: “The president’s speech to Congress contained a variety of oversimplifications and omissions in laying out what he wants to do about health insurance.” It is quite devastating and echoes just about every point the president’s critics have been making.

James Capretta on the health-care speech: “It’s as if the president and his team haven’t read anything that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said about the health-care bills under consideration. The truth is that these bills would add an additional runaway health-care entitlement to the ones already on the federal books. CBO has said that the House bill would set in motion new spending that would grow at about 8 percent rate per year, while the revenue to pay for it would increase only about 5 percent per year. You don’t have to be a financial genius to see a problem here.”

Mickey Kaus unspins Marc Ambinder’s spin. It’s embarrassing, really.

Maybe an Ivy League education isn’t what it used to be: “First, Yale censors Muhammad cartoons in a new book, then the Harvard Crimson runs an ad from a Holocaust denier, notes Gawker. ‘Can you provide, with proof, the name of one person killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?’ asks the ad from the ‘Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust.’ A letter from the Crimson president explained the following day that the ad was run in error due to ‘miscommunication’ and that the remaining ad run has been cancelled.”

And if you think that’s a jaw-dropper: “A local district court in the West German city of Bochum fined a student 300 Euro on Wednesday for displaying an Israel flag at a demonstration organized by Muslim organizations against the IDF Operation Cast Lead in January. According to Der Westen, a regional paper in Bochum, the public prosecutor termed the Israeli flag as ‘provoking’ within a special situation.”

Almost like he wants to win in a solidly Blue State, huh? “Amid widespread conservative criticism of President Obama’s address on Tuesday to school children, former Pennsylvania representative Pat Toomey (R) sung the president’s praises. ‘The President’s emphasis on responsibility and the personal stories about his own education are exactly the kind of inspiring messages our children need to hear from our country’s leaders,’ said Toomey. Toomey continues to smartly move to the ideological center in advance of next year’s Pennsylvania Senate race even as Sen. Arlen Specter (D) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D) continue to brace for a no-holds-barred primary fight.”

Michael Ledeen explains succinctly why we can’t have losses in the battlefield against an Islamic fundamentalist enemy: “Nothing is more devastating to a messianic movement than defeat on the ground.” His pitch to the “Muslim world”: “You’ve tried the radical versions of both Sunni and Shi’a. They declared war on us, and we defeated them. We defeated Sunni regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a Shi’ite regime in Iran, and Sunni and Shi’ite terrorists in Iraq. We defeated them primarily because the Muslim peoples of those countries did not like them. There is a better way. Abandon the doomed doctrines of the defeated forces, and join the victorious modern world.” He adds: “I still think that’s the message we want to deliver, and I think it would be a devastating blow to jihadism.”

Abigail Thernstrom makes the good point that the problem with Obama’s school speech is that it was a bore and a missed opportunity. Why not take on the anti-testing crowd that wants to mask the very real, persistent gap between white and minority achievement?

Wow—the taxpayers are unlikely to get their money back from the car bailouts. Who’d have thought?

Daniel Henninger: “To save himself and his party from enduring another health-care debacle, Barack Obama should put his agenda on the back burner, bend his efforts to raising the economy, and rebuild his political capital by taking credit for the inevitable rebound. That just might minimize the impending loss of House seats and allow him to revisit his wish list in 2011. The alternative is promising big, accomplishing little and getting credit for nothing. This could be America’s greatest failed presidency.”

I know you’re shocked that the Washington Post seems to be out to get Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, now making it seem that McDonnell’s qualms about the reappointment of a judge was based on homophobia. Actually, it seemed to have been based on concern about a sexual-harassment claim and the judge’s poor performance rating.

And John McCormack with a scoop prints the news not fit for the Post: it turns out Creigh Deeds was not so enlightened on gay issues. But there won’t be a page-one story in the Post—on that I am certain.

Read Less




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