Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 11, 2009

Deference, for a Change

Eric Holder finally found a Bush-era official he doesn’t intend to prosecute: Brad Schlozman, who was accused of lying to Congress concerning DOJ hiring practices. In this case, the D.C. U.S. Attorney had previously declined to prosecute the matter. Ronald Welch, assistant attorney in the Office of Legislative Affairs, declared: “After careful examination of the evidence and the law, and upon consideration of other relevant prosecutorial factors, the Attorney General concluded that the United States Attorney’s decision was reasonable and should be afforded due deference.” Due deference to the career prosecutor?

Well, that’s a new stance for Holder. You will recall that he cast aside the conclusion of career prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia who declined to prosecute CIA operatives who employed enhanced interrogation techniques. There, Holder showed no “deference” and has now set loose a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the CIA operatives. So why, when the CIA is involved, does deference to career prosecutors go out the window? It’s not clear, not at all.

Perhaps Holder doesn’t have the same room to operate where the CIA has concerned. Bush-era interrogation techniques remain a burning issue for the president’s left-wing base—while the netroot lobby has forgotten about political hiring in the Justice Department (or they’d rather not remind anyone of the perils of hiring based on political affiliation). Once again, it’s hard to fathom what legal principles Holder is applying in these situations. Maybe there aren’t any.

Eric Holder finally found a Bush-era official he doesn’t intend to prosecute: Brad Schlozman, who was accused of lying to Congress concerning DOJ hiring practices. In this case, the D.C. U.S. Attorney had previously declined to prosecute the matter. Ronald Welch, assistant attorney in the Office of Legislative Affairs, declared: “After careful examination of the evidence and the law, and upon consideration of other relevant prosecutorial factors, the Attorney General concluded that the United States Attorney’s decision was reasonable and should be afforded due deference.” Due deference to the career prosecutor?

Well, that’s a new stance for Holder. You will recall that he cast aside the conclusion of career prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia who declined to prosecute CIA operatives who employed enhanced interrogation techniques. There, Holder showed no “deference” and has now set loose a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the CIA operatives. So why, when the CIA is involved, does deference to career prosecutors go out the window? It’s not clear, not at all.

Perhaps Holder doesn’t have the same room to operate where the CIA has concerned. Bush-era interrogation techniques remain a burning issue for the president’s left-wing base—while the netroot lobby has forgotten about political hiring in the Justice Department (or they’d rather not remind anyone of the perils of hiring based on political affiliation). Once again, it’s hard to fathom what legal principles Holder is applying in these situations. Maybe there aren’t any.

Read Less

Re: Oh, a Training Exercise

When things go wrong, it is never the Obama administration’s fault. It’s the talk-radio chatter or the insurance companies’ flunkies that have confused the voters. It’s the Republicans’ fault that health-care reform isn’t gliding through the Democratic-controlled  Congress. And now the Coast Guard snafu is CNN’s fault. No, really. Robert Gibbs went after CNN for not checking its facts and chose to focus on the erroneous report that shots had been fired. He seemed stumped by the suggestion that, as John pointed out, this was reminiscent of the New York City flyover.

Others had a different view:

The group Military Families United said in a statement that the “training exercise conducted by the Coast Guard is at the height of irresponsibility. Whomever commissioned this training exercise at the same time and less than a mile away from where the families of the 9/11 victims gathered to mourn should be held accountable. Their actions brought back all of the feelings for victims of 9/11 that they originally experienced 8 years ago today. These families have traveled from all over the country to convene at the Pentagon on this tragic anniversary and this training exercise not only caused unwarranted stress for these families but it was a distraction from the purpose of today.”

The group called the exercise “absolutely inexcusable. September 11th is a day to remember the loss of 2,973 innocent victims in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon; not a day to create an unnecessary panic near a terrorist’s target,” and called for an investigation.

The Coast Guard was a bit less accusatory than Gibbs, conceding, that a “big bang” was simulated. But no shots, mind you. So the Coast Guard chief of staff insisted there’d be no apology.

The dig on the Bush White House was that no errors were ever acknowledged and no remorse ever expressed. Well, in that department, this White House has no peer.

When things go wrong, it is never the Obama administration’s fault. It’s the talk-radio chatter or the insurance companies’ flunkies that have confused the voters. It’s the Republicans’ fault that health-care reform isn’t gliding through the Democratic-controlled  Congress. And now the Coast Guard snafu is CNN’s fault. No, really. Robert Gibbs went after CNN for not checking its facts and chose to focus on the erroneous report that shots had been fired. He seemed stumped by the suggestion that, as John pointed out, this was reminiscent of the New York City flyover.

Others had a different view:

The group Military Families United said in a statement that the “training exercise conducted by the Coast Guard is at the height of irresponsibility. Whomever commissioned this training exercise at the same time and less than a mile away from where the families of the 9/11 victims gathered to mourn should be held accountable. Their actions brought back all of the feelings for victims of 9/11 that they originally experienced 8 years ago today. These families have traveled from all over the country to convene at the Pentagon on this tragic anniversary and this training exercise not only caused unwarranted stress for these families but it was a distraction from the purpose of today.”

The group called the exercise “absolutely inexcusable. September 11th is a day to remember the loss of 2,973 innocent victims in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon; not a day to create an unnecessary panic near a terrorist’s target,” and called for an investigation.

The Coast Guard was a bit less accusatory than Gibbs, conceding, that a “big bang” was simulated. But no shots, mind you. So the Coast Guard chief of staff insisted there’d be no apology.

The dig on the Bush White House was that no errors were ever acknowledged and no remorse ever expressed. Well, in that department, this White House has no peer.

Read Less

Re: Depends on What the Meaning of “Deadline” Is

Charles Krauthammer, commenting on news that—yes, it’s shocking to some—the Iranians are making mischief in Afghanistan just as they did in Iraq, explains:

The problem is the Iranians look at Obama and they have never seen less pushback. They are getting an administration that is on bended knee, that offered an outstretched hand and makes an apology for a coup that happened 50 years ago. It [the administration] says not a word in the middle of a revolution in which democrats are getting shot in the street.

The U.S.—the Obama administration—is expecting a response [from Iran]. So what does it get on nuclear weaponry? It expected—all of us had expected—as the U.N. General Assembly approaches that Iran would at least offer a delaying action, offer a hint of moderation.

It [Iran] offered … a response of ten pages today that is an insult. It says not a word about restraining itself on nukes It is showing contempt because it imagines the United States will do nothing.

And we had a statement from Robert Gibbs today which had the usual mush–“concern,” “international community,” “gravity of this situation.” There is no evidence that the Obama administration is serious about any pressure, and in the absence of it, Iran is going to act up in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and is going to accelerate its nuclear program.

And of course the Iranians observe all of Obama’s behavior—his wavering on missile defense in Europe, his defense cuts, his willingness to dispense Bill Clinton to North Korea, his eagerness to renege on an agreement with our ally Israel to curry favor with the “Muslim world,” his meekness while the Iranian regime cracked down on its own people, his willingness to adopt Hugo Chavez’s “coup” perspective and betray another ally (Honduras), and his silence on human rights everywhere. They see a pattern and conclude that this is not someone willing to define and pursue American interests or risk the ire of the “international community.”

Regrettably, they are right. And if the Obama administration now has second thoughts, they have made it that much more difficult to stiffen America’s spine. Having undermined the image of a resolute America, the White House is going to have a tough time restoring it. And an even tougher time convincing Iran and other foes of America that this is the “real” Obama foreign policy.

Charles Krauthammer, commenting on news that—yes, it’s shocking to some—the Iranians are making mischief in Afghanistan just as they did in Iraq, explains:

The problem is the Iranians look at Obama and they have never seen less pushback. They are getting an administration that is on bended knee, that offered an outstretched hand and makes an apology for a coup that happened 50 years ago. It [the administration] says not a word in the middle of a revolution in which democrats are getting shot in the street.

The U.S.—the Obama administration—is expecting a response [from Iran]. So what does it get on nuclear weaponry? It expected—all of us had expected—as the U.N. General Assembly approaches that Iran would at least offer a delaying action, offer a hint of moderation.

It [Iran] offered … a response of ten pages today that is an insult. It says not a word about restraining itself on nukes It is showing contempt because it imagines the United States will do nothing.

And we had a statement from Robert Gibbs today which had the usual mush–“concern,” “international community,” “gravity of this situation.” There is no evidence that the Obama administration is serious about any pressure, and in the absence of it, Iran is going to act up in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and is going to accelerate its nuclear program.

And of course the Iranians observe all of Obama’s behavior—his wavering on missile defense in Europe, his defense cuts, his willingness to dispense Bill Clinton to North Korea, his eagerness to renege on an agreement with our ally Israel to curry favor with the “Muslim world,” his meekness while the Iranian regime cracked down on its own people, his willingness to adopt Hugo Chavez’s “coup” perspective and betray another ally (Honduras), and his silence on human rights everywhere. They see a pattern and conclude that this is not someone willing to define and pursue American interests or risk the ire of the “international community.”

Regrettably, they are right. And if the Obama administration now has second thoughts, they have made it that much more difficult to stiffen America’s spine. Having undermined the image of a resolute America, the White House is going to have a tough time restoring it. And an even tougher time convincing Iran and other foes of America that this is the “real” Obama foreign policy.

Read Less

What’s in a Name? If It’s “Reagan,” Quite a Lot

Scott Rasmussen has a new poll out regarding political labels. The public, it seems, doesn’t like any of them. “Liberal” continues its long slide, and only 15 percent now regard it as a positive. “Progressive,” which is what liberal politicians increasingly tend to call themselves to avoid using the ever-more-toxic “liberal,” is now positive to only 32 percent, down from 40 just after the last election.

“Conservative” isn’t doing a whole lot better, also at 32 percent positive, down from 37 percent after the last election.

Indeed, what voters like in terms of political labels, it seems, is “like Ronald Reagan.” Forty-three percent regard that as positive, and only 26 percent think it’s a negative (it was 44 percent positive and 27 percent negative last November).

What’s going on here, I think, is a growing disgust with the political class as a whole, and such a development is not new. In 1994, in a political earthquake that has never been given its due attention in American political history, the public threw out the governmental establishment. Even the Speaker of the House lost his seat, the first time that had happened since 1862. The new Republican majority enacted substantive reforms (but not enough of them) but then grew more interested in re-election than in reform. The people threw them out in 2006. Obama, in 2008, promised a new era, “change you can believe in,” post-partisan government. The people, desperate for exactly that, gave him a bigger percentage of the popular vote than any Democratic president had received since Lyndon Johnson was elected nearly half a century ago.

Instead, Obama has governed as the most partisan president in recent decades (just compare him with Reagan) and seems determined to cram a deeply unpopular health-care “reform” through Congress regardless of popular opinion.

Inside the Beltway, it’s becoming more and more like Versailles in the last days of the ancien régime. The inhabitants called it “notre monde,” because it contained everything and everybody they cared about. They were oblivious to the world beyond. I would suggest that the political class—liberals, progressives, conservatives, whatever—in Washington start paying attention to the world beyond.

They might want to remember what happened to those who lived in “notre monde.”

Scott Rasmussen has a new poll out regarding political labels. The public, it seems, doesn’t like any of them. “Liberal” continues its long slide, and only 15 percent now regard it as a positive. “Progressive,” which is what liberal politicians increasingly tend to call themselves to avoid using the ever-more-toxic “liberal,” is now positive to only 32 percent, down from 40 just after the last election.

“Conservative” isn’t doing a whole lot better, also at 32 percent positive, down from 37 percent after the last election.

Indeed, what voters like in terms of political labels, it seems, is “like Ronald Reagan.” Forty-three percent regard that as positive, and only 26 percent think it’s a negative (it was 44 percent positive and 27 percent negative last November).

What’s going on here, I think, is a growing disgust with the political class as a whole, and such a development is not new. In 1994, in a political earthquake that has never been given its due attention in American political history, the public threw out the governmental establishment. Even the Speaker of the House lost his seat, the first time that had happened since 1862. The new Republican majority enacted substantive reforms (but not enough of them) but then grew more interested in re-election than in reform. The people threw them out in 2006. Obama, in 2008, promised a new era, “change you can believe in,” post-partisan government. The people, desperate for exactly that, gave him a bigger percentage of the popular vote than any Democratic president had received since Lyndon Johnson was elected nearly half a century ago.

Instead, Obama has governed as the most partisan president in recent decades (just compare him with Reagan) and seems determined to cram a deeply unpopular health-care “reform” through Congress regardless of popular opinion.

Inside the Beltway, it’s becoming more and more like Versailles in the last days of the ancien régime. The inhabitants called it “notre monde,” because it contained everything and everybody they cared about. They were oblivious to the world beyond. I would suggest that the political class—liberals, progressives, conservatives, whatever—in Washington start paying attention to the world beyond.

They might want to remember what happened to those who lived in “notre monde.”

Read Less

What the Yale World Fellows Did on 9/11

Yale has a World Fellows Program. When launched, it was talked about on campus as a kind of mid-career equivalent of the Rhodes Scholarship: bring the rising thinkers and doers of the world to Yale for a semester (people with careers, unlike newly minted undergraduates, usually can’t afford to take more than four months off), expose them to American higher education and all its wonders, recruit them into the Yale cadre, and toss them back into the lake to fructify and rise to run the world.

The scheme hasn’t been a complete failure, but, predictably, it has made only a limited impact on Yale—partly because the university lives an almost self-contained life and has little interest in visitors with a four-month tenure, and partly because Yale tends to select World Fellows who mirror its own prejudices. In other words, if you already think that America—and all the ills for which it is supposedly responsible—is the world’s biggest problem, Yale doesn’t have much to teach you.

So what were the World Fellows doing midmorning on 9/11? They were listening to the following program, offered, as part of a regular series, by one of their own:

Meltdown: Eye-witness Accounts of Catastrophic Climate Change Arctic explorer, environmental scientist, and World Fellow Tim Jarvis presents dramatic eye-witness evidence of melting polar ice-caps. His presentation will be supplemented by short accounts of the effect of catastrophic climate change on front-line countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh. The discussion will focus on what has already occurred and is demonstrable, and what the consequences of further climate change will be.

I don’t demand that on 9/11 Yale focus only on 9/11. I don’t even object, too much, to the obviously propagandizing nature of the event—even though a scientist should be willing to accept that eyewitness anecdotes are no substitute for data. But would it be too much to ask that the World Fellows, living for the time in the United States, on one morning focus on the actual and demonstrated dangers posed to the U.S. and many other nations by Islamist mass terrorism? Yes, it evidently would be. Get back into the memory hole, 9/11.

Yale has a World Fellows Program. When launched, it was talked about on campus as a kind of mid-career equivalent of the Rhodes Scholarship: bring the rising thinkers and doers of the world to Yale for a semester (people with careers, unlike newly minted undergraduates, usually can’t afford to take more than four months off), expose them to American higher education and all its wonders, recruit them into the Yale cadre, and toss them back into the lake to fructify and rise to run the world.

The scheme hasn’t been a complete failure, but, predictably, it has made only a limited impact on Yale—partly because the university lives an almost self-contained life and has little interest in visitors with a four-month tenure, and partly because Yale tends to select World Fellows who mirror its own prejudices. In other words, if you already think that America—and all the ills for which it is supposedly responsible—is the world’s biggest problem, Yale doesn’t have much to teach you.

So what were the World Fellows doing midmorning on 9/11? They were listening to the following program, offered, as part of a regular series, by one of their own:

Meltdown: Eye-witness Accounts of Catastrophic Climate Change Arctic explorer, environmental scientist, and World Fellow Tim Jarvis presents dramatic eye-witness evidence of melting polar ice-caps. His presentation will be supplemented by short accounts of the effect of catastrophic climate change on front-line countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh. The discussion will focus on what has already occurred and is demonstrable, and what the consequences of further climate change will be.

I don’t demand that on 9/11 Yale focus only on 9/11. I don’t even object, too much, to the obviously propagandizing nature of the event—even though a scientist should be willing to accept that eyewitness anecdotes are no substitute for data. But would it be too much to ask that the World Fellows, living for the time in the United States, on one morning focus on the actual and demonstrated dangers posed to the U.S. and many other nations by Islamist mass terrorism? Yes, it evidently would be. Get back into the memory hole, 9/11.

Read Less

Alert Beyond 9/11

On this 9/11 anniversary, I sense a dangerous complacency creeping into public discourse. Because we have not been hit again on the home front since 2001, many now assume that the danger is exaggerated or even nonexistent. The war in Afghanistan, launched in direct response to the 9/11 attacks, is now turning increasingly unpopular.

For those who want a wake-up call to the dangers that still exist, I recommend picking up Andrew Krepinevich’s book 7 Deadly Scenarios. A retired army colonel, Andy is head of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a longtime Pentagon consultant who has worked closely over the years with strategy guru Andy Marshall (who first called our attention to the “revolution in military affairs” brought about by information technology). He is, in short, a well-respected analyst and hardly an alarmist, but anyone who reads his book will have trouble sleeping at night.

Andy isn’t in the prediction business, per se. What he does is offer scenarios that are quite plausible and then asks us to think about a response. Scenarios such as the collapse of Pakistan, with the attendant possibility that some of its nuclear weapons fall into jihadist hands. Or—the truly nightmarish scenario—”War Comes to America”: terrorists get their hands on Russian nuclear weapons and start detonating them in major American cities. Those are only two of the seven deadly scenarios he sketches. What they all have in common is the targeting of American vulnerabilities in ways extremely difficult and costly for us to address.

If you want to know why we need to have a “forward” posture in the war on terrorism—why we need to fight as much as possible in Afghanistan and Iraq, not in the streets of America; why we can’t leave the task of defending us to law-enforcement agencies, which use traditional legal mechanisms—read Krepinevich’s book.

On this 9/11 anniversary, I sense a dangerous complacency creeping into public discourse. Because we have not been hit again on the home front since 2001, many now assume that the danger is exaggerated or even nonexistent. The war in Afghanistan, launched in direct response to the 9/11 attacks, is now turning increasingly unpopular.

For those who want a wake-up call to the dangers that still exist, I recommend picking up Andrew Krepinevich’s book 7 Deadly Scenarios. A retired army colonel, Andy is head of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a longtime Pentagon consultant who has worked closely over the years with strategy guru Andy Marshall (who first called our attention to the “revolution in military affairs” brought about by information technology). He is, in short, a well-respected analyst and hardly an alarmist, but anyone who reads his book will have trouble sleeping at night.

Andy isn’t in the prediction business, per se. What he does is offer scenarios that are quite plausible and then asks us to think about a response. Scenarios such as the collapse of Pakistan, with the attendant possibility that some of its nuclear weapons fall into jihadist hands. Or—the truly nightmarish scenario—”War Comes to America”: terrorists get their hands on Russian nuclear weapons and start detonating them in major American cities. Those are only two of the seven deadly scenarios he sketches. What they all have in common is the targeting of American vulnerabilities in ways extremely difficult and costly for us to address.

If you want to know why we need to have a “forward” posture in the war on terrorism—why we need to fight as much as possible in Afghanistan and Iraq, not in the streets of America; why we can’t leave the task of defending us to law-enforcement agencies, which use traditional legal mechanisms—read Krepinevich’s book.

Read Less

Now There’s a False Choice

Gerald Seib ponders whether lawmakers face a bigger risk from passing a scary, unpopular health-care bill or from doing nothing. He observes:

That’s clear from a new Gallup survey that tries to test the political trade-offs. Gallup found that a hefty 64% of Americans say that their representative’s position on health care will be a major factor in their vote in next year’s congressional elections.

The key finding, though, is that the importance of health care is higher for those who oppose passing a bill than for those who favor it. Among those against passing a health overhaul, 82% said their representative’s position on the subject will be a major factor in next year’s election. Among those who favor passing a bill, 62% said their representative’s position will be a major factor. That suggests that more voters are ready to punish lawmakers for supporting change than are prepared to reward them for doing so.

But there is plenty of conventional-wisdom spinners out there to tell you that voters will rise up in fury if they don’t get health-care reform. (This will occur, we are told, even while polls show that most voters personally like their own insurance.)

However, this is actually one of those “false choices” the president keeps telling us about. The choices aren’t limited to ObamaCare and nothing. Rip it up. Start over. Pass simple, concrete measures like limits on pre-existing-condition exclusions and declare “victory.” Only in the imagination of The One do all problems need to be solved by him and solved now. Something that isn’t scary, isn’t too expensive, and isn’t likely to incur much conservative opposition may be just what’s needed to save everyone’s political skin.

Gerald Seib ponders whether lawmakers face a bigger risk from passing a scary, unpopular health-care bill or from doing nothing. He observes:

That’s clear from a new Gallup survey that tries to test the political trade-offs. Gallup found that a hefty 64% of Americans say that their representative’s position on health care will be a major factor in their vote in next year’s congressional elections.

The key finding, though, is that the importance of health care is higher for those who oppose passing a bill than for those who favor it. Among those against passing a health overhaul, 82% said their representative’s position on the subject will be a major factor in next year’s election. Among those who favor passing a bill, 62% said their representative’s position will be a major factor. That suggests that more voters are ready to punish lawmakers for supporting change than are prepared to reward them for doing so.

But there is plenty of conventional-wisdom spinners out there to tell you that voters will rise up in fury if they don’t get health-care reform. (This will occur, we are told, even while polls show that most voters personally like their own insurance.)

However, this is actually one of those “false choices” the president keeps telling us about. The choices aren’t limited to ObamaCare and nothing. Rip it up. Start over. Pass simple, concrete measures like limits on pre-existing-condition exclusions and declare “victory.” Only in the imagination of The One do all problems need to be solved by him and solved now. Something that isn’t scary, isn’t too expensive, and isn’t likely to incur much conservative opposition may be just what’s needed to save everyone’s political skin.

Read Less

Oh, a Training Exercise

So for an hour, the cable news networks were reporting that a “suspicious boat” was fired on in the Potomac River by the Coast Guard. They were showing an image of the 14th Street Bridge between D.C. and Virginia. The river was supposedly a restricted area because of September 11 ceremonies at the Pentagon just a few dozen yards from the shoreline. The Coast Guard has just admitted that the whole business was a “training exercise.”

A “training exercise” on 9/11? Could that be possible? Somebody was staging a scene for a photograph, I’m sure of it, in a bizarre reprise of the incident earlier this year during which the White House sent Air Force craft to fly around Lower Manhattan for a pretty Air Force One photo op without telling anyone in the city, which terrified tens of thousands of people and led to a firing. One can only wonder whether there is something about the fact that there was a terrorist attack on this country eight years ago that somehow fails to penetrate the consciousnesses of the employees of this new administration.

So for an hour, the cable news networks were reporting that a “suspicious boat” was fired on in the Potomac River by the Coast Guard. They were showing an image of the 14th Street Bridge between D.C. and Virginia. The river was supposedly a restricted area because of September 11 ceremonies at the Pentagon just a few dozen yards from the shoreline. The Coast Guard has just admitted that the whole business was a “training exercise.”

A “training exercise” on 9/11? Could that be possible? Somebody was staging a scene for a photograph, I’m sure of it, in a bizarre reprise of the incident earlier this year during which the White House sent Air Force craft to fly around Lower Manhattan for a pretty Air Force One photo op without telling anyone in the city, which terrified tens of thousands of people and led to a firing. One can only wonder whether there is something about the fact that there was a terrorist attack on this country eight years ago that somehow fails to penetrate the consciousnesses of the employees of this new administration.

Read Less

Running Against Obama

Republican Bob McDonnell is now running full steam against Obama—and is doing so quite effectively, according to the Wall Street Journal. The report explains:

Mr. McDonnell, a former Virginia attorney general and state lawmaker, has pounded his Democratic opponent as a disciple of Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats, and built a lead of 10 to 12 percentage points in most polls. A Survey USA poll released Sept. 3 found that 13% of last year’s Obama voters planned to vote for Mr. McDonnell.

[. . .]

Going into the campaign, Democrats were expected to capitalize not only on Mr. Obama’s popularity but also on a Democratic winning streak that began with Mark Warner’s gubernatorial win in 2001, followed by victories by current Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005, Sen. Jim Webb in 2006 and Mr. Warner again in a 2008 landslide victory for the other Senate seat. (Virginia governors are limited to serving one four-year term and cannot seek re-election.)

Mr. Deeds hasn’t had an easy road. He had to pull off a come-from-behind win in the primary and bring in more experienced campaign staff. And he continues to struggle to present a defining issue that resonates broadly with voters — this week, his message seemed to be education overhaul. The lack of a clear image has left him vulnerable to Mr. McDonnell’s accusation that he is in lockstep with Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats.

The report doesn’t think too much of the Washington Post‘s obsession with a 20-year-old term paper. More significant is the unbroken record dating back to 1977 of the party that won the White House losing the Virginia gubernatorial race:

“Voters in Virginia tend to take on the mission of the founding fathers, who believed in balance. Apparently this thing has become an iron law. It’s just fascinating,” said political science Prof. Larry J. Sabato at the University of Virginia. “It really does give McDonnell a major boost. While this thesis controversy helps Deeds, that can’t counteract this movement away from Obama.”

We have almost two months left in the race, but that Deeds’s main challenge is coming up with issues on which he can distance himself from the increasingly unpopular agenda of a president who pulled out a historic victory in the state 10 months ago says a lot about where the race now stands.

Republican Bob McDonnell is now running full steam against Obama—and is doing so quite effectively, according to the Wall Street Journal. The report explains:

Mr. McDonnell, a former Virginia attorney general and state lawmaker, has pounded his Democratic opponent as a disciple of Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats, and built a lead of 10 to 12 percentage points in most polls. A Survey USA poll released Sept. 3 found that 13% of last year’s Obama voters planned to vote for Mr. McDonnell.

[. . .]

Going into the campaign, Democrats were expected to capitalize not only on Mr. Obama’s popularity but also on a Democratic winning streak that began with Mark Warner’s gubernatorial win in 2001, followed by victories by current Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005, Sen. Jim Webb in 2006 and Mr. Warner again in a 2008 landslide victory for the other Senate seat. (Virginia governors are limited to serving one four-year term and cannot seek re-election.)

Mr. Deeds hasn’t had an easy road. He had to pull off a come-from-behind win in the primary and bring in more experienced campaign staff. And he continues to struggle to present a defining issue that resonates broadly with voters — this week, his message seemed to be education overhaul. The lack of a clear image has left him vulnerable to Mr. McDonnell’s accusation that he is in lockstep with Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats.

The report doesn’t think too much of the Washington Post‘s obsession with a 20-year-old term paper. More significant is the unbroken record dating back to 1977 of the party that won the White House losing the Virginia gubernatorial race:

“Voters in Virginia tend to take on the mission of the founding fathers, who believed in balance. Apparently this thing has become an iron law. It’s just fascinating,” said political science Prof. Larry J. Sabato at the University of Virginia. “It really does give McDonnell a major boost. While this thesis controversy helps Deeds, that can’t counteract this movement away from Obama.”

We have almost two months left in the race, but that Deeds’s main challenge is coming up with issues on which he can distance himself from the increasingly unpopular agenda of a president who pulled out a historic victory in the state 10 months ago says a lot about where the race now stands.

Read Less

It’s Not Governing

It seems self-evident that a speech is not a bill and a pep rally is not governance. But Obama and his media cheerleaders, who attribute great significance to the president’s address this week, seem only dimly aware of that truism. The Obama team must have anticipated this criticism and so spun it beforehand that we would “know where the president stands” and we’d get “details.” Well, as it turns out, not so much.

The fundamental questions remain. As the Wall Street Journal noted:

President Barack Obama said in his address to Congress on Wednesday that the health overhaul should cost about $900 billion over a decade and not increase the budget deficit. It was the strongest signal he has given on the total tab, but Mr. Obama left unclear how he wants to cover it.

He singled out two areas to tap for funding. Most would come from squeezing money out of Medicare, particularly by cutting payments to private insurance companies that cover some of the elderly via so-called Medicare Advantage plans. The president also endorsed new fees for insurance companies on their most generous health plans. He stressed that most of the plan will be paid for by money already being spent on health care.

But based on early estimates, those two items won’t be enough, and earlier White House proposals weren’t addressed in the speech.

[. . .]

The White House said the speech wasn’t intended to spell out every aspect of how the president would pay for the plan. Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the president was still considering a series of other ways to fund the plan that he outlined earlier.

It is easy to see why the White House is so vague and the president’s speech so lacking in details: in order to pay for a trillion-dollar plan, you wind up with some very unpalatable choices.

And even on the bone to conservatives—tort reform—the president’s fine print is “hazy,” the Washington Post tells us:

When President Obama broached medical malpractice laws in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, it was one of the few times that Republican lawmakers stood to applaud. But the ideas the president embraced stopped considerably short of the federal limits on awards in malpractice lawsuits that the GOP and the nation’s physicians have sought for years.

Obama said he wants the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage states to experiment with ways to reduce malpractice litigation. But he was sketchy about the details of the “demonstration projects” he has in mind.

At some point, the White House will need to get serious about governing—that is, developing policy and negotiating its details with skeptical lawmakers. We are a long way from that.

It seems self-evident that a speech is not a bill and a pep rally is not governance. But Obama and his media cheerleaders, who attribute great significance to the president’s address this week, seem only dimly aware of that truism. The Obama team must have anticipated this criticism and so spun it beforehand that we would “know where the president stands” and we’d get “details.” Well, as it turns out, not so much.

The fundamental questions remain. As the Wall Street Journal noted:

President Barack Obama said in his address to Congress on Wednesday that the health overhaul should cost about $900 billion over a decade and not increase the budget deficit. It was the strongest signal he has given on the total tab, but Mr. Obama left unclear how he wants to cover it.

He singled out two areas to tap for funding. Most would come from squeezing money out of Medicare, particularly by cutting payments to private insurance companies that cover some of the elderly via so-called Medicare Advantage plans. The president also endorsed new fees for insurance companies on their most generous health plans. He stressed that most of the plan will be paid for by money already being spent on health care.

But based on early estimates, those two items won’t be enough, and earlier White House proposals weren’t addressed in the speech.

[. . .]

The White House said the speech wasn’t intended to spell out every aspect of how the president would pay for the plan. Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the president was still considering a series of other ways to fund the plan that he outlined earlier.

It is easy to see why the White House is so vague and the president’s speech so lacking in details: in order to pay for a trillion-dollar plan, you wind up with some very unpalatable choices.

And even on the bone to conservatives—tort reform—the president’s fine print is “hazy,” the Washington Post tells us:

When President Obama broached medical malpractice laws in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, it was one of the few times that Republican lawmakers stood to applaud. But the ideas the president embraced stopped considerably short of the federal limits on awards in malpractice lawsuits that the GOP and the nation’s physicians have sought for years.

Obama said he wants the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage states to experiment with ways to reduce malpractice litigation. But he was sketchy about the details of the “demonstration projects” he has in mind.

At some point, the White House will need to get serious about governing—that is, developing policy and negotiating its details with skeptical lawmakers. We are a long way from that.

Read Less

Not Everyone Is So Easily Distracted

Equally distressed about the 9/11 makeover, more than one aggrieved friend sends this press release issued by former President George W. Bush:

Eight years ago, our Nation and our freedom came under attack. On this solemn anniversary, Laura and I hold the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers. We honor those who volunteer to keep us safe and extend the reach of freedom — including members of the armed forces, law enforcement officers, and intelligence and homeland security professionals. Their courage, service, and sacrifice is a fitting tribute to all those who gave their lives on September 11, 2001. On this day, let us renew our determination to prevent evil from returning to our shores.

Simple and refreshingly appropriate to the occasion. He and many others, it seems, aren’t buying into the notion that this day is something other than what it is—a solemn reminder of the murder of 3,000 of our fellow Americans and the evil that remains a threat to America and to the West.

But if you must plant something today, then this charming story provides a good suggestion:

Mascanomet High School senior Olivia O’Malley wants to make sure nobody ever forgets what happened on September 11, 2001. Armed with a box of American flags, she began her mission on Thursday to plant a flag for each person who lost their life 8 years ago. “We can never forget it started as an ordinary day.” Olivia has been planting flags on the lawn at Mascanomet High School each year as a reminder. She says her mission began three years ago when, on the 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, there was no announcement made at school or time of reflection. “I was in the 4th grade when the attacks happened, but I feel like it’s really important to remember because so many people have already forgotten.” 3,000 small flags make quite an impact. Olivia says she’s proud to be able to give back to the community, to let them know that she hasn’t forgotten.

It seems that some Americans simply can’t be convinced to move along and get over it. If only the president weren’t trying so very hard to do just that.

Equally distressed about the 9/11 makeover, more than one aggrieved friend sends this press release issued by former President George W. Bush:

Eight years ago, our Nation and our freedom came under attack. On this solemn anniversary, Laura and I hold the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers. We honor those who volunteer to keep us safe and extend the reach of freedom — including members of the armed forces, law enforcement officers, and intelligence and homeland security professionals. Their courage, service, and sacrifice is a fitting tribute to all those who gave their lives on September 11, 2001. On this day, let us renew our determination to prevent evil from returning to our shores.

Simple and refreshingly appropriate to the occasion. He and many others, it seems, aren’t buying into the notion that this day is something other than what it is—a solemn reminder of the murder of 3,000 of our fellow Americans and the evil that remains a threat to America and to the West.

But if you must plant something today, then this charming story provides a good suggestion:

Mascanomet High School senior Olivia O’Malley wants to make sure nobody ever forgets what happened on September 11, 2001. Armed with a box of American flags, she began her mission on Thursday to plant a flag for each person who lost their life 8 years ago. “We can never forget it started as an ordinary day.” Olivia has been planting flags on the lawn at Mascanomet High School each year as a reminder. She says her mission began three years ago when, on the 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, there was no announcement made at school or time of reflection. “I was in the 4th grade when the attacks happened, but I feel like it’s really important to remember because so many people have already forgotten.” 3,000 small flags make quite an impact. Olivia says she’s proud to be able to give back to the community, to let them know that she hasn’t forgotten.

It seems that some Americans simply can’t be convinced to move along and get over it. If only the president weren’t trying so very hard to do just that.

Read Less

What Iran Really Wants

Iran’s negotiating proposal is now public. Just like its previous incarnation, it is revealing. Anyone familiar with the rhetoric of the Islamic Republic will recognize in these pages the recurrence of Iran’s central grievance—namely, the need for a new world order where Iran, as a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, has its proper place in the sun.

Whether Western leaders take this rhetoric seriously is now an important question. In the discussion surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, all the talk about whether Iran is or is not rational misses the point of what Iran’s regime is about and wants to achieve. Iran may not be wedded to the kind of apocalyptic politics that the rhetoric of some of its leaders frequently suggests; but it remains, at heart, a revolutionary power driven by an ideology that successfully weds Persian nationalism, Shia revivalism, Third World-ism, and revolutionary Marxist-Leninist theories. Its devastating potential always derived from this explosive combination of the subversive with the divine. Its quest for nuclear weapons is driven, at the very least, by the desire to push this agenda more aggressively and more successfully.

Its offer, with no mention of its nuclear program or its obligations under the NPT or UN Security Council Resolutions, reflects this desire to export Iran’s revolution and its underlying worldview and to shape a new world order in its image. The international community is entitled to seek a diplomatic solution to the standoff, of course. But it should not equivocate about, discount, or downplay Iran’s real intentions—for Iran, negotiations are not about Iranian concessions but about Western peaceful surrender through polite parley before a nuclear Iran can exact similar terms in much blunter ways.

Iran’s negotiating proposal is now public. Just like its previous incarnation, it is revealing. Anyone familiar with the rhetoric of the Islamic Republic will recognize in these pages the recurrence of Iran’s central grievance—namely, the need for a new world order where Iran, as a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, has its proper place in the sun.

Whether Western leaders take this rhetoric seriously is now an important question. In the discussion surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, all the talk about whether Iran is or is not rational misses the point of what Iran’s regime is about and wants to achieve. Iran may not be wedded to the kind of apocalyptic politics that the rhetoric of some of its leaders frequently suggests; but it remains, at heart, a revolutionary power driven by an ideology that successfully weds Persian nationalism, Shia revivalism, Third World-ism, and revolutionary Marxist-Leninist theories. Its devastating potential always derived from this explosive combination of the subversive with the divine. Its quest for nuclear weapons is driven, at the very least, by the desire to push this agenda more aggressively and more successfully.

Its offer, with no mention of its nuclear program or its obligations under the NPT or UN Security Council Resolutions, reflects this desire to export Iran’s revolution and its underlying worldview and to shape a new world order in its image. The international community is entitled to seek a diplomatic solution to the standoff, of course. But it should not equivocate about, discount, or downplay Iran’s real intentions—for Iran, negotiations are not about Iranian concessions but about Western peaceful surrender through polite parley before a nuclear Iran can exact similar terms in much blunter ways.

Read Less

A Visit by Bibi

After visits by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and President Shimon Peres this year, it was only a matter of time before Binyamin Netanyahu himself went to Russia. The clandestine nature of his brief jaunt to Moscow this week has naturally gotten all the media attention. Sources cited in the Russian and Israeli press have focused on Moscow’s pending sale of the S-300 air-defense system to Iran and Jerusalem’s repeated request that Medvedev and Putin reconsider it. Adding to the speculation are rumors Netanyahu was updating Russian leaders on intelligence regarding Iran’s nuclear program, briefing them on Israeli plans to attack Iran, and discussing a Mossad connection with the hijacking of M/V Arctic Sea, the Russian-crewed ship seized under bizarre circumstances in July.

We can confidently dismiss the theories that Israel’s prime minister went to Russia as an intelligence briefer or as the envoy in a hijacking matter, functions his subordinates exist to perform. Netanyahu himself going to Russia, clandestinely and without the fanfare of a protocol-intensive state visit, means high-level horse trading. The obvious subjects would be the interrelated ones of the S-300 sale, President Obama’s deadline to Iran, and the prospect of tightened UN sanctions. Israel and Russia can make commitments (or issue threats) on, respectively, an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and Russia’s role in both arms and nuclear sales to Iran and in approving UN sanctions. That Netanyahu visited Moscow personally suggests a desire on Israel’s part to come away with a firm commitment.

What is little remarked on in all the speculation, both inside Israel and abroad, is the sea change in Israel’s orientation to Russia, evident in the frequency and character of these visits. Attributing the emerging Moscow-Jerusalem connection to the Russian heritage of many immigrants is a facile analysis that takes too narrow a view. This factor is a lubricant of policy, not an explanation. Netanyahu is far less likely to be guided by sentiment than by pragmatic calculation, and the calculation he appears to be operating from is that Israel’s security is no longer well served by exclusive alignment with the United States and our Middle Eastern policies. In blunter terms, he sees it as necessary to develop a collateral partnership with Russia because the patronage of Obama’s America cannot be relied on to produce security for Israel—starting with applying pressure to Russia itself.

Russia spent the Cold War trying to achieve the same leverage in the Middle East that the U.S. wielded. Moscow’s clients were poor, fractious, and unreliable, unlike Washington’s prize trio of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and pre-1979 Iran. Russia’s longstanding interest in the region, and its importance to Russian security and ambitions, gives Israel something to bargain with beyond trade. In light of the historic Russian-Saudi arms deal concluded this month (capping a several-year period of improving relations), and Russia’s function as Iran’s chief patron for nearly two decades, Moscow’s courtship with Israel has about it the aspect of a thorough client-poaching. Obama, meanwhile, has concentrated on outreach to the autocratic Arab nations that were all Soviet clients in the Cold War years, most of which remain entrenched Russian clients.

Bibi will do what he must to secure Israel’s future. In cultivating a meaningful relationship with Russia, he is acting with pragmatic statesmanship. This should, in turn, illuminate a disquieting reality for Americans. We have the means, and we still have the time, to rebalance this situation in our favor. But our staunchest and most politically sympathetic Middle Eastern ally is spending an unprecedented amount of leadership time in Russia and is looking to Russia for the kind of diplomatic commitments that the special relationship with us used to obviate entirely. The ground under our position in the Middle East is already shifting.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/j-e-dyer/74881

After visits by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and President Shimon Peres this year, it was only a matter of time before Binyamin Netanyahu himself went to Russia. The clandestine nature of his brief jaunt to Moscow this week has naturally gotten all the media attention. Sources cited in the Russian and Israeli press have focused on Moscow’s pending sale of the S-300 air-defense system to Iran and Jerusalem’s repeated request that Medvedev and Putin reconsider it. Adding to the speculation are rumors Netanyahu was updating Russian leaders on intelligence regarding Iran’s nuclear program, briefing them on Israeli plans to attack Iran, and discussing a Mossad connection with the hijacking of M/V Arctic Sea, the Russian-crewed ship seized under bizarre circumstances in July.

We can confidently dismiss the theories that Israel’s prime minister went to Russia as an intelligence briefer or as the envoy in a hijacking matter, functions his subordinates exist to perform. Netanyahu himself going to Russia, clandestinely and without the fanfare of a protocol-intensive state visit, means high-level horse trading. The obvious subjects would be the interrelated ones of the S-300 sale, President Obama’s deadline to Iran, and the prospect of tightened UN sanctions. Israel and Russia can make commitments (or issue threats) on, respectively, an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and Russia’s role in both arms and nuclear sales to Iran and in approving UN sanctions. That Netanyahu visited Moscow personally suggests a desire on Israel’s part to come away with a firm commitment.

What is little remarked on in all the speculation, both inside Israel and abroad, is the sea change in Israel’s orientation to Russia, evident in the frequency and character of these visits. Attributing the emerging Moscow-Jerusalem connection to the Russian heritage of many immigrants is a facile analysis that takes too narrow a view. This factor is a lubricant of policy, not an explanation. Netanyahu is far less likely to be guided by sentiment than by pragmatic calculation, and the calculation he appears to be operating from is that Israel’s security is no longer well served by exclusive alignment with the United States and our Middle Eastern policies. In blunter terms, he sees it as necessary to develop a collateral partnership with Russia because the patronage of Obama’s America cannot be relied on to produce security for Israel—starting with applying pressure to Russia itself.

Russia spent the Cold War trying to achieve the same leverage in the Middle East that the U.S. wielded. Moscow’s clients were poor, fractious, and unreliable, unlike Washington’s prize trio of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and pre-1979 Iran. Russia’s longstanding interest in the region, and its importance to Russian security and ambitions, gives Israel something to bargain with beyond trade. In light of the historic Russian-Saudi arms deal concluded this month (capping a several-year period of improving relations), and Russia’s function as Iran’s chief patron for nearly two decades, Moscow’s courtship with Israel has about it the aspect of a thorough client-poaching. Obama, meanwhile, has concentrated on outreach to the autocratic Arab nations that were all Soviet clients in the Cold War years, most of which remain entrenched Russian clients.

Bibi will do what he must to secure Israel’s future. In cultivating a meaningful relationship with Russia, he is acting with pragmatic statesmanship. This should, in turn, illuminate a disquieting reality for Americans. We have the means, and we still have the time, to rebalance this situation in our favor. But our staunchest and most politically sympathetic Middle Eastern ally is spending an unprecedented amount of leadership time in Russia and is looking to Russia for the kind of diplomatic commitments that the special relationship with us used to obviate entirely. The ground under our position in the Middle East is already shifting.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/j-e-dyer/74881

Read Less

Plant a Tree

As this report explains, 9/11, on its eighth anniversary, is being recast as “a day of national service”:

“Instead of us simply remembering the horrible events and more importantly the heroes who lost their lives on 9/11, we are all going to turn into local heroes,” said Ted Tenenbaum, a Los Angeles repair shop owner who offered free handyman services Thursday and planned to do so again Friday.

Similar donations of time and labor were planned across the country after President Barack Obama and Congress declared the day would be dedicated to service this year for the first time.

Some Americans are suspicious about the new commemoration, though, fearing it could overshadow a somber day of remembrance for nearly 3,000 people killed aboard four jetliners and at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and a field in western Pennsylvania.

Well, count me among the suspicious — and the outraged. This is quite obviously part of the grand exercise in amnesia, in recasting 9/11 as a feel-good celebration, as opposed to the act of war and Islamic-fundamentalist terror it was.

I’d be less suspicious had not the idea for de-horrifying 9/11 come from the crowd who has gone to war, not against those who would kill Americans, but against those who protected us and extracted life-saving information when we were most at risk. I’d be less suspicious had the president not set forth on a charm offensive with the “Muslim world,” in which through winks and nods and spitting back to them their own twisted version of history, the president assured them that America finally gets just how delinquent we’ve been and just how insensitive we’ve been to the Muslim world. I’d be less suspicious of the “plant a tree on 9/11″ crowd if a “truther” hadn’t made it to the White House and hadn’t received a rousing defense from many “respectable” liberals when he was finally shoved out the door — so as not to embarrass the president on 9/11, which isn’t really about 9/11 anymore.

It isn’t just the public that needs the unfiltered and undiluted reminder each year, it is very sadly the president and a great deal of the political establishment. The moral preening that accompanies the president’s systematic and obsessive attacks on his predecessor’s anti-terror policies thrive in an environment in which the reaction to 9/11 is made out to be pathological and excessive, in which 9/11 itself is drained of meaning, and the efforts to defend America in muscular fashion are attributed to paranoid fantasies. None of that works so well if we recall clearly the events of 9/11, the ideology that animated the murderers, and the political environs from which they sprang. As Fouad Ajami in a blisteringly candid column explains, we’d do well to recall that 9/11 comes from “the wellsprings of Islamist radicalism”:

The impulse that took America from Kabul to Baghdad had been on the mark. Those were not Afghans who had struck American soil on 9/11. They were Arabs. Their terrorism came out of the pathologies of Arab political life. Their financiers were Arabs, and so were those crowds in Cairo and Nablus and Amman that had winked at the terror and had seen those attacks as America getting its comeuppance on that terrible day. Kabul had not sufficed as a return address in that twilight war; it was important to take the war into the Arab world itself, and the despot in Baghdad had drawn the short straw. He had been brazen and defiant at a time of genuine American concern, and a lesson was made of him.

No Arabs had been emotionally invested in Mullah Omar and the Taliban, but the ruler in Baghdad was a favored son of that Arab nation. The decapitation of his regime was a cautionary tale for his Arab brethren. Grant George W. Bush his due. He drew a line when the world of the Arabs was truly in the wind and played upon by powerful temptations. Mr. Obama and his advisers need not pay heroic tribute to the men and women who labored before them. But they have so maligned their predecessors and their motives that the appeal to 9/11 rings hollow and contrived. In those years behind us, American liberalism distanced itself from American patriotism, and the damage is there to see.

And now the appeal to 9/11 is muted and diffused because the Obama crowd would rather 9/11 not be about 9/11. It is shameful, but it is not surprising. This administration just isn’t into the war on terror. So go plant a tree.

As this report explains, 9/11, on its eighth anniversary, is being recast as “a day of national service”:

“Instead of us simply remembering the horrible events and more importantly the heroes who lost their lives on 9/11, we are all going to turn into local heroes,” said Ted Tenenbaum, a Los Angeles repair shop owner who offered free handyman services Thursday and planned to do so again Friday.

Similar donations of time and labor were planned across the country after President Barack Obama and Congress declared the day would be dedicated to service this year for the first time.

Some Americans are suspicious about the new commemoration, though, fearing it could overshadow a somber day of remembrance for nearly 3,000 people killed aboard four jetliners and at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and a field in western Pennsylvania.

Well, count me among the suspicious — and the outraged. This is quite obviously part of the grand exercise in amnesia, in recasting 9/11 as a feel-good celebration, as opposed to the act of war and Islamic-fundamentalist terror it was.

I’d be less suspicious had not the idea for de-horrifying 9/11 come from the crowd who has gone to war, not against those who would kill Americans, but against those who protected us and extracted life-saving information when we were most at risk. I’d be less suspicious had the president not set forth on a charm offensive with the “Muslim world,” in which through winks and nods and spitting back to them their own twisted version of history, the president assured them that America finally gets just how delinquent we’ve been and just how insensitive we’ve been to the Muslim world. I’d be less suspicious of the “plant a tree on 9/11″ crowd if a “truther” hadn’t made it to the White House and hadn’t received a rousing defense from many “respectable” liberals when he was finally shoved out the door — so as not to embarrass the president on 9/11, which isn’t really about 9/11 anymore.

It isn’t just the public that needs the unfiltered and undiluted reminder each year, it is very sadly the president and a great deal of the political establishment. The moral preening that accompanies the president’s systematic and obsessive attacks on his predecessor’s anti-terror policies thrive in an environment in which the reaction to 9/11 is made out to be pathological and excessive, in which 9/11 itself is drained of meaning, and the efforts to defend America in muscular fashion are attributed to paranoid fantasies. None of that works so well if we recall clearly the events of 9/11, the ideology that animated the murderers, and the political environs from which they sprang. As Fouad Ajami in a blisteringly candid column explains, we’d do well to recall that 9/11 comes from “the wellsprings of Islamist radicalism”:

The impulse that took America from Kabul to Baghdad had been on the mark. Those were not Afghans who had struck American soil on 9/11. They were Arabs. Their terrorism came out of the pathologies of Arab political life. Their financiers were Arabs, and so were those crowds in Cairo and Nablus and Amman that had winked at the terror and had seen those attacks as America getting its comeuppance on that terrible day. Kabul had not sufficed as a return address in that twilight war; it was important to take the war into the Arab world itself, and the despot in Baghdad had drawn the short straw. He had been brazen and defiant at a time of genuine American concern, and a lesson was made of him.

No Arabs had been emotionally invested in Mullah Omar and the Taliban, but the ruler in Baghdad was a favored son of that Arab nation. The decapitation of his regime was a cautionary tale for his Arab brethren. Grant George W. Bush his due. He drew a line when the world of the Arabs was truly in the wind and played upon by powerful temptations. Mr. Obama and his advisers need not pay heroic tribute to the men and women who labored before them. But they have so maligned their predecessors and their motives that the appeal to 9/11 rings hollow and contrived. In those years behind us, American liberalism distanced itself from American patriotism, and the damage is there to see.

And now the appeal to 9/11 is muted and diffused because the Obama crowd would rather 9/11 not be about 9/11. It is shameful, but it is not surprising. This administration just isn’t into the war on terror. So go plant a tree.

Read Less

Depends on What the Meaning of “Deadline” Is

Like many of us, the Washington Post‘s editors are wondering when the Obama team is going to stop pining away for an unattainable grand bargain with the Iranian regime (which simply doesn’t want to be engaged) and get serious about sanctions. They review the president’s record of unsuccessful groveling and conclude:

The Iranian president is almost certainly not staking out a bargaining position. His stance is consistent with the regime’s behavior ever since its then-clandestine nuclear program was discovered in 2002 — and it has been reinforced by the coup that Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Khamenei have led this summer against the Islamic republic’s more moderate elements. Yet the Obama administration persists; the State Department’s spokesman said Thursday that “we will be testing [Iran's] willingness to engage in the next few weeks.”

There’s no reason to publicly rule out talks. But the administration has said all along that it would seek tough sanctions against Iran unless it responded meaningfully to an offer of dialogue. The time has come for it to show whether it can deliver on that promise. Can Russia, which has been the focus of much diplomatic stroking during the past seven months, be persuaded to support measures such as a ban on arms or gasoline sales to Iran? Will European governments, which remain among Iran’s largest trading partners, finally curtail exports and investments?

Well, there actually is a reason to rule out talks: it would prevent the impression from forming that Obama is deluded about the Iranian regime’s intentions and lacks any bottom line. It would signal to the Congress and the “international community” that we are now serious about moving to the next stage. So long as the president dithers, extending deadlines and pretending we haven’t been rebuffed, he cements the Iranians’ conviction that we can be “played.”

After all, even with a brutal crackdown of its own people, the regime bought another eight months – maybe a full year — to develop its nuclear program with zero consequences. One suspects — and fears — that the mullahs’ confidence will only grow as they realize that a “deadline” isn’t anything to worry about while Obama is in the White House.

Like many of us, the Washington Post‘s editors are wondering when the Obama team is going to stop pining away for an unattainable grand bargain with the Iranian regime (which simply doesn’t want to be engaged) and get serious about sanctions. They review the president’s record of unsuccessful groveling and conclude:

The Iranian president is almost certainly not staking out a bargaining position. His stance is consistent with the regime’s behavior ever since its then-clandestine nuclear program was discovered in 2002 — and it has been reinforced by the coup that Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Khamenei have led this summer against the Islamic republic’s more moderate elements. Yet the Obama administration persists; the State Department’s spokesman said Thursday that “we will be testing [Iran's] willingness to engage in the next few weeks.”

There’s no reason to publicly rule out talks. But the administration has said all along that it would seek tough sanctions against Iran unless it responded meaningfully to an offer of dialogue. The time has come for it to show whether it can deliver on that promise. Can Russia, which has been the focus of much diplomatic stroking during the past seven months, be persuaded to support measures such as a ban on arms or gasoline sales to Iran? Will European governments, which remain among Iran’s largest trading partners, finally curtail exports and investments?

Well, there actually is a reason to rule out talks: it would prevent the impression from forming that Obama is deluded about the Iranian regime’s intentions and lacks any bottom line. It would signal to the Congress and the “international community” that we are now serious about moving to the next stage. So long as the president dithers, extending deadlines and pretending we haven’t been rebuffed, he cements the Iranians’ conviction that we can be “played.”

After all, even with a brutal crackdown of its own people, the regime bought another eight months – maybe a full year — to develop its nuclear program with zero consequences. One suspects — and fears — that the mullahs’ confidence will only grow as they realize that a “deadline” isn’t anything to worry about while Obama is in the White House.

Read Less

May on Afghanistan

Cliff May, in a must-read column, wades into the debate among conservatives on the Afghanistan war. He explains that fighting a war against Islamic fundamentalists means that we must fight them where we find them:

I would stress this: Afghanistan is not a war. It is one battle in what — I’m not the first to deduce — is going to be a long war, a global conflict to defend America and the West against an insidiously dangerous enemy that has emerged from within the Islamic world.

It is a war over ideas as much as it is a war over land. In fact, as real estate, Afghanistan is of minimal value. But what happens there will help determine how we — and our enemies and the millions of people around the world who have not taken sides — understand what this struggle is about and who is likely to prevail.

[. . .]

It was consequential that American forces and our Iraqi allies defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq (and if democracy promotion is not your top priority, don’t fret that the government there is flawed). It will be useful for us to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan (and don’t expect to leave behind a Costa Rica of the Hindu Kush; just leave behind local forces trained to defend themselves). It is imperative, too, that we exert maximum pressure on the Islamist regime in Tehran that has been waging war against us for 30 years, and is today supporting terrorists from Afghanistan to Iraq to Gaza to Argentina.

Moreover, it’s always a good idea to show religious fanatics they have it all wrong:

What’s more, in a war against religious fanatics — the Taliban is not, as NBC’s David Gregory recently said, a “nationalist movement” — no editorial, no speech, no talking point demonstrates the absence of divine endorsement quite so convincingly as defeat on the battlefield.

[. . .]

Our enemies believe history and God are on their side. They are eager to fight for victory — which they define as bringing death, destruction, and humiliation to you and your children. They say this plainly in their speeches and sermons. They are not seriously attempting to delude anyone. Rather, they are counting on us to delude ourselves. Eight years after 9/11, with many on the left and the right arguing for retreat, and a president who doesn’t appear to know his own mind, can anyone say with confidence that they are wrong?

May is rightly concerned, as are the opponents of the war in Afghanistan, that the president doesn’t quite have his heart in this. Where are the impassioned speeches (even one) before Congress and the American people? (As Bill Kristol points out, the president’s disdain for having to spend real money to win a critical victory is not heartening.)  But that doesn’t suggest that conservatives should encourage his worst tendencies or supply intellectual aid and comfort to those attempting to justify retreat.

And as for the disdain by some on the Right for democracy promotion, May makes the pragmatic case: “Pro-mission conservatives argue that promoting economic development and improved governance are simply components of counterinsurgency, the method of warfare — as we learned the hard way in Iraq — most likely to succeed against militant jihadis on Third World battlefields.” But beyond that, we’ve seen — with help from the White House and their “no ideology allowed” secretary of state — what an American foreign policy shorn of idealism and disdainful of democracy promotion and human rights looks like. I see nothing admirable in telling those who are oppressed, imprisoned, and enslaved by despots and the likes of the Taliban that America really has other priorities. If we continue down that road, we will find the U.S. not only diminished in the eyes of the world but situated in a far less free and, therefore, less secure world.

Still, May is right to be worried. If the president doesn’t understand all this and is not willing to risk some political capital then America certainly can’t prevail. We can do without many things, but a commander in chief committed to victory isn’t one of them.

Cliff May, in a must-read column, wades into the debate among conservatives on the Afghanistan war. He explains that fighting a war against Islamic fundamentalists means that we must fight them where we find them:

I would stress this: Afghanistan is not a war. It is one battle in what — I’m not the first to deduce — is going to be a long war, a global conflict to defend America and the West against an insidiously dangerous enemy that has emerged from within the Islamic world.

It is a war over ideas as much as it is a war over land. In fact, as real estate, Afghanistan is of minimal value. But what happens there will help determine how we — and our enemies and the millions of people around the world who have not taken sides — understand what this struggle is about and who is likely to prevail.

[. . .]

It was consequential that American forces and our Iraqi allies defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq (and if democracy promotion is not your top priority, don’t fret that the government there is flawed). It will be useful for us to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan (and don’t expect to leave behind a Costa Rica of the Hindu Kush; just leave behind local forces trained to defend themselves). It is imperative, too, that we exert maximum pressure on the Islamist regime in Tehran that has been waging war against us for 30 years, and is today supporting terrorists from Afghanistan to Iraq to Gaza to Argentina.

Moreover, it’s always a good idea to show religious fanatics they have it all wrong:

What’s more, in a war against religious fanatics — the Taliban is not, as NBC’s David Gregory recently said, a “nationalist movement” — no editorial, no speech, no talking point demonstrates the absence of divine endorsement quite so convincingly as defeat on the battlefield.

[. . .]

Our enemies believe history and God are on their side. They are eager to fight for victory — which they define as bringing death, destruction, and humiliation to you and your children. They say this plainly in their speeches and sermons. They are not seriously attempting to delude anyone. Rather, they are counting on us to delude ourselves. Eight years after 9/11, with many on the left and the right arguing for retreat, and a president who doesn’t appear to know his own mind, can anyone say with confidence that they are wrong?

May is rightly concerned, as are the opponents of the war in Afghanistan, that the president doesn’t quite have his heart in this. Where are the impassioned speeches (even one) before Congress and the American people? (As Bill Kristol points out, the president’s disdain for having to spend real money to win a critical victory is not heartening.)  But that doesn’t suggest that conservatives should encourage his worst tendencies or supply intellectual aid and comfort to those attempting to justify retreat.

And as for the disdain by some on the Right for democracy promotion, May makes the pragmatic case: “Pro-mission conservatives argue that promoting economic development and improved governance are simply components of counterinsurgency, the method of warfare — as we learned the hard way in Iraq — most likely to succeed against militant jihadis on Third World battlefields.” But beyond that, we’ve seen — with help from the White House and their “no ideology allowed” secretary of state — what an American foreign policy shorn of idealism and disdainful of democracy promotion and human rights looks like. I see nothing admirable in telling those who are oppressed, imprisoned, and enslaved by despots and the likes of the Taliban that America really has other priorities. If we continue down that road, we will find the U.S. not only diminished in the eyes of the world but situated in a far less free and, therefore, less secure world.

Still, May is right to be worried. If the president doesn’t understand all this and is not willing to risk some political capital then America certainly can’t prevail. We can do without many things, but a commander in chief committed to victory isn’t one of them.

Read Less

Who’s Got the Momentum and the Ideas?

Michael Gerson makes the case that Obama and his party, in their great moment of political dominance, are bereft of ideas. He writes:

This failure of imagination was on full display during Barack Obama’s address to Congress. In a moment that demanded new policy to cut an ideological knot, or at least new arguments to restart the public debate, Obama saw fit to provide neither. His health speech turned out to be an environmental speech, devoted mainly to recycling. On every important element of his health proposal, he chose to double down and attack the motives of opponents. (Obama was the other public official who talked of a “lie” that evening.) Concerns about controlling health costs, the indirect promotion of abortion and the effect of a new entitlement on future deficits were dismissed but not answered. On health care, Obama takes his progressivism pure and simplistic.

Well, to be fair, nationalizing health care with a dizzying array of mandates, regulations, and taxes — like nationalizing a car company — is based on an idea; it is just a flawed and very old one, namely that government has some superior ability to make complex decisions that mere individuals cannot and should not make for themselves. So, as Gerson points out, absent a really compelling intellectual foundation for ObamaCare, the president is reduced to strong-arm procedural stunts (e.g., reconciliation), cloying pleas to “Do it for Ted!” and meanspirited attacks on citizens and political opponents.

Gerson, however, makes two errors. First, he claims that Obama will be undercut not by populist protests but by “wonks” who will “exploit his lack of policy creativity.” Well, that’d be swell; some of my best friends are wonks. But frankly, it’s not going to be the wonks but those boisterous town-hall attendees, grumpy senior citizens, and dozens of self-interested lawmakers from unsafe districts and swing states (who have been cowed by those same rabble-rousers) who ultimately will determine the contours of health-care reform. Obama will be stopped, not by CATO (or any of the equally admirable conservative think tanks), but by a popular revulsion against this big-government power grab. That’s how politics works, for better or worse.

Second, Gerson repeats the president’s slander that Republicans lack ideas on health care. Republicans have lots of policy proposals and lots of bills, most of which center on one very big idea: individual freedom. They argue that we can increase access to health care and lower costs by creating markets — that is, by empowering individuals to buy insurance and to be responsible for their own health care. It is as big and important an idea as was welfare reform (promoting work over dependency), and as far-reaching as supply-side economics (lower marginal tax rates promote wealth creation and boost revenues). It may not carry the day, because Republicans lack the votes, but it is simply wrong to say that those promoting this concept and the legislation that would put it into practice lack ideas or are part of the “party of anger.”

We therefore see the uneasy relationship between popular rough-and-tumble politics (can the public scare lawmakers and stop Obama?) and the idea factory and intellectual heft that successful political parties require. Strangely, just a year after his election, it seems that the advantage on both are not with the president and his party. But he has a lot of Democratic lawmakers on his side. And that will make for an interesting few months.

Michael Gerson makes the case that Obama and his party, in their great moment of political dominance, are bereft of ideas. He writes:

This failure of imagination was on full display during Barack Obama’s address to Congress. In a moment that demanded new policy to cut an ideological knot, or at least new arguments to restart the public debate, Obama saw fit to provide neither. His health speech turned out to be an environmental speech, devoted mainly to recycling. On every important element of his health proposal, he chose to double down and attack the motives of opponents. (Obama was the other public official who talked of a “lie” that evening.) Concerns about controlling health costs, the indirect promotion of abortion and the effect of a new entitlement on future deficits were dismissed but not answered. On health care, Obama takes his progressivism pure and simplistic.

Well, to be fair, nationalizing health care with a dizzying array of mandates, regulations, and taxes — like nationalizing a car company — is based on an idea; it is just a flawed and very old one, namely that government has some superior ability to make complex decisions that mere individuals cannot and should not make for themselves. So, as Gerson points out, absent a really compelling intellectual foundation for ObamaCare, the president is reduced to strong-arm procedural stunts (e.g., reconciliation), cloying pleas to “Do it for Ted!” and meanspirited attacks on citizens and political opponents.

Gerson, however, makes two errors. First, he claims that Obama will be undercut not by populist protests but by “wonks” who will “exploit his lack of policy creativity.” Well, that’d be swell; some of my best friends are wonks. But frankly, it’s not going to be the wonks but those boisterous town-hall attendees, grumpy senior citizens, and dozens of self-interested lawmakers from unsafe districts and swing states (who have been cowed by those same rabble-rousers) who ultimately will determine the contours of health-care reform. Obama will be stopped, not by CATO (or any of the equally admirable conservative think tanks), but by a popular revulsion against this big-government power grab. That’s how politics works, for better or worse.

Second, Gerson repeats the president’s slander that Republicans lack ideas on health care. Republicans have lots of policy proposals and lots of bills, most of which center on one very big idea: individual freedom. They argue that we can increase access to health care and lower costs by creating markets — that is, by empowering individuals to buy insurance and to be responsible for their own health care. It is as big and important an idea as was welfare reform (promoting work over dependency), and as far-reaching as supply-side economics (lower marginal tax rates promote wealth creation and boost revenues). It may not carry the day, because Republicans lack the votes, but it is simply wrong to say that those promoting this concept and the legislation that would put it into practice lack ideas or are part of the “party of anger.”

We therefore see the uneasy relationship between popular rough-and-tumble politics (can the public scare lawmakers and stop Obama?) and the idea factory and intellectual heft that successful political parties require. Strangely, just a year after his election, it seems that the advantage on both are not with the president and his party. But he has a lot of Democratic lawmakers on his side. And that will make for an interesting few months.

Read Less

Not Even a Twig

Obama, in what may come to be seen as the most partisan speech ever delivered by a president not in the throws of a re-election campaign, offered with grand fanfare “tort reform” to Republicans as evidence of his bipartisan generosity. This, we were told, was the olive branch offered to conservatives. But there was practically no there there. Kim Strassel observes:

It says everything that Mr. Obama wouldn’t plump for [tort] reform as part of legislation. The president knows the Senate would never have passed it in any event. Yet even proposing it was too much for the White House’s legal lobby. Mr. Obama is instead directing his secretary of health and human services to move forward on test projects. That would be Kathleen Sebelius, who spent eight years as the head of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association.

The issue has assumed such importance that even some Democrats acknowledge the harm. With bracing honesty, former DNC chair Howard Dean recently acknowledged his party “did not want to take on the trial lawyers.” Former Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley, in a New York Times piece, suggested a “grand bipartisan compromise” in which Democrats got universal coverage in return for offering legal reform. The White House yawned, and moved on.

It isn’t clear if Republicans would or should take that deal, but we won’t know since it won’t be offered. The tort-reform issue has instead clarified this presidency. Namely, that the bipartisan president is in fact very partisan, that the new-politics president still takes orders from the old Democratic lobby.

And the notion that we would have some puny test case when Florida and Texas among other states have already demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that it “works” is really an insult to the common sense of voters. Fred Barnes rightly calls the grandstand move a “trifle.”

This is emblematic of a president who relies entirely on a fog of soothing words to mark radical policies and who bludgeons his opponents while decrying partisanship. The anemic effort to mollify moderates and conservatives by offering a shriveled version of tort reform reveals the extent to which good-faith bargaining by the White House has completely vanished (really, never appeared). It seems he hasn’t actually met with Republican leadership on health care since April. But why waste their time — he doesn’t intend to offer them anything meaningful.

We have to remember, after all, that he “won” and doesn’t need to give away anything. Or so he says. That attitude got him a liberal wish list dressed up as a stimulus bill (that in turn alienated independent voters). We will see if he can pull it off on health-care reform.

Obama, in what may come to be seen as the most partisan speech ever delivered by a president not in the throws of a re-election campaign, offered with grand fanfare “tort reform” to Republicans as evidence of his bipartisan generosity. This, we were told, was the olive branch offered to conservatives. But there was practically no there there. Kim Strassel observes:

It says everything that Mr. Obama wouldn’t plump for [tort] reform as part of legislation. The president knows the Senate would never have passed it in any event. Yet even proposing it was too much for the White House’s legal lobby. Mr. Obama is instead directing his secretary of health and human services to move forward on test projects. That would be Kathleen Sebelius, who spent eight years as the head of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association.

The issue has assumed such importance that even some Democrats acknowledge the harm. With bracing honesty, former DNC chair Howard Dean recently acknowledged his party “did not want to take on the trial lawyers.” Former Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley, in a New York Times piece, suggested a “grand bipartisan compromise” in which Democrats got universal coverage in return for offering legal reform. The White House yawned, and moved on.

It isn’t clear if Republicans would or should take that deal, but we won’t know since it won’t be offered. The tort-reform issue has instead clarified this presidency. Namely, that the bipartisan president is in fact very partisan, that the new-politics president still takes orders from the old Democratic lobby.

And the notion that we would have some puny test case when Florida and Texas among other states have already demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that it “works” is really an insult to the common sense of voters. Fred Barnes rightly calls the grandstand move a “trifle.”

This is emblematic of a president who relies entirely on a fog of soothing words to mark radical policies and who bludgeons his opponents while decrying partisanship. The anemic effort to mollify moderates and conservatives by offering a shriveled version of tort reform reveals the extent to which good-faith bargaining by the White House has completely vanished (really, never appeared). It seems he hasn’t actually met with Republican leadership on health care since April. But why waste their time — he doesn’t intend to offer them anything meaningful.

We have to remember, after all, that he “won” and doesn’t need to give away anything. Or so he says. That attitude got him a liberal wish list dressed up as a stimulus bill (that in turn alienated independent voters). We will see if he can pull it off on health-care reform.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

You mean a speech didn’t solve this? “One day after President Obama pitched his plan for comprehensive health-care reform to a joint session of Congress, administration officials struggled Thursday to detail how he would achieve his goal of extending coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans without increasing the deficit.” Try as Obama might to make this about campaigning or speechifying, it turns out to be about governance.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is quite unpopular — 53 percent disapprove of her performance. The pollster says, “I have seen one other speaker in my career with name ID that high, and it was Newt Gingrich.”

Gov. Jon Corzine is also unpopular. He trails challenger Chris Christie by 8 points in the latest Rasmussen poll. But the race does appear to be narrowing somewhat.

ObamaCare, in a Rasmussen poll taken largely before Obama insulted town-hall attendees and declared everyone would have to get health-care insurance or pay a big fine, isn’t popular either. Forty-four percent approve and 53 percent don’t.

And card check, which isn’t popular at all with voters (even union voters), was slowed down in July, according to Sen. Tom Harkin, by Ted Kennedy’s illness. Well, that and the fact that there isn’t a single Republican senator for it, not to mention a bunch of Red State Democrats who would rather hold health-care town halls than vote on a measure that toxic. But it’s a good excuse to use on Harkin’s Big Labor patrons.

Rep. Joe Wilson may be rude and uncivil, but he was right — the president was lying about coverage of illegal aliens (among other things) in his speech. And Jake Tapper goes in for the kill with another installment of comedy gold.

On Wilson: “If this discussion becomes a question of ‘who lied,’ then the Democrats lose. Healthcare reform is their big enchilada. The administration can’t afford to get caught up in a game of liar liar, pants on fire. Been there, done that — thrice so far in 2009. Remember the Henry Louis Gates flap in July?” (h/t Glenn Reynolds)

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors on Obama’s disingenuous rhetoric on Medicare: “So no cuts, for anyone — except, that is, for the 24% of senior beneficiaries who are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program, which Democrats want to slash by $177 billion or more because it is run by private companies. Mr. Obama called that money ‘unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies — subsidies that do everything to pad their profits but don’t improve the care of seniors.’ In fact, Advantage does provide better care, which is one reason that enrollment has doubled since 2003.” No wonder seniors — who are intimately familiar with all this — have turned so dramatically against ObamaCare.

Michael Rubin on the failure of Obama’s Iranian “engagement” policy: “An Israeli strike would be a horrible outcome, but given the failure of this latest diplomatic initiative, and the Israeli government’s belief that they face an existential threat, the likelihood of military action has now gone through the roof.”

Charles Krauthammer on Van Jones: “You can’t sign a petition demanding not one but four investigations of the charge that the Bush administration deliberately allowed Sept. 11, 2001 — i.e., collaborated in the worst massacre ever perpetrated on American soil — and be permitted in polite society, let alone have a high-level job in the White House. … This is no trivial matter. It’s beyond radicalism, beyond partisanship. It takes us into the realm of political psychosis, a malignant paranoia that, unlike the Marxist posturing, is not amusing. It’s dangerous. In America, movements and parties are required to police their extremes. Bill Buckley did that with Birchers. Liberals need to do that with ‘truthers.’ ” And that they don’t tells us volumes about where liberalism is today.

You mean a speech didn’t solve this? “One day after President Obama pitched his plan for comprehensive health-care reform to a joint session of Congress, administration officials struggled Thursday to detail how he would achieve his goal of extending coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans without increasing the deficit.” Try as Obama might to make this about campaigning or speechifying, it turns out to be about governance.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is quite unpopular — 53 percent disapprove of her performance. The pollster says, “I have seen one other speaker in my career with name ID that high, and it was Newt Gingrich.”

Gov. Jon Corzine is also unpopular. He trails challenger Chris Christie by 8 points in the latest Rasmussen poll. But the race does appear to be narrowing somewhat.

ObamaCare, in a Rasmussen poll taken largely before Obama insulted town-hall attendees and declared everyone would have to get health-care insurance or pay a big fine, isn’t popular either. Forty-four percent approve and 53 percent don’t.

And card check, which isn’t popular at all with voters (even union voters), was slowed down in July, according to Sen. Tom Harkin, by Ted Kennedy’s illness. Well, that and the fact that there isn’t a single Republican senator for it, not to mention a bunch of Red State Democrats who would rather hold health-care town halls than vote on a measure that toxic. But it’s a good excuse to use on Harkin’s Big Labor patrons.

Rep. Joe Wilson may be rude and uncivil, but he was right — the president was lying about coverage of illegal aliens (among other things) in his speech. And Jake Tapper goes in for the kill with another installment of comedy gold.

On Wilson: “If this discussion becomes a question of ‘who lied,’ then the Democrats lose. Healthcare reform is their big enchilada. The administration can’t afford to get caught up in a game of liar liar, pants on fire. Been there, done that — thrice so far in 2009. Remember the Henry Louis Gates flap in July?” (h/t Glenn Reynolds)

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors on Obama’s disingenuous rhetoric on Medicare: “So no cuts, for anyone — except, that is, for the 24% of senior beneficiaries who are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program, which Democrats want to slash by $177 billion or more because it is run by private companies. Mr. Obama called that money ‘unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies — subsidies that do everything to pad their profits but don’t improve the care of seniors.’ In fact, Advantage does provide better care, which is one reason that enrollment has doubled since 2003.” No wonder seniors — who are intimately familiar with all this — have turned so dramatically against ObamaCare.

Michael Rubin on the failure of Obama’s Iranian “engagement” policy: “An Israeli strike would be a horrible outcome, but given the failure of this latest diplomatic initiative, and the Israeli government’s belief that they face an existential threat, the likelihood of military action has now gone through the roof.”

Charles Krauthammer on Van Jones: “You can’t sign a petition demanding not one but four investigations of the charge that the Bush administration deliberately allowed Sept. 11, 2001 — i.e., collaborated in the worst massacre ever perpetrated on American soil — and be permitted in polite society, let alone have a high-level job in the White House. … This is no trivial matter. It’s beyond radicalism, beyond partisanship. It takes us into the realm of political psychosis, a malignant paranoia that, unlike the Marxist posturing, is not amusing. It’s dangerous. In America, movements and parties are required to police their extremes. Bill Buckley did that with Birchers. Liberals need to do that with ‘truthers.’ ” And that they don’t tells us volumes about where liberalism is today.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.