Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 12, 2009

Profiles in Courage

The editors of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post suggest that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize should have gone to Iran’s imprisoned and battered reform protesters (specifically, said the Post, to Neda Agha-Soltan) instead of to Barack Obama. Both op-eds focus on the encouragement such an award would have been for the cause of political reform in Iran; the Journal also speculates that a Nobel might have made a difference to the fate of the three Iranian dissidents sentenced to death over the weekend for their participation in the post-election protests.

Iran’s reformers have unquestionably exemplified courage in their fight against a regime that, since the June 12 election, has demonstrated the depraved cruelty of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and other Marxist paradises of the last century. The death sentences handed down for political dissent cap months of reporting on the brutal torture, rape, and even beating deaths of imprisoned protesters. Iranians mounting the Qods (Jerusalem) Day protests on September 18 were already aware of the horrific fates of protesters like those outlined here, here, here, here, and here. Yet as the regime cracks down, the Web is alive with the sound of optimism about the mood in Iran and the prospects for reform, as in the chat-forum comments here and this Frontline piece from Tehran. In a like spirit, former president Mohammad Khatami, a political moderate now publicly aligned with besieged reform leaders Mousavi and Kourabi, posted a defiant declaration on his website after the death sentences were announced, assuring Iranians that the reform movement would not die.

In the face of this bravery, our Nobel-winning president has gone beyond his original hands-off posture on Iran’s internal business, and even beyond his administration’s affirmation in early August that Ahmadinejad is Iran’s “elected president.” Now Obama’s USAID organization has decided to cut off funding for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. The IHRDC, whose principal current project is documenting abuse of reform protesters since the June election, was first funded under Bush five years ago and has extensively documented the brutality of the Islamic revolutionary regime, including its assassination campaign against dissidents abroad and the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.

The CATO Institute’s Ted Galen Carpenter interprets this USAID decision as a “relatively minor concession” by the Obama administration to establish “Washington’s goodwill” in talks with Iran. The State Department has declined to give a reason for the funding cut-off. We should expect none, of course. A Nobel Peace Prize means never having to explain your lack of interest in human rights.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post suggest that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize should have gone to Iran’s imprisoned and battered reform protesters (specifically, said the Post, to Neda Agha-Soltan) instead of to Barack Obama. Both op-eds focus on the encouragement such an award would have been for the cause of political reform in Iran; the Journal also speculates that a Nobel might have made a difference to the fate of the three Iranian dissidents sentenced to death over the weekend for their participation in the post-election protests.

Iran’s reformers have unquestionably exemplified courage in their fight against a regime that, since the June 12 election, has demonstrated the depraved cruelty of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and other Marxist paradises of the last century. The death sentences handed down for political dissent cap months of reporting on the brutal torture, rape, and even beating deaths of imprisoned protesters. Iranians mounting the Qods (Jerusalem) Day protests on September 18 were already aware of the horrific fates of protesters like those outlined here, here, here, here, and here. Yet as the regime cracks down, the Web is alive with the sound of optimism about the mood in Iran and the prospects for reform, as in the chat-forum comments here and this Frontline piece from Tehran. In a like spirit, former president Mohammad Khatami, a political moderate now publicly aligned with besieged reform leaders Mousavi and Kourabi, posted a defiant declaration on his website after the death sentences were announced, assuring Iranians that the reform movement would not die.

In the face of this bravery, our Nobel-winning president has gone beyond his original hands-off posture on Iran’s internal business, and even beyond his administration’s affirmation in early August that Ahmadinejad is Iran’s “elected president.” Now Obama’s USAID organization has decided to cut off funding for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. The IHRDC, whose principal current project is documenting abuse of reform protesters since the June election, was first funded under Bush five years ago and has extensively documented the brutality of the Islamic revolutionary regime, including its assassination campaign against dissidents abroad and the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.

The CATO Institute’s Ted Galen Carpenter interprets this USAID decision as a “relatively minor concession” by the Obama administration to establish “Washington’s goodwill” in talks with Iran. The State Department has declined to give a reason for the funding cut-off. We should expect none, of course. A Nobel Peace Prize means never having to explain your lack of interest in human rights.

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Deficits and the Debt

Lawrence Kadish has a good article in today’s Wall Street Journal, pointing out that the national debt is on an unsustainable path. Interest payments already consume more than 18 percent of federal revenues, and if the debt rises as predicted by the Congressional Budget Office (which has invariably underpredicted in the past), it will consume a lot more than that. And that’s assuming investors don’t require higher rates to compensate for a perceived increased risk of a default and/or an induced inflation. During the great inflation of the 1970s, the government had to pay as much as 15 percent interest to get investors to buy its longer-term paper. Rates even half that high would be disastrous.

Mr. Kadish makes one error. He writes that “except for a few years in the late 1990s, for decades Washington has spent more than it has taken in each year and borrowed the rest.” Alas, it borrowed in those years, too. Those were the years between 1998 and 2001, when the government ran “surpluses” totaling $559.3 billion. And yet the national debt increased every one of those years, for a total of $400 billion.

How does your income exceed your outgo (the definition of “surplus”) by $559.3 billion, and yet your net indebtedness increases by $400 billion? Simple: You cook the books. The money was taken from various trusts funds operating in surplus, principally Social Security, and replaced with federal bonds. But the money received was counted as “income” for budget purposes. There are former corporate executives playing volleyball this very minute at Club Fed for less than that.

There can be no long-term cure for Washington’s spending addiction until the politicians have taken away from them the power to keep the government’s books as they please, just as corporate management had it taken away more than a century ago. That won’t be easy because the politicians — aided and abetted by their water bearers in the media — will fight it tooth and nail, and because most people regard accounting as a boring, even an eye-glazing subject.

Watching the United States go the way of 17th-century Spain, with its power to defend its interests crippled by debts it can’t pay and its enemies emboldened by its weakness, won’t be boring. It will, however, be tragic for all mankind.

Lawrence Kadish has a good article in today’s Wall Street Journal, pointing out that the national debt is on an unsustainable path. Interest payments already consume more than 18 percent of federal revenues, and if the debt rises as predicted by the Congressional Budget Office (which has invariably underpredicted in the past), it will consume a lot more than that. And that’s assuming investors don’t require higher rates to compensate for a perceived increased risk of a default and/or an induced inflation. During the great inflation of the 1970s, the government had to pay as much as 15 percent interest to get investors to buy its longer-term paper. Rates even half that high would be disastrous.

Mr. Kadish makes one error. He writes that “except for a few years in the late 1990s, for decades Washington has spent more than it has taken in each year and borrowed the rest.” Alas, it borrowed in those years, too. Those were the years between 1998 and 2001, when the government ran “surpluses” totaling $559.3 billion. And yet the national debt increased every one of those years, for a total of $400 billion.

How does your income exceed your outgo (the definition of “surplus”) by $559.3 billion, and yet your net indebtedness increases by $400 billion? Simple: You cook the books. The money was taken from various trusts funds operating in surplus, principally Social Security, and replaced with federal bonds. But the money received was counted as “income” for budget purposes. There are former corporate executives playing volleyball this very minute at Club Fed for less than that.

There can be no long-term cure for Washington’s spending addiction until the politicians have taken away from them the power to keep the government’s books as they please, just as corporate management had it taken away more than a century ago. That won’t be easy because the politicians — aided and abetted by their water bearers in the media — will fight it tooth and nail, and because most people regard accounting as a boring, even an eye-glazing subject.

Watching the United States go the way of 17th-century Spain, with its power to defend its interests crippled by debts it can’t pay and its enemies emboldened by its weakness, won’t be boring. It will, however, be tragic for all mankind.

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Was the Nobel a Down Payment for More Pressure on Israel?

While the rest of the world still stumbles for an adequate reaction to Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, the president’s envoy to the Middle East met Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas, following an equally fruitless stop in Cairo.

Obama’s peace prize has launched a thousand parodies as well as lickspittle tributes from his political allies on the left like J Street. But Israelis — who have rightly pegged the president as anything but a friend of the Jewish state — have good reason to fear the award will encourage him to devote even more effort to ginning up a peace process with no chance of success. They know that more peace processing means only thing: more pressure for Israeli concessions, on top of all those already made, to appease Palestinian leaders who actually have little or no interest in real negotiations.

Abbas and the P.A. are locked in a desperate duel for the allegiance of their people with the Islamists of Hamas. That means that even if Abbas were truly interested in accepting a two-state solution with Israel, which is doubtful, there is no deal he can sign that Hamas will not paint as a betrayal of Palestinian nationalism. That is why Abbas refused Ehud Olmert’s offer of a state including parts of Jerusalem and virtually all the West Bank and Gaza in 2008. His predecessor Yasir Arafat did the same eight years earlier.

Abbas continued his race to the bottom with Hamas by reversing his previous stand; he called for the United Nations to take up the bogus Goldstone Commission’s accusations of war crimes over Israel’s counterattack against Hamas terrorists in Gaza last December. Playing off the latest riot-sparking lies about Israeli threats to Muslim shrines in Jerusalem, Abbas also said in Ramallah on Sunday: “There will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty until the occupation of Jerusalem ends. We are determined to safeguard the Aksa Mosque and Jerusalem.”

But the conceit of the peace processers is that a new round of Israeli generosity will always sweep away the realities of Palestinian politics. Such delusions have destroyed the Israeli political Left. But elsewhere, the realism informing Israeli voters is viewed as intransigence. The Nobel Committee believed that Obama was deserving of their prize specifically because of his Cairo speech, which espoused a moral equivalence between Israel and its enemies and which picked a fight with America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East. There is little doubt that Obama’s undeserved prize will motivate him to continue along the same path. Obama and Mitchell know there is little or nothing they can do to sway the Palestinians, so their only option will be more pressure on Israel. That was the logic of the pointless dispute between Washington and Jerusalem over settlements earlier this year. And with the president now endowed with the halo that the Nobel grants him and with a faithful cheering section of left-wing American Jews to encourage him, more such pressure is surely on the way.

While the rest of the world still stumbles for an adequate reaction to Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, the president’s envoy to the Middle East met Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas, following an equally fruitless stop in Cairo.

Obama’s peace prize has launched a thousand parodies as well as lickspittle tributes from his political allies on the left like J Street. But Israelis — who have rightly pegged the president as anything but a friend of the Jewish state — have good reason to fear the award will encourage him to devote even more effort to ginning up a peace process with no chance of success. They know that more peace processing means only thing: more pressure for Israeli concessions, on top of all those already made, to appease Palestinian leaders who actually have little or no interest in real negotiations.

Abbas and the P.A. are locked in a desperate duel for the allegiance of their people with the Islamists of Hamas. That means that even if Abbas were truly interested in accepting a two-state solution with Israel, which is doubtful, there is no deal he can sign that Hamas will not paint as a betrayal of Palestinian nationalism. That is why Abbas refused Ehud Olmert’s offer of a state including parts of Jerusalem and virtually all the West Bank and Gaza in 2008. His predecessor Yasir Arafat did the same eight years earlier.

Abbas continued his race to the bottom with Hamas by reversing his previous stand; he called for the United Nations to take up the bogus Goldstone Commission’s accusations of war crimes over Israel’s counterattack against Hamas terrorists in Gaza last December. Playing off the latest riot-sparking lies about Israeli threats to Muslim shrines in Jerusalem, Abbas also said in Ramallah on Sunday: “There will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty until the occupation of Jerusalem ends. We are determined to safeguard the Aksa Mosque and Jerusalem.”

But the conceit of the peace processers is that a new round of Israeli generosity will always sweep away the realities of Palestinian politics. Such delusions have destroyed the Israeli political Left. But elsewhere, the realism informing Israeli voters is viewed as intransigence. The Nobel Committee believed that Obama was deserving of their prize specifically because of his Cairo speech, which espoused a moral equivalence between Israel and its enemies and which picked a fight with America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East. There is little doubt that Obama’s undeserved prize will motivate him to continue along the same path. Obama and Mitchell know there is little or nothing they can do to sway the Palestinians, so their only option will be more pressure on Israel. That was the logic of the pointless dispute between Washington and Jerusalem over settlements earlier this year. And with the president now endowed with the halo that the Nobel grants him and with a faithful cheering section of left-wing American Jews to encourage him, more such pressure is surely on the way.

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What’s the Point?

George Mitchell spends lots of time traveling from Middle East country to Middle East country processing the peace. In Saudi Arabia he went in search of cooperation for a deal. Nada. In Syria he pledged his commitment to the peace process. He goes to Egypt. Not much support for peace in any of those places.

Mitchell, at a September 22 briefing following the president’s meeting with Mahmoud Abbas and Bibi Netanyahu, told us:

We do not favor more negotiations for the sake of negotiations. We do not believe in an endless, unlimited, unfocused process. We believe that the purpose of negotiations is to get a result, a positive result. We want more peace and less process. And so we are trying to launch – re-launch negotiations at the earliest possible time, but under circumstances in which there is a reasonable basis to believe that they can be successful.

The president expressed, we were told, that he was “impatient” with the lack of Middle East progress.

So Mitchell hits the road. How’s he doing? Here he is on October 8, following a meeting with the Israeli President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: “We’re going to continue with our efforts to achieve an early relaunch of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, because we believe that’s an essential step toward achieving the comprehensive peace to which I earlier referred.” Like Avis, he’s going to try harder.

On October 10: “It has been and remains an important objective of American policy and of President Obama and the secretary of state personally to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East,” Mitchell explained in yet another trip to Cairo.

And now we hear that his latest visit has accomplished nothing.

So when does Mitchell pack it in if he doesn’t favor negotiations for the sake of negotiations? He seems to have nothing to show for all his journeys. His incessant invocation of Obama’s and his commitment to peace is now like white noise — a buzz in the background you can safely ignore. The purpose of all this? Well, Obama snagged a Nobel Peace Prize for caring so much and for supposedly reactivating diplomacy. But if diplomacy has accomplished nothing more than racking up air miles for George Mitchell, maybe it’s time to give it a rest.

George Mitchell spends lots of time traveling from Middle East country to Middle East country processing the peace. In Saudi Arabia he went in search of cooperation for a deal. Nada. In Syria he pledged his commitment to the peace process. He goes to Egypt. Not much support for peace in any of those places.

Mitchell, at a September 22 briefing following the president’s meeting with Mahmoud Abbas and Bibi Netanyahu, told us:

We do not favor more negotiations for the sake of negotiations. We do not believe in an endless, unlimited, unfocused process. We believe that the purpose of negotiations is to get a result, a positive result. We want more peace and less process. And so we are trying to launch – re-launch negotiations at the earliest possible time, but under circumstances in which there is a reasonable basis to believe that they can be successful.

The president expressed, we were told, that he was “impatient” with the lack of Middle East progress.

So Mitchell hits the road. How’s he doing? Here he is on October 8, following a meeting with the Israeli President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: “We’re going to continue with our efforts to achieve an early relaunch of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, because we believe that’s an essential step toward achieving the comprehensive peace to which I earlier referred.” Like Avis, he’s going to try harder.

On October 10: “It has been and remains an important objective of American policy and of President Obama and the secretary of state personally to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East,” Mitchell explained in yet another trip to Cairo.

And now we hear that his latest visit has accomplished nothing.

So when does Mitchell pack it in if he doesn’t favor negotiations for the sake of negotiations? He seems to have nothing to show for all his journeys. His incessant invocation of Obama’s and his commitment to peace is now like white noise — a buzz in the background you can safely ignore. The purpose of all this? Well, Obama snagged a Nobel Peace Prize for caring so much and for supposedly reactivating diplomacy. But if diplomacy has accomplished nothing more than racking up air miles for George Mitchell, maybe it’s time to give it a rest.

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Graham Crumbles for Nothing

Sen. Lindsey Graham is on board with the job-killing energy tax bill, but there are many Democrats who won’t walk the plank with him on cap-and-trade. Unlike health-care reform, which might be jammed through with smoke-and-mirror parliamentary tricks, cap-and-trade will have to get through the U.S. Senate the old-fashioned way — with 60 votes. According to most counts, the votes aren’t there. As Politico points out, “Any climate bill still faces steep obstacles in the Senate.” Not even the usually pro-environmental John McCain supports the climate bill, because it contains nothing to promote the real green energy source — nuclear power.

Then what’s the point of all the legislative angst? Well, for starters, liberal senators need to convince the left-wing base of the Democratic party that they are doing their best to pass a top agenda item and to build momentum for future climate bills. But in the end, it won’t come to the floor unless Democratic leadership can muster 60 votes. Why? Because the Senate leadership won’t want to be embarrassed and because vulnerable Democrats (including Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid) won’t want to face a tough vote that will alienate either their own base or independent and conservative voters.

So Lindsey Graham annoyed conservatives once again — for nothing? Looks that way.

Sen. Lindsey Graham is on board with the job-killing energy tax bill, but there are many Democrats who won’t walk the plank with him on cap-and-trade. Unlike health-care reform, which might be jammed through with smoke-and-mirror parliamentary tricks, cap-and-trade will have to get through the U.S. Senate the old-fashioned way — with 60 votes. According to most counts, the votes aren’t there. As Politico points out, “Any climate bill still faces steep obstacles in the Senate.” Not even the usually pro-environmental John McCain supports the climate bill, because it contains nothing to promote the real green energy source — nuclear power.

Then what’s the point of all the legislative angst? Well, for starters, liberal senators need to convince the left-wing base of the Democratic party that they are doing their best to pass a top agenda item and to build momentum for future climate bills. But in the end, it won’t come to the floor unless Democratic leadership can muster 60 votes. Why? Because the Senate leadership won’t want to be embarrassed and because vulnerable Democrats (including Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid) won’t want to face a tough vote that will alienate either their own base or independent and conservative voters.

So Lindsey Graham annoyed conservatives once again — for nothing? Looks that way.

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How Dare They!

The White House is attacking Fox News again: it’s insufficiently obsequious for the White House’s taste. It’s a “research arm” of the Republican party, you see. And no, it’s not just Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity whom the Obama team is miffed at — it’s the whole network.

On some level this is comical. No candidate and no administration has gotten such glowing treatment from the media. You would think they’d look at the big picture and be content that much of their work — ignoring uncomfortable story lines, vilifying the opposition, editing out the “uhs” and “ums” from speeches, and casting news in the most Obama-favorable light possible — is done for them. But no, they find the one TV cable network that sees its role as entirely independent of the Obama agenda to be such an irritant and so offensive that they must grouse about the speck of tough coverage in an ocean of fluff.

It bespeaks a defensiveness and thin-skinned disposition that started with the president but has now permeated his entire staff. The 24/7 news cycle is now to blame for his problems selling health care. The CNBC reporter who identified the ills associated with a bailout mentality gets blasted from the podium in the White House press office. And so it goes. Why can’t they just report the White House spin as delivered each day?

Given the disposition of the media, Republican administrations tend to have low expectations and high thresholds for frustration when it comes to media attacks and bias. They assume from the get-go that all their actions and comments will be flyspecked. They tend not to rail at hostile media coverage. What’s the point if you’re a Republican office holder? It’s simply a fact of life.

But not for the Obama team. One can expect that, as the problems mount, the magic fades, and the legislative logjams collect, the Obama team will have more and more complaints about media coverage. They would do well to buck up and get used to it. The public tends not to look kindly on a whiny White House.

The White House is attacking Fox News again: it’s insufficiently obsequious for the White House’s taste. It’s a “research arm” of the Republican party, you see. And no, it’s not just Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity whom the Obama team is miffed at — it’s the whole network.

On some level this is comical. No candidate and no administration has gotten such glowing treatment from the media. You would think they’d look at the big picture and be content that much of their work — ignoring uncomfortable story lines, vilifying the opposition, editing out the “uhs” and “ums” from speeches, and casting news in the most Obama-favorable light possible — is done for them. But no, they find the one TV cable network that sees its role as entirely independent of the Obama agenda to be such an irritant and so offensive that they must grouse about the speck of tough coverage in an ocean of fluff.

It bespeaks a defensiveness and thin-skinned disposition that started with the president but has now permeated his entire staff. The 24/7 news cycle is now to blame for his problems selling health care. The CNBC reporter who identified the ills associated with a bailout mentality gets blasted from the podium in the White House press office. And so it goes. Why can’t they just report the White House spin as delivered each day?

Given the disposition of the media, Republican administrations tend to have low expectations and high thresholds for frustration when it comes to media attacks and bias. They assume from the get-go that all their actions and comments will be flyspecked. They tend not to rail at hostile media coverage. What’s the point if you’re a Republican office holder? It’s simply a fact of life.

But not for the Obama team. One can expect that, as the problems mount, the magic fades, and the legislative logjams collect, the Obama team will have more and more complaints about media coverage. They would do well to buck up and get used to it. The public tends not to look kindly on a whiny White House.

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Thanks but No Thanks for the Outreach

J Street received a slap across the face from the Israeli government, which candidly told the faux pro-Israel group that it doesn’t buy its Palestinian propaganda that is dressed up as heartfelt concern for the Jewish state. The Jerusalem Post reports that J Street’s outreach to Ambassador Michael Oren backfired — spectacularly so:

Despite early indications the embassy was looking to engage the group, Oren has yet to meet with executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami or agree to participate in the conference. Instead, the embassy has “communicated to J Street its views on the peace process and on the best way to ensure Israel’s security,” according to embassy spokesman Yoni Peled. The message, Peled said, is that “while recognizing the need for a free and open debate on these issues, it is important to stress concern over certain policies that could impair Israel’s interests.

J Street spinners will no doubt claim that the Arab-supported organization is infinitely more in tune with Israel’s “real” interests than is the country’s own duly elected government. And that 4 percent support for Obama — for whom J Street frankly admits to providing political tackle and blocking services — is just evidence of how confused the Israeli public is. Really, no one knows Israel the way J Street does, right?

At some point, the jig is up. But if J Street is feeling bruised, I’m sure the Palestinian Authority or any Arab state would be delighted to hold a reception in J Street’s honor.

J Street received a slap across the face from the Israeli government, which candidly told the faux pro-Israel group that it doesn’t buy its Palestinian propaganda that is dressed up as heartfelt concern for the Jewish state. The Jerusalem Post reports that J Street’s outreach to Ambassador Michael Oren backfired — spectacularly so:

Despite early indications the embassy was looking to engage the group, Oren has yet to meet with executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami or agree to participate in the conference. Instead, the embassy has “communicated to J Street its views on the peace process and on the best way to ensure Israel’s security,” according to embassy spokesman Yoni Peled. The message, Peled said, is that “while recognizing the need for a free and open debate on these issues, it is important to stress concern over certain policies that could impair Israel’s interests.

J Street spinners will no doubt claim that the Arab-supported organization is infinitely more in tune with Israel’s “real” interests than is the country’s own duly elected government. And that 4 percent support for Obama — for whom J Street frankly admits to providing political tackle and blocking services — is just evidence of how confused the Israeli public is. Really, no one knows Israel the way J Street does, right?

At some point, the jig is up. But if J Street is feeling bruised, I’m sure the Palestinian Authority or any Arab state would be delighted to hold a reception in J Street’s honor.

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American Exceptionalism

The winners of the Nobel Prize in economics were announced today. They are two Americans, Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University and Oliver Williamson of UC Berkeley.

So now that all the 2009 prizes have been awarded, let’s recap: The Nobel in medicine went to three Americans. The Nobel in physics went to three Americans. The Nobel in chemistry went to two Americans and one Israeli. The Nobel in literature went to a German. The Nobel Peace Prize went to an American, and now the Nobel in economics has gone to two Americans.

Thus, of the 13 winners this year, 11 are Americans. A country with 4 percent of the world’s population produced 85 percent of the winners. To be sure, we are to some extent playing with numbers here. After all, Israel, with .08 percent of the world’s population, produced 7 percent of the winners. But over the 108 years they have been handing out Nobel Prizes, the number won by American citizens is exceptionally large.

I wonder if that fact embarrasses this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The winners of the Nobel Prize in economics were announced today. They are two Americans, Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University and Oliver Williamson of UC Berkeley.

So now that all the 2009 prizes have been awarded, let’s recap: The Nobel in medicine went to three Americans. The Nobel in physics went to three Americans. The Nobel in chemistry went to two Americans and one Israeli. The Nobel in literature went to a German. The Nobel Peace Prize went to an American, and now the Nobel in economics has gone to two Americans.

Thus, of the 13 winners this year, 11 are Americans. A country with 4 percent of the world’s population produced 85 percent of the winners. To be sure, we are to some extent playing with numbers here. After all, Israel, with .08 percent of the world’s population, produced 7 percent of the winners. But over the 108 years they have been handing out Nobel Prizes, the number won by American citizens is exceptionally large.

I wonder if that fact embarrasses this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.

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Unbecoming Weakness

Robert Kaplan thinks it’s time for the president to stop the dithering and quickly extinguish the impression that Obama is a “weak war leader.” Part of the problem, Kaplan thinks, is a breakdown in the White House decision-making process: “There’s more than a passing similarity between the White House’s hiccups on health care and its confusion on Afghanistan. In each case, the executive branch went forward on an issue without being fully staffed out, or in agreement on the specifics.” (And then there is Guantanamo.)

Kaplan argues that the damage has already been done, simply by the display of agonizing and indecision. He argues that the Afghans and others around the world (e.g., Iran, India, our allies) now see a president who can neither endure the consequences of his own policy nor stand up to the mildest unease in his own political ranks. In that sense, Kaplan is right. If a Nancy Pelosi interview or a meeting with Carl Levin is enough to unnerve the president (not to mention a session with his political prognosticators), what will he do if there are antiwar rallies or resolutions in Congress, not to mention some lost congressional seats over a tough war?

He has, unlike his predecessor, already tipped his hand to our adversaries. They already know that, unlike George W. Bush, this is a president with his ear to the ground and his direction focused firmly on his domestic agenda. Apply some pressure, they must now calculate, and it will pay off handsomely. Obama has, in a sense, made himself an easy mark by publicly hushing his general and elevating domestic political consultants to the role of war policymakers. It is a far cry from the Bush administration, in which the Republican political consultants had their heads in their hands and the commander in chief had his generals’ backs.

The kicker here is that the president’s weakness invites his liberal base to turn up the heat. Look at the results they have gotten! So be prepared to hear more cries for missile-defense cuts and for even less defense-spending. (“Fiscal discipline” is only mentioned when the spending is for the Pentagon.) The president is emboldening our enemies and his own left flank. And in the end, a quagmire in Afghanistan (the inevitable result of a Rumsfeld-esque war-on-the-cheap) will not inure to Obama’s benefit. As Kaplan notes, “Obama must capture the toughness and competence that Bush displayed as a war leader at the end of his term. Otherwise, in the coming months, the Democrats may be seen as having lost a war. And if that happens, not even the Nobel Peace Prize will rescue Obama’s reputation.” Nor will Obama’s political prospects look very bright.

Robert Kaplan thinks it’s time for the president to stop the dithering and quickly extinguish the impression that Obama is a “weak war leader.” Part of the problem, Kaplan thinks, is a breakdown in the White House decision-making process: “There’s more than a passing similarity between the White House’s hiccups on health care and its confusion on Afghanistan. In each case, the executive branch went forward on an issue without being fully staffed out, or in agreement on the specifics.” (And then there is Guantanamo.)

Kaplan argues that the damage has already been done, simply by the display of agonizing and indecision. He argues that the Afghans and others around the world (e.g., Iran, India, our allies) now see a president who can neither endure the consequences of his own policy nor stand up to the mildest unease in his own political ranks. In that sense, Kaplan is right. If a Nancy Pelosi interview or a meeting with Carl Levin is enough to unnerve the president (not to mention a session with his political prognosticators), what will he do if there are antiwar rallies or resolutions in Congress, not to mention some lost congressional seats over a tough war?

He has, unlike his predecessor, already tipped his hand to our adversaries. They already know that, unlike George W. Bush, this is a president with his ear to the ground and his direction focused firmly on his domestic agenda. Apply some pressure, they must now calculate, and it will pay off handsomely. Obama has, in a sense, made himself an easy mark by publicly hushing his general and elevating domestic political consultants to the role of war policymakers. It is a far cry from the Bush administration, in which the Republican political consultants had their heads in their hands and the commander in chief had his generals’ backs.

The kicker here is that the president’s weakness invites his liberal base to turn up the heat. Look at the results they have gotten! So be prepared to hear more cries for missile-defense cuts and for even less defense-spending. (“Fiscal discipline” is only mentioned when the spending is for the Pentagon.) The president is emboldening our enemies and his own left flank. And in the end, a quagmire in Afghanistan (the inevitable result of a Rumsfeld-esque war-on-the-cheap) will not inure to Obama’s benefit. As Kaplan notes, “Obama must capture the toughness and competence that Bush displayed as a war leader at the end of his term. Otherwise, in the coming months, the Democrats may be seen as having lost a war. And if that happens, not even the Nobel Peace Prize will rescue Obama’s reputation.” Nor will Obama’s political prospects look very bright.

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The Real Crisis

Lost in much of the chatter over the faux “health-care crisis” is a very real and debilitating crisis over America’s rising debt. Lawrence Kadish provides a useful reminder of what is at stake:

It is the interest on the national debt that makes our future unstable. The exploding size of that burden suggests that, short of devaluing the dollar and taking a large bite out of the middle class through inflation and taxation, there is no way to ever pay down that bill.

To put this in perspective, Kadish explains:

The OMB projects deficits of about $9 trillion over the next 10 years. If that occurs, the national debt will be almost $21 trillion by 2019. However, the actual amount could be much higher. The OMB also optimistically projects $13.5 trillion of revenue increases over the next decade, while minimizing the inevitable rise in interest rates that will come with an expanding national debt.

The result of this fiscal sloth isn’t hard to predict. As Kadish notes, “Left unchecked, this destructive deficit-debt cycle will leave the White House and Congress with either having to default on the national debt or instruct the Treasury to run the printing presses into a policy of hyperinflation.”

This is not, of course, a secret. Obama periodically confesses that the rising debt is “unsustainable ” — and then goes right on spending. Now and then House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer suggests we do something about runaway entitlements. But he and others are working furiously to create a new one in the form of government-run health care. Absent a surge of political will to reverse course and halt the spend-a-thon, there will be a reckoning eventually — when our bonds no longer sell (so interest rates must rise), when the printing presses begin to hum to monetize the debt, and when we are faced with a return of stagflation reminiscent of the Carter years.

And yes, as Kadish tells us, there will also be a political reckoning as the voters throw out those responsible for the fiscal train wreck. But that may be small consolation to those who have lost savings to the ravages of inflation and who have lost earnings because of the paucity of jobs and slow economic growth (the result of sky-high interest rates).

Lost in much of the chatter over the faux “health-care crisis” is a very real and debilitating crisis over America’s rising debt. Lawrence Kadish provides a useful reminder of what is at stake:

It is the interest on the national debt that makes our future unstable. The exploding size of that burden suggests that, short of devaluing the dollar and taking a large bite out of the middle class through inflation and taxation, there is no way to ever pay down that bill.

To put this in perspective, Kadish explains:

The OMB projects deficits of about $9 trillion over the next 10 years. If that occurs, the national debt will be almost $21 trillion by 2019. However, the actual amount could be much higher. The OMB also optimistically projects $13.5 trillion of revenue increases over the next decade, while minimizing the inevitable rise in interest rates that will come with an expanding national debt.

The result of this fiscal sloth isn’t hard to predict. As Kadish notes, “Left unchecked, this destructive deficit-debt cycle will leave the White House and Congress with either having to default on the national debt or instruct the Treasury to run the printing presses into a policy of hyperinflation.”

This is not, of course, a secret. Obama periodically confesses that the rising debt is “unsustainable ” — and then goes right on spending. Now and then House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer suggests we do something about runaway entitlements. But he and others are working furiously to create a new one in the form of government-run health care. Absent a surge of political will to reverse course and halt the spend-a-thon, there will be a reckoning eventually — when our bonds no longer sell (so interest rates must rise), when the printing presses begin to hum to monetize the debt, and when we are faced with a return of stagflation reminiscent of the Carter years.

And yes, as Kadish tells us, there will also be a political reckoning as the voters throw out those responsible for the fiscal train wreck. But that may be small consolation to those who have lost savings to the ravages of inflation and who have lost earnings because of the paucity of jobs and slow economic growth (the result of sky-high interest rates).

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The Return of Bitter White Men

E.J. Dionne Jr.’s column today attempts to explain the “politics of rage” that has been inspired by President Obama. The first thing Dionne does is to helpfully explain to his readers that among the Right, “racism is part of the anti-Obama mix.” But there is a “second level of angry opposition” directed toward Obama and to which he needs to pay more attention. “It involves the genuine rage of those who felt displaced in our economy even before the great recession,” Dionne writes, “and are now hurting even more.” These folks are “angry white men,” according to Dionne, invoking the sophisticated demographic phrase used to explain the results of the 1994 midterm election (the anger of white men should not be confused with the two-year-old temper tantrum that Peter Jennings believed explained the GOP takeover of the House in 1994). Many who feel rage in 2009 “have legitimate reasons for it, even if neither Obama nor big government is the real culprit,” we learn. All this is said without condescension, of course.

I have several thoughts on Dionne’s meditation. The first is that during virtually the entire tenure of Obama’s predecessor, E.J. was part of a group, Angry White Men Inc., whose membership included the likes of Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Jonathan Alter, Jonathan Chait, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, and many others. This homogenous crew was, to a person, afflicted with a condition diagnosed as Bush Derangement Syndrome, one that has effects on its victims long after the cause of the condition has left the stage.

Second, the patronizing tone Dionne uses to explain the “rage” he detects out there — which is “legitimate” but, we learn, has nothing at all to do with either the president or big government — reminds me of the comments Barack Obama made at a fundraiser in San Francisco in April 2008. In outlining the challenges facing his presidential candidacy in the primaries in Pennsylvania and Indiana — particularly persuading white working-class voters who, Obama said, had fallen through the cracks during the Bush and Clinton administrations — Mr. Obama said, “So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

This seems to be a popular line of argument for a certain strand of liberal opinion. They pretend to understand and sympathize with the rage and bitterness of the great unwashed masses. But they are so clumsy in their efforts to express their solidarity with hoi polloi that they give their little game away.

Very few columnists have a degree in psychology. E.J. Dionne is not one of them. He should therefore leave the psychological explanations to others who are better equipped to deal with such matters. When he engages in this kind of thing, he comes across as haughty and, at times, as angry and bitter toward the critics of Obama. Next thing you know, he’ll be clinging to guns and to God.

E.J. Dionne Jr.’s column today attempts to explain the “politics of rage” that has been inspired by President Obama. The first thing Dionne does is to helpfully explain to his readers that among the Right, “racism is part of the anti-Obama mix.” But there is a “second level of angry opposition” directed toward Obama and to which he needs to pay more attention. “It involves the genuine rage of those who felt displaced in our economy even before the great recession,” Dionne writes, “and are now hurting even more.” These folks are “angry white men,” according to Dionne, invoking the sophisticated demographic phrase used to explain the results of the 1994 midterm election (the anger of white men should not be confused with the two-year-old temper tantrum that Peter Jennings believed explained the GOP takeover of the House in 1994). Many who feel rage in 2009 “have legitimate reasons for it, even if neither Obama nor big government is the real culprit,” we learn. All this is said without condescension, of course.

I have several thoughts on Dionne’s meditation. The first is that during virtually the entire tenure of Obama’s predecessor, E.J. was part of a group, Angry White Men Inc., whose membership included the likes of Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Jonathan Alter, Jonathan Chait, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, and many others. This homogenous crew was, to a person, afflicted with a condition diagnosed as Bush Derangement Syndrome, one that has effects on its victims long after the cause of the condition has left the stage.

Second, the patronizing tone Dionne uses to explain the “rage” he detects out there — which is “legitimate” but, we learn, has nothing at all to do with either the president or big government — reminds me of the comments Barack Obama made at a fundraiser in San Francisco in April 2008. In outlining the challenges facing his presidential candidacy in the primaries in Pennsylvania and Indiana — particularly persuading white working-class voters who, Obama said, had fallen through the cracks during the Bush and Clinton administrations — Mr. Obama said, “So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

This seems to be a popular line of argument for a certain strand of liberal opinion. They pretend to understand and sympathize with the rage and bitterness of the great unwashed masses. But they are so clumsy in their efforts to express their solidarity with hoi polloi that they give their little game away.

Very few columnists have a degree in psychology. E.J. Dionne is not one of them. He should therefore leave the psychological explanations to others who are better equipped to deal with such matters. When he engages in this kind of thing, he comes across as haughty and, at times, as angry and bitter toward the critics of Obama. Next thing you know, he’ll be clinging to guns and to God.

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Unclothed Emperor Gets Best-Dressed Award

Perhaps October 9 should be designated as national Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Day, so each year we can commemorate the day almost all Americans had the same reaction on learning who won the Nobel Peace Prize. Even the winner said he did not deserve it. The prize comes with a lot of money, which he will give away, but also with the opportunity to make a formal acceptance speech, which he will take.

It has been widely noted that the prize was awarded for words, rather than deeds. But it is more correct to say it was awarded for eliminating certain words from public discourse, especially war. Obama may not yet have ended a war; nor decided to properly resource another one; nor disarmed a country threatening an even bigger one. But he has succeeded in removing war from the official vocabulary, along with terrorism. We are now engaged in police actions against man-caused disasterism.

Obama’s remarks about the prize included a strangely worded sentence, reflecting a mindset that regards war only as something that must be ended, not something fought for a larger purpose. The sentence read as follows:

I am the Commander-in-Chief of a country that’s responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies.

For Obama, Iraq is a war America is “responsible for ending” — not an achievement that removed a vile dictator (whom every government’s intelligence service thought had WMDs) and then protected the representative government that replaced him from relentless man-caused disasters. Afghanistan is simply a “theater” in which he is “working,” presaging a coming effort to assure us that winning or losing the war is a false choice: it is necessary only to define the enemy down and turn the theater over to General J.R. Biden Jr.

When you remove war from your vocabulary (except for talking about ending it), you qualify for a Nobel Peace Prize, or at least what the prize has become. Later this year, unless Obama unexpectedly takes the advice of Thomas Friedman and the New York Sun, we will witness in Oslo the leader of the free world walking down Project Runway, amid great applause, dressed only in rhetoric.

Perhaps October 9 should be designated as national Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Day, so each year we can commemorate the day almost all Americans had the same reaction on learning who won the Nobel Peace Prize. Even the winner said he did not deserve it. The prize comes with a lot of money, which he will give away, but also with the opportunity to make a formal acceptance speech, which he will take.

It has been widely noted that the prize was awarded for words, rather than deeds. But it is more correct to say it was awarded for eliminating certain words from public discourse, especially war. Obama may not yet have ended a war; nor decided to properly resource another one; nor disarmed a country threatening an even bigger one. But he has succeeded in removing war from the official vocabulary, along with terrorism. We are now engaged in police actions against man-caused disasterism.

Obama’s remarks about the prize included a strangely worded sentence, reflecting a mindset that regards war only as something that must be ended, not something fought for a larger purpose. The sentence read as follows:

I am the Commander-in-Chief of a country that’s responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies.

For Obama, Iraq is a war America is “responsible for ending” — not an achievement that removed a vile dictator (whom every government’s intelligence service thought had WMDs) and then protected the representative government that replaced him from relentless man-caused disasters. Afghanistan is simply a “theater” in which he is “working,” presaging a coming effort to assure us that winning or losing the war is a false choice: it is necessary only to define the enemy down and turn the theater over to General J.R. Biden Jr.

When you remove war from your vocabulary (except for talking about ending it), you qualify for a Nobel Peace Prize, or at least what the prize has become. Later this year, unless Obama unexpectedly takes the advice of Thomas Friedman and the New York Sun, we will witness in Oslo the leader of the free world walking down Project Runway, amid great applause, dressed only in rhetoric.

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Playing the Gender Card

The Republicans are going to make Nancy Pelosi the face of the ultra-liberal Democratic party in the 2010 election. This is not brain surgery. She is the head of the House Democrats, and she is a quintessential liberal San Francisco Democrat leading her party’s leftward lurch. The response? Play the gender card, of course. The National Republican Congressional Committee called her out, “saying it hopes Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, puts Ms. Pelosi ‘in her place’ on Afghan policy. The statement accused Ms. Pelosi, a California Democrat, of putting party politics ahead of national security in her cautious statements on expanding the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.” So Pelosi’s spokesperson predictably cried sexism.

One is reminded of Sen. Barbara Boxer’s “Don’t ma’am me” routine. There is, one supposes, a handbook for liberal female lawmakers on such matters. When tangling with high-ranking and much-esteemed military leaders, never forget the gender card.

The stunt is not likely to work in the general election, any more than Hillary Clinton’s complaints did in the Democratic primary. Despite our politically correct era, there just isn’t that much sympathy for charges of sexism, even when, as with Clinton, there was a fair amount of sexism emanating from the Obama-rooting media — and even from her often condescending opponent. In Pelosi’s case, Republicans have a plethora of material to work with — all based not on her gender but on her erratic performance and radical agenda. (Who can forget the “CIA lied” press conference?)

If Pelosi can’t defend her own record and rhetoric without playing the gender card, the Democrats are in for a rough ride. And should she lose a chunk of her caucus in the 2010 election, those who remain are unlikely to be mollified by her gender-excuse-mongering.

The Republicans are going to make Nancy Pelosi the face of the ultra-liberal Democratic party in the 2010 election. This is not brain surgery. She is the head of the House Democrats, and she is a quintessential liberal San Francisco Democrat leading her party’s leftward lurch. The response? Play the gender card, of course. The National Republican Congressional Committee called her out, “saying it hopes Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, puts Ms. Pelosi ‘in her place’ on Afghan policy. The statement accused Ms. Pelosi, a California Democrat, of putting party politics ahead of national security in her cautious statements on expanding the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.” So Pelosi’s spokesperson predictably cried sexism.

One is reminded of Sen. Barbara Boxer’s “Don’t ma’am me” routine. There is, one supposes, a handbook for liberal female lawmakers on such matters. When tangling with high-ranking and much-esteemed military leaders, never forget the gender card.

The stunt is not likely to work in the general election, any more than Hillary Clinton’s complaints did in the Democratic primary. Despite our politically correct era, there just isn’t that much sympathy for charges of sexism, even when, as with Clinton, there was a fair amount of sexism emanating from the Obama-rooting media — and even from her often condescending opponent. In Pelosi’s case, Republicans have a plethora of material to work with — all based not on her gender but on her erratic performance and radical agenda. (Who can forget the “CIA lied” press conference?)

If Pelosi can’t defend her own record and rhetoric without playing the gender card, the Democrats are in for a rough ride. And should she lose a chunk of her caucus in the 2010 election, those who remain are unlikely to be mollified by her gender-excuse-mongering.

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Trying to Undo the Damage

The Obama team’s promise that its stimulus plan would keep unemployment below 8 percent has proved to be wrong — badly wrong. As the Wall Street Journal editors explain, the Obami are now scrambling to come up with Son of Stimulus. They are pondering some short-term payroll credits to try to spur hiring. Well, it’s better than raising taxes.

But while the left hand is pondering some damage-control measures, the extreme left hand is coming up with job killers. There’s the hike in the minimum wage, with predictable results:

The black teen jobless rate has since climbed to 50.4% from 39.2% in two months. Congress is also moving ahead with a mountain of new mandates, from mandatory paid leave to the House’s health-care payroll surtax of 5.4%. All of these policy changes give pause to employers as they contemplate the cost of new hires—a reality that Democrats are tacitly admitting as they now plot to find ways to offset those higher costs.

Then there’s the grab bag of tax hikes. The Bush tax cuts are on the chopping block. And the health-care plan has now become a giant tax scheme as well. Michael Barone explains: “The Baucus conceptual language includes a tax on high-cost insurance plans ($210 billion), penalties for not having insurance ($27 billion), and ‘indirect offsets’ (whatever they are — $83 billion).” And Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of new transactional taxes on every stock trade. Oh, and then there’s the jumbo energy tax dressed up as “climate control.”

We’ve seen in places like Michigan that minor tax breaks and special credit schemes don’t make up for an employer-hostile environment and marginal tax hikes. If the Democrats really wanted to spur job creation, they’d stop coming up with massive regulatory and tax schemes, vow to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, and start reducing taxes on corporations and capital gains. But it’s so much more attractive from their perspective to “soak the rich” (and the not-so-rich) and then dole out favors for which they receive plenty of support from lobbyists and special-interest groups. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much to keep the unemployment rate remotely close to what we were promised when we set out on the new New Deal. Funny how the results of this one look a lot like those of the original.

The Obama team’s promise that its stimulus plan would keep unemployment below 8 percent has proved to be wrong — badly wrong. As the Wall Street Journal editors explain, the Obami are now scrambling to come up with Son of Stimulus. They are pondering some short-term payroll credits to try to spur hiring. Well, it’s better than raising taxes.

But while the left hand is pondering some damage-control measures, the extreme left hand is coming up with job killers. There’s the hike in the minimum wage, with predictable results:

The black teen jobless rate has since climbed to 50.4% from 39.2% in two months. Congress is also moving ahead with a mountain of new mandates, from mandatory paid leave to the House’s health-care payroll surtax of 5.4%. All of these policy changes give pause to employers as they contemplate the cost of new hires—a reality that Democrats are tacitly admitting as they now plot to find ways to offset those higher costs.

Then there’s the grab bag of tax hikes. The Bush tax cuts are on the chopping block. And the health-care plan has now become a giant tax scheme as well. Michael Barone explains: “The Baucus conceptual language includes a tax on high-cost insurance plans ($210 billion), penalties for not having insurance ($27 billion), and ‘indirect offsets’ (whatever they are — $83 billion).” And Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of new transactional taxes on every stock trade. Oh, and then there’s the jumbo energy tax dressed up as “climate control.”

We’ve seen in places like Michigan that minor tax breaks and special credit schemes don’t make up for an employer-hostile environment and marginal tax hikes. If the Democrats really wanted to spur job creation, they’d stop coming up with massive regulatory and tax schemes, vow to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, and start reducing taxes on corporations and capital gains. But it’s so much more attractive from their perspective to “soak the rich” (and the not-so-rich) and then dole out favors for which they receive plenty of support from lobbyists and special-interest groups. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much to keep the unemployment rate remotely close to what we were promised when we set out on the new New Deal. Funny how the results of this one look a lot like those of the original.

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No Peace, No Process

The president, his secretary of state, and his Middle East envoy keep insisting they are dedicated to a Middle East peace deal. Really dedicated, “deeply committed,” we are told. But there is precious little peace being processed. Mahmoud Abbas insists “there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty until the occupation of Jerusalem ends.” As for the Goldstone report:

Abbas also said he instructed the Palestinian envoy at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva to request an urgent meeting in order to discuss the Goldstone report, “so that those responsible for crimes against the Palestinian people during the barbaric Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, when Israel destroyed Gaza, its mosques, its hospitals and its homes, can be brought to justice.”

It seems the “reasonable” and “constructive” Palestinians are sounding more like Hamas every day. But George Mitchell has his assignment. It may be divorced from reality and fruitless, but on he trudges. As the Jerusalem Post report explains:

For the second time in three days, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell met on Sunday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, even as Israeli diplomatic officials played down on Saturday night any prospect for a dramatic breakthrough. Over the course of the meeting, which lasted for over an hour, the three “continued their discussions on moving the peace process forward,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

They didn’t get the message that the Nobel Peace Prize winner is “impatient“?

At some point, the gap between the president’s rhetoric and the reality in the region will become too glaring to ignore. Eventually the absence of progress, even by Foggy Bottom standards, becomes a reminder of the impotence of the president. Why invest so much energy and rhetorical effort for so little result? It is not clear that trying really, really hard gets Obama anywhere. It simply highlights that he lacks the means to implement his utopian vision.

No matter how badly Obama distorts history, and no matter how much daylight he puts between the U.S. and Israel, there isn’t any evidence that his persona really matters. The “Cairo Effect” is a bust. It seems there are facts, ignored by Obama, that trump the speeches and posturing. Hamas has dug in, the “reasonable” Palestinian Authority isn’t so reasonable and lacks “Authority,” and there is no fundamental commitment to recognize the Jewish state and end terrorism.

Obama might want to consider moving on to more productive endeavors so as not to give the impression of abject failure. But then George Mitchell wouldn’t have all those meetings to attend. And there would be no high-minded, Nobel Prize–endearing, Muslim World–pleasing foreign-policy show. Just another misguided and moribund foreign-policy gambit.

The president, his secretary of state, and his Middle East envoy keep insisting they are dedicated to a Middle East peace deal. Really dedicated, “deeply committed,” we are told. But there is precious little peace being processed. Mahmoud Abbas insists “there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty until the occupation of Jerusalem ends.” As for the Goldstone report:

Abbas also said he instructed the Palestinian envoy at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva to request an urgent meeting in order to discuss the Goldstone report, “so that those responsible for crimes against the Palestinian people during the barbaric Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, when Israel destroyed Gaza, its mosques, its hospitals and its homes, can be brought to justice.”

It seems the “reasonable” and “constructive” Palestinians are sounding more like Hamas every day. But George Mitchell has his assignment. It may be divorced from reality and fruitless, but on he trudges. As the Jerusalem Post report explains:

For the second time in three days, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell met on Sunday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, even as Israeli diplomatic officials played down on Saturday night any prospect for a dramatic breakthrough. Over the course of the meeting, which lasted for over an hour, the three “continued their discussions on moving the peace process forward,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

They didn’t get the message that the Nobel Peace Prize winner is “impatient“?

At some point, the gap between the president’s rhetoric and the reality in the region will become too glaring to ignore. Eventually the absence of progress, even by Foggy Bottom standards, becomes a reminder of the impotence of the president. Why invest so much energy and rhetorical effort for so little result? It is not clear that trying really, really hard gets Obama anywhere. It simply highlights that he lacks the means to implement his utopian vision.

No matter how badly Obama distorts history, and no matter how much daylight he puts between the U.S. and Israel, there isn’t any evidence that his persona really matters. The “Cairo Effect” is a bust. It seems there are facts, ignored by Obama, that trump the speeches and posturing. Hamas has dug in, the “reasonable” Palestinian Authority isn’t so reasonable and lacks “Authority,” and there is no fundamental commitment to recognize the Jewish state and end terrorism.

Obama might want to consider moving on to more productive endeavors so as not to give the impression of abject failure. But then George Mitchell wouldn’t have all those meetings to attend. And there would be no high-minded, Nobel Prize–endearing, Muslim World–pleasing foreign-policy show. Just another misguided and moribund foreign-policy gambit.

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Red Tsunami Headed for Virginia?

Not Larry Sabato is the most widely read and the savviest of the liberal blogs covering Virginia state politics. So it is noteworthy when that site pronounces:

To put it bluntly — Creigh Deeds is an absolute pretender. He’s a super nice guy who can’t even manage a campaign that is spending tens of millions of dollars. How would he ever manage a budget of tens of BILLIONS of dollars? He is clearly completely lost with zero vision for what needs to happen to win this election. His campaign will go down in history as the turning point for Republicans in Virginia — after a brutal decade of losses — and he has turned Bob McDonnell from a random state Delegate into an Attorney General, and now into a Governor — who in a few weeks will immediately shoot into the top ten potential Republican Presidential candidates in 2012 or 2016.

Yowser. And as for the other statewide races, Not Larry Sabato rates those as leaning Republican as well.

The danger here for Democrats is a total wipeout, down to the House of Delegates level. So the post-election headline may not be merely “McDonnell Wins” but “Red Tide Sweeps Virginia in Obama Era.” Then the Democratic spin factory will whirl, explaining what a horrid candidate Deeds was and how none of this has any implications for any other race or any other state. But if you are a Virginia congressman or, frankly, a congressman or senator in any other non-safe seat, you might sit up and take notice. You might start asking, what is it about the Obama era that is so toxic for moderate and conservative Democrats? Hmm. Might be that left-wing agenda, the mounds of debt, the job-killing cap-and-trade, and the tax-a-thon dressed up as health-care reform.

Not Larry Sabato is the most widely read and the savviest of the liberal blogs covering Virginia state politics. So it is noteworthy when that site pronounces:

To put it bluntly — Creigh Deeds is an absolute pretender. He’s a super nice guy who can’t even manage a campaign that is spending tens of millions of dollars. How would he ever manage a budget of tens of BILLIONS of dollars? He is clearly completely lost with zero vision for what needs to happen to win this election. His campaign will go down in history as the turning point for Republicans in Virginia — after a brutal decade of losses — and he has turned Bob McDonnell from a random state Delegate into an Attorney General, and now into a Governor — who in a few weeks will immediately shoot into the top ten potential Republican Presidential candidates in 2012 or 2016.

Yowser. And as for the other statewide races, Not Larry Sabato rates those as leaning Republican as well.

The danger here for Democrats is a total wipeout, down to the House of Delegates level. So the post-election headline may not be merely “McDonnell Wins” but “Red Tide Sweeps Virginia in Obama Era.” Then the Democratic spin factory will whirl, explaining what a horrid candidate Deeds was and how none of this has any implications for any other race or any other state. But if you are a Virginia congressman or, frankly, a congressman or senator in any other non-safe seat, you might sit up and take notice. You might start asking, what is it about the Obama era that is so toxic for moderate and conservative Democrats? Hmm. Might be that left-wing agenda, the mounds of debt, the job-killing cap-and-trade, and the tax-a-thon dressed up as health-care reform.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

On that conservative Rorschach test, Liz Cheney has the best suggestion yet on the Nobel Peace Prize “farce”: send the mother of a fallen American soldier to accept it “to remind the Nobel committee that each one of them sleeps soundly at night because the U.S. military is the greatest peacekeeping force in the world today.” Even Obama doesn’t think he deserves the prize, she notes. Watch the whole thing — and see why she may be the most effective conservative voice on national security.

At the other end of the “How solid is this pol’s conservative instincts?” spectrum, Lindsay Graham — fresh from supporting Sonia Sotomayor — goes whole hog for cap-and-trade legislation in an op-ed with John Kerry. “In supporting the push for legislation, Graham is breaking with other top Republicans, many of whom warn that the Kerry-Boxer bill amounts to a ‘national energy tax.’ The House passed its version months ago, but the Senate sat on language for the bill until two weeks ago.” What, we haven’t lost enough jobs yet?

Rich Lowry thinks the Right should give Obama a prize for, among other things, energizing conservative opposition and sending independents scurrying for the GOP: “No, Obama hasn’t turned back the oceans. But revivifying conservatism almost before books announcing its death could be published qualifies as a feat almost as miraculous.”

Gay voters better hope Obama’s deadline for ending “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is more definitive than his Iran “needs to negotiate seriously” deadline(s).

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has a solid lead (8 points) in yet another poll.

So naturally, Virginia Democratic candidates are trying to distance themselves from Creigh Deeds — “you’re starting to see the Democratic candidates proactively cite organizations that support them and McDonnell, to try to win that crossover [vote].”

Karl Rove on Creigh Deeds’s problems: “The candidate who first makes abortion an issue generally loses. Deeds inexplicably raised the issue by attacking McDonnell as pro-life, then compounded his mistake by devoting months to other social issues, while McDonnell talked about jobs, education and transportation. Deeds’s assault on McDonnell’s 20-year-old college thesis was ham-handed. Nothing falls flatter than an over-the-top attack. … West Wing officials are trashing Deeds’s hapless campaign, perhaps as an excuse for the president’s not campaigning: They don’t want Obama tied to a political loss or appearing too partisan now.”

More bad polling data for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

John Bolton on the Nobel Peace Prize: “Unable to vote in America’s 2008 presidential election, the Nobel Committee apparently decided to vote this year, making their ideological perspective unmistakable. . . . Ronald Reagan also aspired to a world without nuclear weapons. Where is his Nobel Peace Prize? Obviously, Reagan was not the right kind of American, not one appealing to the Norwegian and broader European Left. Their message really is quite straightforward: ‘Jimmy Carter in 2002, Al Gore in 2007 and now Barack Obama. Do you Americans get the point yet?’ It is precisely the preachiness and attitude of moral superiority inherent in these awards that many Americans find offensive, and which may, ironically, leave President Obama in a more difficult position here and abroad than before the award.”

John McCain goes after the Obama’s national-security brain trust: ” ‘I was right about the surge and they were all wrong about the surge.’ By ‘they,’ he meant the president, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gen. James Jones, the national security adviser. ‘The president was wrong,’ McCain said. ‘He said it wouldn’t succeed. The vice president wanted to divide Iraq into three parts. The secretary of state said [in response to Petraeus's optimistic testimony about progress in Iraq in September 2007] you had to suspend disbelief, or some clever statement.’ ” Ouch.

And on Sunday, McCain warned Obama not to make an “error of historic proportions” by choosing a “half-measure” strategy.

Sen. Diane Feinstein maintains her reputation as one of the saner Democrats: “The Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee also seemed to back a troop surge Sunday, saying it would be very difficult for the president to ignore the advice of his commanders. ‘I don’t know how you put somebody in, who is as cracker jack as Gen. McChrystal, who makes very solid recommendations to the president, and not take those recommendations,’ [she] said on ABC’s ‘This Week.’ ”

What if Obama follows the advice of General Biden instead of General McChrystal? “The general who helped craft the Iraq surge says if he were in charge of Afghanistan he would resign if President Obama didn’t take his advice. Analysts and pundits have speculated for weeks about what General Stanley McChrystal might do if the president rejects his call for up to 40,000 more troops. Retired Gen. Jack Keane, the former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said if put in that position he would resign. Keane said it would be impossible for him to ‘ask the troops to go out and do something else that you don’t believe will accomplish [your] goals.’ ”

The New York Times (of all outlets) observes that, when it comes to the public’s patience for fighting a war, “a lack of clear progress is what really depresses support — and a clear victory is what lifts it up.” So maybe Obama should do whatever it takes to win in Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

On that conservative Rorschach test, Liz Cheney has the best suggestion yet on the Nobel Peace Prize “farce”: send the mother of a fallen American soldier to accept it “to remind the Nobel committee that each one of them sleeps soundly at night because the U.S. military is the greatest peacekeeping force in the world today.” Even Obama doesn’t think he deserves the prize, she notes. Watch the whole thing — and see why she may be the most effective conservative voice on national security.

At the other end of the “How solid is this pol’s conservative instincts?” spectrum, Lindsay Graham — fresh from supporting Sonia Sotomayor — goes whole hog for cap-and-trade legislation in an op-ed with John Kerry. “In supporting the push for legislation, Graham is breaking with other top Republicans, many of whom warn that the Kerry-Boxer bill amounts to a ‘national energy tax.’ The House passed its version months ago, but the Senate sat on language for the bill until two weeks ago.” What, we haven’t lost enough jobs yet?

Rich Lowry thinks the Right should give Obama a prize for, among other things, energizing conservative opposition and sending independents scurrying for the GOP: “No, Obama hasn’t turned back the oceans. But revivifying conservatism almost before books announcing its death could be published qualifies as a feat almost as miraculous.”

Gay voters better hope Obama’s deadline for ending “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is more definitive than his Iran “needs to negotiate seriously” deadline(s).

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has a solid lead (8 points) in yet another poll.

So naturally, Virginia Democratic candidates are trying to distance themselves from Creigh Deeds — “you’re starting to see the Democratic candidates proactively cite organizations that support them and McDonnell, to try to win that crossover [vote].”

Karl Rove on Creigh Deeds’s problems: “The candidate who first makes abortion an issue generally loses. Deeds inexplicably raised the issue by attacking McDonnell as pro-life, then compounded his mistake by devoting months to other social issues, while McDonnell talked about jobs, education and transportation. Deeds’s assault on McDonnell’s 20-year-old college thesis was ham-handed. Nothing falls flatter than an over-the-top attack. … West Wing officials are trashing Deeds’s hapless campaign, perhaps as an excuse for the president’s not campaigning: They don’t want Obama tied to a political loss or appearing too partisan now.”

More bad polling data for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

John Bolton on the Nobel Peace Prize: “Unable to vote in America’s 2008 presidential election, the Nobel Committee apparently decided to vote this year, making their ideological perspective unmistakable. . . . Ronald Reagan also aspired to a world without nuclear weapons. Where is his Nobel Peace Prize? Obviously, Reagan was not the right kind of American, not one appealing to the Norwegian and broader European Left. Their message really is quite straightforward: ‘Jimmy Carter in 2002, Al Gore in 2007 and now Barack Obama. Do you Americans get the point yet?’ It is precisely the preachiness and attitude of moral superiority inherent in these awards that many Americans find offensive, and which may, ironically, leave President Obama in a more difficult position here and abroad than before the award.”

John McCain goes after the Obama’s national-security brain trust: ” ‘I was right about the surge and they were all wrong about the surge.’ By ‘they,’ he meant the president, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gen. James Jones, the national security adviser. ‘The president was wrong,’ McCain said. ‘He said it wouldn’t succeed. The vice president wanted to divide Iraq into three parts. The secretary of state said [in response to Petraeus's optimistic testimony about progress in Iraq in September 2007] you had to suspend disbelief, or some clever statement.’ ” Ouch.

And on Sunday, McCain warned Obama not to make an “error of historic proportions” by choosing a “half-measure” strategy.

Sen. Diane Feinstein maintains her reputation as one of the saner Democrats: “The Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee also seemed to back a troop surge Sunday, saying it would be very difficult for the president to ignore the advice of his commanders. ‘I don’t know how you put somebody in, who is as cracker jack as Gen. McChrystal, who makes very solid recommendations to the president, and not take those recommendations,’ [she] said on ABC’s ‘This Week.’ ”

What if Obama follows the advice of General Biden instead of General McChrystal? “The general who helped craft the Iraq surge says if he were in charge of Afghanistan he would resign if President Obama didn’t take his advice. Analysts and pundits have speculated for weeks about what General Stanley McChrystal might do if the president rejects his call for up to 40,000 more troops. Retired Gen. Jack Keane, the former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said if put in that position he would resign. Keane said it would be impossible for him to ‘ask the troops to go out and do something else that you don’t believe will accomplish [your] goals.’ ”

The New York Times (of all outlets) observes that, when it comes to the public’s patience for fighting a war, “a lack of clear progress is what really depresses support — and a clear victory is what lifts it up.” So maybe Obama should do whatever it takes to win in Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

Read Less




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