Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 29, 2009

Throwing the Objective Out with the Bathwater

John Noonan at the Weekly Standard and Max Boot fear that the compromise option Obama is considering for Afghanistan portends a bad decision. Regrettably, mainstream media reporting is unlikely to help Americans understand why. New York Times reporters faithfully reproduce the terms used by administration officials: adopting some elements from McChrystal’s plan and some from the Biden strategy of terrorist-hunting, with a lower number of additional troops presumably justified by the decision not to adopt the entire McChrystal plan. Noonan refers to it as “splitting the baby.”

These essentially methodological terms obscure the real issue, however, which is that truncating McChrystal’s plan inherently changes the objective. If Obama indeed chooses the compromise option outlined in the Times, he will not be telling McChrystal to approach the same objective in a different way. He will be telling McChrystal not to approach it at all.

Max has ably developed the essentials of the McChrystal proposal to secure areas of the Afghan countryside against the Taliban by immunizing the population against insurgent tactics through a multipronged approach, and by focusing on key terrain: transportation routes, the Helmand valley agricultural area, and selected positions in western and eastern Afghanistan that the Taliban cannot be allowed to hold. McChrystal’s plan also, of course, envisions protecting key cities and continuing to train Afghan forces. But it’s the emphasis on securing the countryside—which otherwise will be ruled and used by the Taliban—that demands the bulk of the 40,000 troops.

With only 10,000-20,000 additional troops, the countryside cannot be secured. Obama’s advisers have propounded this issue in honest terms: The Biden group avowedly sees no value in securing the Afghan countryside against the Taliban. There are vague references instead to concluding deals with “moderate” Taliban—a concept that in practice would amount to favoring some Taliban against their tribal enemies.

Given NATO’s numbers and superior armament, a handful of cities could probably be protected for some time under these conditions, although commerce and development would suffer. But a trained Afghan force, once security were turned over to it, would face the Taliban’s holding the majority of Afghan territory after just one or two years of the Obama administration’s compromise option. This option is not a strategy for leaving Afghanistan secure. It would inevitably be seen in the region as a strategy for American convenience and would complete the rollback from Bush’s transformative approach to one of retaining fortified bases from which to conduct homicidal raids against terrorists — while Central Asia is left to descend into chaos. Local rebellion against such a policy seems all but guaranteed.

The compromise option carries a fundamentally different objective from the one McChrystal’s plan seeks to achieve. The objective is the essential issue, not the methodology. This is a baby that cannot be split; it can only be thrown out with the bath water.

John Noonan at the Weekly Standard and Max Boot fear that the compromise option Obama is considering for Afghanistan portends a bad decision. Regrettably, mainstream media reporting is unlikely to help Americans understand why. New York Times reporters faithfully reproduce the terms used by administration officials: adopting some elements from McChrystal’s plan and some from the Biden strategy of terrorist-hunting, with a lower number of additional troops presumably justified by the decision not to adopt the entire McChrystal plan. Noonan refers to it as “splitting the baby.”

These essentially methodological terms obscure the real issue, however, which is that truncating McChrystal’s plan inherently changes the objective. If Obama indeed chooses the compromise option outlined in the Times, he will not be telling McChrystal to approach the same objective in a different way. He will be telling McChrystal not to approach it at all.

Max has ably developed the essentials of the McChrystal proposal to secure areas of the Afghan countryside against the Taliban by immunizing the population against insurgent tactics through a multipronged approach, and by focusing on key terrain: transportation routes, the Helmand valley agricultural area, and selected positions in western and eastern Afghanistan that the Taliban cannot be allowed to hold. McChrystal’s plan also, of course, envisions protecting key cities and continuing to train Afghan forces. But it’s the emphasis on securing the countryside—which otherwise will be ruled and used by the Taliban—that demands the bulk of the 40,000 troops.

With only 10,000-20,000 additional troops, the countryside cannot be secured. Obama’s advisers have propounded this issue in honest terms: The Biden group avowedly sees no value in securing the Afghan countryside against the Taliban. There are vague references instead to concluding deals with “moderate” Taliban—a concept that in practice would amount to favoring some Taliban against their tribal enemies.

Given NATO’s numbers and superior armament, a handful of cities could probably be protected for some time under these conditions, although commerce and development would suffer. But a trained Afghan force, once security were turned over to it, would face the Taliban’s holding the majority of Afghan territory after just one or two years of the Obama administration’s compromise option. This option is not a strategy for leaving Afghanistan secure. It would inevitably be seen in the region as a strategy for American convenience and would complete the rollback from Bush’s transformative approach to one of retaining fortified bases from which to conduct homicidal raids against terrorists — while Central Asia is left to descend into chaos. Local rebellion against such a policy seems all but guaranteed.

The compromise option carries a fundamentally different objective from the one McChrystal’s plan seeks to achieve. The objective is the essential issue, not the methodology. This is a baby that cannot be split; it can only be thrown out with the bath water.

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The Countdown

Nancy Pelosi has unveiled her monstrous bill — well, not exactly unveiled it, because the unveiling wasn’t open to the public. But we do know it is now nearly 2,000 pages long. And we know she wants to vote on this before November 11. Some of the high- and low-lights:

The legislation imposes as much as $150 billion in Medicare cuts on the prescription-drug industry — almost double the $80 billion cuts in the Senate bill. It imposes a 2.5 percent tax on medical device manufacturers, a quietly influential force on Capitol Hill. And health insurers, who have already agreed to end many of the practices banned by the bill, would have to compete with a government-run insurance vehicle that would put pressure on them to lower premiums.

It achieves deficit neutrality by phantom Medicare cuts (which are unlikely to go through or, if they do, will be promptly undone). And then there are the taxes and mandates, which include:

In addition, businesses with a combined annual payroll exceeding $500,000 will be forced to pay penalties for its uninsured workers. As expected, the House bill generates most of its income by imposing a graduated surtax on married couples who make more than $1 million and individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $500,000. The initial income thresholds were $350,000 for couples and $280,000 for individuals.

What about cost containment? No, there are fee cuts for doctors and hospitals, but that’s just the amount the government will pay for health care (that is, the procedures and treatments it will approve). The cost of health care is not really addressed by any of this.

Will a single Republican vote for a government takeover of health care and 1,990 pages of mandates, taxes, and controls? I would be surprised. The question is how many Democrats are willing to stake their political futures on this sort of power grab. Perhaps next Tuesday’s elections will be a wake-up call of sorts … a teachable moment is what they call it, right?

Nancy Pelosi has unveiled her monstrous bill — well, not exactly unveiled it, because the unveiling wasn’t open to the public. But we do know it is now nearly 2,000 pages long. And we know she wants to vote on this before November 11. Some of the high- and low-lights:

The legislation imposes as much as $150 billion in Medicare cuts on the prescription-drug industry — almost double the $80 billion cuts in the Senate bill. It imposes a 2.5 percent tax on medical device manufacturers, a quietly influential force on Capitol Hill. And health insurers, who have already agreed to end many of the practices banned by the bill, would have to compete with a government-run insurance vehicle that would put pressure on them to lower premiums.

It achieves deficit neutrality by phantom Medicare cuts (which are unlikely to go through or, if they do, will be promptly undone). And then there are the taxes and mandates, which include:

In addition, businesses with a combined annual payroll exceeding $500,000 will be forced to pay penalties for its uninsured workers. As expected, the House bill generates most of its income by imposing a graduated surtax on married couples who make more than $1 million and individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $500,000. The initial income thresholds were $350,000 for couples and $280,000 for individuals.

What about cost containment? No, there are fee cuts for doctors and hospitals, but that’s just the amount the government will pay for health care (that is, the procedures and treatments it will approve). The cost of health care is not really addressed by any of this.

Will a single Republican vote for a government takeover of health care and 1,990 pages of mandates, taxes, and controls? I would be surprised. The question is how many Democrats are willing to stake their political futures on this sort of power grab. Perhaps next Tuesday’s elections will be a wake-up call of sorts … a teachable moment is what they call it, right?

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Seminars and Serious Questions

As the serial seminars continue, the front-page headline yesterday on the New York Times was “Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by CIA.” The article did not waste any time getting to its point: the news “raises significant questions about America’s war strategy.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry issued a press release stating it was news to him and raised “serious questions”:

“After reading press accounts which allege that Mr. Karzai has been on the payroll of the CIA, one of the agencies gathering intelligence about narcotics trafficking in Afghanistan, I have serious questions about the information that Congress is receiving. On questions this serious, it is imperative that we receive reliable, current and accurate information. …

The appropriate congressional committees must be immediately provided with the most comprehensive and untainted information about his alleged entanglements.”

Over at the State Department, there was this comedy-silver exchange with Spokesman Ian Kelly:

QUESTION: Ian, quite apart from any report that may have appeared today or in the recent past, what does the Administration think about President Karzai’s brother?

MR. KELLY: What do we think about his brother? I don’t know that we necessarily have a view on his brother. I mean, we support the government of President Karzai, and our views are very well known on that.

QUESTION: Well, what do you think of the influence his brother might wield?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think I necessarily have that kind of information.

QUESTION: Okay. Perhaps then maybe you can [give] the guidance you have for the question that you were expecting.

MR. KELLY: You’ve got to ask me the question before I read the guidance. I’m happy to read the guidance, if you’ll ask me the question.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: What about reports that President Karzai’s brother is being paid by the CIA for various activities?

MR. KELLY: We don’t comment on intelligence matters.

One would have thought the serious questions had been resolved long ago. On March 27, President Obama announced his “comprehensive, new strategy” after a “careful policy review … ordered as soon as I took office” that reflected input from “our military commanders, as well as our diplomats” and consultations with Afghanistan, Pakistan, NATO allies, and international organizations working “closely” with members of Congress.

According to Rahm Emanuel, Obama is now asking “the questions that have never been asked on the civilian side, the political side, the military side and the strategic side.” Obama’s current review of his own comprehensive new strategy has now taken him longer than it took him to adopt the strategy in the first place.

As the serial seminars continue, the front-page headline yesterday on the New York Times was “Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by CIA.” The article did not waste any time getting to its point: the news “raises significant questions about America’s war strategy.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry issued a press release stating it was news to him and raised “serious questions”:

“After reading press accounts which allege that Mr. Karzai has been on the payroll of the CIA, one of the agencies gathering intelligence about narcotics trafficking in Afghanistan, I have serious questions about the information that Congress is receiving. On questions this serious, it is imperative that we receive reliable, current and accurate information. …

The appropriate congressional committees must be immediately provided with the most comprehensive and untainted information about his alleged entanglements.”

Over at the State Department, there was this comedy-silver exchange with Spokesman Ian Kelly:

QUESTION: Ian, quite apart from any report that may have appeared today or in the recent past, what does the Administration think about President Karzai’s brother?

MR. KELLY: What do we think about his brother? I don’t know that we necessarily have a view on his brother. I mean, we support the government of President Karzai, and our views are very well known on that.

QUESTION: Well, what do you think of the influence his brother might wield?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think I necessarily have that kind of information.

QUESTION: Okay. Perhaps then maybe you can [give] the guidance you have for the question that you were expecting.

MR. KELLY: You’ve got to ask me the question before I read the guidance. I’m happy to read the guidance, if you’ll ask me the question.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: What about reports that President Karzai’s brother is being paid by the CIA for various activities?

MR. KELLY: We don’t comment on intelligence matters.

One would have thought the serious questions had been resolved long ago. On March 27, President Obama announced his “comprehensive, new strategy” after a “careful policy review … ordered as soon as I took office” that reflected input from “our military commanders, as well as our diplomats” and consultations with Afghanistan, Pakistan, NATO allies, and international organizations working “closely” with members of Congress.

According to Rahm Emanuel, Obama is now asking “the questions that have never been asked on the civilian side, the political side, the military side and the strategic side.” Obama’s current review of his own comprehensive new strategy has now taken him longer than it took him to adopt the strategy in the first place.

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Helena Cobban on the Jews

Helena Cobban sits on the board of Human Rights Watch and was a member of the blogger panel at the J Street conference. She recently ruminated on the question of why so many Jews are disgusted with the Goldstone/HRW treatment of Israel (hat tip: Richard Landes). Her answer:

But the Michael Goldfarbs, the Norman Podhoretz’s, the Alan Dershowitz’s, and Robert Bernsteins of this world truly don’t get this. They truly think there is something so “special” about Jewish people and their experience in the world that somehow the [sic] (and especially the allegedly “Jewish” state, Israel) deserve to be given a free pass on the application of any neutral standards of behavior, such as would be applied to anyone else.

Ah, so the Jews think they’re superior to everyone else — where have we heard that one before? And what is the “allegedly” Jewish state? (Sorry, I’ve misquoted her. That’s the allegedly “Jewish” state.) Her writing is so sloppy that it’s impossible to discern what specific slander she has in mind.

Cobban concludes:

So now, frustrated by their inability to dream up a “Cast lead II,” Israel’s hardliners are taking out their frustrations by railing against Goldstone and “demanding deep changes in the laws of war.”

The pop psychology here is entertaining but of a thematic piece with the rest of her thinking. The criticism of Goldstone, she intones, is not serious or rational — it is in fact the redirected frustration of a predatory and sadistic people whose desire for more war on Palestinian civilians has been thwarted. Get it?

Just to remind people again: this petulant woman sits on the board of Human Rights Watch.

Helena Cobban sits on the board of Human Rights Watch and was a member of the blogger panel at the J Street conference. She recently ruminated on the question of why so many Jews are disgusted with the Goldstone/HRW treatment of Israel (hat tip: Richard Landes). Her answer:

But the Michael Goldfarbs, the Norman Podhoretz’s, the Alan Dershowitz’s, and Robert Bernsteins of this world truly don’t get this. They truly think there is something so “special” about Jewish people and their experience in the world that somehow the [sic] (and especially the allegedly “Jewish” state, Israel) deserve to be given a free pass on the application of any neutral standards of behavior, such as would be applied to anyone else.

Ah, so the Jews think they’re superior to everyone else — where have we heard that one before? And what is the “allegedly” Jewish state? (Sorry, I’ve misquoted her. That’s the allegedly “Jewish” state.) Her writing is so sloppy that it’s impossible to discern what specific slander she has in mind.

Cobban concludes:

So now, frustrated by their inability to dream up a “Cast lead II,” Israel’s hardliners are taking out their frustrations by railing against Goldstone and “demanding deep changes in the laws of war.”

The pop psychology here is entertaining but of a thematic piece with the rest of her thinking. The criticism of Goldstone, she intones, is not serious or rational — it is in fact the redirected frustration of a predatory and sadistic people whose desire for more war on Palestinian civilians has been thwarted. Get it?

Just to remind people again: this petulant woman sits on the board of Human Rights Watch.

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What Planet Are You On?

In a story in the British paper the Independent, we find this nugget:

“Obama has created an atmosphere of no fear,” Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University and political biographer, told the National Journal. “Nobody is really worried about the revenge of Barack Obama, because he is not a vengeful man. That’s what we love about him; he is so high-minded, and a conciliatory guy, and he tries to govern with a sense of consensus – all noble goals, but they don’t get you very far in this Washington knifing environment.”

Exactly what planet is Professor Brinkley living on? The person he describes was Candidate Obama. But President Obama — you know, the one who targets news networks, the Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies, and people attending town-hall meetings; the Obama who accuses his critics of being liars; the Obama who is trying to ram through one of the largest pieces of legislation in American history without a single Republican vote and after having done virtually no outreach — is a very different person.

The curtain has been pulled back on the supposedly high-minded and noble Mr. Obama. The game is up. And the reality is that he is one of the most partisan and divisive figures we have seen, even as he tries from time to time to reach back to unifying rhetoric — rhetoric that has grown old and stale. His White House — led by Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Anita Dunn, and Robert Gibbs — is also showing a propensity to bring knives and clubs and guns to Washington’s political skirmishes. They are pulling down rather than elevating our politics. That should be obvious to anyone paying attention, to anyone not blinded by ideology. Which perhaps explains Professor Brinkley’s silly comments.

In a story in the British paper the Independent, we find this nugget:

“Obama has created an atmosphere of no fear,” Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University and political biographer, told the National Journal. “Nobody is really worried about the revenge of Barack Obama, because he is not a vengeful man. That’s what we love about him; he is so high-minded, and a conciliatory guy, and he tries to govern with a sense of consensus – all noble goals, but they don’t get you very far in this Washington knifing environment.”

Exactly what planet is Professor Brinkley living on? The person he describes was Candidate Obama. But President Obama — you know, the one who targets news networks, the Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies, and people attending town-hall meetings; the Obama who accuses his critics of being liars; the Obama who is trying to ram through one of the largest pieces of legislation in American history without a single Republican vote and after having done virtually no outreach — is a very different person.

The curtain has been pulled back on the supposedly high-minded and noble Mr. Obama. The game is up. And the reality is that he is one of the most partisan and divisive figures we have seen, even as he tries from time to time to reach back to unifying rhetoric — rhetoric that has grown old and stale. His White House — led by Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Anita Dunn, and Robert Gibbs — is also showing a propensity to bring knives and clubs and guns to Washington’s political skirmishes. They are pulling down rather than elevating our politics. That should be obvious to anyone paying attention, to anyone not blinded by ideology. Which perhaps explains Professor Brinkley’s silly comments.

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All Aboard COMMENTARY in August 2010

We are now accepting reservations for the week-long COMMENTARY Conference of Ideas from August 4 through August 11, 2010, aboard the Regent Seven Seas Navigator as it sails through the waters of Alaska. Enjoy stimulating discussions, speeches, and dinners with some of the most interesting and well-informed people you are ever likely to meet in the most dramatic and gorgeous setting in the Northern Hemisphere.

You will hear Elliott Abrams, the top official on the Mideast in the Bush White House, discuss the state of play between Israel, Iran, and the Palestinians. Bret Stephens, author of the marvelous “Global View” column in the Wall Street Journal and former editor of the Jerusalem Post, will offer his, well, Global View. (Bret began his career at COMMENTARY.) You will be privy to an authoritative historical overview provided by Andrew Roberts, who may be the finest living historian of World War II. The political condition of the United States will be the subject of talks by Michael Medved, the author and talk-show host, and Jennifer Rubin, COMMENTARY’s lead blogger and a contributing editor to the magazine. And of course, we’ll have the First Couple of Neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who, I can tell you with some authority, are not only among the world’s most fascinating people but delightful traveling companions to boot. I’ll be there too, playing traffic cop.

We’ve just opened up shop for this conference, so the best cabins are still available. For more information on this singular event, click here.

We are now accepting reservations for the week-long COMMENTARY Conference of Ideas from August 4 through August 11, 2010, aboard the Regent Seven Seas Navigator as it sails through the waters of Alaska. Enjoy stimulating discussions, speeches, and dinners with some of the most interesting and well-informed people you are ever likely to meet in the most dramatic and gorgeous setting in the Northern Hemisphere.

You will hear Elliott Abrams, the top official on the Mideast in the Bush White House, discuss the state of play between Israel, Iran, and the Palestinians. Bret Stephens, author of the marvelous “Global View” column in the Wall Street Journal and former editor of the Jerusalem Post, will offer his, well, Global View. (Bret began his career at COMMENTARY.) You will be privy to an authoritative historical overview provided by Andrew Roberts, who may be the finest living historian of World War II. The political condition of the United States will be the subject of talks by Michael Medved, the author and talk-show host, and Jennifer Rubin, COMMENTARY’s lead blogger and a contributing editor to the magazine. And of course, we’ll have the First Couple of Neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who, I can tell you with some authority, are not only among the world’s most fascinating people but delightful traveling companions to boot. I’ll be there too, playing traffic cop.

We’ve just opened up shop for this conference, so the best cabins are still available. For more information on this singular event, click here.

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A Dignified Act

President Obama visited Dover Air Force Base early this morning and met with some of the families of the fallen. It was a dignified and appropriate act by the president. And I know from the experience of George W. Bush, who met with hundreds of family members over the course of his presidency, that it is an emotionally wrenching one as well, though nothing compared with what the families themselves suffer. In watching this, one is reminded of the awful costs of war — and of the unique place the president plays in our national life.

Barack Obama did the right thing in the right way, and he deserves credit for it.

President Obama visited Dover Air Force Base early this morning and met with some of the families of the fallen. It was a dignified and appropriate act by the president. And I know from the experience of George W. Bush, who met with hundreds of family members over the course of his presidency, that it is an emotionally wrenching one as well, though nothing compared with what the families themselves suffer. In watching this, one is reminded of the awful costs of war — and of the unique place the president plays in our national life.

Barack Obama did the right thing in the right way, and he deserves credit for it.

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Fortunate Timing

The Commerce Department reported this morning that the economy rebounded in the third quarter of 2009, growing at a 3.5 percent annual rate. That is the first quarter of growth since the second quarter of last year and so may signal the end of the Great Recession, especially if the fourth quarter continues the trend. To be sure, a considerable part of that growth was from the cash-for-clunkers program, which helped drive up durable-goods purchases by an astounding 22.3 percent last quarter. It will be interesting to see how much of that automobile-buying was borrowed from the future by the federal subsidies, retarding growth in the current quarter and the first quarter of 2010.

What is unlikely to rebound is employment, which is always a lagging indicator. Worse, as I explained here, the rebound in employment has been taking longer and longer after each recession, as the microprocessor revolution rolls on. It is, perhaps, lucky for the Democrats that preliminary quarterly GDP figures are released on the last Thursday of the month following the end of the quarter and that monthly unemployment figures are released on the first Friday of the next month. Because of the vagaries of the calendar this fall, that means that the good news on GDP was released five days before the election and the likely bad news on unemployment will be released three days after the election.

The Commerce Department reported this morning that the economy rebounded in the third quarter of 2009, growing at a 3.5 percent annual rate. That is the first quarter of growth since the second quarter of last year and so may signal the end of the Great Recession, especially if the fourth quarter continues the trend. To be sure, a considerable part of that growth was from the cash-for-clunkers program, which helped drive up durable-goods purchases by an astounding 22.3 percent last quarter. It will be interesting to see how much of that automobile-buying was borrowed from the future by the federal subsidies, retarding growth in the current quarter and the first quarter of 2010.

What is unlikely to rebound is employment, which is always a lagging indicator. Worse, as I explained here, the rebound in employment has been taking longer and longer after each recession, as the microprocessor revolution rolls on. It is, perhaps, lucky for the Democrats that preliminary quarterly GDP figures are released on the last Thursday of the month following the end of the quarter and that monthly unemployment figures are released on the first Friday of the next month. Because of the vagaries of the calendar this fall, that means that the good news on GDP was released five days before the election and the likely bad news on unemployment will be released three days after the election.

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What Could It Mean?

Stuart Rothenberg, hardly a conservative cheerleader, has a sobering take for Democrats on the Virginia gubernatorial race:

If George W. Bush were still in the White House, Deeds almost certainly would be elected governor of Virginia, so it’s a little difficult to swallow the argument that national politics has nothing to do with the Virginia results. But it’s also important to note that Virginia Republicans united behind their nominee and that McDonnell has kept his focus on jobs, taxes and transportation, rather than stressing social issues.

The ability of McDonnell to roll up big margins outside Northern Virginia, against a Democratic nominee from rural Bath County, can’t be ignored, especially considering all of the growth in Northern Virginia and the hype about the region’s political importance in state races. The red parts of Virginia are acting red again, even against a Democratic nominee who was expected to have considerable appeal in those parts of the state.

Tim Kaine won by 6 points in 2005. We’ll see what the switch from Bush to Obama is “worth” to Republicans. A 10-point shift (McDonnell by 4) or a 15-point shift (McDonnell by 9) would be extraordinary. Put differently, we will find out next Tuesday just how much of a drag Obama is on the political fortunes of swing-state Democrats.

In New Jersey, Rothenberg says it is too close to call, although he suggests that both the tendency for late deciders to break against the incumbent and the falloff in the vote for independents in the final days favor Chris Christie. Given that this is essentially a referendum on Jon Corzine, Rothenberg notes, “In any case and no matter the result, the result in the Garden State will say little or nothing about Obama.”

In 2005, Virginia losses foretold the GOP wipeout in 2006. In 1993 the GOP victories in New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races signaled the wave election of 1994. It doesn’t always work that way. But it does often enough, which is why everyone will argue about the implications of these races so strenuously.

Stuart Rothenberg, hardly a conservative cheerleader, has a sobering take for Democrats on the Virginia gubernatorial race:

If George W. Bush were still in the White House, Deeds almost certainly would be elected governor of Virginia, so it’s a little difficult to swallow the argument that national politics has nothing to do with the Virginia results. But it’s also important to note that Virginia Republicans united behind their nominee and that McDonnell has kept his focus on jobs, taxes and transportation, rather than stressing social issues.

The ability of McDonnell to roll up big margins outside Northern Virginia, against a Democratic nominee from rural Bath County, can’t be ignored, especially considering all of the growth in Northern Virginia and the hype about the region’s political importance in state races. The red parts of Virginia are acting red again, even against a Democratic nominee who was expected to have considerable appeal in those parts of the state.

Tim Kaine won by 6 points in 2005. We’ll see what the switch from Bush to Obama is “worth” to Republicans. A 10-point shift (McDonnell by 4) or a 15-point shift (McDonnell by 9) would be extraordinary. Put differently, we will find out next Tuesday just how much of a drag Obama is on the political fortunes of swing-state Democrats.

In New Jersey, Rothenberg says it is too close to call, although he suggests that both the tendency for late deciders to break against the incumbent and the falloff in the vote for independents in the final days favor Chris Christie. Given that this is essentially a referendum on Jon Corzine, Rothenberg notes, “In any case and no matter the result, the result in the Garden State will say little or nothing about Obama.”

In 2005, Virginia losses foretold the GOP wipeout in 2006. In 1993 the GOP victories in New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races signaled the wave election of 1994. It doesn’t always work that way. But it does often enough, which is why everyone will argue about the implications of these races so strenuously.

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Never Give Up

Bob Kagan asks a salient question: What will the Obama administration do when it’s clear (well, clearer than it has been) that we’re being played by the Iranian regime? He explains:

So now the test results are in: Iran’s intentions, it seems, are not good. Tehran apparently will not accept the deal but will propose an alternate plan, agreeing to ship smaller amounts of low-enriched uranium to Russia gradually over a year. Even if Iran carried out this plan as promised — every month would be an adventure to see how much, if anything, Iran shipped — the slow movement of small amounts of low-enriched uranium does not accomplish the original purpose, since Iran can quickly replace these amounts with new low-enriched uranium produced by its centrifuges. Iran’s nuclear clock, which the Obama administration hoped to stop or at least slow, would continue ticking at close to its regular speed.

Kagan implores the Obama team to show some spine and move ahead with sanctions to show we mean business. And really, if we didn’t get snookered by the Russians, they, in exchange for our selling out the Poles and Czechs on missile defense, “should come through by joining in sanctions.” Right? But like Kagan, I find it hard to believe that any objective evidence of “failure” will be taken to heart. We’ll simply double down, extend the deadlines, and continue the “hard work of negotiating.”

We’ve already refused repeatedly to take no for an answer on a series of deadlines, and have already absolved Iran for maintaining the secret Qom site. So why should we suddenly show some fortitude? We’ve already beckoned the mullahs back into respectable international company. We’re going to be the skunk at our own garden party?

The Obama team’s devotion to engagement has become a religious-like devotion. Contrary facts are reinterpreted to maintain the core ideology. We must simply be faithful and patient. As Kagan notes, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that “engagement is an end in itself, not a means to an end.” If engagement ever stopped, we would have to do something. And if the vision of a grand multilateral international community doesn’t quite match reality we might — oh my! — have to act on our own. The imposition of American military power we’ve already been warned isn’t going to “permanently” solve anything. (Not like shipping part of Iran’s uranium to Russia to be replaced in a year, huh?)

Much damage has already been done by the faux negotiating. The Iranian regime has solidified its position and taken on an air of legitimacy. News of its suppression of dissent and brutality is out of the headlines. We’ve been enablers in the snuffing out of Iranian democratic protests. (Defunding them certainly went a long way in that direction.)

So will Obama show us he is the savvy negotiator and tough guy his ardent fans think he is? C’mon, it’s not like we’re talking about Fox News or the Chamber of Commerce.

Bob Kagan asks a salient question: What will the Obama administration do when it’s clear (well, clearer than it has been) that we’re being played by the Iranian regime? He explains:

So now the test results are in: Iran’s intentions, it seems, are not good. Tehran apparently will not accept the deal but will propose an alternate plan, agreeing to ship smaller amounts of low-enriched uranium to Russia gradually over a year. Even if Iran carried out this plan as promised — every month would be an adventure to see how much, if anything, Iran shipped — the slow movement of small amounts of low-enriched uranium does not accomplish the original purpose, since Iran can quickly replace these amounts with new low-enriched uranium produced by its centrifuges. Iran’s nuclear clock, which the Obama administration hoped to stop or at least slow, would continue ticking at close to its regular speed.

Kagan implores the Obama team to show some spine and move ahead with sanctions to show we mean business. And really, if we didn’t get snookered by the Russians, they, in exchange for our selling out the Poles and Czechs on missile defense, “should come through by joining in sanctions.” Right? But like Kagan, I find it hard to believe that any objective evidence of “failure” will be taken to heart. We’ll simply double down, extend the deadlines, and continue the “hard work of negotiating.”

We’ve already refused repeatedly to take no for an answer on a series of deadlines, and have already absolved Iran for maintaining the secret Qom site. So why should we suddenly show some fortitude? We’ve already beckoned the mullahs back into respectable international company. We’re going to be the skunk at our own garden party?

The Obama team’s devotion to engagement has become a religious-like devotion. Contrary facts are reinterpreted to maintain the core ideology. We must simply be faithful and patient. As Kagan notes, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that “engagement is an end in itself, not a means to an end.” If engagement ever stopped, we would have to do something. And if the vision of a grand multilateral international community doesn’t quite match reality we might — oh my! — have to act on our own. The imposition of American military power we’ve already been warned isn’t going to “permanently” solve anything. (Not like shipping part of Iran’s uranium to Russia to be replaced in a year, huh?)

Much damage has already been done by the faux negotiating. The Iranian regime has solidified its position and taken on an air of legitimacy. News of its suppression of dissent and brutality is out of the headlines. We’ve been enablers in the snuffing out of Iranian democratic protests. (Defunding them certainly went a long way in that direction.)

So will Obama show us he is the savvy negotiator and tough guy his ardent fans think he is? C’mon, it’s not like we’re talking about Fox News or the Chamber of Commerce.

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A Question of Priorities

This report tells us:

An early progress report on President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan overstates by thousands the number of jobs created or saved through the stimulus program, a mistake that White House officials promise will be corrected in future reports.The government’s first accounting of jobs tied to the $787 billion stimulus program claimed more than 30,000 positions paid for with recovery money. But that figure is overstated by least 5,000 jobs, according to an Associated Press review of a sample of stimulus contracts.

Forget the error rate and the funny double-counting. If we created 25,000 jobs, we’re talking $31.48 million per job created. (That uses the conservative figure of $787B, which does not include interest.) This is how the taxpayers’ money is being spent. And the administration declares this a success, beyond its expectations. We’re heading for double-digit unemployment, but we’re told this was money well spent.

Meanwhile, the Obama team can’t find the money — or is it the will to ask for the money? – to give Gen. McChrystal all the funding for troops he needs. We don’t have enough to continue the F-22 — which would create directly or indirectly 95,000 high-paying jobs. We need to chisel a billion here and there on missile defense. After all, we need to watch how we spend the taxpayers’ money.

This report tells us:

An early progress report on President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan overstates by thousands the number of jobs created or saved through the stimulus program, a mistake that White House officials promise will be corrected in future reports.The government’s first accounting of jobs tied to the $787 billion stimulus program claimed more than 30,000 positions paid for with recovery money. But that figure is overstated by least 5,000 jobs, according to an Associated Press review of a sample of stimulus contracts.

Forget the error rate and the funny double-counting. If we created 25,000 jobs, we’re talking $31.48 million per job created. (That uses the conservative figure of $787B, which does not include interest.) This is how the taxpayers’ money is being spent. And the administration declares this a success, beyond its expectations. We’re heading for double-digit unemployment, but we’re told this was money well spent.

Meanwhile, the Obama team can’t find the money — or is it the will to ask for the money? – to give Gen. McChrystal all the funding for troops he needs. We don’t have enough to continue the F-22 — which would create directly or indirectly 95,000 high-paying jobs. We need to chisel a billion here and there on missile defense. After all, we need to watch how we spend the taxpayers’ money.

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Other People’s Money

This news should come as no surprise to those who warned that we were going down a dangerous road with bailout mania:

Since the financial crisis broke, Congress has been acting like the board of USA Inc., invoking the infusion of taxpayer money to get banks to modify loans to constituents and to give more help to those in danger of foreclosure. Members have berated CEOs for their business practices and pushed for caps on executive pay. They have also pushed GM and Chrysler to reverse core decisions designed to cut costs, such as closing facilities and shuttering dealerships.

The list of meddlers in the car industry is long. This one wants a plant in his district. That one wants a dealership left open. The companies that went on the public dole now have a host of new bosses whose preferences and suggestions take on the air of ultimatums and whose decision-making is not guided by profit and loss but my political considerations. The recipients of government “help” have little choice but to comply with government directives, thereby muddying their business decisions. After awhile, those business decisions become political ones, which may further hobble the indebted firms. That, in turn, will put new pressure on lawmakers to give away more of the taxpayers’ money to keep them afloat.

There is no better (worse, actually) example than GM:

So far, GM has given reprieves to 70 dealerships nationwide. GM’s Washington spokesman says congressional pressure helped “put a focus on an individual dealer’s plight.” Beyond that, he said, “decisions to save individual dealerships were made on the merits.” In addition to the dealership issue, lawmakers have jumped into a union fight that pits GM and Chrysler against two trucking companies that haul new cars around the country. The auto makers want to give some of the work to cheaper nonunion contractors. But that raised the ire of lawmakers who support the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

So the codependent relationship seems destined to continue. Profitability? Not in sight. But that’s no longer the goal. The name of the game is keeping the congressional overlords happy — and they in turn can show their constituents all the goodies they’ve gotten. After all, it’s only the taxpayers’ money.

This news should come as no surprise to those who warned that we were going down a dangerous road with bailout mania:

Since the financial crisis broke, Congress has been acting like the board of USA Inc., invoking the infusion of taxpayer money to get banks to modify loans to constituents and to give more help to those in danger of foreclosure. Members have berated CEOs for their business practices and pushed for caps on executive pay. They have also pushed GM and Chrysler to reverse core decisions designed to cut costs, such as closing facilities and shuttering dealerships.

The list of meddlers in the car industry is long. This one wants a plant in his district. That one wants a dealership left open. The companies that went on the public dole now have a host of new bosses whose preferences and suggestions take on the air of ultimatums and whose decision-making is not guided by profit and loss but my political considerations. The recipients of government “help” have little choice but to comply with government directives, thereby muddying their business decisions. After awhile, those business decisions become political ones, which may further hobble the indebted firms. That, in turn, will put new pressure on lawmakers to give away more of the taxpayers’ money to keep them afloat.

There is no better (worse, actually) example than GM:

So far, GM has given reprieves to 70 dealerships nationwide. GM’s Washington spokesman says congressional pressure helped “put a focus on an individual dealer’s plight.” Beyond that, he said, “decisions to save individual dealerships were made on the merits.” In addition to the dealership issue, lawmakers have jumped into a union fight that pits GM and Chrysler against two trucking companies that haul new cars around the country. The auto makers want to give some of the work to cheaper nonunion contractors. But that raised the ire of lawmakers who support the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

So the codependent relationship seems destined to continue. Profitability? Not in sight. But that’s no longer the goal. The name of the game is keeping the congressional overlords happy — and they in turn can show their constituents all the goodies they’ve gotten. After all, it’s only the taxpayers’ money.

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Searching for a Different Answer

The White House seminars on the Afghanistan war are continuing. The term papers assigned this quarter include a “province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan to determine which regions are being managed effectively by local leaders and which require international help, information that his advisers say will guide his decision on how many additional U.S. troops to send to the battle.” But there is a hint as to where this is headed. The military commanders are being phased out and the political appointees are taking charge:

The review group once included intelligence officials, generals and ambassadors, but it has recently narrowed to a far smaller number of senior civilian advisers, including Biden, Gates, Jones, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, among others.

But the game is obvious here. Extract information, second-guess the military, and lower the troop levels:

“There are a lot of questions about why McChrystal has identified the areas that he has identified as needing more forces,” said a senior military official familiar with the review, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations candidly. “Some see it as an attempt by the White House to do due diligence on the commander’s troop request. A less charitable view is that it is a 5,000-mile screwdriver tinkering from Washington.”

No wonder the process is taking so long. All this homework and micromanaging takes time. But in the end, will the American people believe that faux Gens. Biden and Emanuel were smarter than Gen. Stanley McChrystal? The voters in repeated polls have already said they trust the military commanders by a wide margin over the president to make the calls on Afghanistan. That isn’t how it should work in our system of civilian control. But the public has smelled a rat — and is right to conclude that the president and his team aren’t making decisions on the merits but rather are massaging the facts to get to a result they desire.

The seminar process has not inspired confidence. Moreover, the president’s failure to reiterate the importance of a successful outcome (he doesn’t like the word victory) has allowed public support for the war to erode further. It’s hard to see whether the president still believes in the effort, given that he’s decided that “the Taliban cannot be eliminated as a military and political force, regardless of how many more troops are deployed.” We are now in the business of half-measures and inconclusive outcomes.

A final decision on the strategy and troop levels, we are told, has not yet been made. But given the handiwork so far, it appears as though the seminar participants are heading for a failing grade.

The White House seminars on the Afghanistan war are continuing. The term papers assigned this quarter include a “province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan to determine which regions are being managed effectively by local leaders and which require international help, information that his advisers say will guide his decision on how many additional U.S. troops to send to the battle.” But there is a hint as to where this is headed. The military commanders are being phased out and the political appointees are taking charge:

The review group once included intelligence officials, generals and ambassadors, but it has recently narrowed to a far smaller number of senior civilian advisers, including Biden, Gates, Jones, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, among others.

But the game is obvious here. Extract information, second-guess the military, and lower the troop levels:

“There are a lot of questions about why McChrystal has identified the areas that he has identified as needing more forces,” said a senior military official familiar with the review, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations candidly. “Some see it as an attempt by the White House to do due diligence on the commander’s troop request. A less charitable view is that it is a 5,000-mile screwdriver tinkering from Washington.”

No wonder the process is taking so long. All this homework and micromanaging takes time. But in the end, will the American people believe that faux Gens. Biden and Emanuel were smarter than Gen. Stanley McChrystal? The voters in repeated polls have already said they trust the military commanders by a wide margin over the president to make the calls on Afghanistan. That isn’t how it should work in our system of civilian control. But the public has smelled a rat — and is right to conclude that the president and his team aren’t making decisions on the merits but rather are massaging the facts to get to a result they desire.

The seminar process has not inspired confidence. Moreover, the president’s failure to reiterate the importance of a successful outcome (he doesn’t like the word victory) has allowed public support for the war to erode further. It’s hard to see whether the president still believes in the effort, given that he’s decided that “the Taliban cannot be eliminated as a military and political force, regardless of how many more troops are deployed.” We are now in the business of half-measures and inconclusive outcomes.

A final decision on the strategy and troop levels, we are told, has not yet been made. But given the handiwork so far, it appears as though the seminar participants are heading for a failing grade.

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Confused at Best

It seems as though J Street has failed to conceal the major fault line — some would say canard — at the center of its undertaking. And don’t take my word for it. From the Forward, no less, comes this from J.J. Goldberg:

The core problem is that J Street has two main stated goals, and they don’t really fit together. The first goal is to “broaden” the definition of what it means to be pro-Israel, to open up Jewish community discourse to a wider range of acceptable opinions. The second goal is to lobby for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord that leads to a two-state solution. It became evident during the convention that you can’t do both.

Actually, you can do both — by advocating a hamstrung, emasculated, and emaciated Israel that isn’t really a Jewish state at all (and consequently will be short-lived). But even that “solution” might not be good enough for everyone in the J Street crowd.

J Street — either because it really isn’t interested in being pro-Israel at all (hence the name-change debate) or because it just can’t bring itself to exclude any card-carrying member of the Left — has chosen to take in all manner of defenders of the Iranian regime and Israel bashers. J Street chooses to attack those who go after Israel’s enemies and seeks to hold everyone but the terrorists, the Iranian regime, and Arab rejectionists responsible for the ills of the region. (Hmm, that leaves only Israel, doesn’t it?) So whatever “nuance” or differentiation J Street hopes to achieve from other Jewish organizations that unabashedly defend a Jewish state and full-throatily condemn its enemies is swamped by the growing sense that these people don’t much care for a Jewish state to begin with. (See this vivid description from Bernard Avishai, who can only bring himself to refer to a “democratic state with a Jewish character.”)

But really, that’s not going to fly in the U.S. Congress or with the general Jewish community. So the grab bag of anti-Israel quackery is disguised by a veneer of platitudes. Yes, ask the Congress to support a two-state solution! (Left unsaid, one suspects, is the desire to impose one on Israel, however indefensible the resulting borders may be, should it not comply with the directive to give the Palestinians everything and ask nothing in return.)

So is J Street a refugee camp for the Iranian regime’s flacks and the Hamas apologists? Or is it something else? What we do know is that this administration seems awfully fond of it. Is it the Iranian excuse-mongering or the unhelpful platitudes that have caught the Obamis’ fancy? Not clear.

An administration that appoints Chas Freeman and Chuck Hagel, awards Mary Robinson the Medal of Freedom, dedicates itself to putting “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, adopts the Palestinian bargaining position by insisting on an absolute freeze of Israeli settlements, and declares Palestinians to be analogous to enslaved (by Israel, it must be) African Americans has a very peculiar definition of what it means to be “pro-Israel.” Somehow that escaped the notice of many during the last election.

It seems as though J Street has failed to conceal the major fault line — some would say canard — at the center of its undertaking. And don’t take my word for it. From the Forward, no less, comes this from J.J. Goldberg:

The core problem is that J Street has two main stated goals, and they don’t really fit together. The first goal is to “broaden” the definition of what it means to be pro-Israel, to open up Jewish community discourse to a wider range of acceptable opinions. The second goal is to lobby for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord that leads to a two-state solution. It became evident during the convention that you can’t do both.

Actually, you can do both — by advocating a hamstrung, emasculated, and emaciated Israel that isn’t really a Jewish state at all (and consequently will be short-lived). But even that “solution” might not be good enough for everyone in the J Street crowd.

J Street — either because it really isn’t interested in being pro-Israel at all (hence the name-change debate) or because it just can’t bring itself to exclude any card-carrying member of the Left — has chosen to take in all manner of defenders of the Iranian regime and Israel bashers. J Street chooses to attack those who go after Israel’s enemies and seeks to hold everyone but the terrorists, the Iranian regime, and Arab rejectionists responsible for the ills of the region. (Hmm, that leaves only Israel, doesn’t it?) So whatever “nuance” or differentiation J Street hopes to achieve from other Jewish organizations that unabashedly defend a Jewish state and full-throatily condemn its enemies is swamped by the growing sense that these people don’t much care for a Jewish state to begin with. (See this vivid description from Bernard Avishai, who can only bring himself to refer to a “democratic state with a Jewish character.”)

But really, that’s not going to fly in the U.S. Congress or with the general Jewish community. So the grab bag of anti-Israel quackery is disguised by a veneer of platitudes. Yes, ask the Congress to support a two-state solution! (Left unsaid, one suspects, is the desire to impose one on Israel, however indefensible the resulting borders may be, should it not comply with the directive to give the Palestinians everything and ask nothing in return.)

So is J Street a refugee camp for the Iranian regime’s flacks and the Hamas apologists? Or is it something else? What we do know is that this administration seems awfully fond of it. Is it the Iranian excuse-mongering or the unhelpful platitudes that have caught the Obamis’ fancy? Not clear.

An administration that appoints Chas Freeman and Chuck Hagel, awards Mary Robinson the Medal of Freedom, dedicates itself to putting “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, adopts the Palestinian bargaining position by insisting on an absolute freeze of Israeli settlements, and declares Palestinians to be analogous to enslaved (by Israel, it must be) African Americans has a very peculiar definition of what it means to be “pro-Israel.” Somehow that escaped the notice of many during the last election.

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The Next Iteration

Nancy Pelosi is set to release, we are told, the next version of health-care reform, which is billed as a more “conservative” version of the public option. If that sounds like an oxymoron, it is. The “conservative” version of the public option would have government “negotiate” with doctors and other providers for fees rather than simply force Medicare rates on them. Everyone knows, you see, that Medicare rates are already too low. But government “negotiation” of rates will devolve into rate-setting and government control of medical practices. There is nothing “conservative” about this.

But wait — it gets better. Part of the deal here, as Bill Kristol points out, is to slash hundreds of billions from Medicare — which is (see above!) a nonstarter given the difficulty in getting doctors to accept current rates. So those cuts, and the purported deficit neutrality, are a sham.

One wonders if congressmen from, say, Virginia will be willing to vote for this bit of chicanery. Or maybe they’d like to see the results of next Tuesday’s vote first, just to see what sort of backlash might be in store for them if they sign on to the Pelosi bill.

Nancy Pelosi is set to release, we are told, the next version of health-care reform, which is billed as a more “conservative” version of the public option. If that sounds like an oxymoron, it is. The “conservative” version of the public option would have government “negotiate” with doctors and other providers for fees rather than simply force Medicare rates on them. Everyone knows, you see, that Medicare rates are already too low. But government “negotiation” of rates will devolve into rate-setting and government control of medical practices. There is nothing “conservative” about this.

But wait — it gets better. Part of the deal here, as Bill Kristol points out, is to slash hundreds of billions from Medicare — which is (see above!) a nonstarter given the difficulty in getting doctors to accept current rates. So those cuts, and the purported deficit neutrality, are a sham.

One wonders if congressmen from, say, Virginia will be willing to vote for this bit of chicanery. Or maybe they’d like to see the results of next Tuesday’s vote first, just to see what sort of backlash might be in store for them if they sign on to the Pelosi bill.

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Voters Will Have Their Say

Karl Rove sounds the warning: after next week’s elections, Democrats in swing states may be nervous about continuing the leftward jag they’ve been on since January. He observes, “Voters have lived under Democratic rule for nine months, and many of them, especially independents, don’t like what they’re seeing.” It could be bad or it could be really bad for the Democrats, depending on the complete returns in the “purple” state of Virginia. Rove continues:

If Republicans also win the races for lieutenant governor and attorney general by five points or more, it will strengthen the case of those predicting a GOP “wave” in 2010. Also watch the races for the 100-member Virginia House of Delegates. Republicans are hoping to add four seats to the 53 they now have. The bigger the GOP gains, the larger the warning for Democrats nationally.

As Rove notes, there is also the New Jersey gubernatorial race, in which Jon Corzine may either sneak through far shy of 50 percent (with the help of an independent candidate) or go down to defeat in one of the Bluest states. Then there is the NY-23.

It sounds simplistic, but in an era of one-party government, the party in power often forgets that it cannot act with impunity. Overreach and excess have consequences, and the Democrats are not immune from the voters’ ire — any more than the Republicans were in 2006 and 2008.

Democrats are bound and determined to foist an agenda through Congress that lacks public support, and indeed flies in the face of their concerns about the growth of government, looming debt, and the prospect of unemployment at unprecedented levels. The voters will give some hints next week as to how they feel about all that. If the Democrats ignore those, they do so at their own peril. They may control Washington for now — but the voters will have the final say.

Karl Rove sounds the warning: after next week’s elections, Democrats in swing states may be nervous about continuing the leftward jag they’ve been on since January. He observes, “Voters have lived under Democratic rule for nine months, and many of them, especially independents, don’t like what they’re seeing.” It could be bad or it could be really bad for the Democrats, depending on the complete returns in the “purple” state of Virginia. Rove continues:

If Republicans also win the races for lieutenant governor and attorney general by five points or more, it will strengthen the case of those predicting a GOP “wave” in 2010. Also watch the races for the 100-member Virginia House of Delegates. Republicans are hoping to add four seats to the 53 they now have. The bigger the GOP gains, the larger the warning for Democrats nationally.

As Rove notes, there is also the New Jersey gubernatorial race, in which Jon Corzine may either sneak through far shy of 50 percent (with the help of an independent candidate) or go down to defeat in one of the Bluest states. Then there is the NY-23.

It sounds simplistic, but in an era of one-party government, the party in power often forgets that it cannot act with impunity. Overreach and excess have consequences, and the Democrats are not immune from the voters’ ire — any more than the Republicans were in 2006 and 2008.

Democrats are bound and determined to foist an agenda through Congress that lacks public support, and indeed flies in the face of their concerns about the growth of government, looming debt, and the prospect of unemployment at unprecedented levels. The voters will give some hints next week as to how they feel about all that. If the Democrats ignore those, they do so at their own peril. They may control Washington for now — but the voters will have the final say.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Only 23 percent of Pennsylvania voters think  Sen. Arlen Specter deserves re-election. And Obama’s approval rating in the state is the lowest of his presidency — 45 percent.

Not a good way to celebrate his six-month anniversary as a Democrat (well, a Democrat after he was a Republican after he was a Democrat).

“Beyond disgraceful” is how Charles Krauthammer describes Obama’s “child-like” fixation on blaming George W. Bush for all his failings, specifically the lack of an Afghanistan war strategy.

Rich Lowry cautions against overinterpreting the importance of the NY-23 race. But one lesson, if Scozzafava goes down, is that the stamp of approval from Beltway Republicans carries no weight — and may be a drag on a conservative candidate. Perhaps 2010 and 2012 will see an end to the silly process of collecting endorsements from other politicians.

Mitt Romney won’t endorse Dede Scozzafava but doesn’t actually endorse conservative Doug Hoffman as Sarah Palin and then Tim Pawlenty did. Newt Gingrich continues digging a hole with the conservative base on the subject.

The headline reads: “Biden popularity fades as role expands.” Hillary Clinton is the opposite, no?

Robert Gibbs met with a Fox News exec. Wouldn’t the latter want the White House to keep up its rating-enhancing vendetta?

Another not-very-enamored-of-Israel appointee is selected by Obama. At what point (Chas Freeman? Mary Robinson? Sending James Jones to J Street? Chuck Hagel?) is it clear where the administration’s sympathies are? Well, never, at least for the most devoted followers of the “Torah of Liberalism.”

The Creigh Deeds wake is starting early.

Quin Hillyer cites chapter and verse on Obama’s non-transparency.

Daniel Henninger on big-government, old-style health-care reform: “If we were really living in the world of leading-edge politics that many people thought they were getting with Barack Obama, he would have proposed an iPhone for health care—a flexible system for which all sorts of users could create or choose health-care apps that suited their needs. Over time, with trial and error, a better system would emerge. No chance of that. … What ObamaCare is doing with health care—the ‘public option’—may be fine with the activist left, but I suspect it’s starting to strike many younger Americans as at odds with their lives, as not somewhere they want to go.”

Only 23 percent of Pennsylvania voters think  Sen. Arlen Specter deserves re-election. And Obama’s approval rating in the state is the lowest of his presidency — 45 percent.

Not a good way to celebrate his six-month anniversary as a Democrat (well, a Democrat after he was a Republican after he was a Democrat).

“Beyond disgraceful” is how Charles Krauthammer describes Obama’s “child-like” fixation on blaming George W. Bush for all his failings, specifically the lack of an Afghanistan war strategy.

Rich Lowry cautions against overinterpreting the importance of the NY-23 race. But one lesson, if Scozzafava goes down, is that the stamp of approval from Beltway Republicans carries no weight — and may be a drag on a conservative candidate. Perhaps 2010 and 2012 will see an end to the silly process of collecting endorsements from other politicians.

Mitt Romney won’t endorse Dede Scozzafava but doesn’t actually endorse conservative Doug Hoffman as Sarah Palin and then Tim Pawlenty did. Newt Gingrich continues digging a hole with the conservative base on the subject.

The headline reads: “Biden popularity fades as role expands.” Hillary Clinton is the opposite, no?

Robert Gibbs met with a Fox News exec. Wouldn’t the latter want the White House to keep up its rating-enhancing vendetta?

Another not-very-enamored-of-Israel appointee is selected by Obama. At what point (Chas Freeman? Mary Robinson? Sending James Jones to J Street? Chuck Hagel?) is it clear where the administration’s sympathies are? Well, never, at least for the most devoted followers of the “Torah of Liberalism.”

The Creigh Deeds wake is starting early.

Quin Hillyer cites chapter and verse on Obama’s non-transparency.

Daniel Henninger on big-government, old-style health-care reform: “If we were really living in the world of leading-edge politics that many people thought they were getting with Barack Obama, he would have proposed an iPhone for health care—a flexible system for which all sorts of users could create or choose health-care apps that suited their needs. Over time, with trial and error, a better system would emerge. No chance of that. … What ObamaCare is doing with health care—the ‘public option’—may be fine with the activist left, but I suspect it’s starting to strike many younger Americans as at odds with their lives, as not somewhere they want to go.”

Read Less




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