Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 8, 2009

Could “Secondary Trauma” Have Driven Him to Shooting?

So asks an absurd Time magazine story positing that Major Nidal Malik Hasan murdered a dozen people while apparently shouting “Allahu Akbar” because in his line of work — psychiatry — “there was no shortage of horrific tales that could have set loose the demons in Hasan’s mind.”

This shouldn’t be surprising coming from Tim McGirk. He went to Afghanistan after 9/11, had Thanksgiving with the Taliban, and wrote a long piece for National Geographic about what a great time he had and how we’re all just human beings doing our thing on this big blue marble, so let’s not judge. Then he went to Iraq and singlehandedly created the Haditha Massacre hoax. Then he went to Jerusalem and spent a few years slandering Israel. Now he’s trafficking in pop psychology on behalf of a likely domestic jihadist. It’s been quite a career.

So asks an absurd Time magazine story positing that Major Nidal Malik Hasan murdered a dozen people while apparently shouting “Allahu Akbar” because in his line of work — psychiatry — “there was no shortage of horrific tales that could have set loose the demons in Hasan’s mind.”

This shouldn’t be surprising coming from Tim McGirk. He went to Afghanistan after 9/11, had Thanksgiving with the Taliban, and wrote a long piece for National Geographic about what a great time he had and how we’re all just human beings doing our thing on this big blue marble, so let’s not judge. Then he went to Iraq and singlehandedly created the Haditha Massacre hoax. Then he went to Jerusalem and spent a few years slandering Israel. Now he’s trafficking in pop psychology on behalf of a likely domestic jihadist. It’s been quite a career.

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Iraqi Election Law Passed

This is a big deal: Iraq’s Parliament has finally passed an election law. Passage of the law, needed to hold the next round of parliamentary elections in January, had been delayed for months while Arabs and Kurds dickered over how voters in Kirkuk — which is claimed by both sides — would be treated. In the end, lawmakers deferred the whole issue, as expected, and managed to reach a compromise that would allow the elections to take place.

This is a positive sign showing that, for all its faults and limitations, Iraqi democracy is alive and well. Certainly the Iraqi political process is looking a lot more impressive than the system in next-door Iran, which was completely discredited by the blatant fraud in the last presidential election. That doesn’t mean the Iraqi system is perfect. American representatives, in particular, expressed great frustration with the process, and they played a vital role in pushing through an agreement. But the deal was done the Iraqi way — by waiting for the 11th hour and just a little bit beyond. Passage comes too late to allow the election to take place as originally scheduled on January 16, in all probability, but it could still occur a week after.

For a more in-depth discussion of where Iraq stands today, a little more than two years before the last U.S. troops are scheduled to leave, see my article in the Weekly Standard, based on my recent travels across Iraq.

This is a big deal: Iraq’s Parliament has finally passed an election law. Passage of the law, needed to hold the next round of parliamentary elections in January, had been delayed for months while Arabs and Kurds dickered over how voters in Kirkuk — which is claimed by both sides — would be treated. In the end, lawmakers deferred the whole issue, as expected, and managed to reach a compromise that would allow the elections to take place.

This is a positive sign showing that, for all its faults and limitations, Iraqi democracy is alive and well. Certainly the Iraqi political process is looking a lot more impressive than the system in next-door Iran, which was completely discredited by the blatant fraud in the last presidential election. That doesn’t mean the Iraqi system is perfect. American representatives, in particular, expressed great frustration with the process, and they played a vital role in pushing through an agreement. But the deal was done the Iraqi way — by waiting for the 11th hour and just a little bit beyond. Passage comes too late to allow the election to take place as originally scheduled on January 16, in all probability, but it could still occur a week after.

For a more in-depth discussion of where Iraq stands today, a little more than two years before the last U.S. troops are scheduled to leave, see my article in the Weekly Standard, based on my recent travels across Iraq.

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Lieberman Refuses to Ignore the Obvious

Sen. Joe Lieberman distinguishes himself from the maddening mush emanating from elected leaders and the chattering class on the Fort Hood massacre. He states what should be, and I think is to ordinary Americans, obvious: this from all appearances is “the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.” Based on what we know, Lieberman says that Hasan seems to be a “self-radicalized, homegrown terrorist.” Shocking, I know, to tie the murderer’s own words, actions, and behavior to the heinous slaughter of our troops, but there’s precious little of that going on so far. Lieberman therefore proposes a full-blown investigation, citing plenty of evidence that Hasan “turned to Islamist extremism”:

“If that is true, then this was a terrorist act,” Lieberman said.

“This is not the first attempt by Islamist extremists to go after U.S. military bases,” the senator added, noting foiled plots to attack Fort Dix and Quantico and the shooting death of an Army recruiter in Little Rock, Ark., by a Muslim convert this summer.

There are indications that Hasan supported that act, Lieberman said.

The Homeland Security chairman also urged the Department of Defense to launch an independent investigation “to see if warning signs were missed.”

The military, said Lieberman, needs to have “zero tolerance” for those expressing extremist views. “He should have been gone,” the senator said.

The administration and elite opinion makers squirm when they hear such talk. Perhaps it was “stress.” Maybe he’s just a nonideological nut. The obtuseness in a post-9/11 world is mind-boggling.

Now, not everyone is trying to ignore the many facts already that point directly to Hasan’s mindset and motives. Jeffrey Goldberg, not exactly a card-carrying member of the dreaded neocon conspiracy, isn’t going to play along with his colleagues’ willful blindness:

It seems, though, that when an American military officer who is a practicing Muslim allegedly shoots forty of his fellow soldiers who are about to deploy to the two wars the United States is currently fighting in Muslim countries, some broader meaning might, over time, be discerned, especially if the officer did, in fact, yell “Allahu Akbar” while murdering his fellow soldiers, as some soldiers say he did.

I suspect the American people have figured this out as well. But Lieberman is right: let’s have a full-blown investigation and public hearings. Let’s explore how this came to pass and why it is that eight years after 9/11, Hasan’s behavior did not set off alarm bells. Then the American people can decide for themselves whether, despite the protestations of many who would rather avert their eyes, we can afford to drop “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamic fundamentalism” from our government’s official lexicon.

Sen. Joe Lieberman distinguishes himself from the maddening mush emanating from elected leaders and the chattering class on the Fort Hood massacre. He states what should be, and I think is to ordinary Americans, obvious: this from all appearances is “the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.” Based on what we know, Lieberman says that Hasan seems to be a “self-radicalized, homegrown terrorist.” Shocking, I know, to tie the murderer’s own words, actions, and behavior to the heinous slaughter of our troops, but there’s precious little of that going on so far. Lieberman therefore proposes a full-blown investigation, citing plenty of evidence that Hasan “turned to Islamist extremism”:

“If that is true, then this was a terrorist act,” Lieberman said.

“This is not the first attempt by Islamist extremists to go after U.S. military bases,” the senator added, noting foiled plots to attack Fort Dix and Quantico and the shooting death of an Army recruiter in Little Rock, Ark., by a Muslim convert this summer.

There are indications that Hasan supported that act, Lieberman said.

The Homeland Security chairman also urged the Department of Defense to launch an independent investigation “to see if warning signs were missed.”

The military, said Lieberman, needs to have “zero tolerance” for those expressing extremist views. “He should have been gone,” the senator said.

The administration and elite opinion makers squirm when they hear such talk. Perhaps it was “stress.” Maybe he’s just a nonideological nut. The obtuseness in a post-9/11 world is mind-boggling.

Now, not everyone is trying to ignore the many facts already that point directly to Hasan’s mindset and motives. Jeffrey Goldberg, not exactly a card-carrying member of the dreaded neocon conspiracy, isn’t going to play along with his colleagues’ willful blindness:

It seems, though, that when an American military officer who is a practicing Muslim allegedly shoots forty of his fellow soldiers who are about to deploy to the two wars the United States is currently fighting in Muslim countries, some broader meaning might, over time, be discerned, especially if the officer did, in fact, yell “Allahu Akbar” while murdering his fellow soldiers, as some soldiers say he did.

I suspect the American people have figured this out as well. But Lieberman is right: let’s have a full-blown investigation and public hearings. Let’s explore how this came to pass and why it is that eight years after 9/11, Hasan’s behavior did not set off alarm bells. Then the American people can decide for themselves whether, despite the protestations of many who would rather avert their eyes, we can afford to drop “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamic fundamentalism” from our government’s official lexicon.

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Benign Neglect for the Peace Process

Thomas Friedman’s column today is utterly sensible and completely realistic.

The only thing driving the peace process today is inertia and diplomatic habit. …

Right now we want it more than the parties. They all have other priorities today. And by constantly injecting ourselves we’ve become their Novocain. We relieve all the political pain from the Arab and Israeli decision-makers by creating the impression in the minds of their publics that something serious is happening. “Look, the U.S. secretary of state is here. Look, she’s standing by my side. Look, I’m doing something important! Take our picture. Put it on the news. We’re on the verge of something really big and I am indispensable to it.” This enables the respective leaders to continue with their real priorities — which are all about holding power or pursuing ideological obsessions — while pretending to advance peace, without paying any political price.

Let’s just get out of the picture. Let all these leaders stand in front of their own people and tell them the truth: “My fellow citizens: Nothing is happening; nothing is going to happen. It’s just you and me and the problem we own.”

Let me be the first to congratulate Friedman on joining the ranks of us killjoy, spoilsport, wet-blanket neocons, who have been saying exactly this for years — and have been assailed for doing so by people like, oh, Tom Friedman. I recall writing a year ago that the peace process existed to “cater to the illusions of what has become a self-sustaining diplomatic, bureaucratic, and media industry.” It’s nice to have Friedman on our side.

Thomas Friedman’s column today is utterly sensible and completely realistic.

The only thing driving the peace process today is inertia and diplomatic habit. …

Right now we want it more than the parties. They all have other priorities today. And by constantly injecting ourselves we’ve become their Novocain. We relieve all the political pain from the Arab and Israeli decision-makers by creating the impression in the minds of their publics that something serious is happening. “Look, the U.S. secretary of state is here. Look, she’s standing by my side. Look, I’m doing something important! Take our picture. Put it on the news. We’re on the verge of something really big and I am indispensable to it.” This enables the respective leaders to continue with their real priorities — which are all about holding power or pursuing ideological obsessions — while pretending to advance peace, without paying any political price.

Let’s just get out of the picture. Let all these leaders stand in front of their own people and tell them the truth: “My fellow citizens: Nothing is happening; nothing is going to happen. It’s just you and me and the problem we own.”

Let me be the first to congratulate Friedman on joining the ranks of us killjoy, spoilsport, wet-blanket neocons, who have been saying exactly this for years — and have been assailed for doing so by people like, oh, Tom Friedman. I recall writing a year ago that the peace process existed to “cater to the illusions of what has become a self-sustaining diplomatic, bureaucratic, and media industry.” It’s nice to have Friedman on our side.

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Obama’s “Middle Option” in Afghanistan

A few weeks ago, the rumor emanating from the White House was that President Obama might approve as few as 10,000 to 20,000 additional troops for Afghanistan. Now the rumor I’ve been hearing is that he will approve more than 30,000 — still considerably short of the 40,000 or so that General McChrystal would like but a lot better than the lowball alternatives being aired earlier. This McClatchy newspapers article flatly reports that the president plans to send 34,000 more troops. This New York Times article claims, no doubt correctly, that no actual decision has been made but that the president is considering three options: “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for roughly another 40,000 troops; a middle scenario sending about 30,000 more troops; and a lower alternative involving 20,000 to 25,000 reinforcements.”

As anyone familiar with the ways of Washington will know, the president almost always chooses the “middle option.” Indeed aides sometimes game the process with, as insiders like to joke, the “high” option being nuclear war, the “low” option being unilateral disarmament, and the “middle” option being whatever the president’s advisers favor. Given this reality, there has been an interesting and subtle redefinition of the middle option going on. Under General McChrystal’s troop request, 40,000 was the middle of the road, moderate-risk option; 60,000 troops was the low-risk option, and 20,000 troops was the high-risk option. If the Times article is accurate, the White House has arbitrarily made McChrystal’s request the high-end estimate and added a third option that’s higher than his low-end request but lower than his middle option. Presumably this is so that Obama can tell his liberal base that he didn’t just “cave” in to what the generals wanted, though why the president should be afraid of “rubber-stamping” a request from his handpicked commander in the field isn’t clear.

I would be more comfortable if the president were to give General McChrystal at least 40,000 troops, but if he does approve at least 30,000, that will enable the general to implement a good deal of his counterinsurgency strategy, albeit with more risk than should be necessary for the troops involved.

Logistics in any case present a limiting factor on how many troops we can flow in. Extra troops are available, especially as the size of the force in Iraq shrinks from 116,000 today to 50,000 by August 2010. But Afghanistan’s infrastructure is so primitive — there are not enough runways, not enough logistics hubs, not enough forward-operating bases, not enough concrete, not enough computer connections — that it is likely that only 20,000 additional troops could be accommodated by next summer. The full request of 40,000 troops could take as long as 18 months to implement. So at least for the summer fighting season in 2010, General McChrystal should have as many additional troops as he can handle.

That’s assuming, of course, that the president announces his long-delayed decision before long, as it takes time to get troops moving and into position. It is imperative also that he not make this a perfunctory announcement but rather goes on the stump, as he has for health-care reform, to make clear to the American people — and just as important, to the rest of the world — that he is foursquare behind the war effort and will commit the resources needed to prevail.

A few weeks ago, the rumor emanating from the White House was that President Obama might approve as few as 10,000 to 20,000 additional troops for Afghanistan. Now the rumor I’ve been hearing is that he will approve more than 30,000 — still considerably short of the 40,000 or so that General McChrystal would like but a lot better than the lowball alternatives being aired earlier. This McClatchy newspapers article flatly reports that the president plans to send 34,000 more troops. This New York Times article claims, no doubt correctly, that no actual decision has been made but that the president is considering three options: “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for roughly another 40,000 troops; a middle scenario sending about 30,000 more troops; and a lower alternative involving 20,000 to 25,000 reinforcements.”

As anyone familiar with the ways of Washington will know, the president almost always chooses the “middle option.” Indeed aides sometimes game the process with, as insiders like to joke, the “high” option being nuclear war, the “low” option being unilateral disarmament, and the “middle” option being whatever the president’s advisers favor. Given this reality, there has been an interesting and subtle redefinition of the middle option going on. Under General McChrystal’s troop request, 40,000 was the middle of the road, moderate-risk option; 60,000 troops was the low-risk option, and 20,000 troops was the high-risk option. If the Times article is accurate, the White House has arbitrarily made McChrystal’s request the high-end estimate and added a third option that’s higher than his low-end request but lower than his middle option. Presumably this is so that Obama can tell his liberal base that he didn’t just “cave” in to what the generals wanted, though why the president should be afraid of “rubber-stamping” a request from his handpicked commander in the field isn’t clear.

I would be more comfortable if the president were to give General McChrystal at least 40,000 troops, but if he does approve at least 30,000, that will enable the general to implement a good deal of his counterinsurgency strategy, albeit with more risk than should be necessary for the troops involved.

Logistics in any case present a limiting factor on how many troops we can flow in. Extra troops are available, especially as the size of the force in Iraq shrinks from 116,000 today to 50,000 by August 2010. But Afghanistan’s infrastructure is so primitive — there are not enough runways, not enough logistics hubs, not enough forward-operating bases, not enough concrete, not enough computer connections — that it is likely that only 20,000 additional troops could be accommodated by next summer. The full request of 40,000 troops could take as long as 18 months to implement. So at least for the summer fighting season in 2010, General McChrystal should have as many additional troops as he can handle.

That’s assuming, of course, that the president announces his long-delayed decision before long, as it takes time to get troops moving and into position. It is imperative also that he not make this a perfunctory announcement but rather goes on the stump, as he has for health-care reform, to make clear to the American people — and just as important, to the rest of the world — that he is foursquare behind the war effort and will commit the resources needed to prevail.

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“Saving Abu Mazen”

After announcing last Thursday that he would not run in January’s Palestinian election, which he himself called, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) upped the ante this weekend by threatening to dissolve the entire PA. Both are moves in a well-known game that the Israeli media call “saving Abu Mazen.”

PA officials are open about its purpose: to extort additional concessions from Israel and, especially, the U.S. This time, they want America to publicly pledge East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and support Abbas’s demand that negotiations be conditioned on a complete halt to settlement construction.

This game, which Abbas has successfully played many times before, rests on a simple premise: he is the most moderate Palestinian leader conceivable and therefore the best hope for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Hence, if he is weakening, he must be bolstered by new concessions.

The problem is that this premise is utterly false. He may indeed be the most moderate Palestinian leader conceivable, but that just shows how unready Palestinians are for peace — because Abbas has proved decisively over the past four years that he is no “peace partner.”

First, his negotiating positions preclude any deal. This is true on several counts but is particularly obvious in his demand for a “right of return” for 4.7 million descendants of Palestinian refugees. Combined with Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens, they would easily outnumber its 5.6 million Jews and could thus vote the Jewish state out of existence. Conditioning any deal on Israel’s self-destruction is hardly proof of peaceful intent.

Indeed, Abbas’s total lack of interest in a deal was evidenced by his handling of Ehud Olmert’s (overly) generous September 2008 offer, which included 94 percent of the territories, 1:1 territorial swaps to compensate for the remainder, international Muslim control over the Temple Mount, and absorption into Israel of several thousand refugees. Last week, Abbas said that he and Olmert “almost closed” a deal, implying that the current impasse stems from Olmert’s replacement by Benjamin Netanyahu. But in reality, Abbas never even bothered responding to Olmert’s offer until nine months later, long after Olmert had left office — and even then, he did so via a media interview rather than directly. And, most important, he rejected the offer, saying “the gaps were wide.”

Even Abbas’s vaunted opposition to terror has proved false. In 2005, his one year in sole control over the PA before Hamas’s electoral victory, Palestinians killed 54 Israelis and wounded 484, while 1,059 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza. Yet not only did Abbas never order his forces to combat this terror; he explicitly and repeatedly refused to do so. He first cracked down on Hamas only in 2007, after its violent takeover of Gaza convinced him that Hamas threatened him, not just Israel. And he recently agreed to end this clampdown under a reconciliation agreement with Hamas.

In short, there is no point in “saving” Abbas. Instead, the world should finally admit the truth — and let him go.

After announcing last Thursday that he would not run in January’s Palestinian election, which he himself called, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) upped the ante this weekend by threatening to dissolve the entire PA. Both are moves in a well-known game that the Israeli media call “saving Abu Mazen.”

PA officials are open about its purpose: to extort additional concessions from Israel and, especially, the U.S. This time, they want America to publicly pledge East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and support Abbas’s demand that negotiations be conditioned on a complete halt to settlement construction.

This game, which Abbas has successfully played many times before, rests on a simple premise: he is the most moderate Palestinian leader conceivable and therefore the best hope for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Hence, if he is weakening, he must be bolstered by new concessions.

The problem is that this premise is utterly false. He may indeed be the most moderate Palestinian leader conceivable, but that just shows how unready Palestinians are for peace — because Abbas has proved decisively over the past four years that he is no “peace partner.”

First, his negotiating positions preclude any deal. This is true on several counts but is particularly obvious in his demand for a “right of return” for 4.7 million descendants of Palestinian refugees. Combined with Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens, they would easily outnumber its 5.6 million Jews and could thus vote the Jewish state out of existence. Conditioning any deal on Israel’s self-destruction is hardly proof of peaceful intent.

Indeed, Abbas’s total lack of interest in a deal was evidenced by his handling of Ehud Olmert’s (overly) generous September 2008 offer, which included 94 percent of the territories, 1:1 territorial swaps to compensate for the remainder, international Muslim control over the Temple Mount, and absorption into Israel of several thousand refugees. Last week, Abbas said that he and Olmert “almost closed” a deal, implying that the current impasse stems from Olmert’s replacement by Benjamin Netanyahu. But in reality, Abbas never even bothered responding to Olmert’s offer until nine months later, long after Olmert had left office — and even then, he did so via a media interview rather than directly. And, most important, he rejected the offer, saying “the gaps were wide.”

Even Abbas’s vaunted opposition to terror has proved false. In 2005, his one year in sole control over the PA before Hamas’s electoral victory, Palestinians killed 54 Israelis and wounded 484, while 1,059 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza. Yet not only did Abbas never order his forces to combat this terror; he explicitly and repeatedly refused to do so. He first cracked down on Hamas only in 2007, after its violent takeover of Gaza convinced him that Hamas threatened him, not just Israel. And he recently agreed to end this clampdown under a reconciliation agreement with Hamas.

In short, there is no point in “saving” Abbas. Instead, the world should finally admit the truth — and let him go.

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What Happened

The House Democrats twisted arms and still lost 39 of their members. Republicans lost a single member of their caucus, Joseph Cao from Louisiana. (One imagines that he will have a primary challenger as a result.) One of the Democrats not so savvy as to jump off the Pelosi express was Virginia Democrat Tom Perriello. Having voted for both cap-and-trade and PelosiCare, he becomes the most vulnerable member of the Virginia House delegation. (Bob McDonnell carried Perriello’s district by a 61.4 to 38.5 percent margin. How many GOP contenders do you think are lining up to take him on?)

Yes, this is “historic” in the sense that one body of Congress passed a bill for a government takeover of health care. But in another sense, this is a skin-of-the-teeth, avoid-disaster move that required Democrats to throw liberals in favor of public abortion funding under the ObamaCare bus to secure enough votes. (Still, that abortion funding may come back.) It is remarkable that with all the resources and advantages of the White House, the president and his party have been spectacularly unsuccessful in creating broad-based support for the bill. The legislation is now the sole province of the left wing of the Democratic party.

The bill stumbles onward to the Senate, where the public option seems to lack the needed votes. And once again, Red State senators will be put to the test. Will they too favor massive taxes and huge Medicare cuts?

Something else noteworthy occurred before the final vote. The Republicans put forth a motion to recommit, which would have added real tort reform at a saving of $54B to be used to fund a “Seniors Protection and Medicare Regional Payment Equity Fund.” The fund would have been used to protect seniors’ access to Medicare Advantage. In other words, the Republicans posed a choice: trial lawyers or seniors. The Democrats voted on a party line for the trial lawyers. You can already see the 2010 campaign ads.

The House Democrats twisted arms and still lost 39 of their members. Republicans lost a single member of their caucus, Joseph Cao from Louisiana. (One imagines that he will have a primary challenger as a result.) One of the Democrats not so savvy as to jump off the Pelosi express was Virginia Democrat Tom Perriello. Having voted for both cap-and-trade and PelosiCare, he becomes the most vulnerable member of the Virginia House delegation. (Bob McDonnell carried Perriello’s district by a 61.4 to 38.5 percent margin. How many GOP contenders do you think are lining up to take him on?)

Yes, this is “historic” in the sense that one body of Congress passed a bill for a government takeover of health care. But in another sense, this is a skin-of-the-teeth, avoid-disaster move that required Democrats to throw liberals in favor of public abortion funding under the ObamaCare bus to secure enough votes. (Still, that abortion funding may come back.) It is remarkable that with all the resources and advantages of the White House, the president and his party have been spectacularly unsuccessful in creating broad-based support for the bill. The legislation is now the sole province of the left wing of the Democratic party.

The bill stumbles onward to the Senate, where the public option seems to lack the needed votes. And once again, Red State senators will be put to the test. Will they too favor massive taxes and huge Medicare cuts?

Something else noteworthy occurred before the final vote. The Republicans put forth a motion to recommit, which would have added real tort reform at a saving of $54B to be used to fund a “Seniors Protection and Medicare Regional Payment Equity Fund.” The fund would have been used to protect seniors’ access to Medicare Advantage. In other words, the Republicans posed a choice: trial lawyers or seniors. The Democrats voted on a party line for the trial lawyers. You can already see the 2010 campaign ads.

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Nothing to Learn?

Give Clive Crook points for honesty. He doesn’t think much of the ho-hum response of liberal pundits to Tuesday’s election results:

We already knew that independents were turning in droves against the Democratic party. We already knew that Jon Corzine was so unpopular he would lose even to a divided opposition. We already knew that a staunchly conservative Republican could win a purple state by a big margin if he “projects a moderate, mainstream, nonthreatening, tolerant image”. Did we really know all those things? If I were a Republican, I’d still be pleased to have them confirmed, and if I were a Democrat I definitely wouldn’t be smiling.

Part of damage control is feigning indifference, of course. But it also no doubt reinforces the dangerous tendency in the White House and on Capitol Hill to disregard all bad news as the work of Fox or radio talk-show hosts. Well, these are voters registering their thumbs down, so the task is a bit harder. Nevertheless, the spinning keeps the illusion afloat that there is no groundswell of opposition to the government power grabs and the liberal overreach. It is what the White House, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid want to hear.

But even in the Democratic House, as we saw, by the rather sizable stampede away from PelosiCare by many of the most vulnerable Democrats (including Virginia’s Glenn Nye and Richard Boucher), not all the Democrats are buying it. Some want to do what they can to survive, and that entails listening and responding to the voters.

Give Clive Crook points for honesty. He doesn’t think much of the ho-hum response of liberal pundits to Tuesday’s election results:

We already knew that independents were turning in droves against the Democratic party. We already knew that Jon Corzine was so unpopular he would lose even to a divided opposition. We already knew that a staunchly conservative Republican could win a purple state by a big margin if he “projects a moderate, mainstream, nonthreatening, tolerant image”. Did we really know all those things? If I were a Republican, I’d still be pleased to have them confirmed, and if I were a Democrat I definitely wouldn’t be smiling.

Part of damage control is feigning indifference, of course. But it also no doubt reinforces the dangerous tendency in the White House and on Capitol Hill to disregard all bad news as the work of Fox or radio talk-show hosts. Well, these are voters registering their thumbs down, so the task is a bit harder. Nevertheless, the spinning keeps the illusion afloat that there is no groundswell of opposition to the government power grabs and the liberal overreach. It is what the White House, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid want to hear.

But even in the Democratic House, as we saw, by the rather sizable stampede away from PelosiCare by many of the most vulnerable Democrats (including Virginia’s Glenn Nye and Richard Boucher), not all the Democrats are buying it. Some want to do what they can to survive, and that entails listening and responding to the voters.

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Couldn’t Get a “No” Ticket?

What do Baron Hill and Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, Tom Perriello of Virginia, Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania, John Spratt of South Carolina, Vic Snyder of Arkansas, and Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio have in common? Well, all of them come from districts won by George W. Bush or John McCain in the last two presidential elections. All of them voted for PelosiCare.

In other words, these are among the unlucky ones whose pleas were not headed, whose votes were corralled, and who will have to face voters in problematic elections a year from now in precarious economic times. (Unemployment is at 9.6 percent in Indiana and in double digits in South Carolina and Ohio.) If PelosiCare or some variation thereof is passed (and even if it isn’t), Democratic congressmen from these and other hard-hit states who didn’t buck their liberal leadership will face opponents who will argue that rather than creating jobs, these representatives voted to burden employers and sock their constituents with a raft of new taxes while the economy is at its most vulnerable. They will face seniors demanding to know why hundreds of billions were cut from Medicare. They will all face independents like those who turned out en masse to vote for Republican governors in New Jersey and Virginia.

So it is these Democrats and many like them who now become the most vulnerable to the wave of opposition from Republicans and independents that is building against the Obama-Pelosi-Reid ultra-Left agenda. Some of them may survive, but it will be no thanks to their leadership, who forced a razor-thin vote on an increasingly unpopular and highly disruptive health-care “reform” bill. Elections are about differences and choices. We’ll have plenty of both in 2010.

What do Baron Hill and Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, Tom Perriello of Virginia, Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania, John Spratt of South Carolina, Vic Snyder of Arkansas, and Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio have in common? Well, all of them come from districts won by George W. Bush or John McCain in the last two presidential elections. All of them voted for PelosiCare.

In other words, these are among the unlucky ones whose pleas were not headed, whose votes were corralled, and who will have to face voters in problematic elections a year from now in precarious economic times. (Unemployment is at 9.6 percent in Indiana and in double digits in South Carolina and Ohio.) If PelosiCare or some variation thereof is passed (and even if it isn’t), Democratic congressmen from these and other hard-hit states who didn’t buck their liberal leadership will face opponents who will argue that rather than creating jobs, these representatives voted to burden employers and sock their constituents with a raft of new taxes while the economy is at its most vulnerable. They will face seniors demanding to know why hundreds of billions were cut from Medicare. They will all face independents like those who turned out en masse to vote for Republican governors in New Jersey and Virginia.

So it is these Democrats and many like them who now become the most vulnerable to the wave of opposition from Republicans and independents that is building against the Obama-Pelosi-Reid ultra-Left agenda. Some of them may survive, but it will be no thanks to their leadership, who forced a razor-thin vote on an increasingly unpopular and highly disruptive health-care “reform” bill. Elections are about differences and choices. We’ll have plenty of both in 2010.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Even fellow Muslims were worried: “An Army psychiatrist who authorities say went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood was so conflicted over what to tell fellow soldiers about fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that a local Islamic leader was deeply troubled by it, the leader said Saturday. Osman Danquah, co-founder of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, said he was disturbed by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s persistent questioning and recommended the mosque reject Hasan’s request to become a lay Muslim leader at the sprawling Army post.”

Must just be a coincidence: “Hasan, the sole suspect in the massacre of 13 fellow US soldiers in Texas, attended the controversial Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia, in 2001 at the same time as two of the September 11 terrorists, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. His mother’s funeral was held there in May that year. The preacher at the time was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni scholar who was banned from addressing a meeting in London by video link in August because he is accused of supporting attacks on British troops and backing terrorist organisations.” Nothing to see. Move along.

If you combine unemployment with underemployment, the number is 17.5 percent.

An apt description of Bob McDonnell’s successful strategy: “He didn’t run away from God, guns, gays and abortion, but he didn’t talk much about them, either. Rather, he kept a wonkish, cool-headed focus on improving roads (a plan full of holes, but a plan nonetheless), raising teacher pay (ditto), and creating jobs. By criticizing the Democrats’ cap-and-trade climate change legislation and the card check measure to ease union organizing, he skillfully conflated growing doubts about the Obama administration’s leftward tilt with his campaign’s main thrust — safeguarding jobs, attracting employers and reviving the state’s economy.”

Stuart Rothenberg: “Bill Owens’ victory in New York’s 23rd was the good news for Democrats this week and continued the party’s winning streak in competitive House special elections. But the dynamic that helped Owens win- including a divided Republican Party- can’t be ignored and aren’t likely to be replicated again. For now, his reelection next year is a Pure Toss-Up.”

Debra Saunders observes: “CAIR will make a stink when (male) imams are not allowed to board a Minneapolis plane, but don’t expect the organization to make an issue of honor killings.”

David Ignatius is the latest to notice the abject failure of the Obama foreign-policy team: “The diplomatic stalemate is a setback for the Obama administration, which had made engagement with Iran one of its signature issues. As the administration is discovering, getting to ‘yes’ with Tehran for now seems all but impossible. This reversal follows the breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the other issue on which President Obama had attempted a bold new start, only to be enveloped by the bitter legacy of the past.”

Even Thomas Friedman can figure it out: “The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a bad play. It is obvious that all the parties are just acting out the same old scenes, with the same old tired clichés — and that no one believes any of it anymore.”

On the domestic front, the obvious does not escape the new Newsweek: “But to conclude that Democrats have no worries is ‘denial on steroids,’ says Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a veteran of the Clinton White House. However worthy and necessary the Obama priorities of health-care reform and climate-change legislation are, exit polls on Tuesday show the economy and jobs are the top priority for voters. ‘People give you credit for working on the problems that are most important to them, even if you don’t solve them. If you’re talking about things that seem peripheral, they will punish you,’ says Galston.”

Even fellow Muslims were worried: “An Army psychiatrist who authorities say went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood was so conflicted over what to tell fellow soldiers about fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that a local Islamic leader was deeply troubled by it, the leader said Saturday. Osman Danquah, co-founder of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, said he was disturbed by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s persistent questioning and recommended the mosque reject Hasan’s request to become a lay Muslim leader at the sprawling Army post.”

Must just be a coincidence: “Hasan, the sole suspect in the massacre of 13 fellow US soldiers in Texas, attended the controversial Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia, in 2001 at the same time as two of the September 11 terrorists, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. His mother’s funeral was held there in May that year. The preacher at the time was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni scholar who was banned from addressing a meeting in London by video link in August because he is accused of supporting attacks on British troops and backing terrorist organisations.” Nothing to see. Move along.

If you combine unemployment with underemployment, the number is 17.5 percent.

An apt description of Bob McDonnell’s successful strategy: “He didn’t run away from God, guns, gays and abortion, but he didn’t talk much about them, either. Rather, he kept a wonkish, cool-headed focus on improving roads (a plan full of holes, but a plan nonetheless), raising teacher pay (ditto), and creating jobs. By criticizing the Democrats’ cap-and-trade climate change legislation and the card check measure to ease union organizing, he skillfully conflated growing doubts about the Obama administration’s leftward tilt with his campaign’s main thrust — safeguarding jobs, attracting employers and reviving the state’s economy.”

Stuart Rothenberg: “Bill Owens’ victory in New York’s 23rd was the good news for Democrats this week and continued the party’s winning streak in competitive House special elections. But the dynamic that helped Owens win- including a divided Republican Party- can’t be ignored and aren’t likely to be replicated again. For now, his reelection next year is a Pure Toss-Up.”

Debra Saunders observes: “CAIR will make a stink when (male) imams are not allowed to board a Minneapolis plane, but don’t expect the organization to make an issue of honor killings.”

David Ignatius is the latest to notice the abject failure of the Obama foreign-policy team: “The diplomatic stalemate is a setback for the Obama administration, which had made engagement with Iran one of its signature issues. As the administration is discovering, getting to ‘yes’ with Tehran for now seems all but impossible. This reversal follows the breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the other issue on which President Obama had attempted a bold new start, only to be enveloped by the bitter legacy of the past.”

Even Thomas Friedman can figure it out: “The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a bad play. It is obvious that all the parties are just acting out the same old scenes, with the same old tired clichés — and that no one believes any of it anymore.”

On the domestic front, the obvious does not escape the new Newsweek: “But to conclude that Democrats have no worries is ‘denial on steroids,’ says Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a veteran of the Clinton White House. However worthy and necessary the Obama priorities of health-care reform and climate-change legislation are, exit polls on Tuesday show the economy and jobs are the top priority for voters. ‘People give you credit for working on the problems that are most important to them, even if you don’t solve them. If you’re talking about things that seem peripheral, they will punish you,’ says Galston.”

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