Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 11, 2009

Not Just Lieberman

Joe Lieberman has promised to join a Republican filibuster. Now Sen. Ben Nelson says he isn’t going for anything that looks like PelosiCare:

“Well, first of all, it has more than a robust public option, it’s got a totally government-run plan, the costs are extraordinary associated with it, it increases taxes in a way that will not pass in the Senate and I could go on and on and on,” Nelson said in an interview that is part of ABC News’ Subway Series with Jonathan Karl. “Faced with a decision about whether or not to move a bill that is bad, I won’t vote to move it,” he added. “For sure.” The $1.1 trillion price tag on the House bill, Nelson said, is “absolutely” too high.

It seems as though the House Democrats who walked the plank may now, as on cap-and-trade, be hung out to dry if their efforts are now portrayed as the unacceptable, pie-in-the-sky handiwork of the party’s far Left. We’ll see if Nelson has company among other Red State senators who don’t think voting for PelosiCare is good for their political health.

Joe Lieberman has promised to join a Republican filibuster. Now Sen. Ben Nelson says he isn’t going for anything that looks like PelosiCare:

“Well, first of all, it has more than a robust public option, it’s got a totally government-run plan, the costs are extraordinary associated with it, it increases taxes in a way that will not pass in the Senate and I could go on and on and on,” Nelson said in an interview that is part of ABC News’ Subway Series with Jonathan Karl. “Faced with a decision about whether or not to move a bill that is bad, I won’t vote to move it,” he added. “For sure.” The $1.1 trillion price tag on the House bill, Nelson said, is “absolutely” too high.

It seems as though the House Democrats who walked the plank may now, as on cap-and-trade, be hung out to dry if their efforts are now portrayed as the unacceptable, pie-in-the-sky handiwork of the party’s far Left. We’ll see if Nelson has company among other Red State senators who don’t think voting for PelosiCare is good for their political health.

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Fresh Outreach

Iran this week has thrown a one-two diplomatic punch in the matter of Yemen’s insurgency problem. It remains to be seen if the Islamic revolutionary state is punching above its weight; that may depend on what, if anything, the U.S. does. But Arabs in the region have taken Iran’s initiative badly, seeing it as the continuation of a trend toward Iranian meddling in Arab nations’ affairs.

On November 5, Saudi Arabia launched a counteroffensive against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Shias with Iranian backing who have violated the Saudi border in the course of their fight against the central government in Sana’a. A Saudi officer was reportedly killed by the Houthis last week, and the Saudis are losing confidence in the ability of the Saleh government to quell the insurgency. On November 10, Iran — the Houthis’ supplier — warned “Yemen’s neighbors” against meddling in Yemeni affairs. Since “Yemen’s neighbors” amount to Saudi Arabia and Oman, this warning was quite pointed.

Today Al Jazeera reports that Iran has offered to “aid Yemeni security,” proclaiming Tehran ready to help restore peace to the insurgency-torn nation. Al Jazeera’s hostile view of this disingenuous initiative is a reliable reflection of sentiment in Arab capitals. The proposal is also a direct challenge to America’s network of partnerships in the region. Iran advancing itself as a moderator of an Arab nation’s internal affairs is, in fact, a power play, one that would not be mounted in an environment of American alertness and determination.

Iran has conducted its foreign policy for years through the sponsorship of terrorism against Israel and Lebanon. It’s through gaining an insidious foothold in other nations, through coming in the back door, that Iran has sought regional influence. Now the mullahs propose to be admitted through the front door in Yemen, and have their support to the Houthi guerrillas validated by a recognized diplomatic process.

With Iran already an established presence in Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia, will the Obama administration discourage this fresh initiative with any level of firmness? Or will it leave the Saudis and Yemenis to make their own arrangements for resistance to Iran’s outreach? See what you think (from the Huffington Post piece linked above):

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters [on November 5] he had no information about whether the conflict had spread across the border but expressed Washington’s concern over the situation.

“It’s our view that there can be no long-term military solution to the conflict between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels,” Kelly said. “We call on all parties to the conflict to make every effort to protect civilian populations and limit damage to civilian infrastructure.”

That doesn’t sound to me like a posture Iran would have to worry about colliding with. It probably didn’t sound like one to Iran either.

Iran this week has thrown a one-two diplomatic punch in the matter of Yemen’s insurgency problem. It remains to be seen if the Islamic revolutionary state is punching above its weight; that may depend on what, if anything, the U.S. does. But Arabs in the region have taken Iran’s initiative badly, seeing it as the continuation of a trend toward Iranian meddling in Arab nations’ affairs.

On November 5, Saudi Arabia launched a counteroffensive against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Shias with Iranian backing who have violated the Saudi border in the course of their fight against the central government in Sana’a. A Saudi officer was reportedly killed by the Houthis last week, and the Saudis are losing confidence in the ability of the Saleh government to quell the insurgency. On November 10, Iran — the Houthis’ supplier — warned “Yemen’s neighbors” against meddling in Yemeni affairs. Since “Yemen’s neighbors” amount to Saudi Arabia and Oman, this warning was quite pointed.

Today Al Jazeera reports that Iran has offered to “aid Yemeni security,” proclaiming Tehran ready to help restore peace to the insurgency-torn nation. Al Jazeera’s hostile view of this disingenuous initiative is a reliable reflection of sentiment in Arab capitals. The proposal is also a direct challenge to America’s network of partnerships in the region. Iran advancing itself as a moderator of an Arab nation’s internal affairs is, in fact, a power play, one that would not be mounted in an environment of American alertness and determination.

Iran has conducted its foreign policy for years through the sponsorship of terrorism against Israel and Lebanon. It’s through gaining an insidious foothold in other nations, through coming in the back door, that Iran has sought regional influence. Now the mullahs propose to be admitted through the front door in Yemen, and have their support to the Houthi guerrillas validated by a recognized diplomatic process.

With Iran already an established presence in Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia, will the Obama administration discourage this fresh initiative with any level of firmness? Or will it leave the Saudis and Yemenis to make their own arrangements for resistance to Iran’s outreach? See what you think (from the Huffington Post piece linked above):

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters [on November 5] he had no information about whether the conflict had spread across the border but expressed Washington’s concern over the situation.

“It’s our view that there can be no long-term military solution to the conflict between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels,” Kelly said. “We call on all parties to the conflict to make every effort to protect civilian populations and limit damage to civilian infrastructure.”

That doesn’t sound to me like a posture Iran would have to worry about colliding with. It probably didn’t sound like one to Iran either.

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Re: Getting to “Yes”

Fred and Kim Kagan write, “When McChrystal took command of the Afghan war in June, the White House made it clear that he was expected to make dramatic progress within a year — by the summer of 2010.” But the White House has dropped the ball:

The White House has not done its part to allow General McChrystal to meet its own deadline. It was slow to receive and act on the assessment he sent, and it deliberately refused even to review his force recommendations for weeks after they were complete. In the intervening months the White House has held a series of seminars on Afghanistan and the region that should have been conducted before the new strategy was announced in March.

They then list a series of critical steps — from expanding Afghan National Security Forces to supporting ongoing operations in Helmand — which could have already been underway if not for the excruciatingly extended debate taking place in the White House. While we have been dithering, “the enemy has not been idle,” they explain:

Taliban forces throughout the south have been preparing themselves to meet an expected American counter-offensive. They have refined their propaganda messaging both within Afghanistan and toward the U.S. They have also taken advantage of the flawed presidential elections to expound their own political vision for the country and start actively competing with the government for legitimacy.

After delaying and equivocating, the president must, soon we are promised yet again, announce the policy, quiet the critics, regain the confidence of our allies and the Afghanistan government, and impress on the enemy that we really do mean business. This is not impossible, but he and his advisers — egged on by the ever-on-the-wrong-side Joe Biden — have made it much harder. Next time, perhaps they’ll keep Biden and the political consultants away from serious issues of national security.

Fred and Kim Kagan write, “When McChrystal took command of the Afghan war in June, the White House made it clear that he was expected to make dramatic progress within a year — by the summer of 2010.” But the White House has dropped the ball:

The White House has not done its part to allow General McChrystal to meet its own deadline. It was slow to receive and act on the assessment he sent, and it deliberately refused even to review his force recommendations for weeks after they were complete. In the intervening months the White House has held a series of seminars on Afghanistan and the region that should have been conducted before the new strategy was announced in March.

They then list a series of critical steps — from expanding Afghan National Security Forces to supporting ongoing operations in Helmand — which could have already been underway if not for the excruciatingly extended debate taking place in the White House. While we have been dithering, “the enemy has not been idle,” they explain:

Taliban forces throughout the south have been preparing themselves to meet an expected American counter-offensive. They have refined their propaganda messaging both within Afghanistan and toward the U.S. They have also taken advantage of the flawed presidential elections to expound their own political vision for the country and start actively competing with the government for legitimacy.

After delaying and equivocating, the president must, soon we are promised yet again, announce the policy, quiet the critics, regain the confidence of our allies and the Afghanistan government, and impress on the enemy that we really do mean business. This is not impossible, but he and his advisers — egged on by the ever-on-the-wrong-side Joe Biden — have made it much harder. Next time, perhaps they’ll keep Biden and the political consultants away from serious issues of national security.

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Could It Get Worse?

The Obami’s human-rights policy, even many liberals would concede, has been dismal. In essence, the policy has been to ignore human-rights issues when they conflict with any other objective — ingratiating ourselves with the mullahs, for example. And even when there is no apparent national-security objective to be gained, this administration seems intent on soft-pedaling human rights and accommodating tyrannical regimes. A case in point is Burma. In this report we learn:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. will not impose conditions on Burma to force democratic changes there. But she also says existing sanctions will remain in place until the junta makes “meaningful progress” toward democracy in key areas. The United States has been urging the junta to hold fair elections, release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and allow her to return to political life. Clinton says “this has to be resolved within” the country by its people. She told reporters Wednesday “we are not setting or dictating any conditions.”

Got that? We want meaningful progress, but elections are left to be “resolved” internally. By whom — the despotic regime? We aren’t going to impose sanctions to encourage democratic changes, but we aren’t lifting existing ones. Yes, it’s embarrassing and verging on incoherent. And of course, when we behave in this pusillanimous fashion, we convey unseriousness to the Burmese government and to the people of Burma (who would like to look to us for political and moral leadership), but also to other like-minded regimes and oppressed people in other similar locales. The mullahs are watching, as are the Syrians and the Cubans. The Russians have figured out that we aren’t serious about this stuff. The North Koreans, as well.

In short, we have systematically degraded our standing and credibility in the world, giving a green light to tyrants who have little to fear and frankly much to gain (an envoy will visit them too) by continuing their current behavior. And what have we gained, and with whom have we restored our reputation? The smart-diplomacy mavens should tell us.

The Obami’s human-rights policy, even many liberals would concede, has been dismal. In essence, the policy has been to ignore human-rights issues when they conflict with any other objective — ingratiating ourselves with the mullahs, for example. And even when there is no apparent national-security objective to be gained, this administration seems intent on soft-pedaling human rights and accommodating tyrannical regimes. A case in point is Burma. In this report we learn:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. will not impose conditions on Burma to force democratic changes there. But she also says existing sanctions will remain in place until the junta makes “meaningful progress” toward democracy in key areas. The United States has been urging the junta to hold fair elections, release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and allow her to return to political life. Clinton says “this has to be resolved within” the country by its people. She told reporters Wednesday “we are not setting or dictating any conditions.”

Got that? We want meaningful progress, but elections are left to be “resolved” internally. By whom — the despotic regime? We aren’t going to impose sanctions to encourage democratic changes, but we aren’t lifting existing ones. Yes, it’s embarrassing and verging on incoherent. And of course, when we behave in this pusillanimous fashion, we convey unseriousness to the Burmese government and to the people of Burma (who would like to look to us for political and moral leadership), but also to other like-minded regimes and oppressed people in other similar locales. The mullahs are watching, as are the Syrians and the Cubans. The Russians have figured out that we aren’t serious about this stuff. The North Koreans, as well.

In short, we have systematically degraded our standing and credibility in the world, giving a green light to tyrants who have little to fear and frankly much to gain (an envoy will visit them too) by continuing their current behavior. And what have we gained, and with whom have we restored our reputation? The smart-diplomacy mavens should tell us.

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Don’t Confuse Him with the Facts

Bernard Kouchner is “hurt” and “shocked” by Israelis’ “vanished” desire for peace. Israelis of all political stripes would undoubtedly be equally shocked at the French foreign minister’s ignorance — and at his willingness to hurl false accusations without even a minimal effort to check his facts.

“What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel,” Kouchner told France Inter radio yesterday. “There was a left that made itself heard and a real desire for peace. It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it.”

Kouchner is, of course, half right: even most Israeli leftists have stopped believing peace is possible in the foreseeable future, which is precisely why the peace movement and the political Left have largely collapsed. But that is a far cry from saying that Israelis have stopped wanting peace. The desire remains as strong as ever; it’s just that most Israelis currently see no way of fulfilling it.

Nor is it really hard to see why Israelis have stopped believing. First, every territorial concession since the 1993 Oslo Accord has produced only more terror. Palestinians killed more Israelis in the first two and a half years after Oslo than in the entire preceding decade, and in 2000-04 (the height of the second intifada), Israel’s terror-related casualties exceeded those of the entire preceding 53 years. The withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 led to the Second Lebanon War, and the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 produced daily rocket barrages on southern Israel. To most Israelis, bombs and rockets exploding in their cities don’t look much like peace.

This has been compounded by the complete lack of movement in Palestinian positions since 1993, even as Israeli leaders offered ever-increasing concessions. Israeli leaders routinely tell their people that peace will require “painful concessions.” Palestinian leaders are still telling their people that peace will enable 4.7 million descendants of Palestinian refugees to resettle in pre-1967 Israel, thus destroying the Jewish state demographically. And Israelis find it hard to believe in a peace whose price, according to their supposed “peace partner,” is Israel’s eradication.

None of this is news; a simple Web search would produce thousands of articles by Israelis explaining why they have despaired. Or if Kouchner doesn’t like the Web, he could have picked up a phone: most Israelis would probably have been happy to enlighten him.

But Kouchner couldn’t be bothered with the facts; he preferred to simply accuse Israelis of not wanting peace. Perhaps it’s his background as a human-rights activist showing: hurling accusations at Israel without checking the facts is practically de rigueur among human-rights organizations these days.

Nevertheless, one would expect better of a foreign minister. After all, he has actual responsibility for setting policy. And policy works better when it’s based on fact rather than fantasy.

Bernard Kouchner is “hurt” and “shocked” by Israelis’ “vanished” desire for peace. Israelis of all political stripes would undoubtedly be equally shocked at the French foreign minister’s ignorance — and at his willingness to hurl false accusations without even a minimal effort to check his facts.

“What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel,” Kouchner told France Inter radio yesterday. “There was a left that made itself heard and a real desire for peace. It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it.”

Kouchner is, of course, half right: even most Israeli leftists have stopped believing peace is possible in the foreseeable future, which is precisely why the peace movement and the political Left have largely collapsed. But that is a far cry from saying that Israelis have stopped wanting peace. The desire remains as strong as ever; it’s just that most Israelis currently see no way of fulfilling it.

Nor is it really hard to see why Israelis have stopped believing. First, every territorial concession since the 1993 Oslo Accord has produced only more terror. Palestinians killed more Israelis in the first two and a half years after Oslo than in the entire preceding decade, and in 2000-04 (the height of the second intifada), Israel’s terror-related casualties exceeded those of the entire preceding 53 years. The withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 led to the Second Lebanon War, and the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 produced daily rocket barrages on southern Israel. To most Israelis, bombs and rockets exploding in their cities don’t look much like peace.

This has been compounded by the complete lack of movement in Palestinian positions since 1993, even as Israeli leaders offered ever-increasing concessions. Israeli leaders routinely tell their people that peace will require “painful concessions.” Palestinian leaders are still telling their people that peace will enable 4.7 million descendants of Palestinian refugees to resettle in pre-1967 Israel, thus destroying the Jewish state demographically. And Israelis find it hard to believe in a peace whose price, according to their supposed “peace partner,” is Israel’s eradication.

None of this is news; a simple Web search would produce thousands of articles by Israelis explaining why they have despaired. Or if Kouchner doesn’t like the Web, he could have picked up a phone: most Israelis would probably have been happy to enlighten him.

But Kouchner couldn’t be bothered with the facts; he preferred to simply accuse Israelis of not wanting peace. Perhaps it’s his background as a human-rights activist showing: hurling accusations at Israel without checking the facts is practically de rigueur among human-rights organizations these days.

Nevertheless, one would expect better of a foreign minister. After all, he has actual responsibility for setting policy. And policy works better when it’s based on fact rather than fantasy.

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A New York Times Drive-by of Blackwater

The Times has run what it believes is a big scoop on page A1 today: a story claiming that Blackwater bribed Iraqi government officials in order to prevent them from taking action against Blackwater after the Nisor Square shooting of September 2007.

As Marty Peretz recently observed, “Ours is an age when the moral authority of accusers is at its height. Also the moral authority of accusations. There was a time when accusations had to be proven. That requirement has long since passed.” That requirement has certainly passed at the Times.

The Times‘s astonishing indictment of Blackwater hangs on one thing and one thing only: the anonymous claims of two disgruntled ex-employees. The piece is long and has the appearance, amid many pointless digressions, of substance. But there is almost nothing to it — certainly nothing warranting being printed in a reputable newspaper. Here are the key qualifications, which are scattered through the piece:

1. “The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients.” In other words, nobody knows whether any money was paid, or to whom. You’d think that four ex-“executives” of Blackwater who have intimate knowledge of a bribery plot would also know something as basic as who was supposed to get the money and whether they got it — but obviously they don’t.

2. “The former Blackwater executives said it was not clear who proposed paying off Iraqi officials.” Not only don’t they know who was supposed to be bribed, they also don’t know who at Blackwater was behind the project.

3. “Two of [the Blackwater officials] said they took part in talks about the payments; the two others said they had been told by several Blackwater officials about the discussions.” In short, the Times doesn’t have four officials making an allegation — they have only two.

4. “A senior State Department official said that American diplomats were not aware of any payoffs to Iraqi officials.” So there is no corroboration from the U.S. government.

5. “… the four officials said that they were troubled by a pattern of questionable conduct by Blackwater, which had led them to leave the company.” In other words, the anonymous sources are not unbiased parties or objective observers — they are ex-employees who might have a motive to harm Blackwater’s reputation. And because they’re anonymous, nobody has any idea who they are or why they left. Maybe they really were conscientious objectors, as portrayed by the Times. But maybe they were fired for incompetence and are looking for revenge. Who knows?

Then there is the drama. The Times claims that Cofer Black, the former head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center and at the time a Blackwater employee, was in Baghdad working out the compensation agreement for the families of the Iraqis who had been killed in the aforementioned Nisor Square shooting:

According to former Blackwater officials, Mr. Black was furious when he learned that the payoff money was being funneled into Iraq. …

“We are out of here,” Mr. Black told a colleague, one former executive said. After returning to the United States, Mr. Black and Robert Richer, who had also joined Blackwater after a C.I.A. career, separately confronted Mr. Prince with their concerns about the plan, one former Blackwater executive said.

Blackwater has such a low opinion of the New York Times that none of the officials implicated in the story would speak to the Times. But Cofer Black has exclusively provided COMMENTARY with the following statement:

I never confronted Erik Prince or any other Blackwater official regarding any allegations of bribing Iraqi officials and was unaware of any plot or guidance for Blackwater to bribe Iraqi officials.

So the linchpin character in this story has demolished the story’s central allegation.

In sum, the Times has run a page A1 hit piece on Blackwater that, despite its length, consists only of the following: two people who quit Blackwater and dislike the company claim that Blackwater wanted to bribe Iraqi officials — a federal crime. They don’t know who came up with the idea; they don’t know who the money was intended for; they don’t even know whether any money changed hands. The accusers, of course, enjoy anonymity from the Times. And the central figure in the story completely denies the Times‘s account.

The Times has run what it believes is a big scoop on page A1 today: a story claiming that Blackwater bribed Iraqi government officials in order to prevent them from taking action against Blackwater after the Nisor Square shooting of September 2007.

As Marty Peretz recently observed, “Ours is an age when the moral authority of accusers is at its height. Also the moral authority of accusations. There was a time when accusations had to be proven. That requirement has long since passed.” That requirement has certainly passed at the Times.

The Times‘s astonishing indictment of Blackwater hangs on one thing and one thing only: the anonymous claims of two disgruntled ex-employees. The piece is long and has the appearance, amid many pointless digressions, of substance. But there is almost nothing to it — certainly nothing warranting being printed in a reputable newspaper. Here are the key qualifications, which are scattered through the piece:

1. “The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients.” In other words, nobody knows whether any money was paid, or to whom. You’d think that four ex-“executives” of Blackwater who have intimate knowledge of a bribery plot would also know something as basic as who was supposed to get the money and whether they got it — but obviously they don’t.

2. “The former Blackwater executives said it was not clear who proposed paying off Iraqi officials.” Not only don’t they know who was supposed to be bribed, they also don’t know who at Blackwater was behind the project.

3. “Two of [the Blackwater officials] said they took part in talks about the payments; the two others said they had been told by several Blackwater officials about the discussions.” In short, the Times doesn’t have four officials making an allegation — they have only two.

4. “A senior State Department official said that American diplomats were not aware of any payoffs to Iraqi officials.” So there is no corroboration from the U.S. government.

5. “… the four officials said that they were troubled by a pattern of questionable conduct by Blackwater, which had led them to leave the company.” In other words, the anonymous sources are not unbiased parties or objective observers — they are ex-employees who might have a motive to harm Blackwater’s reputation. And because they’re anonymous, nobody has any idea who they are or why they left. Maybe they really were conscientious objectors, as portrayed by the Times. But maybe they were fired for incompetence and are looking for revenge. Who knows?

Then there is the drama. The Times claims that Cofer Black, the former head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center and at the time a Blackwater employee, was in Baghdad working out the compensation agreement for the families of the Iraqis who had been killed in the aforementioned Nisor Square shooting:

According to former Blackwater officials, Mr. Black was furious when he learned that the payoff money was being funneled into Iraq. …

“We are out of here,” Mr. Black told a colleague, one former executive said. After returning to the United States, Mr. Black and Robert Richer, who had also joined Blackwater after a C.I.A. career, separately confronted Mr. Prince with their concerns about the plan, one former Blackwater executive said.

Blackwater has such a low opinion of the New York Times that none of the officials implicated in the story would speak to the Times. But Cofer Black has exclusively provided COMMENTARY with the following statement:

I never confronted Erik Prince or any other Blackwater official regarding any allegations of bribing Iraqi officials and was unaware of any plot or guidance for Blackwater to bribe Iraqi officials.

So the linchpin character in this story has demolished the story’s central allegation.

In sum, the Times has run a page A1 hit piece on Blackwater that, despite its length, consists only of the following: two people who quit Blackwater and dislike the company claim that Blackwater wanted to bribe Iraqi officials — a federal crime. They don’t know who came up with the idea; they don’t know who the money was intended for; they don’t even know whether any money changed hands. The accusers, of course, enjoy anonymity from the Times. And the central figure in the story completely denies the Times‘s account.

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Getting to “Yes”

We may be near the end of the dithering. This report explains: “President Barack Obama on Wednesday will consider a new compromise plan for adding troops to Afghanistan that would deploy 30,000 to 35,000 new forces, including as many as 10,000 military trainers, over the next year or more.”

So what are we getting after all the seminars and the sage analysis of Gens. Biden, Emanuel, and Axelrod? Pretty much what Gen. Stanley McChrystal recommended months ago:

The total troops proposed are “at the top end of the bracket in terms of what McChrystal asked for — it may not reach 40,000, but it won’t be far off,” said an official briefed on the hybrid plan. “The overall strategy is going to be — which McChrystal has made a big deal about — getting Afghans up to the right pace. The strategy therefore needs capacity builders, trainers.”

The White House continues to haggle with the military (Make it 37,500!), which suggests that this is a PR battle to cast the president’s final decision as something other than mere acceptance of McChrystal’s recommendation. After all, if Obama simply, albeit belatedly, approved McChrystal’s plan, people might wonder why we’ve wasted all this time. And the Left might realize that all their squawking and foot-stomping got them nowhere.

Some will argue that this angst-ridden and protracted process was beneficial and that we gained something so we could “get it right.” But that’s consultant-speak. In reality, the “process” has served only to make the president look weak and indecisive and to suggest that national-security decisions are held hostage to political considerations. Obama’s dawdling has upset our allies, emboldened our foes, and frustrated our military. On a political level, his delay only infuriated conservatives and embarrassed his own supporters. Most of all, we’ve left troops in the field without the support and strategy they need for a prolonged — unnecessarily so — period of time. And for what? Apparently so Obama could flex his muscles and declare he wasn’t going to be told what to do by his generals.

It has been a shabby performance indeed.

We may be near the end of the dithering. This report explains: “President Barack Obama on Wednesday will consider a new compromise plan for adding troops to Afghanistan that would deploy 30,000 to 35,000 new forces, including as many as 10,000 military trainers, over the next year or more.”

So what are we getting after all the seminars and the sage analysis of Gens. Biden, Emanuel, and Axelrod? Pretty much what Gen. Stanley McChrystal recommended months ago:

The total troops proposed are “at the top end of the bracket in terms of what McChrystal asked for — it may not reach 40,000, but it won’t be far off,” said an official briefed on the hybrid plan. “The overall strategy is going to be — which McChrystal has made a big deal about — getting Afghans up to the right pace. The strategy therefore needs capacity builders, trainers.”

The White House continues to haggle with the military (Make it 37,500!), which suggests that this is a PR battle to cast the president’s final decision as something other than mere acceptance of McChrystal’s recommendation. After all, if Obama simply, albeit belatedly, approved McChrystal’s plan, people might wonder why we’ve wasted all this time. And the Left might realize that all their squawking and foot-stomping got them nowhere.

Some will argue that this angst-ridden and protracted process was beneficial and that we gained something so we could “get it right.” But that’s consultant-speak. In reality, the “process” has served only to make the president look weak and indecisive and to suggest that national-security decisions are held hostage to political considerations. Obama’s dawdling has upset our allies, emboldened our foes, and frustrated our military. On a political level, his delay only infuriated conservatives and embarrassed his own supporters. Most of all, we’ve left troops in the field without the support and strategy they need for a prolonged — unnecessarily so — period of time. And for what? Apparently so Obama could flex his muscles and declare he wasn’t going to be told what to do by his generals.

It has been a shabby performance indeed.

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Could It Be the PelosiCare?

Gallup has some more bad news for the Democratic leadership trying to keep their troops on board the far-Left legislative express:

Republicans have moved ahead of Democrats by 48% to 44% among registered voters in the latest update on Gallup’s generic congressional ballot for the 2010 House elections, after trailing by six points in July and two points last month. … As was the case in last Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections, independents are helping the Republicans’ cause. In the latest poll, independent registered voters favor the Republican candidate by 52% to 30%.

Gallup points out that this is a historical anomaly: “Since Gallup regularly began using the generic ballot to measure registered voters’ preferences for the House of Representatives in 1950, it has been rare for Republicans to have an advantage over Democrats.” The GOP held the lead in 1994 and 2002 when they picked up seats (and in ’94, control of the House).

This suggests that the public has had it with the Democrats and is readying for a “throw the bums out” sort of election. The pundits say that Republicans haven’t picked up support and haven’t given voters reasons to vote for them. But the voters, at least for now, are saying something different: we’ll try the other guys.

Gallup has some more bad news for the Democratic leadership trying to keep their troops on board the far-Left legislative express:

Republicans have moved ahead of Democrats by 48% to 44% among registered voters in the latest update on Gallup’s generic congressional ballot for the 2010 House elections, after trailing by six points in July and two points last month. … As was the case in last Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections, independents are helping the Republicans’ cause. In the latest poll, independent registered voters favor the Republican candidate by 52% to 30%.

Gallup points out that this is a historical anomaly: “Since Gallup regularly began using the generic ballot to measure registered voters’ preferences for the House of Representatives in 1950, it has been rare for Republicans to have an advantage over Democrats.” The GOP held the lead in 1994 and 2002 when they picked up seats (and in ’94, control of the House).

This suggests that the public has had it with the Democrats and is readying for a “throw the bums out” sort of election. The pundits say that Republicans haven’t picked up support and haven’t given voters reasons to vote for them. But the voters, at least for now, are saying something different: we’ll try the other guys.

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Maybe He Should Go Back to Politics

Rahm Emanuel yesterday went before a large Jewish gathering to spin the Obami’s tale of the Middle East. It was Emanuel, we are told, who favored the settlement-freeze gambit, convinced that Bibi Netanyahu could be pushed from office or forced to capitulate. He had these people wired. He knew the Jewish community here — they’d back the president. Put the squeeze on Israel. Hmm. Didn’t work out. It seems that Israel can’t be bullied like a recalcitrant congressman.

He also weighed in on Afghanistan: based on his voluminous expertise in counterinsurgency strategy, Emanuel opposes the recommendations of the real gurus and argues for fewer troops. He remains “skeptical of the value of a build-up.” One imagines it is Nancy Pelosi’s troops on the left wing that he’s most concerned about. But he, along with Joe Biden, seems to be on the wrong side of that one as well. We learn that “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are coalescing around a proposal to send 30,000 or more additional American troops to Afghanistan.” And if reports are correct, the president is stumbling toward that option, despite Gen. Emanuel’s “skepticism.”

It’s not a impressive record. In an ordinary administration, a political operative who made hash of one major foreign-policy objective and impeded the decision-making process in another would be shown the door — or at least relegated to a job he is qualified to perform. Isn’t there a congressman or senator he can curse at? Doesn’t the Illinois Democratic party need help finding a Senate candidate?

Perhaps the Chicago pol and candidate-recruitment chieftain should stay out of foreign-policy matters before he does any more damage. And really, wouldn’t his sequestration be the first positive gesture the Obami will have made toward Israel?

Rahm Emanuel yesterday went before a large Jewish gathering to spin the Obami’s tale of the Middle East. It was Emanuel, we are told, who favored the settlement-freeze gambit, convinced that Bibi Netanyahu could be pushed from office or forced to capitulate. He had these people wired. He knew the Jewish community here — they’d back the president. Put the squeeze on Israel. Hmm. Didn’t work out. It seems that Israel can’t be bullied like a recalcitrant congressman.

He also weighed in on Afghanistan: based on his voluminous expertise in counterinsurgency strategy, Emanuel opposes the recommendations of the real gurus and argues for fewer troops. He remains “skeptical of the value of a build-up.” One imagines it is Nancy Pelosi’s troops on the left wing that he’s most concerned about. But he, along with Joe Biden, seems to be on the wrong side of that one as well. We learn that “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are coalescing around a proposal to send 30,000 or more additional American troops to Afghanistan.” And if reports are correct, the president is stumbling toward that option, despite Gen. Emanuel’s “skepticism.”

It’s not a impressive record. In an ordinary administration, a political operative who made hash of one major foreign-policy objective and impeded the decision-making process in another would be shown the door — or at least relegated to a job he is qualified to perform. Isn’t there a congressman or senator he can curse at? Doesn’t the Illinois Democratic party need help finding a Senate candidate?

Perhaps the Chicago pol and candidate-recruitment chieftain should stay out of foreign-policy matters before he does any more damage. And really, wouldn’t his sequestration be the first positive gesture the Obami will have made toward Israel?

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The Senate Too

It wasn’t very long ago that pollsters and pundits were speculating that the Democrats would be increasing their advantage in the Senate. But not anymore. Politico reports:

The GOP is flexing its muscles in Democratic-leaning states like Delaware, Connecticut and Illinois. Recruiting coups by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas are one big reason Republicans feel a new sense of confidence. Democrats, meanwhile, are taking on an increasingly defensive crouch as the party in power, which must defend President Barack Obama’s ambitious — and expensive — agenda.

Nevada, Colorado, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Illinois now look like GOP potential pickups, and New Hampshire (with the recruitment of Kelly Ayotte, a former state attorney general) looks more secure. Blanche Lincoln may be in trouble in Arkansas as well. Notice the geographic range of these seats. Republicans competitive in Illinois and Pennsylvania? New England too? It seems like just yesterday that political mavens and conservative pundits were speculating that the GOP was becoming a “regional” party.

Well, that was before Obama and Harry Reid went on a spending jag and before independents got queasy. That was when unemployment was in single digits. And that was when, frankly, an “R” was the kiss of death on the ballot, conjuring up images of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the final gasp of the Bush administration. Time (since the Bush era) and experience (living with the Democrats’ monopoly on power) have reshaped the political landscape.

And contrary to the advice of many conservative pundits, the Republicans didn’t need to jettison social conservatives or redefine themselves. With an assist from Obama, they simply needed to re-establish the stark differences between the parties on core issues — spending, taxes, regulation, and national security. And so long as Obama and the Democrats run Left, Republican views, it turns out, have a substantial and growing center-right audience that is receptive to their much derided “no” message. And that appeal is nationwide, reflected in the diverse states in which Republican Senate candidates are now viable. A year is forever in politics — and that is true going forward as well. Much can change, but Senate Republicans, if this keeps up, may well have re-enforcements in a year.

It wasn’t very long ago that pollsters and pundits were speculating that the Democrats would be increasing their advantage in the Senate. But not anymore. Politico reports:

The GOP is flexing its muscles in Democratic-leaning states like Delaware, Connecticut and Illinois. Recruiting coups by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas are one big reason Republicans feel a new sense of confidence. Democrats, meanwhile, are taking on an increasingly defensive crouch as the party in power, which must defend President Barack Obama’s ambitious — and expensive — agenda.

Nevada, Colorado, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Illinois now look like GOP potential pickups, and New Hampshire (with the recruitment of Kelly Ayotte, a former state attorney general) looks more secure. Blanche Lincoln may be in trouble in Arkansas as well. Notice the geographic range of these seats. Republicans competitive in Illinois and Pennsylvania? New England too? It seems like just yesterday that political mavens and conservative pundits were speculating that the GOP was becoming a “regional” party.

Well, that was before Obama and Harry Reid went on a spending jag and before independents got queasy. That was when unemployment was in single digits. And that was when, frankly, an “R” was the kiss of death on the ballot, conjuring up images of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the final gasp of the Bush administration. Time (since the Bush era) and experience (living with the Democrats’ monopoly on power) have reshaped the political landscape.

And contrary to the advice of many conservative pundits, the Republicans didn’t need to jettison social conservatives or redefine themselves. With an assist from Obama, they simply needed to re-establish the stark differences between the parties on core issues — spending, taxes, regulation, and national security. And so long as Obama and the Democrats run Left, Republican views, it turns out, have a substantial and growing center-right audience that is receptive to their much derided “no” message. And that appeal is nationwide, reflected in the diverse states in which Republican Senate candidates are now viable. A year is forever in politics — and that is true going forward as well. Much can change, but Senate Republicans, if this keeps up, may well have re-enforcements in a year.

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What’s Wrong with It?

In a must-read, Camille Paglia goes after ObamaCare (“this rigid, intrusive and grotesquely expensive bill”) with hammer and tongs:

Why can’t my fellow Democrats see that the creation of another huge, inefficient federal bureaucracy would slow and disrupt the delivery of basic healthcare and subject us all to a labyrinthine mass of incompetent, unaccountable petty dictators? Massively expanding the number of healthcare consumers without making due provision for the production of more healthcare providers means that we’re hurtling toward a staggering logjam of de facto rationing. Steel yourself for the deafening screams from the careerist professional class of limousine liberals when they get stranded for hours in the jammed, jostling anterooms of doctors’ offices.

And on it goes. But amid the rollicking putdowns are some very serious indictments of the Democrats.

First, they really don’t understand the whole supply-and-demand thing. They respond to arguments about rationing by decrying the terminology (“death panels”) but without addressing the underlying reality: they are squeezing payments, which in turn will reduce care and access to doctors and thereby limit care. This isn’t a prediction; it’s the reality of government-run health-care schemes. Along the same lines, Paglia rightly takes the Democrats to task for ignoring an easy means of expanding competition and thereby reducing costs: “What covert business interests is the Democratic leadership protecting by stopping consumers from shopping for policies nationwide?” Well, again, if you don’t really understand or want to rely on free markets, you aren’t going to make an effort to expand them.

Moreover, Paglia doesn’t understand why we are doing this at all:

And why are we even considering so gargantuan a social experiment when the nation is struggling to emerge from a severe recession? It’s as if liberals are starry-eyed dreamers lacking the elementary ability to project or predict the chaotic and destabilizing practical consequences of their utopian fantasies.

Well yes, they are in the business of passing a liberal fantasy that’s been rattling around for years — government-run health care. They aren’t in the business of making it work or picking up the pieces after its disruptive impact ripples through the economy and the health-care system.

And finally, Paglia lambasts the Democrats for slashing Medicare:

How dare anyone claim humane aims for this bill anyhow when its funding is based on a slashing of Medicare by over $400 billion? The brutal abandonment of the elderly here is unconscionable. One would have expected a Democratic proposal to include an expansion of Medicare, certainly not its gutting.

Well, there you have it: an economically illiterate, ill-timed, anti-senior health-care plan. Who could resist? The Democrats and the mainstream media have become obsessed with making the deal and figuring out how to eliminate opposition. But the public is still back on the substance. And like Paglia, it is likely to conclude that this is the worst of all possible worlds. Never has the status quo looked so good.

In a must-read, Camille Paglia goes after ObamaCare (“this rigid, intrusive and grotesquely expensive bill”) with hammer and tongs:

Why can’t my fellow Democrats see that the creation of another huge, inefficient federal bureaucracy would slow and disrupt the delivery of basic healthcare and subject us all to a labyrinthine mass of incompetent, unaccountable petty dictators? Massively expanding the number of healthcare consumers without making due provision for the production of more healthcare providers means that we’re hurtling toward a staggering logjam of de facto rationing. Steel yourself for the deafening screams from the careerist professional class of limousine liberals when they get stranded for hours in the jammed, jostling anterooms of doctors’ offices.

And on it goes. But amid the rollicking putdowns are some very serious indictments of the Democrats.

First, they really don’t understand the whole supply-and-demand thing. They respond to arguments about rationing by decrying the terminology (“death panels”) but without addressing the underlying reality: they are squeezing payments, which in turn will reduce care and access to doctors and thereby limit care. This isn’t a prediction; it’s the reality of government-run health-care schemes. Along the same lines, Paglia rightly takes the Democrats to task for ignoring an easy means of expanding competition and thereby reducing costs: “What covert business interests is the Democratic leadership protecting by stopping consumers from shopping for policies nationwide?” Well, again, if you don’t really understand or want to rely on free markets, you aren’t going to make an effort to expand them.

Moreover, Paglia doesn’t understand why we are doing this at all:

And why are we even considering so gargantuan a social experiment when the nation is struggling to emerge from a severe recession? It’s as if liberals are starry-eyed dreamers lacking the elementary ability to project or predict the chaotic and destabilizing practical consequences of their utopian fantasies.

Well yes, they are in the business of passing a liberal fantasy that’s been rattling around for years — government-run health care. They aren’t in the business of making it work or picking up the pieces after its disruptive impact ripples through the economy and the health-care system.

And finally, Paglia lambasts the Democrats for slashing Medicare:

How dare anyone claim humane aims for this bill anyhow when its funding is based on a slashing of Medicare by over $400 billion? The brutal abandonment of the elderly here is unconscionable. One would have expected a Democratic proposal to include an expansion of Medicare, certainly not its gutting.

Well, there you have it: an economically illiterate, ill-timed, anti-senior health-care plan. Who could resist? The Democrats and the mainstream media have become obsessed with making the deal and figuring out how to eliminate opposition. But the public is still back on the substance. And like Paglia, it is likely to conclude that this is the worst of all possible worlds. Never has the status quo looked so good.

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Waiting for the President

Michael Gerson is tired of Obama’s Afghanistan-war seminars. He’s had it with the international pontification:

Obama’s high-profile international speeches, such as his Cairo remarks and United Nations address, have sought to transcend ideological debates, not engage them on one side. In this rhetorical approach, the world has many criticisms of America, some of them unfair, but America also has many flaws and failures. Thankfully, the bad old days of misunderstanding are now over, because of the arrival of Obama himself.

Call this what you will — narcissism comes to mind — but it has little to do with the wartime leadership (during wars hot and cold) of presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

And Gerson joins those of us who find Obama’s above-it-all cool-customer routine off-putting, if not downright bizarre. (“In a tragedy — such as the Fort Hood shootings — his public reactions can be oddly muted and medicinal. What makes Obama outraged? For what would he willingly sacrifice his popularity, his pride, his presidency?”)

We see that what was inviting or alluring during a campaign (He doesn’t get rattled!) is startlingly inappropriate for governance (What’s wrong with him?). Part of the buyer’s remorse stems from the ideological bait and switch (ran as a moderate, governs as an ultra-leftist), but some of it is attributable to the gnawing sense that Obama doesn’t act very presidential. He attacks a news network. He dawdles on war-planning. He seems to cheerlead less for America than for “multilateralism.” He doesn’t put forth his own legislation but defers to the left wing of his own party.

If we think of presidents as magnanimous, decisive, and bold advocates of American interests, Obama seems to not quite fit the job description. He is peevish when he should rise above the fray. He is passive when he should be bold. He is equivocating when he should be decisive. It takes time for candidates to grow into the presidency, and sometimes a crisis is required to jolt a White House occupant into assuming a grander vision of the presidency and his own responsibilities; to be not simply a partisan candidate but the head of state and commander in chief.

Obama has had 10 months, two wars, an economic crisis, and now a terrorist attack. It’s time to step up to the plate. If not now, when?

Michael Gerson is tired of Obama’s Afghanistan-war seminars. He’s had it with the international pontification:

Obama’s high-profile international speeches, such as his Cairo remarks and United Nations address, have sought to transcend ideological debates, not engage them on one side. In this rhetorical approach, the world has many criticisms of America, some of them unfair, but America also has many flaws and failures. Thankfully, the bad old days of misunderstanding are now over, because of the arrival of Obama himself.

Call this what you will — narcissism comes to mind — but it has little to do with the wartime leadership (during wars hot and cold) of presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

And Gerson joins those of us who find Obama’s above-it-all cool-customer routine off-putting, if not downright bizarre. (“In a tragedy — such as the Fort Hood shootings — his public reactions can be oddly muted and medicinal. What makes Obama outraged? For what would he willingly sacrifice his popularity, his pride, his presidency?”)

We see that what was inviting or alluring during a campaign (He doesn’t get rattled!) is startlingly inappropriate for governance (What’s wrong with him?). Part of the buyer’s remorse stems from the ideological bait and switch (ran as a moderate, governs as an ultra-leftist), but some of it is attributable to the gnawing sense that Obama doesn’t act very presidential. He attacks a news network. He dawdles on war-planning. He seems to cheerlead less for America than for “multilateralism.” He doesn’t put forth his own legislation but defers to the left wing of his own party.

If we think of presidents as magnanimous, decisive, and bold advocates of American interests, Obama seems to not quite fit the job description. He is peevish when he should rise above the fray. He is passive when he should be bold. He is equivocating when he should be decisive. It takes time for candidates to grow into the presidency, and sometimes a crisis is required to jolt a White House occupant into assuming a grander vision of the presidency and his own responsibilities; to be not simply a partisan candidate but the head of state and commander in chief.

Obama has had 10 months, two wars, an economic crisis, and now a terrorist attack. It’s time to step up to the plate. If not now, when?

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Virginia Lessons

Public Opinion Strategies has some interesting poll results from the Virginia election. On health-care reform, “44% of likely voters support the Obama plan, while 50% oppose it. Intensity is strongly against — 29% strongly favor/42% strong oppose.” This is an even more telling poll question:

“Some/Other people say it is more important to elect a Governor who will help President Barack Obama implement his agenda. Other/Some people say that it is more important to elect a Governor who will serve as a check and balance to President Barack Obama.” Voters opted for the check and balance by a 55%-35% margin.  Independents (who voted for Obama by one point in 2008 in Virginia) opted for a check and balance by an overwhelming 58%-25% margin.

And finally, on Obama’s endorsement of Creigh Deeds: “24% said they were more likely to vote for Deeds, while 32% were less likely.”

This suggests that Obama is a net negative for Democrats, at least if he continues to pursue policies that voters don’t like. It’s not simply that Obama couldn’t help Deeds — a tale spun by the White House to protect the president. No, he and his agenda apparently hobbled an already flawed candidate. This is, of course, how Democrats won big in 2006 — by nationalizing the congressional elections and making it a referendum on George W. Bush. If it worked before, it might work again.

Public Opinion Strategies has some interesting poll results from the Virginia election. On health-care reform, “44% of likely voters support the Obama plan, while 50% oppose it. Intensity is strongly against — 29% strongly favor/42% strong oppose.” This is an even more telling poll question:

“Some/Other people say it is more important to elect a Governor who will help President Barack Obama implement his agenda. Other/Some people say that it is more important to elect a Governor who will serve as a check and balance to President Barack Obama.” Voters opted for the check and balance by a 55%-35% margin.  Independents (who voted for Obama by one point in 2008 in Virginia) opted for a check and balance by an overwhelming 58%-25% margin.

And finally, on Obama’s endorsement of Creigh Deeds: “24% said they were more likely to vote for Deeds, while 32% were less likely.”

This suggests that Obama is a net negative for Democrats, at least if he continues to pursue policies that voters don’t like. It’s not simply that Obama couldn’t help Deeds — a tale spun by the White House to protect the president. No, he and his agenda apparently hobbled an already flawed candidate. This is, of course, how Democrats won big in 2006 — by nationalizing the congressional elections and making it a referendum on George W. Bush. If it worked before, it might work again.

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Or They Could Start Over

Many conservatives have been arguing for a do-over on health care. Here comes a model for how to do it. The subject is different but the process is similar. Cap-and-trade has reached a dead end. There aren’t the votes in the Senate. The bill, which would impose huge mandates and enact a new energy tax, makes no sense in a recession. Sen. Richard Lugar says “enough”:

Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, met Tuesday with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, along with the panel’s chairman, John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who are working to forge a bipartisan compromise on climate legislation.

Lugar said he welcomed the opportunity to discuss global warming, but he emphasized that his constituents are more focused on the economy and did not see the bill authored by Kerry and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as politically viable.

“I don’t see any climate bill on the table right now that I can support,” said Lugar, one of the half-dozen Republicans that Democrats are courting on the issue. “We really have to start from scratch again.”

In short, when a bill makes no sense substantively and hasn’t garnered wide support, just stop. Start over. Figure out limited reforms that won’t break the bank and won’t put Democrats in swing states at risk. In the end, there’ll be a big signing ceremony, the White House will get credit, and the opposition will be muted. Could work for cap-and-trade. And for health care.

Republicans, I suspect, are hoping that the ideologically consumed and hubris-ridden White House and Democratic Congress don’t figure this out. Right now, the GOP sees a win-win: either awful legislation collapses or it passes and becomes the target for 2010. Should the Democrats come to their senses, the win-win calculus would fail. But Republicans needn’t worry; common sense seems not to be in the offing.

Many conservatives have been arguing for a do-over on health care. Here comes a model for how to do it. The subject is different but the process is similar. Cap-and-trade has reached a dead end. There aren’t the votes in the Senate. The bill, which would impose huge mandates and enact a new energy tax, makes no sense in a recession. Sen. Richard Lugar says “enough”:

Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, met Tuesday with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, along with the panel’s chairman, John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who are working to forge a bipartisan compromise on climate legislation.

Lugar said he welcomed the opportunity to discuss global warming, but he emphasized that his constituents are more focused on the economy and did not see the bill authored by Kerry and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as politically viable.

“I don’t see any climate bill on the table right now that I can support,” said Lugar, one of the half-dozen Republicans that Democrats are courting on the issue. “We really have to start from scratch again.”

In short, when a bill makes no sense substantively and hasn’t garnered wide support, just stop. Start over. Figure out limited reforms that won’t break the bank and won’t put Democrats in swing states at risk. In the end, there’ll be a big signing ceremony, the White House will get credit, and the opposition will be muted. Could work for cap-and-trade. And for health care.

Republicans, I suspect, are hoping that the ideologically consumed and hubris-ridden White House and Democratic Congress don’t figure this out. Right now, the GOP sees a win-win: either awful legislation collapses or it passes and becomes the target for 2010. Should the Democrats come to their senses, the win-win calculus would fail. But Republicans needn’t worry; common sense seems not to be in the offing.

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Too Big

Rick Klein of ABC News wonders if the health-care bill has become a monstrosity, too big and too controversial to pass through the thicket of conflicting interests that are emerging from every corner:

The health care bill has become an abortion bill — and an immigration bill, and a tax bill, and a jobs bill, and a spending bill — not to mention the most significant re-working of the nation’s health care system in half a century.

The growing scope is a consequence of the scope of the president’s ambitions, plus the ever-expanding need to attract more votes for something that not everyone agrees is a policy or political winner. (How long before we hear from Republicans that health care reform is simply too big not to fail?)

Well, yes. It is too big in two senses. First, it is too expensive, scaring Americans already wary of the mound of debt and requiring a huge tax burden to maintain the fiction of deficit neutrality. And second, it is too sprawling and controversial — touching on too many hot-button issues. Seniors get their Medicare slashed. Businesses get a new mandate. Individuals get a directive to purchase insurance and a fine if they don’t comply. There is something for everyone to hate.

Perhaps there is some precedent for an enormous, unpopular, highly controversial bill to pass by the narrowest of partisan margins. But I’m hard pressed to think of it. There may yet be a path to passage of this monstrous legislation, but with each passing week it seems more likely that common sense will eventually prevail and that a bipartisan majority will emerge, when ObamaCare collapses under its own weight, for limited, targeted reforms. But we’re a long way from that.

Rick Klein of ABC News wonders if the health-care bill has become a monstrosity, too big and too controversial to pass through the thicket of conflicting interests that are emerging from every corner:

The health care bill has become an abortion bill — and an immigration bill, and a tax bill, and a jobs bill, and a spending bill — not to mention the most significant re-working of the nation’s health care system in half a century.

The growing scope is a consequence of the scope of the president’s ambitions, plus the ever-expanding need to attract more votes for something that not everyone agrees is a policy or political winner. (How long before we hear from Republicans that health care reform is simply too big not to fail?)

Well, yes. It is too big in two senses. First, it is too expensive, scaring Americans already wary of the mound of debt and requiring a huge tax burden to maintain the fiction of deficit neutrality. And second, it is too sprawling and controversial — touching on too many hot-button issues. Seniors get their Medicare slashed. Businesses get a new mandate. Individuals get a directive to purchase insurance and a fine if they don’t comply. There is something for everyone to hate.

Perhaps there is some precedent for an enormous, unpopular, highly controversial bill to pass by the narrowest of partisan margins. But I’m hard pressed to think of it. There may yet be a path to passage of this monstrous legislation, but with each passing week it seems more likely that common sense will eventually prevail and that a bipartisan majority will emerge, when ObamaCare collapses under its own weight, for limited, targeted reforms. But we’re a long way from that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The UN is at it again (or still), putting its stamp of approval on Goldstone’s handiwork — and in full bully mode as vividly described here. And the perfect coda to the Goldstone debacle: UN security goons muscled off Anne Bayefsky, who had the temerity to speak out against the Israel-bashing: “In the end, nothing about the shameless pandering of the great United Nations to the enemies of tiny Israel is ever really all that unexpected. It even trumps the exigencies of women’s rights. Or some women’s rights, anyway.” This is the “international community” whose approval our president seeks.

Maybe it was the PelosiCare vote: “Republican candidates have stretched their lead over Democrats to six points in the Generic Congressional Ballot. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 43% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Republicans have held the lead for over four months now.”

Now everyone’s a critic: “Freshman Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, said Tuesday that President Obama has misplayed his attempt to reform U.S. heath care by focusing on insurance coverage instead of explaining that the current system is headed toward a financial meltdown.”

PelosiCare seems to be causing problems in the speaker’s caucus: “Democrats who thought a vote against the sweeping health care package would inoculate them from political attack are facing serious blowback from angry constituents and interest groups on the left—fierce opposition that could prove as consequential as anything Republicans could have thrown at them. For some of 39 House Democrats who opposed the bill, there are protests outside their offices and promises of retribution. For others, there are attempts to shut off their campaign money spigot. Still more are about to get drilled in a television ad campaign paid for by Democratic donors.”

Marty Peretz on the Left’s see-no-evil approach to Fort Hood: “I’d rather be alert to what’s around me than dither over the Oxford dictionary, the last edition of which is none too restrictive about the definition of terror, terrorism, terrorist. Of what are those who cling to the illusion that Hasan was not really engaged in terror afraid? That the government will sweep down on tens of thousands of Muslims and intern them in Guantanamo?” Perhaps, or maybe they want a holiday from history (again) so they can get to the important task of socializing health care.

We are not done dithering, declare the Obami: “The White House is vehemently denying reports that President Barack Obama has made a final decision on a troop surge in Afghanistan. Obama is scheduled to meet with his national security team on Wednesday to discuss strategies for moving forward on the war in Afghanistan. Wednesday’s meeting in the White House Situation Room, the eighth of its kind, comes as media reports claim that Obama has already decided to send close to 40,000 troops to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.”

The Hasan slide show is revealing. “The truth is that his presentation is further evidence that he is a fairly typical jihadist ideologue. It is not surprising, therefore, that he would reach out to an al Qaeda cleric who preaches the same.”

The UN is at it again (or still), putting its stamp of approval on Goldstone’s handiwork — and in full bully mode as vividly described here. And the perfect coda to the Goldstone debacle: UN security goons muscled off Anne Bayefsky, who had the temerity to speak out against the Israel-bashing: “In the end, nothing about the shameless pandering of the great United Nations to the enemies of tiny Israel is ever really all that unexpected. It even trumps the exigencies of women’s rights. Or some women’s rights, anyway.” This is the “international community” whose approval our president seeks.

Maybe it was the PelosiCare vote: “Republican candidates have stretched their lead over Democrats to six points in the Generic Congressional Ballot. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 43% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Republicans have held the lead for over four months now.”

Now everyone’s a critic: “Freshman Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, said Tuesday that President Obama has misplayed his attempt to reform U.S. heath care by focusing on insurance coverage instead of explaining that the current system is headed toward a financial meltdown.”

PelosiCare seems to be causing problems in the speaker’s caucus: “Democrats who thought a vote against the sweeping health care package would inoculate them from political attack are facing serious blowback from angry constituents and interest groups on the left—fierce opposition that could prove as consequential as anything Republicans could have thrown at them. For some of 39 House Democrats who opposed the bill, there are protests outside their offices and promises of retribution. For others, there are attempts to shut off their campaign money spigot. Still more are about to get drilled in a television ad campaign paid for by Democratic donors.”

Marty Peretz on the Left’s see-no-evil approach to Fort Hood: “I’d rather be alert to what’s around me than dither over the Oxford dictionary, the last edition of which is none too restrictive about the definition of terror, terrorism, terrorist. Of what are those who cling to the illusion that Hasan was not really engaged in terror afraid? That the government will sweep down on tens of thousands of Muslims and intern them in Guantanamo?” Perhaps, or maybe they want a holiday from history (again) so they can get to the important task of socializing health care.

We are not done dithering, declare the Obami: “The White House is vehemently denying reports that President Barack Obama has made a final decision on a troop surge in Afghanistan. Obama is scheduled to meet with his national security team on Wednesday to discuss strategies for moving forward on the war in Afghanistan. Wednesday’s meeting in the White House Situation Room, the eighth of its kind, comes as media reports claim that Obama has already decided to send close to 40,000 troops to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.”

The Hasan slide show is revealing. “The truth is that his presentation is further evidence that he is a fairly typical jihadist ideologue. It is not surprising, therefore, that he would reach out to an al Qaeda cleric who preaches the same.”

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