Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 8, 2009

Getting Answers, Perhaps

When last we left the standoff between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) and the Obama Justice Department concerning dismissal of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) voter-intimidation case, the DOJ had interceded to at least delay the deposition of two of its employees, both members of the NBPP trial team. As it indicated in its open meeting last Friday, the USCCR is now directing its inquiries to the DOJ itself, although the depositions of DOJ employees have only been postponed. Today the USCCR’s general counsel, David Blackwood, fired off a letter and voluminous document request to Joseph H. Hunt, the director of the DOJ’s Federal Programs Branch. The letter, a copy of which I have received, recaps the DOJ’s stonewalling:

In the present case, beginning in June 2009, the Commission has consistently requested the voluntary production of information from the Department, without any success. It was only after the Department, by letter dated September 9, 2009, formally indicated that no information would be forthcoming (pending completion of an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility), and subsequently ignored the Commission’s letter of September 30, 2009, that subpoenas were issued by the Commission. While your letter refers to an ongoing “dialogue” between the Department and the Commission, it is the dearth of cooperation on the part of the Department that has resulted in the Commission’s need to issue subpoenas.

The DOJ apparently was skeptical of the USCCR’s authority to issue subpoenas, but Blackwood reminds Hunt: “In this regard, your attention is directed to 42 U.S.C. § 1975a(e)(2). This provision grants the Commission the authority to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of written documents or other materials. This provision in no way prohibits or excludes requests directed to federal agencies or their employees.” And he also recites previous incidents in which as late as 2004 then Chairman Mary Frances Berry directed document requests to the DOJ’s Civil Division, which did cooperate.

It doesn’t appear that the DOJ has formally raised executive-privilege issues, but in case they are mulling that option, Blackwood reminds Hunt that

“to the extent that some documents or other communications may involve internal pre-decisional deliberative discussions, it should be understood that: (1) as between the Commission and the Department the only legal privilege that exists is the President’s constitutionally-based executive privilege, (2) the executive privilege must be invoked by the President, or possibly by a Department Head on the President’s behalf, (3) the President should not routinely invoke executive privilege, and may not do so to shield potential wrongdoing, and (4) the President’s executive privilege is not absolute and should not be read broadly to frustrate the core functions of an investigative agency. “

And finally, Blackwood bats down any suggestion that the DOJ’s internal investigation should forestall a legally authorized subpoena, noting that if in fact actual misconduct occurred by political appointees, “any perceived misconduct within its purview relating to matters of civil rights enforcement strengthens the requisite nature of the Commission’s discovery requests and weakens any claim that matters must be protected from review.”

Along with the letter is a 26-page discovery request, including both interrogatories and requests for documents. These cover every imaginable line of inquiry, including this query:

Identify and describe in detail the decision-making process within DOJ relating to the New Black Panther Party litigation. This request includes, but is not limited to, the decision-making processes that: (i) led to the initial filing of said litigation; (ii) the decision to seek a default; (iii) the decision to delay seeking a default judgment; (iv) the decision to seek review by the appellate section; (v) the decision to review the relief sought in the original complaint; and (vi) the decision to dismiss certain defendants and to reduce the relief sought against the remaining defendant.

And this curious one, which suggests that outside groups may have played a role in the decision to dismiss the case:

Identify and describe in detail all communications, whether oral or written, by or between the Department and any outside third parties with regard to the New Black Panther Party litigation. This request includes, but is not limited to, all communications with Kristen Clarke of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Others suggest that career attorneys were run over by the Obama political appointees: “Identify all career employees in the Civil Rights Division who objected to the ultimate relief sought in the New Black Panther Party litigation.” There are 49 interrogatories (with subparts on many) and 51 categories of requested documents. I am informed by someone with requisite knowledge that “this particular subpoena is a bi-partisan appeal for information, that includes specific requests from Democratic commissioners.”

Unless Obama is prepared to invoke executive privilege, it seems we are about to get to the bottom of this case.

When last we left the standoff between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) and the Obama Justice Department concerning dismissal of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) voter-intimidation case, the DOJ had interceded to at least delay the deposition of two of its employees, both members of the NBPP trial team. As it indicated in its open meeting last Friday, the USCCR is now directing its inquiries to the DOJ itself, although the depositions of DOJ employees have only been postponed. Today the USCCR’s general counsel, David Blackwood, fired off a letter and voluminous document request to Joseph H. Hunt, the director of the DOJ’s Federal Programs Branch. The letter, a copy of which I have received, recaps the DOJ’s stonewalling:

In the present case, beginning in June 2009, the Commission has consistently requested the voluntary production of information from the Department, without any success. It was only after the Department, by letter dated September 9, 2009, formally indicated that no information would be forthcoming (pending completion of an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility), and subsequently ignored the Commission’s letter of September 30, 2009, that subpoenas were issued by the Commission. While your letter refers to an ongoing “dialogue” between the Department and the Commission, it is the dearth of cooperation on the part of the Department that has resulted in the Commission’s need to issue subpoenas.

The DOJ apparently was skeptical of the USCCR’s authority to issue subpoenas, but Blackwood reminds Hunt: “In this regard, your attention is directed to 42 U.S.C. § 1975a(e)(2). This provision grants the Commission the authority to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of written documents or other materials. This provision in no way prohibits or excludes requests directed to federal agencies or their employees.” And he also recites previous incidents in which as late as 2004 then Chairman Mary Frances Berry directed document requests to the DOJ’s Civil Division, which did cooperate.

It doesn’t appear that the DOJ has formally raised executive-privilege issues, but in case they are mulling that option, Blackwood reminds Hunt that

“to the extent that some documents or other communications may involve internal pre-decisional deliberative discussions, it should be understood that: (1) as between the Commission and the Department the only legal privilege that exists is the President’s constitutionally-based executive privilege, (2) the executive privilege must be invoked by the President, or possibly by a Department Head on the President’s behalf, (3) the President should not routinely invoke executive privilege, and may not do so to shield potential wrongdoing, and (4) the President’s executive privilege is not absolute and should not be read broadly to frustrate the core functions of an investigative agency. “

And finally, Blackwood bats down any suggestion that the DOJ’s internal investigation should forestall a legally authorized subpoena, noting that if in fact actual misconduct occurred by political appointees, “any perceived misconduct within its purview relating to matters of civil rights enforcement strengthens the requisite nature of the Commission’s discovery requests and weakens any claim that matters must be protected from review.”

Along with the letter is a 26-page discovery request, including both interrogatories and requests for documents. These cover every imaginable line of inquiry, including this query:

Identify and describe in detail the decision-making process within DOJ relating to the New Black Panther Party litigation. This request includes, but is not limited to, the decision-making processes that: (i) led to the initial filing of said litigation; (ii) the decision to seek a default; (iii) the decision to delay seeking a default judgment; (iv) the decision to seek review by the appellate section; (v) the decision to review the relief sought in the original complaint; and (vi) the decision to dismiss certain defendants and to reduce the relief sought against the remaining defendant.

And this curious one, which suggests that outside groups may have played a role in the decision to dismiss the case:

Identify and describe in detail all communications, whether oral or written, by or between the Department and any outside third parties with regard to the New Black Panther Party litigation. This request includes, but is not limited to, all communications with Kristen Clarke of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Others suggest that career attorneys were run over by the Obama political appointees: “Identify all career employees in the Civil Rights Division who objected to the ultimate relief sought in the New Black Panther Party litigation.” There are 49 interrogatories (with subparts on many) and 51 categories of requested documents. I am informed by someone with requisite knowledge that “this particular subpoena is a bi-partisan appeal for information, that includes specific requests from Democratic commissioners.”

Unless Obama is prepared to invoke executive privilege, it seems we are about to get to the bottom of this case.

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What a Trip

As this vivid account of the Copenhagen climate fest makes clear, the proceedings seem to be less like a scientific and policy conference and more like a Woodstock flashback:

As activists from groups as wide-ranging as the Girl Scouts and the World Council on Churches converge on the climate change conference in Copenhagen, some critics say it’s turning into a “circus” sideshow, with 20,000 attendees creating an international echo chamber of climate piety. Apart from the main proceedings, there are 254 side events, 231 exhibits and more than 200 press conferences already on the schedule — meaning there are about 700 extra events keyed up for the 12-day conference. “These circuses get bigger and bigger,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. “It’s a big echo chamber — they’re just reassuring themselves.”

It’s quite apparent that many of the true believers don’t think much — or care much — about science or facts. (“A group called GenderCC (Women for Climate Justice) rejects using distractions like ‘numbers’ and ‘target dates’ to track and fight climate change, and doesn’t appear very interested in the environment itself. Instead, it hopes to implement ‘gender-mainstreaming’ and ensure that the U.N. guarantees the fullest participation of ‘feminist scientists’ at every level.”) There is a group pushing contraception and population “control” and one that wants to “explore how thoughts affect matter and how a shift in consciousness can transform current deteriorating conditions.”

The religious-like fervor is hard to miss here. Facts and science don’t really figure when you’re shifting consciousness. What is interesting is the vicious antagonism displayed by the mainstream media when conservative gatherings like the Tea Parties are covered. They ignore those groups’ serious bent (posters displaying James Madison quotes never seem to make it into CNN coverage) and focus instead on the inevitable loony element that turns out for any mass movement. But when the confab is filled with, indeed dominated by, those indifferent to reason and obviously peddling a hippy-dippy agenda, the MSM is mute, playing along with the game that the confab is a serious exercise in science-based policymaking.

As this vivid account of the Copenhagen climate fest makes clear, the proceedings seem to be less like a scientific and policy conference and more like a Woodstock flashback:

As activists from groups as wide-ranging as the Girl Scouts and the World Council on Churches converge on the climate change conference in Copenhagen, some critics say it’s turning into a “circus” sideshow, with 20,000 attendees creating an international echo chamber of climate piety. Apart from the main proceedings, there are 254 side events, 231 exhibits and more than 200 press conferences already on the schedule — meaning there are about 700 extra events keyed up for the 12-day conference. “These circuses get bigger and bigger,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. “It’s a big echo chamber — they’re just reassuring themselves.”

It’s quite apparent that many of the true believers don’t think much — or care much — about science or facts. (“A group called GenderCC (Women for Climate Justice) rejects using distractions like ‘numbers’ and ‘target dates’ to track and fight climate change, and doesn’t appear very interested in the environment itself. Instead, it hopes to implement ‘gender-mainstreaming’ and ensure that the U.N. guarantees the fullest participation of ‘feminist scientists’ at every level.”) There is a group pushing contraception and population “control” and one that wants to “explore how thoughts affect matter and how a shift in consciousness can transform current deteriorating conditions.”

The religious-like fervor is hard to miss here. Facts and science don’t really figure when you’re shifting consciousness. What is interesting is the vicious antagonism displayed by the mainstream media when conservative gatherings like the Tea Parties are covered. They ignore those groups’ serious bent (posters displaying James Madison quotes never seem to make it into CNN coverage) and focus instead on the inevitable loony element that turns out for any mass movement. But when the confab is filled with, indeed dominated by, those indifferent to reason and obviously peddling a hippy-dippy agenda, the MSM is mute, playing along with the game that the confab is a serious exercise in science-based policymaking.

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Going Post-al on Lieberman

The Washington Post, like many mainstream papers, likes nothing better than to slam a Democratic heretic and disguise it as political reporting. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are mavericks, but Joe Lieberman, according to this hit job, has “inserted himself” into the health-care vote (isn’t he a senator with a vote and everything?), thereby — passive voice alert — “raising questions about his motives, his ego and his fickle allegiance to the Democratic Party.” This presumably is a phrase off the Pelosi-Reid talking points.

He is a foe of the public option, and the Post‘s reporters dutifully report:

A number of senators are privately furious, Senate sources said. But they added that it is unlikely the Democratic caucus would take punitive action, such as stripping his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — at least not in this Congress.

These would be the same folks who suggested the story and provided the talking points, no doubt. But aside from the not-very-well hidden agenda (Tell Lieberman he’ll be punished!), the reporters abandon any serious attempt to explain Lieberman’s objections, including his view (one widely held) that the public option won’t do anything to lower costs. But the piece isn’t about that — it’s about how darn mad the Democrats are and how they are once again out to smear the heretic of liberal orthodoxy, using the pages of the Post’s “news” section to do so.

Lieberman’s rationale for opposing the public option does slip out toward the final graphs (“an aggressive government-run plan would put undue pressures on medical providers and force them to shift costs to private insurers”). And lo and behold, the CBO confesses that some 10 million people would lose private insurance as they and their employers gravitated toward public subsidized plans.

One wonders why the Post allows its “news” pages to be used to smear one senator on behalf of a group of aggrieved liberals. After all, there is a entire opinion section for that.

The Washington Post, like many mainstream papers, likes nothing better than to slam a Democratic heretic and disguise it as political reporting. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are mavericks, but Joe Lieberman, according to this hit job, has “inserted himself” into the health-care vote (isn’t he a senator with a vote and everything?), thereby — passive voice alert — “raising questions about his motives, his ego and his fickle allegiance to the Democratic Party.” This presumably is a phrase off the Pelosi-Reid talking points.

He is a foe of the public option, and the Post‘s reporters dutifully report:

A number of senators are privately furious, Senate sources said. But they added that it is unlikely the Democratic caucus would take punitive action, such as stripping his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — at least not in this Congress.

These would be the same folks who suggested the story and provided the talking points, no doubt. But aside from the not-very-well hidden agenda (Tell Lieberman he’ll be punished!), the reporters abandon any serious attempt to explain Lieberman’s objections, including his view (one widely held) that the public option won’t do anything to lower costs. But the piece isn’t about that — it’s about how darn mad the Democrats are and how they are once again out to smear the heretic of liberal orthodoxy, using the pages of the Post’s “news” section to do so.

Lieberman’s rationale for opposing the public option does slip out toward the final graphs (“an aggressive government-run plan would put undue pressures on medical providers and force them to shift costs to private insurers”). And lo and behold, the CBO confesses that some 10 million people would lose private insurance as they and their employers gravitated toward public subsidized plans.

One wonders why the Post allows its “news” pages to be used to smear one senator on behalf of a group of aggrieved liberals. After all, there is a entire opinion section for that.

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EPA Power Grab Ought to Overshadow Copenhagen Talkfest

While the attention of the world is focused on the global-warming jamboree in Copenhagen, an announcement made in Washington yesterday may well overshadow that international talkfest in its significance. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator Lisa P. Jackson issued a final ruling that greenhouse gases pose a danger to the environment and human health. This will, as the New York Times noted, pave “the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories, refineries and other major sources.”

As if to put an exclamation point on the way that the governmental and media establishments have utterly rejected the significance of Climategate and other sources of skepticism, Jackson dismissed any criticisms of the environmentalist groupthink on the issue and said that her agency would not allow anything to stop it from going ahead with a plan that has the potential to create a vast expansion of government.

The impact of this ruling cannot be overestimated. Because carbon dioxide is everywhere and produced by just about any sort of economic activity, the door is opened for a new era of complex governmental regulations that will impose enormous costs across the board.

Jackson made little attempt to hide the real agenda here. Cap-and-trade legislation that would attempt to do the same thing is going nowhere in Congress. The prospects of going into an election year by imposing a gargantuan new bureaucracy on the country via a massive, though hidden, tax increase in the middle of an economic downturn is a formula for certain defeat for the Democrats. But why bother dealing with the messiness of democracy when you can impose a command-and-control economy run from Washington via an EPA ruling? As the Times editorial page helpfully points out today, Jackson’s fiat has the ability to completely bypass the Congress and possibly get the same result:

There is one obvious way to keep the E.P.A. from having to use this authority on a broad scale. And that is for Congress to pass a credible and comprehensive bill requiring economywide cuts in emissions. No one would be cheering louder than Ms. Jackson, who has neither the resources nor the ambition to regulate what would amount to 70 percent of the American economy. If Congress fails to act, she will have no choice.

I’m not so sure about the lack of ambition for central control of the economy on the part of the Obama administration, though the prospect of Jackson’s merry band of government bureaucrats being given that much power ought to send a chill down the spine of any sensible person. So should the prospect of having such a draconian measure shoved down the collective throats of our democracy by executive fiat. While the show in Copenhagen may be unlikely to produce any binding international agreements to advance the environmental alarmist position, this EPA power grab may prove to be an even more troubling measure that will cripple the U.S. economy without the voters or their representatives having a say in any of it.

While the attention of the world is focused on the global-warming jamboree in Copenhagen, an announcement made in Washington yesterday may well overshadow that international talkfest in its significance. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator Lisa P. Jackson issued a final ruling that greenhouse gases pose a danger to the environment and human health. This will, as the New York Times noted, pave “the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories, refineries and other major sources.”

As if to put an exclamation point on the way that the governmental and media establishments have utterly rejected the significance of Climategate and other sources of skepticism, Jackson dismissed any criticisms of the environmentalist groupthink on the issue and said that her agency would not allow anything to stop it from going ahead with a plan that has the potential to create a vast expansion of government.

The impact of this ruling cannot be overestimated. Because carbon dioxide is everywhere and produced by just about any sort of economic activity, the door is opened for a new era of complex governmental regulations that will impose enormous costs across the board.

Jackson made little attempt to hide the real agenda here. Cap-and-trade legislation that would attempt to do the same thing is going nowhere in Congress. The prospects of going into an election year by imposing a gargantuan new bureaucracy on the country via a massive, though hidden, tax increase in the middle of an economic downturn is a formula for certain defeat for the Democrats. But why bother dealing with the messiness of democracy when you can impose a command-and-control economy run from Washington via an EPA ruling? As the Times editorial page helpfully points out today, Jackson’s fiat has the ability to completely bypass the Congress and possibly get the same result:

There is one obvious way to keep the E.P.A. from having to use this authority on a broad scale. And that is for Congress to pass a credible and comprehensive bill requiring economywide cuts in emissions. No one would be cheering louder than Ms. Jackson, who has neither the resources nor the ambition to regulate what would amount to 70 percent of the American economy. If Congress fails to act, she will have no choice.

I’m not so sure about the lack of ambition for central control of the economy on the part of the Obama administration, though the prospect of Jackson’s merry band of government bureaucrats being given that much power ought to send a chill down the spine of any sensible person. So should the prospect of having such a draconian measure shoved down the collective throats of our democracy by executive fiat. While the show in Copenhagen may be unlikely to produce any binding international agreements to advance the environmental alarmist position, this EPA power grab may prove to be an even more troubling measure that will cripple the U.S. economy without the voters or their representatives having a say in any of it.

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Always Last

Obama is nothing if not consistent when it comes to promoting human rights and democracy. He’s really not for promoting either when doing so could endanger “engagement” with despots, attempts to appease authoritarians, or when it could displace other priorities, or challenge conventional Foggy Bottom wisdom. He’s certainly not going to place those concerns above “building multilateral institutions” whose members trample on both. In other words — any time it matters, Obama doesn’t really have anything to say in support of human rights and democracy advocates.

Michael Rubin (no relation, regrettably) writes:

First Obama fumbled the human-rights agenda with Russia. Then China. Then Burma. Then Iran. Then Syria. Then Iran again. Now it’s Turkey. President Obama yesterday showered Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with praise: “I’m pleased that I’m able to call Prime Minister Erdogan personally a friend. I’m grateful for his trip here and look forward to many years of collaboration with him to observe both the prosperity of the American people and the Turkish people.”

Not a word on Erdogan’s embrace of Sudan’s president and Erdogan’s dismissal of any Sudanese responsibility for mass murder in Darfur. Not a word on Erdogan’s personal embrace not only of Hamas, but of the most militant and rejectionist leaders in that movement. And not a word on Erdogan’s personal war on the free press in Turkey.

What happened to “honesty” and talking truth to power in our dealings with other countries? That we are not getting anything for this suck-uppery and are in fact eroding our influence and moral standing in the world while green lighting thuggery seems not to matter to the Obami. The only question is which thugocracy will Obama flatter or try to bribe next. North Korea seems to be a likely candidate.

Obama is nothing if not consistent when it comes to promoting human rights and democracy. He’s really not for promoting either when doing so could endanger “engagement” with despots, attempts to appease authoritarians, or when it could displace other priorities, or challenge conventional Foggy Bottom wisdom. He’s certainly not going to place those concerns above “building multilateral institutions” whose members trample on both. In other words — any time it matters, Obama doesn’t really have anything to say in support of human rights and democracy advocates.

Michael Rubin (no relation, regrettably) writes:

First Obama fumbled the human-rights agenda with Russia. Then China. Then Burma. Then Iran. Then Syria. Then Iran again. Now it’s Turkey. President Obama yesterday showered Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with praise: “I’m pleased that I’m able to call Prime Minister Erdogan personally a friend. I’m grateful for his trip here and look forward to many years of collaboration with him to observe both the prosperity of the American people and the Turkish people.”

Not a word on Erdogan’s embrace of Sudan’s president and Erdogan’s dismissal of any Sudanese responsibility for mass murder in Darfur. Not a word on Erdogan’s personal embrace not only of Hamas, but of the most militant and rejectionist leaders in that movement. And not a word on Erdogan’s personal war on the free press in Turkey.

What happened to “honesty” and talking truth to power in our dealings with other countries? That we are not getting anything for this suck-uppery and are in fact eroding our influence and moral standing in the world while green lighting thuggery seems not to matter to the Obami. The only question is which thugocracy will Obama flatter or try to bribe next. North Korea seems to be a likely candidate.

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The Perils of a Premature Drawdown in Iraq

Sigh. Another month, another bombing. Baghdad was rocked by massive car bombs in August and October. Now comes another one, this time killing at least 120 people. Odds are that al-Qaeda in Iraq is responsible for all these blasts, which underscores just how fragile the security situation remains despite all the progress that has been made since 2007. But in the “two steps forward, one step back” (or is that one forward and two back?) routine that has become characteristic of Iraq, there is also good news to announce: a date has finally been announced for Iraq’s next national elections — March 6. That’s later than was supposed to be, but better a late agreement than none at all.

Will the good continue to outweigh the bad in the future, as it has so far in 2009? Or will al-Qaeda’s attempts to trigger a wider conflict pay off? It is impossible to know. All we can know for sure is that the presence of U.S. troops provides a vital stabilizing element that prevents Iraq from going off the rails entirely. That is why it is so important that the Obama administration continue to show flexibility in its troop drawdown and not get locked into a premature exit that could jeopardize all the progress that has been made so far.

Sigh. Another month, another bombing. Baghdad was rocked by massive car bombs in August and October. Now comes another one, this time killing at least 120 people. Odds are that al-Qaeda in Iraq is responsible for all these blasts, which underscores just how fragile the security situation remains despite all the progress that has been made since 2007. But in the “two steps forward, one step back” (or is that one forward and two back?) routine that has become characteristic of Iraq, there is also good news to announce: a date has finally been announced for Iraq’s next national elections — March 6. That’s later than was supposed to be, but better a late agreement than none at all.

Will the good continue to outweigh the bad in the future, as it has so far in 2009? Or will al-Qaeda’s attempts to trigger a wider conflict pay off? It is impossible to know. All we can know for sure is that the presence of U.S. troops provides a vital stabilizing element that prevents Iraq from going off the rails entirely. That is why it is so important that the Obama administration continue to show flexibility in its troop drawdown and not get locked into a premature exit that could jeopardize all the progress that has been made so far.

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Persuadable but Not Silly

The American people have a deep reservoir of common sense. It’s a good thing, given that common sense is often is short in supply among the chattering class. The latest Quinnipiac poll makes this clear.

On Afghanistan,we were told that the support was down for the war, it was going to drag the president under, and since the public was turning against the war it really couldn’t be fought. Well, that’s what many on the Left kept telling us. It turns out that when presented with a plan for victory and a president who seems interested in turning around a lagging effort, the public responds favorably:

Public support for the war in Afghanistan is up nine percentage points in the last three weeks, as American voters say 57 – 35 percent that fighting the war is the right thing to do. Approval of President Barack Obama’s handling of the war is up seven points in the same period, from a 38 – 49 percent negative November 18 to a 45 – 45 percent split, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Let’s be honest: the Left was rooting for the public to give up on the war and for that turn in public option to dissuade the administration from adopting a counterinsurgency strategy. It seems as though what the the public doesn’t like is a losing war or a president adrift.

Then the poll looks at the Nobel Peace Prize:

The jump in public support for Obama’s war policy comes as voters say 66 – 26 percent he does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize he will be awarded this week, and 41 percent say the Nobel committee’s choice of Obama for the award causes them to think less of it, while 6 percent say it makes them think better of the prize and 49 percent say it makes no difference. . . .

“It’s probably a good thing for President Obama that the time difference from Norway means the Nobel presentation will occur while most Americans are sleeping and might get less coverage in the United States,” [Peter] Brown added. “Two out of three Americans don’t think he deserves it compared to the quarter who do. Even among Democrats, only 49 percent think he deserves it, compared to 8 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of independent voters. As is the case with many questions related to the President there are wide gender and racial gaps.”

Among women, 31 percent think Obama deserves the award, compared to only 19 percent of men. Seventy-three percent of blacks, 29 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of whites think so.

Well, it’s nice to know that Americans are persuadable by facts, amenable to winning wars, and not blinded by what passes for elite wisdom in the salons of Europe. At least some of the time.

The American people have a deep reservoir of common sense. It’s a good thing, given that common sense is often is short in supply among the chattering class. The latest Quinnipiac poll makes this clear.

On Afghanistan,we were told that the support was down for the war, it was going to drag the president under, and since the public was turning against the war it really couldn’t be fought. Well, that’s what many on the Left kept telling us. It turns out that when presented with a plan for victory and a president who seems interested in turning around a lagging effort, the public responds favorably:

Public support for the war in Afghanistan is up nine percentage points in the last three weeks, as American voters say 57 – 35 percent that fighting the war is the right thing to do. Approval of President Barack Obama’s handling of the war is up seven points in the same period, from a 38 – 49 percent negative November 18 to a 45 – 45 percent split, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Let’s be honest: the Left was rooting for the public to give up on the war and for that turn in public option to dissuade the administration from adopting a counterinsurgency strategy. It seems as though what the the public doesn’t like is a losing war or a president adrift.

Then the poll looks at the Nobel Peace Prize:

The jump in public support for Obama’s war policy comes as voters say 66 – 26 percent he does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize he will be awarded this week, and 41 percent say the Nobel committee’s choice of Obama for the award causes them to think less of it, while 6 percent say it makes them think better of the prize and 49 percent say it makes no difference. . . .

“It’s probably a good thing for President Obama that the time difference from Norway means the Nobel presentation will occur while most Americans are sleeping and might get less coverage in the United States,” [Peter] Brown added. “Two out of three Americans don’t think he deserves it compared to the quarter who do. Even among Democrats, only 49 percent think he deserves it, compared to 8 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of independent voters. As is the case with many questions related to the President there are wide gender and racial gaps.”

Among women, 31 percent think Obama deserves the award, compared to only 19 percent of men. Seventy-three percent of blacks, 29 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of whites think so.

Well, it’s nice to know that Americans are persuadable by facts, amenable to winning wars, and not blinded by what passes for elite wisdom in the salons of Europe. At least some of the time.

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RE: Blame America First

Jonathan Tobin does a fantastic job of dissecting James Bradley’s ludicrous attempt to blame Theodore Roosevelt, of all people, for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I had read Bradley’s New York Times op-ed and thought of responding as well, but held off because, frankly, I was so baffled by the author’s convoluted reasoning. Not the least of Tobin’s services is to lay out Bradley’s argument more clearly than Bradley himself does, before going on to show why the argument holds no water. I have only a few points to add.

If I understand correctly (and I admit to not having read the book in question, The Imperial Cruise), Bradley wants to blame TR for holding racist, imperialist views — for being a staunch supporter of our acquisition of Asian colonies, namely Hawaii and the Philippines. Since those territories were subsequently attacked by Japan, presumably Bradley thinks acquiring them in the first place was a bad idea, that they were somehow an affront to Japan’s desire to exercise hegemony in the Pacific. A more logical conclusion to draw would be that those territories should have been more strongly defended in the 1930s so as to dissuade Japanese aggression.

But then Bradley heads off in a different and somewhat self-contradictory direction in his Times article, blaming Roosevelt for implicitly ceding Korea to Japan’s sphere of influence in 1905 after the Russo-Japanese War. TR certainly was misguided in thinking that Japan could be a liberal, responsible stakeholder in the international system, as Britain and the U.S. were, but it is hard to know what he could have done differently. Does Bradley think that Roosevelt should have gone to war in 1905 to champion Korean independence? In fact, if Roosevelt had done more to oppose Japanese imperialism, Bradley could simply bash him for his racist lack of sympathy for the Empire of Japan. In Bradley’s worldview, TR must be guilty of either stirring up the Japanese or appeasing them — maybe both. His argument is the height of unfairness.

Actually if he is looking for unfair scapegoats for the events of December 7, 1941 — and his father’s subsequent rendezvous with destiny on Iwo Jima — he would be better advised to skip TR and go straight for Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill? Yup. As I noted in my book War Made New, Japanese naval aviation got its start in 1920, when Britain sent an advisory mission to Japan, “complete with over 100 demonstration aircraft in a bid to boost the British aviation industry.” I went on to write:

British pilots formed the first faculty of the newly established Japanese naval aviation school at Lake Kasumigaura. British naval architects helped Japan complete its first aircraft carrier, the Hosho, in 1922. British aircraft designers helped Mitsubishi design its initial carrier aircraft. Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for both War and Air, was confident Britain and Japan would never go to war—“I do not believe there is the slightest chance of it in our lifetime,” he exclaimed in 1924. So what was the harm?

There you have it: Winston Churchill was responsible for the raid on Pearl Harbor.

Simply to lay out this line of reasoning is to show, of course, how absurd it is — only slightly less absurd than Bradley’s attempts to blame Theodore Roosevelt for events that occurred 22 years after his death. Let’s place blame where it really belongs: in the ruling circles of the Japanese Empire, where the decision to fight America was made. And if we want to find culprits on the American side, look at the “America Firsters” and other isolationists who made it impossible to undertake the kind of American military buildup prior to December 7 that might have deterred Japanese aggression.

Jonathan Tobin does a fantastic job of dissecting James Bradley’s ludicrous attempt to blame Theodore Roosevelt, of all people, for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I had read Bradley’s New York Times op-ed and thought of responding as well, but held off because, frankly, I was so baffled by the author’s convoluted reasoning. Not the least of Tobin’s services is to lay out Bradley’s argument more clearly than Bradley himself does, before going on to show why the argument holds no water. I have only a few points to add.

If I understand correctly (and I admit to not having read the book in question, The Imperial Cruise), Bradley wants to blame TR for holding racist, imperialist views — for being a staunch supporter of our acquisition of Asian colonies, namely Hawaii and the Philippines. Since those territories were subsequently attacked by Japan, presumably Bradley thinks acquiring them in the first place was a bad idea, that they were somehow an affront to Japan’s desire to exercise hegemony in the Pacific. A more logical conclusion to draw would be that those territories should have been more strongly defended in the 1930s so as to dissuade Japanese aggression.

But then Bradley heads off in a different and somewhat self-contradictory direction in his Times article, blaming Roosevelt for implicitly ceding Korea to Japan’s sphere of influence in 1905 after the Russo-Japanese War. TR certainly was misguided in thinking that Japan could be a liberal, responsible stakeholder in the international system, as Britain and the U.S. were, but it is hard to know what he could have done differently. Does Bradley think that Roosevelt should have gone to war in 1905 to champion Korean independence? In fact, if Roosevelt had done more to oppose Japanese imperialism, Bradley could simply bash him for his racist lack of sympathy for the Empire of Japan. In Bradley’s worldview, TR must be guilty of either stirring up the Japanese or appeasing them — maybe both. His argument is the height of unfairness.

Actually if he is looking for unfair scapegoats for the events of December 7, 1941 — and his father’s subsequent rendezvous with destiny on Iwo Jima — he would be better advised to skip TR and go straight for Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill? Yup. As I noted in my book War Made New, Japanese naval aviation got its start in 1920, when Britain sent an advisory mission to Japan, “complete with over 100 demonstration aircraft in a bid to boost the British aviation industry.” I went on to write:

British pilots formed the first faculty of the newly established Japanese naval aviation school at Lake Kasumigaura. British naval architects helped Japan complete its first aircraft carrier, the Hosho, in 1922. British aircraft designers helped Mitsubishi design its initial carrier aircraft. Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for both War and Air, was confident Britain and Japan would never go to war—“I do not believe there is the slightest chance of it in our lifetime,” he exclaimed in 1924. So what was the harm?

There you have it: Winston Churchill was responsible for the raid on Pearl Harbor.

Simply to lay out this line of reasoning is to show, of course, how absurd it is — only slightly less absurd than Bradley’s attempts to blame Theodore Roosevelt for events that occurred 22 years after his death. Let’s place blame where it really belongs: in the ruling circles of the Japanese Empire, where the decision to fight America was made. And if we want to find culprits on the American side, look at the “America Firsters” and other isolationists who made it impossible to undertake the kind of American military buildup prior to December 7 that might have deterred Japanese aggression.

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The Real Threat to Middle East Peace

David Ignatius’s account of a war game involving the United States, Israel, the Europeans, and Iran (and Gary Sick’s addendum) is a good guide to how the struggle over the Iranian nuclear program might play out:

The U.S. team — unable to stop the Iranian nuclear program and unwilling to go to war — concluded the game by embracing a strategy of containment and deterrence. The Iranian team wound up with Russia and China as its diplomatic protectors. And the Israeli team ended in a sharp break with Washington.

Let me try to flesh out what the “sharp break with Washington” might consist of.

It’s clear at this point that the Obama administration has reconciled itself to a nuclear Iran and even, I think, convinced itself that this won’t be such a bad thing. After all, China opened up to the West after it went nuclear. We dealt with the Russians after they went nuclear. The Indians and Pakistanis haven’t nuked each other, despite Kashmir and all the terrorism. Neither has Israel used nukes, for that matter.

In fact, Iran going nuclear might help remove the chip on the shoulder of the Islamic Revolutionaries by making them feel as important as they hope to be — because as we all know from our Iran experts, there’s an important psychological dimension to all of this; one must understand the legacy of colonialism and imperialism. The nuclear program will really be a socialization program, in other words. It is how Iran will be broken to the saddle of the international system.

So, if you’ve reconciled yourself to all of that, the next step is ensuring the smooth transition of the Middle East into a region with two, not one, nuclear powers. This is where the Israelis, and Israeli power, become a huge problem. Such a problem, I think, that the real challenge for Obama over the next year isn’t going to be dealing with the Iranians, it’s going to be deterring the Israelis.

The Iranians probably won’t test a nuke, so there will be no above-the-fold three-alarm headline when Americans suddenly will be forced to confront the fecklessness of their president. There will be no Soviet-tanks-rolling-into-Afghanistan moment. There will be ambiguity, enough of it for Obama to be able to maintain for a long time that we just don’t know whether Iran has gone nuclear because they’re still considering our latest offer to build reactors for them on the Galapagos Islands and they’ve requested another three weeks for deliberations.

The president is perfectly capable of muddling through the nuclearization of Iran. What would create huge problems is an Israeli strike. Obama would have to use the military to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. The “Arab street,” which he has worked so hard to befriend, would burn him in effigy from Algiers to Islamabad. The Zionist-Crusader axis would be denounced around the world. “Optics” are very important to Obama, quite more so than substance, and he would look as though he had completely lost control of the Middle East (which would be true). And once again, the world would descend into the kind of brutal struggle for power that is not supposed to happen during the Obama Era.

Yes, this is the real problem — the Israelis and their dangerous, rigid feelings of insecurity. So in my estimation, expect to see a major effort by the administration to keep the Israelis, not the Iranians, in check. It’s the logical thing to do.

David Ignatius’s account of a war game involving the United States, Israel, the Europeans, and Iran (and Gary Sick’s addendum) is a good guide to how the struggle over the Iranian nuclear program might play out:

The U.S. team — unable to stop the Iranian nuclear program and unwilling to go to war — concluded the game by embracing a strategy of containment and deterrence. The Iranian team wound up with Russia and China as its diplomatic protectors. And the Israeli team ended in a sharp break with Washington.

Let me try to flesh out what the “sharp break with Washington” might consist of.

It’s clear at this point that the Obama administration has reconciled itself to a nuclear Iran and even, I think, convinced itself that this won’t be such a bad thing. After all, China opened up to the West after it went nuclear. We dealt with the Russians after they went nuclear. The Indians and Pakistanis haven’t nuked each other, despite Kashmir and all the terrorism. Neither has Israel used nukes, for that matter.

In fact, Iran going nuclear might help remove the chip on the shoulder of the Islamic Revolutionaries by making them feel as important as they hope to be — because as we all know from our Iran experts, there’s an important psychological dimension to all of this; one must understand the legacy of colonialism and imperialism. The nuclear program will really be a socialization program, in other words. It is how Iran will be broken to the saddle of the international system.

So, if you’ve reconciled yourself to all of that, the next step is ensuring the smooth transition of the Middle East into a region with two, not one, nuclear powers. This is where the Israelis, and Israeli power, become a huge problem. Such a problem, I think, that the real challenge for Obama over the next year isn’t going to be dealing with the Iranians, it’s going to be deterring the Israelis.

The Iranians probably won’t test a nuke, so there will be no above-the-fold three-alarm headline when Americans suddenly will be forced to confront the fecklessness of their president. There will be no Soviet-tanks-rolling-into-Afghanistan moment. There will be ambiguity, enough of it for Obama to be able to maintain for a long time that we just don’t know whether Iran has gone nuclear because they’re still considering our latest offer to build reactors for them on the Galapagos Islands and they’ve requested another three weeks for deliberations.

The president is perfectly capable of muddling through the nuclearization of Iran. What would create huge problems is an Israeli strike. Obama would have to use the military to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. The “Arab street,” which he has worked so hard to befriend, would burn him in effigy from Algiers to Islamabad. The Zionist-Crusader axis would be denounced around the world. “Optics” are very important to Obama, quite more so than substance, and he would look as though he had completely lost control of the Middle East (which would be true). And once again, the world would descend into the kind of brutal struggle for power that is not supposed to happen during the Obama Era.

Yes, this is the real problem — the Israelis and their dangerous, rigid feelings of insecurity. So in my estimation, expect to see a major effort by the administration to keep the Israelis, not the Iranians, in check. It’s the logical thing to do.

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Reid’s Bad History

Poor Harry Reid. With his health-care plan deeply unpopular and with him trailing Republican opponents in Nevada, he is beginning to show signs of cracking under the pressure. On the Senate floor, for example, he compared Republicans who oppose ObamaCare to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. In Reid’s words:

Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans can come up with is this: “Slow down, stop everything, let’s start over.” If you think you’ve heard these same excuses before, you’re right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said, “Slow down, it’s too early, let’s wait, things aren’t bad enough.”

For one thing, the Senate majority leader’s retelling of history is a wee bit off. It was the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves. According to Stephen B. Oates’s With Malice Toward None, in the South, Democrats called Lincoln the greatest “ass” in the United States, a “sooty” and “scoundrelly” abolitionist. Lincoln and his “Black Republican, free love, free N—–” party were the object of fierce hatred by Democrats. And the only person serving in the Senate today who was an “Exalted Cyclops” — that is, the top officer in a local Ku Klux Klan unit — is former Democratic majority leader Robert Byrd.

For another thing, Harry Reid’s incivility has burst forth in the past. To take just one example: he called President George W. Bush a “liar” and a “loser.” Yet no words of condemnation by Democrats were heard.

Recently, I have taken both James Fallows here and here and E.J. Dionne Jr. to task for their glaring double standard on the issue of incivility in public discourse. Their outrage is expressed only when Republicans cross certain lines; they remain silent when Democrats do. A Dionne colleague wrote me to say I was being unfair to him. Well, then, here’s a fine opportunity for Dionne and Fallows — and for many other commentators — to condemn the kind of hateful rhetoric they say they find so distasteful. It’ll be instructive to see how many actually do.

Poor Harry Reid. With his health-care plan deeply unpopular and with him trailing Republican opponents in Nevada, he is beginning to show signs of cracking under the pressure. On the Senate floor, for example, he compared Republicans who oppose ObamaCare to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. In Reid’s words:

Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans can come up with is this: “Slow down, stop everything, let’s start over.” If you think you’ve heard these same excuses before, you’re right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said, “Slow down, it’s too early, let’s wait, things aren’t bad enough.”

For one thing, the Senate majority leader’s retelling of history is a wee bit off. It was the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves. According to Stephen B. Oates’s With Malice Toward None, in the South, Democrats called Lincoln the greatest “ass” in the United States, a “sooty” and “scoundrelly” abolitionist. Lincoln and his “Black Republican, free love, free N—–” party were the object of fierce hatred by Democrats. And the only person serving in the Senate today who was an “Exalted Cyclops” — that is, the top officer in a local Ku Klux Klan unit — is former Democratic majority leader Robert Byrd.

For another thing, Harry Reid’s incivility has burst forth in the past. To take just one example: he called President George W. Bush a “liar” and a “loser.” Yet no words of condemnation by Democrats were heard.

Recently, I have taken both James Fallows here and here and E.J. Dionne Jr. to task for their glaring double standard on the issue of incivility in public discourse. Their outrage is expressed only when Republicans cross certain lines; they remain silent when Democrats do. A Dionne colleague wrote me to say I was being unfair to him. Well, then, here’s a fine opportunity for Dionne and Fallows — and for many other commentators — to condemn the kind of hateful rhetoric they say they find so distasteful. It’ll be instructive to see how many actually do.

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Let’s Not Be Stupid

David Brooks observes:

The economy seems to be stabilizing, and this has prompted a shift in the public mood. Raw fear has given way to anxiety that the recovery will be feeble and drab. Companies are hoarding cash. Banks aren’t lending to small businesses. Private research spending is drifting downward.

He makes a number of good suggestions, ranging from lowering the corporate tax rate to passing real education reform (something Obama seemed to have been interested in but isn’t much anymore, it appears). And he warns the Obami not to be “stupid” (“Don’t make labor markets rigid. Don’t pick trade fights with the Chinese. Don’t get infatuated with research tax credits and other gimmicks, which don’t increase overall research-and-development spending but just increase the salaries of the people who would be doing it anyway.”) But the list of stupid things that are likely to retard innovation, growth, hiring, and investment and act as a drag on a robust recovery is longer than that. Honestly, it includes the key priorities in Obama’s domestic agenda.

What could stifle hiring more than a bevy of new taxes and cap-and-trade regulations (coming from either Congress or the EPA)? What’s likely to stifle medical innovation and new drug development more than federal panels of “experts” dictating treatment options and taking a whack out of pharmaceutical companies? Really, the entire point of the Obama agenda is to drain resources from the private sector, where jobs, innovation, creative destruction, and growth come from, and dump them into the public sector, where the wealth can be mushed around and spread to favored constituencies. It’s hard to be supportive of the Obama agenda and a dynamic free-market economy. After all, the former is at odds with the latter.

Brooks has one thing right: we shouldn’t be “stupid.” Obama and the Democratic Congress, however, have other ideas.

David Brooks observes:

The economy seems to be stabilizing, and this has prompted a shift in the public mood. Raw fear has given way to anxiety that the recovery will be feeble and drab. Companies are hoarding cash. Banks aren’t lending to small businesses. Private research spending is drifting downward.

He makes a number of good suggestions, ranging from lowering the corporate tax rate to passing real education reform (something Obama seemed to have been interested in but isn’t much anymore, it appears). And he warns the Obami not to be “stupid” (“Don’t make labor markets rigid. Don’t pick trade fights with the Chinese. Don’t get infatuated with research tax credits and other gimmicks, which don’t increase overall research-and-development spending but just increase the salaries of the people who would be doing it anyway.”) But the list of stupid things that are likely to retard innovation, growth, hiring, and investment and act as a drag on a robust recovery is longer than that. Honestly, it includes the key priorities in Obama’s domestic agenda.

What could stifle hiring more than a bevy of new taxes and cap-and-trade regulations (coming from either Congress or the EPA)? What’s likely to stifle medical innovation and new drug development more than federal panels of “experts” dictating treatment options and taking a whack out of pharmaceutical companies? Really, the entire point of the Obama agenda is to drain resources from the private sector, where jobs, innovation, creative destruction, and growth come from, and dump them into the public sector, where the wealth can be mushed around and spread to favored constituencies. It’s hard to be supportive of the Obama agenda and a dynamic free-market economy. After all, the former is at odds with the latter.

Brooks has one thing right: we shouldn’t be “stupid.” Obama and the Democratic Congress, however, have other ideas.

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The Crisis Bullies Are Losing

For months we’ve heard the Democrats rail against opponents of ObamaCare as “defenders of the status quo.” The current system is “unsustainable” or “unacceptable,” we were told, and those dirty dog Republicans want to keep things the way they are. Republicans denied the charge. “No, we want change too!” they retorted. “Who’s in favor of the status quo? Not us!” Well, now it turns out that the public likes the status quo better than what’s coming out of Congress.

As Megan McArdle observes:

You can argue that voters aren’t educated enough and that you can generate good poll numbers for individual components of the plan, but that’s not really relevant. You can generate support for nearly any program, if you poll it without mentioning the associated costs. When voters think about the health care plan, they’re not thinking public option + medicare advantage cuts + etc.  They’re making a judgment about what the entire package will mean. And the entire package has risks as well as benefits:  higher taxes, less generous health coverage for the majority of Americans who already have it.

In other words, the Democrats’ schemes for massive taxes, Medicare cuts, and government “advisory” boards (think about the mammogram guidelines) are going to make things worse for those who have care, without doing anything on the bend-the-cost-curve side. Americans’ support for the existing health-care system is at an all-time high. Why? They realize they might lose it and are scared that what is coming is going to be worse for them specifically and the country generally.

Backers of a government takeover of health care have been trying, not unlike the environmental hysterics, to tell us that we are in a dire crisis. For if one is in a crisis, something must be done. And in a crisis, one tends to be predisposed to accept all sorts of eye-popping power grabs and unbelievable statistics, because it’s a crisis after all. Alas, the public isn’t buying it. It sure doesn’t seem like a health-care crisis to most Americans. The vast majority of voters have insurance and like it. So the bullies holler louder. Now Harry Reid says that those who object are like those who defended slavery and Jim Crow. (That’s when the status quo really was unacceptable.)

What’s coming out of ObamaCare supporters sounds to ordinary voters not soothing or helpful but very expensive, scary, and most of all, arrogant. As Sen. Lamar Alexander explained:

“This bill is historic in its arrogance—arrogance that we in Congress are wise enough to take this complex health system, that is 17 percent of our economy and serves 300 million Americans, and think we can write a 2,000-page bill and change it all. … It’s arrogant to dump 15 million low-income Americans into a medical ghetto called Medicaid that none of us or any of our families would ever want to join.”

So perhaps it’s time to defend the status quo. The crisis mongers and bullies insist we must reinvent the entire health-care system. They are wrong, of course. The current system is not perfect, but the alternative is far worse. The president says we can keep the insurance we have? Yes, if the monstrous government takeover plan is defeated. That would suit most voters just fine.

For months we’ve heard the Democrats rail against opponents of ObamaCare as “defenders of the status quo.” The current system is “unsustainable” or “unacceptable,” we were told, and those dirty dog Republicans want to keep things the way they are. Republicans denied the charge. “No, we want change too!” they retorted. “Who’s in favor of the status quo? Not us!” Well, now it turns out that the public likes the status quo better than what’s coming out of Congress.

As Megan McArdle observes:

You can argue that voters aren’t educated enough and that you can generate good poll numbers for individual components of the plan, but that’s not really relevant. You can generate support for nearly any program, if you poll it without mentioning the associated costs. When voters think about the health care plan, they’re not thinking public option + medicare advantage cuts + etc.  They’re making a judgment about what the entire package will mean. And the entire package has risks as well as benefits:  higher taxes, less generous health coverage for the majority of Americans who already have it.

In other words, the Democrats’ schemes for massive taxes, Medicare cuts, and government “advisory” boards (think about the mammogram guidelines) are going to make things worse for those who have care, without doing anything on the bend-the-cost-curve side. Americans’ support for the existing health-care system is at an all-time high. Why? They realize they might lose it and are scared that what is coming is going to be worse for them specifically and the country generally.

Backers of a government takeover of health care have been trying, not unlike the environmental hysterics, to tell us that we are in a dire crisis. For if one is in a crisis, something must be done. And in a crisis, one tends to be predisposed to accept all sorts of eye-popping power grabs and unbelievable statistics, because it’s a crisis after all. Alas, the public isn’t buying it. It sure doesn’t seem like a health-care crisis to most Americans. The vast majority of voters have insurance and like it. So the bullies holler louder. Now Harry Reid says that those who object are like those who defended slavery and Jim Crow. (That’s when the status quo really was unacceptable.)

What’s coming out of ObamaCare supporters sounds to ordinary voters not soothing or helpful but very expensive, scary, and most of all, arrogant. As Sen. Lamar Alexander explained:

“This bill is historic in its arrogance—arrogance that we in Congress are wise enough to take this complex health system, that is 17 percent of our economy and serves 300 million Americans, and think we can write a 2,000-page bill and change it all. … It’s arrogant to dump 15 million low-income Americans into a medical ghetto called Medicaid that none of us or any of our families would ever want to join.”

So perhaps it’s time to defend the status quo. The crisis mongers and bullies insist we must reinvent the entire health-care system. They are wrong, of course. The current system is not perfect, but the alternative is far worse. The president says we can keep the insurance we have? Yes, if the monstrous government takeover plan is defeated. That would suit most voters just fine.

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Apocalypse Shortly

The liberal West is faced with a real problem of recognition and understanding when it comes to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The man talks like what many Westerners would call a “religious nut.” But it’s we who are the fools if we dismiss his motives and intentions on that basis, or assume that religious motivation isolates him among Iran’s rulers.

Ahmadinejad’s latest prophetic revelation — that America is trying to block the return of the “hidden Imam,” or Mahdi, anticipated by about 90 percent of Shias — is a good reminder that we ignore his apocalyptic vision at our peril. Empirical skepticism, while one of the defining strengths of our Western culture, is too often a weakness when it comes to recognizing the motivating power of non-empirical perspectives. We’re apt to think that political leaders can’t really be driven by “fantasies,” as with the sense of eschatological mission so pronounced in Ahmadinejad. Yet our own empiricism, applied honestly, would require us to acknowledge that despots with crazy ideas do, in fact, act on them as if they believe them. The dismissive argument that nobody could really believe he’s been appointed to immanentize the Mahdi’s eschaton has little support from history.

Events are reinforcing the proposition that Ahmadinejad means exactly what he says – and that he represents a major faction in Iran’s ruling cabal. It’s increasingly clear, for example, that Ahmadinejad is not merely posturing for a Mahdist constituency among the Iranian people. There is no actual evidence of such a popular constituency. While the regime has been serving up Mahdi-messianic fare in national TV programming, with the explicit purpose of “preparing the people” for the hidden Imam’s return, the people themselves have spent the last six months mounting a remarkable national protest campaign to demand Western-style liberalization of their society and government.

It thus represented an arresting contrast when, in August, Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei exhorted the Islamic nations of the region to provide armies to fight the U.S. and Israel, and to prepare the world for the hidden Imam’s return. His spokesman even identified Khamenei — for what Western commentators indicate was the first time — as the “direct representative” of the Mahdi. This development certainly appears disjunctive with the liberal aspirations of Iran’s protestors. It also strengthens the perception of a fight being underway for control of Iran, and of a Mahdist faction essentially going for broke: pushing to make things happen now, very possibly from a sense of destiny accelerated by the turmoil, as much as from a pragmatic desire to exploit emerging conditions.

The election of Barack Obama has given religious apocalypticism a new life in the last year, and it would be a supreme mistake to discount its hold on the human mind. Contrary to the implication of critics, an apocalyptic sensibility doesn’t render its acolytes incompetent: Iran keeps getting what it wants, after all, and is much better at exploiting our weaknesses than vice versa. Ahmadinejad’s big advantage over us is that he takes us seriously. We need to start returning the favor.

The liberal West is faced with a real problem of recognition and understanding when it comes to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The man talks like what many Westerners would call a “religious nut.” But it’s we who are the fools if we dismiss his motives and intentions on that basis, or assume that religious motivation isolates him among Iran’s rulers.

Ahmadinejad’s latest prophetic revelation — that America is trying to block the return of the “hidden Imam,” or Mahdi, anticipated by about 90 percent of Shias — is a good reminder that we ignore his apocalyptic vision at our peril. Empirical skepticism, while one of the defining strengths of our Western culture, is too often a weakness when it comes to recognizing the motivating power of non-empirical perspectives. We’re apt to think that political leaders can’t really be driven by “fantasies,” as with the sense of eschatological mission so pronounced in Ahmadinejad. Yet our own empiricism, applied honestly, would require us to acknowledge that despots with crazy ideas do, in fact, act on them as if they believe them. The dismissive argument that nobody could really believe he’s been appointed to immanentize the Mahdi’s eschaton has little support from history.

Events are reinforcing the proposition that Ahmadinejad means exactly what he says – and that he represents a major faction in Iran’s ruling cabal. It’s increasingly clear, for example, that Ahmadinejad is not merely posturing for a Mahdist constituency among the Iranian people. There is no actual evidence of such a popular constituency. While the regime has been serving up Mahdi-messianic fare in national TV programming, with the explicit purpose of “preparing the people” for the hidden Imam’s return, the people themselves have spent the last six months mounting a remarkable national protest campaign to demand Western-style liberalization of their society and government.

It thus represented an arresting contrast when, in August, Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei exhorted the Islamic nations of the region to provide armies to fight the U.S. and Israel, and to prepare the world for the hidden Imam’s return. His spokesman even identified Khamenei — for what Western commentators indicate was the first time — as the “direct representative” of the Mahdi. This development certainly appears disjunctive with the liberal aspirations of Iran’s protestors. It also strengthens the perception of a fight being underway for control of Iran, and of a Mahdist faction essentially going for broke: pushing to make things happen now, very possibly from a sense of destiny accelerated by the turmoil, as much as from a pragmatic desire to exploit emerging conditions.

The election of Barack Obama has given religious apocalypticism a new life in the last year, and it would be a supreme mistake to discount its hold on the human mind. Contrary to the implication of critics, an apocalyptic sensibility doesn’t render its acolytes incompetent: Iran keeps getting what it wants, after all, and is much better at exploiting our weaknesses than vice versa. Ahmadinejad’s big advantage over us is that he takes us seriously. We need to start returning the favor.

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RE: They’ve Got a Friend

Free Mara and Juan! That seems to be the consensus among some politically diverse voices in Politico’s forum discussing NPR’s me-too effort to delegitimize Fox News.

Liberals who appear on Fox don’t like NPR’s gambit and warn that Fox has a pretty big audience: “I don’t always agree with FOX’s reporting, and I certainly don’t ever agree with the ideological rantings of some of the network’s commentary hosts. Having said that, however, FOX has become a permanent part of the cable news landscape. Those of us on the left should continue to challenge the network’s reporting when we find it unfair, but we all need to recognize that FOX is here to stay.” (Well, not if David Axelrod and Obama’s wish comes true, but grown-ups generally agree that Fox will remain a dominant force in TV news for a long time to come.)

To their delight, conservatives think NPR has goofed by letting its biases hang out. (“It’s a playpen for the left, subsidized by the American taxpayer, exceeded in its biases only by Pacifica Radio, another tax subsidized playpen straight out of the late ’60s.”) They are only too happy to point out that the Left is never so unappealing as when their revulsion at true diversity — the diversity of opinion — is showing. (Bradley Smith: “This episode is also part of the disturbing pattern of intolerance on the left to any differing views.”)

But Diane Ravitch of Brookings and NYU (not exactly a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy) puts her finger on why the story is really so amusing and quite relevant: it confirms just how absurd was the White House’s anti-Fox crusade, which kicked this all off:

The efforts by NPR to persuade Mara Liasson and Juan Williams to stay away from Fox News is as ridiculous as the White House’s campaign to delegitimate the network as the propaganda wing of the Republican party. … These efforts to castigate, isolate, and stigmatize Fox News must surely have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and opinion. The American public does not need either the White House or NPR to censor what it hears.

There is nothing so farcical as “open-minded” liberals trying to squelch opposing views, and frankly nothing quite so unhelpful to their own cause. Really, what better proof is there of Fox’s journalistic bona fides and NPR’s lack of the same than this episode? (Without Roger Ailes, how many people would even know who Mara Liasson is?) And once again, Fox — thanks to the White House and the liberal shushers over at NPR – gets another round of free publicity. Remarkable.

Free Mara and Juan! That seems to be the consensus among some politically diverse voices in Politico’s forum discussing NPR’s me-too effort to delegitimize Fox News.

Liberals who appear on Fox don’t like NPR’s gambit and warn that Fox has a pretty big audience: “I don’t always agree with FOX’s reporting, and I certainly don’t ever agree with the ideological rantings of some of the network’s commentary hosts. Having said that, however, FOX has become a permanent part of the cable news landscape. Those of us on the left should continue to challenge the network’s reporting when we find it unfair, but we all need to recognize that FOX is here to stay.” (Well, not if David Axelrod and Obama’s wish comes true, but grown-ups generally agree that Fox will remain a dominant force in TV news for a long time to come.)

To their delight, conservatives think NPR has goofed by letting its biases hang out. (“It’s a playpen for the left, subsidized by the American taxpayer, exceeded in its biases only by Pacifica Radio, another tax subsidized playpen straight out of the late ’60s.”) They are only too happy to point out that the Left is never so unappealing as when their revulsion at true diversity — the diversity of opinion — is showing. (Bradley Smith: “This episode is also part of the disturbing pattern of intolerance on the left to any differing views.”)

But Diane Ravitch of Brookings and NYU (not exactly a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy) puts her finger on why the story is really so amusing and quite relevant: it confirms just how absurd was the White House’s anti-Fox crusade, which kicked this all off:

The efforts by NPR to persuade Mara Liasson and Juan Williams to stay away from Fox News is as ridiculous as the White House’s campaign to delegitimate the network as the propaganda wing of the Republican party. … These efforts to castigate, isolate, and stigmatize Fox News must surely have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and opinion. The American public does not need either the White House or NPR to censor what it hears.

There is nothing so farcical as “open-minded” liberals trying to squelch opposing views, and frankly nothing quite so unhelpful to their own cause. Really, what better proof is there of Fox’s journalistic bona fides and NPR’s lack of the same than this episode? (Without Roger Ailes, how many people would even know who Mara Liasson is?) And once again, Fox — thanks to the White House and the liberal shushers over at NPR – gets another round of free publicity. Remarkable.

Read Less

Who Needs Congress?

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

Read Less

The Gray Lady Gets It Wrong

The New York Times breathlessly tells us that as Obama’s poll numbers are falling, criticism of him is increasing. But the Gray Lady isn’t buying the argument that Obama is spread too thin. The Times declares “that case, 11 months into Mr. Obama’s presidency, remains unproved. On health care and climate change, at least, he has drawn closer to achieving his goals — and challenging accepted notions of how modern presidents communicate and lead a polarized, fragmented country.” He’s challenging accepted notions of how a president communicates? Really — now that’s an unproven case, given that his signature initiative has grown more unpopular the more he’s talked about it. And are we really getting closer to climate-change legislation? That was put off until next year, since there aren’t 60 senators who have been moved by Obama’s communications on the subject.

But it seems that the New York Times — shocking, I know — is constructing a straw-man argument here. The slam on Obama from pundits and from the public isn’t necessarily that he’s doing too much but that they don’t like what he’s doing. The public doesn’t like ObamaCare, the spending orgy, and the accumulation of debt. The Left doesn’t like his decision on Afghanistan. Virtually no one in the foreign-policy establishment — Left, Right, or Center — has a good word to say about Obama’s foreign-policy stumbles. Here the Times sort of lets on: “Mr. Obama has drawn particular fire for the substance of his agenda, which emphasizes dialogue with foreign allies and adversaries alike.” Well, not quite — it’s the appeasement and kowtowing to adversaries that has left everyone from Leslie Gelb to Dick Cheney dismayed. (I don’t think anyone much minds that we have dialogue with allies.)

The reality is that the president is doing a lot of things, and virtually none of them well. Unemployment is sky-high, the Iranian mullahs have thumbed their noses at us, and the sole legislative achievement this year has been a failed stimulus plan. Obama is heavily invested in a government health-care scheme that the public doesn’t support. It’s not really that Obama is such a busy guy, then, is it? No, it’s that his agenda and foreign-policy vision are at odds with economic and international realities and the sentiments of the Center-Right country he’s trying to jerk to the Left. But that’s not news that’s fit to print.

The New York Times breathlessly tells us that as Obama’s poll numbers are falling, criticism of him is increasing. But the Gray Lady isn’t buying the argument that Obama is spread too thin. The Times declares “that case, 11 months into Mr. Obama’s presidency, remains unproved. On health care and climate change, at least, he has drawn closer to achieving his goals — and challenging accepted notions of how modern presidents communicate and lead a polarized, fragmented country.” He’s challenging accepted notions of how a president communicates? Really — now that’s an unproven case, given that his signature initiative has grown more unpopular the more he’s talked about it. And are we really getting closer to climate-change legislation? That was put off until next year, since there aren’t 60 senators who have been moved by Obama’s communications on the subject.

But it seems that the New York Times — shocking, I know — is constructing a straw-man argument here. The slam on Obama from pundits and from the public isn’t necessarily that he’s doing too much but that they don’t like what he’s doing. The public doesn’t like ObamaCare, the spending orgy, and the accumulation of debt. The Left doesn’t like his decision on Afghanistan. Virtually no one in the foreign-policy establishment — Left, Right, or Center — has a good word to say about Obama’s foreign-policy stumbles. Here the Times sort of lets on: “Mr. Obama has drawn particular fire for the substance of his agenda, which emphasizes dialogue with foreign allies and adversaries alike.” Well, not quite — it’s the appeasement and kowtowing to adversaries that has left everyone from Leslie Gelb to Dick Cheney dismayed. (I don’t think anyone much minds that we have dialogue with allies.)

The reality is that the president is doing a lot of things, and virtually none of them well. Unemployment is sky-high, the Iranian mullahs have thumbed their noses at us, and the sole legislative achievement this year has been a failed stimulus plan. Obama is heavily invested in a government health-care scheme that the public doesn’t support. It’s not really that Obama is such a busy guy, then, is it? No, it’s that his agenda and foreign-policy vision are at odds with economic and international realities and the sentiments of the Center-Right country he’s trying to jerk to the Left. But that’s not news that’s fit to print.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.’”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.’”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

Read Less




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