Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 9, 2009

Hold That Tiger!

News flash: A married athlete has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: A celebrity married athlete has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: An enormously wealthy married athlete renowned for cherishing his “privacy” has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: None of this is news.

The United States is an inscrutable place in many ways. We live in a country in which it is likely a sixth state out of the 50 is going to legalize gay marriage in the next few weeks. On television, practically every night, one show or other features a scene of two women kissing. We do not judge illegitimacy any longer. And so on. We lived through a scandal a decade ago in which we learned the president of the United States had basically seduced a 21 year-old employee in his service—and tens of millions of people hotly defended his and her right to privacy and condemned the notion that there was any public interest served in the exploration of the subject of his misconduct.

Yet now, as 2009 draws to a close, someone who is famous and rich because he is a brilliant player of a game—someone, moreover, who is unique among American celebrities in his manifest refusal to do anything to court or interest or woo the audience that is so fascinated by him—drives his car into a tree, and for nearly two weeks, we are overrun with the details of his personal indiscretions. It is fascinating. If ever there were a subject that is truly and completely and without question nobody’s business, it is this one. He did not violate a public trust, he broke no law, evidently, in his traffic accident, and no legal action has been taken in the case. These would all ordinarily be the triggers for a news story and its continuation. But it is open season on Tiger Woods. Let anyone say there might be a legitimate debate to be conducted on the redefinition of marriage, which is a public-policy issue involving pretty much everybody, and that is considered beyond the bounds of reasonable discourse by a great many people slobbering over the discovery of the latest IHOP waitress to have caught Woods’s fancy.

I hold no brief for Tiger Woods’s behavior, but it strikes me as among the least surprising revelations in the course of human history. It is America’s prurience on this matter in the midst of its own cultural confusion on matters sexual and marital that surprises and confounds.

News flash: A married athlete has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: A celebrity married athlete has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: An enormously wealthy married athlete renowned for cherishing his “privacy” has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: None of this is news.

The United States is an inscrutable place in many ways. We live in a country in which it is likely a sixth state out of the 50 is going to legalize gay marriage in the next few weeks. On television, practically every night, one show or other features a scene of two women kissing. We do not judge illegitimacy any longer. And so on. We lived through a scandal a decade ago in which we learned the president of the United States had basically seduced a 21 year-old employee in his service—and tens of millions of people hotly defended his and her right to privacy and condemned the notion that there was any public interest served in the exploration of the subject of his misconduct.

Yet now, as 2009 draws to a close, someone who is famous and rich because he is a brilliant player of a game—someone, moreover, who is unique among American celebrities in his manifest refusal to do anything to court or interest or woo the audience that is so fascinated by him—drives his car into a tree, and for nearly two weeks, we are overrun with the details of his personal indiscretions. It is fascinating. If ever there were a subject that is truly and completely and without question nobody’s business, it is this one. He did not violate a public trust, he broke no law, evidently, in his traffic accident, and no legal action has been taken in the case. These would all ordinarily be the triggers for a news story and its continuation. But it is open season on Tiger Woods. Let anyone say there might be a legitimate debate to be conducted on the redefinition of marriage, which is a public-policy issue involving pretty much everybody, and that is considered beyond the bounds of reasonable discourse by a great many people slobbering over the discovery of the latest IHOP waitress to have caught Woods’s fancy.

I hold no brief for Tiger Woods’s behavior, but it strikes me as among the least surprising revelations in the course of human history. It is America’s prurience on this matter in the midst of its own cultural confusion on matters sexual and marital that surprises and confounds.

Read Less

Jews’ Support Declines

The Quinnipiac poll confirms a phenomenon we saw in Gallup and American Jewish Committee polls earlier in the year: American Jews remain among the most Obama-devoted voters. Yet even among this mostly pro-Obama group, support has slipped significantly. Overall, this poll has Obama with an approval rating of 46 and a disapproval of 44, his lowest to date. But there is a wide difference based on voters’ religion: “Obama gets a thumbs up from 32 percent of white Protestants, 42 percent of white Roman Catholics and 52 percent of Jews.” Interestingly Jews’ approval rating is almost identical to all women voters (51 percent) but still well below Hispanics (65 percent) and African Americans (89 percent).

On individual issues, Jews’ ardor has cooled but again remains more positive than that of the population as a whole. Forty-nine percent of Jews approve of Obama’s handling of health care, while only 38 percent of all voters do.

All this suggests that Jews remain among the most loyal of the Democratic party’s constituencies, even as the Obama administration has taken a hostile stance toward Israel, displayed a lack of seriousness toward the existential threat to Israel posed by a Islamic fundamentalist state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and made zero progress on the Middle East “peace process.” But he’s a liberal Democrat, and most Jews are, too, so they have shown great patience with Obama. And, of course, a segment of American Jewry may place a lower priority on (or have little interest in) Obama’s Israel policy.

Nevertheless, Jews are much less enthusiastic than a year ago, when 78 percent of them gave Obama their vote. They are perhaps not entirely impervious to experience. Obama’s presidency has given them, and all Americans, little to cheer about. Their support may continue to wane unless Obama shows he can achieve something more than an election victory.

The Quinnipiac poll confirms a phenomenon we saw in Gallup and American Jewish Committee polls earlier in the year: American Jews remain among the most Obama-devoted voters. Yet even among this mostly pro-Obama group, support has slipped significantly. Overall, this poll has Obama with an approval rating of 46 and a disapproval of 44, his lowest to date. But there is a wide difference based on voters’ religion: “Obama gets a thumbs up from 32 percent of white Protestants, 42 percent of white Roman Catholics and 52 percent of Jews.” Interestingly Jews’ approval rating is almost identical to all women voters (51 percent) but still well below Hispanics (65 percent) and African Americans (89 percent).

On individual issues, Jews’ ardor has cooled but again remains more positive than that of the population as a whole. Forty-nine percent of Jews approve of Obama’s handling of health care, while only 38 percent of all voters do.

All this suggests that Jews remain among the most loyal of the Democratic party’s constituencies, even as the Obama administration has taken a hostile stance toward Israel, displayed a lack of seriousness toward the existential threat to Israel posed by a Islamic fundamentalist state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and made zero progress on the Middle East “peace process.” But he’s a liberal Democrat, and most Jews are, too, so they have shown great patience with Obama. And, of course, a segment of American Jewry may place a lower priority on (or have little interest in) Obama’s Israel policy.

Nevertheless, Jews are much less enthusiastic than a year ago, when 78 percent of them gave Obama their vote. They are perhaps not entirely impervious to experience. Obama’s presidency has given them, and all Americans, little to cheer about. Their support may continue to wane unless Obama shows he can achieve something more than an election victory.

Read Less

Obama’s Humbling Year

Bill Sammon, in examining data from the Gallup Poll earlier this week, reported this:

President Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to 47 percent in the latest Gallup poll, the lowest ever recorded for any president at this point in his term. Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and even Richard Nixon all had higher approval ratings 10-and-a-half months into their presidencies. Obama’s immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, had an approval rating of 86 percent, or 39 points higher than Obama at this stage. Bush’s support came shortly after he launched the war in Afghanistan in response to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

President Obama’s slide has indeed been steep, steady, and historic. There are a dozen or so political data points that all point in the same direction. His act has grown tired and stale in an astonishingly short period of time. In November 2008, after Obama’s election, a Contentions blogger wrote this:

A year from now, it won’t be enough to blame the problems on others. He and other Democrats ran and won on the promise that they would turn things around, and do so quickly. Those promises can’t be reeled back. Obama in particular has set a very high bar. … The capacity to engineer constructive change may be less than Obama thought, and he will find the world will not be as malleable as hot wax. Things don’t have to be perfect, but there needs to be a sense that the trajectory is improving and that his proposals are working. If Barack Obama governs as President as he voted as a state senator and a U.S. Senator–which is to say, from the left–then today’s high hopes will come crashing down around him. … For understandable reasons, many people are being swept up in this remarkable American moment. But reality will intrude soon enough, and Barack Obama will face the same standards that every other President has faced. Incantations of “hope” and “change” can work in a campaign. They are virtually useless when it comes to governing. Barack Obama is about to enter the crucible. We’ll see how he performs.

As the president approaches the end of his first year in office, the verdict of the public is clear: Barack Obama has performed poorly. He has squandered the enormous goodwill he had. His actions have in many instances damaged his country, his presidency, and his party. And the challenges ahead will only grow. The question is: will he?

It is true enough that political leaders can expend their political capital on behalf of admirable causes. But it is also true that political leaders can expend it on behalf of unwise and unworthy causes. With the important exception of his decision on Afghanistan, what President Obama has done is, I believe, the latter. His presidency, still less than a year old, is far from broken. But it has absorbed serious blows. And that memorable November 4 evening in Grant Park — when Obama seemed on top of the world, his party fully in command, liberalism on the rise, his supporters intoxicated by the margin of his victory — now seems like a lifetime ago. Reality has indeed intruded. His perceived strengths are now seen as weaknesses. Many of his supporters are dispirited. In the aftermath of the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, his party’s skittishness has turned to deep concern. The GOP is energized and on the comeback trail. And Barack Obama, a man of almost limitless self-regard, has been humbled. He may not admit it, and he may not even know it. But it has been, in fact, a humbling year. The sooner the president understands that and understands why this moment has come to pass, the better it will be for him, and for us.

Bill Sammon, in examining data from the Gallup Poll earlier this week, reported this:

President Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to 47 percent in the latest Gallup poll, the lowest ever recorded for any president at this point in his term. Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and even Richard Nixon all had higher approval ratings 10-and-a-half months into their presidencies. Obama’s immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, had an approval rating of 86 percent, or 39 points higher than Obama at this stage. Bush’s support came shortly after he launched the war in Afghanistan in response to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

President Obama’s slide has indeed been steep, steady, and historic. There are a dozen or so political data points that all point in the same direction. His act has grown tired and stale in an astonishingly short period of time. In November 2008, after Obama’s election, a Contentions blogger wrote this:

A year from now, it won’t be enough to blame the problems on others. He and other Democrats ran and won on the promise that they would turn things around, and do so quickly. Those promises can’t be reeled back. Obama in particular has set a very high bar. … The capacity to engineer constructive change may be less than Obama thought, and he will find the world will not be as malleable as hot wax. Things don’t have to be perfect, but there needs to be a sense that the trajectory is improving and that his proposals are working. If Barack Obama governs as President as he voted as a state senator and a U.S. Senator–which is to say, from the left–then today’s high hopes will come crashing down around him. … For understandable reasons, many people are being swept up in this remarkable American moment. But reality will intrude soon enough, and Barack Obama will face the same standards that every other President has faced. Incantations of “hope” and “change” can work in a campaign. They are virtually useless when it comes to governing. Barack Obama is about to enter the crucible. We’ll see how he performs.

As the president approaches the end of his first year in office, the verdict of the public is clear: Barack Obama has performed poorly. He has squandered the enormous goodwill he had. His actions have in many instances damaged his country, his presidency, and his party. And the challenges ahead will only grow. The question is: will he?

It is true enough that political leaders can expend their political capital on behalf of admirable causes. But it is also true that political leaders can expend it on behalf of unwise and unworthy causes. With the important exception of his decision on Afghanistan, what President Obama has done is, I believe, the latter. His presidency, still less than a year old, is far from broken. But it has absorbed serious blows. And that memorable November 4 evening in Grant Park — when Obama seemed on top of the world, his party fully in command, liberalism on the rise, his supporters intoxicated by the margin of his victory — now seems like a lifetime ago. Reality has indeed intruded. His perceived strengths are now seen as weaknesses. Many of his supporters are dispirited. In the aftermath of the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, his party’s skittishness has turned to deep concern. The GOP is energized and on the comeback trail. And Barack Obama, a man of almost limitless self-regard, has been humbled. He may not admit it, and he may not even know it. But it has been, in fact, a humbling year. The sooner the president understands that and understands why this moment has come to pass, the better it will be for him, and for us.

Read Less

Want to Protest a Wall? Go to Egypt

In the past few years, Israel’s security fence has become a major tourist attraction for leftist protesters appalled at the Jewish state’s chutzpah in erecting an obstruction against the Palestinian suicide bombers. The fence has been a major success and an integral factor in the defeat of the Palestinian terror offensive dubbed the second intifada, which took the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis earlier in the decade.

But those who want to demonstrate against barriers to keep the Palestinians from wreaking havoc on the region need not go to Israel these days. According to Haaretz, “Egypt has begun the construction of a massive iron wall along its border with the Gaza Strip.” The wall will be 10 kilometers long and will be made of slates of steel reaching 20 to 30 meters deep.

Apparently, Egypt is finally responding to pressure from the United States to shut down the massive smuggling of arms and other goods into Hamas-controlled Gaza. As the article states: “The smuggling industry is so institutionalized that tunnel operators purchase licenses from the Rafah municipality, allowing them to connect to electricity and water. Hamas has also been ensuring no children are employed in the tunnels, and is taxing all smuggled goods.” The tunnels also allow people to pass between Gaza and Egypt, “including terrorists who linked up with pro-al-Qaeda groups in Gaza.”

The point here is that the massive pressure on Israel to lift its limited blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory tends to ignore the fact that Egypt is equally interested in shutting down its border with Gaza. Though missile fire from Gaza has been aimed only at Israeli towns and villages, the Iran-backed Hamasistan that has arisen there is a threat to all its neighbors, Arabs as well as Israelis. Rather than trying to brand Israel as the perpetrator of war crimes against Gazans, those concerned with conditions in the crowded strip should instead remember that Egypt is just as involved with the blockade as are the Israelis. Even more important, sympathy for Gazans should be tempered by concern over the nature of their Islamist government. So long as the people of Gaza choose to be ruled by Hamas, they must understand that their neighbors will continue to build walls to keep themselves safe.

In the past few years, Israel’s security fence has become a major tourist attraction for leftist protesters appalled at the Jewish state’s chutzpah in erecting an obstruction against the Palestinian suicide bombers. The fence has been a major success and an integral factor in the defeat of the Palestinian terror offensive dubbed the second intifada, which took the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis earlier in the decade.

But those who want to demonstrate against barriers to keep the Palestinians from wreaking havoc on the region need not go to Israel these days. According to Haaretz, “Egypt has begun the construction of a massive iron wall along its border with the Gaza Strip.” The wall will be 10 kilometers long and will be made of slates of steel reaching 20 to 30 meters deep.

Apparently, Egypt is finally responding to pressure from the United States to shut down the massive smuggling of arms and other goods into Hamas-controlled Gaza. As the article states: “The smuggling industry is so institutionalized that tunnel operators purchase licenses from the Rafah municipality, allowing them to connect to electricity and water. Hamas has also been ensuring no children are employed in the tunnels, and is taxing all smuggled goods.” The tunnels also allow people to pass between Gaza and Egypt, “including terrorists who linked up with pro-al-Qaeda groups in Gaza.”

The point here is that the massive pressure on Israel to lift its limited blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory tends to ignore the fact that Egypt is equally interested in shutting down its border with Gaza. Though missile fire from Gaza has been aimed only at Israeli towns and villages, the Iran-backed Hamasistan that has arisen there is a threat to all its neighbors, Arabs as well as Israelis. Rather than trying to brand Israel as the perpetrator of war crimes against Gazans, those concerned with conditions in the crowded strip should instead remember that Egypt is just as involved with the blockade as are the Israelis. Even more important, sympathy for Gazans should be tempered by concern over the nature of their Islamist government. So long as the people of Gaza choose to be ruled by Hamas, they must understand that their neighbors will continue to build walls to keep themselves safe.

Read Less

Copenhagen Ultimatum: Pay or Die!

While the poorer countries squabble with the richer ones at the Copenhagen global-warming jamboree, at least some of those in attendance have given a passing thought to how much the grand schemes being cooked up there will cost the rest of us. The New York Times reports that the International Energy Agency estimates that the tab for the goals set at the conference for energy infrastructure alone “will cost more than $10 trillion in additional investment from 2010 to 2030.”

If you think that’s a scary number, the Times’s advice is don’t worry about it. After all, while it is “a significant sum,” it’s only “a relatively small fraction of the world’s total economic output.” Which means that while the environmental alarmists are planning to place crippling handicaps on a global economy in the throes of a historic slowdown, it’s no problem because there will be at least some money left for the rest of us after Al Gore’s favorite “green” companies reap gigantic profits.

But the alternative isn’t pretty for those of us who are still reluctant to fork over the dough and trust those who say the Climategate e-mails are meaningless chatter, not an insightful look at the closed and corrupt world of climate science. Kevin Parker, the global head of Deutsche Bank Asset Management, who is in Copenhagen to track climate policy for the bank, has views about the issue that make Gore look like a conservative. According to Parker, those who worry about how to pay for all the Copenhagen plans aren’t looking “at the cost of inaction, which is the extinction of the human race. Period.”

So much for reasoned argument and analysis. Not even the most alarmist and far-fetched scenarios envisioned by Gore and company pose any such threat. But that’s the spirit of Copenhagen for you. As the global-warming crowd escalates demands for support of the various ploys they claim will help the situation, they are forced to keep raising the temperature of the fears they are stoking, no matter how unreasonable they might be.

But the bottom line here is that the plans being discussed represent a major drain on world capital as well as the pockets of taxpayers, while simultaneously enacting measures that will limit the ability of the economy to recover. Copenhagen’s ultimatum to the world is to stop thinking critically about the issue and just pay or die.

While the poorer countries squabble with the richer ones at the Copenhagen global-warming jamboree, at least some of those in attendance have given a passing thought to how much the grand schemes being cooked up there will cost the rest of us. The New York Times reports that the International Energy Agency estimates that the tab for the goals set at the conference for energy infrastructure alone “will cost more than $10 trillion in additional investment from 2010 to 2030.”

If you think that’s a scary number, the Times’s advice is don’t worry about it. After all, while it is “a significant sum,” it’s only “a relatively small fraction of the world’s total economic output.” Which means that while the environmental alarmists are planning to place crippling handicaps on a global economy in the throes of a historic slowdown, it’s no problem because there will be at least some money left for the rest of us after Al Gore’s favorite “green” companies reap gigantic profits.

But the alternative isn’t pretty for those of us who are still reluctant to fork over the dough and trust those who say the Climategate e-mails are meaningless chatter, not an insightful look at the closed and corrupt world of climate science. Kevin Parker, the global head of Deutsche Bank Asset Management, who is in Copenhagen to track climate policy for the bank, has views about the issue that make Gore look like a conservative. According to Parker, those who worry about how to pay for all the Copenhagen plans aren’t looking “at the cost of inaction, which is the extinction of the human race. Period.”

So much for reasoned argument and analysis. Not even the most alarmist and far-fetched scenarios envisioned by Gore and company pose any such threat. But that’s the spirit of Copenhagen for you. As the global-warming crowd escalates demands for support of the various ploys they claim will help the situation, they are forced to keep raising the temperature of the fears they are stoking, no matter how unreasonable they might be.

But the bottom line here is that the plans being discussed represent a major drain on world capital as well as the pockets of taxpayers, while simultaneously enacting measures that will limit the ability of the economy to recover. Copenhagen’s ultimatum to the world is to stop thinking critically about the issue and just pay or die.

Read Less

Climate in Wonderland

“[T]he different branches of arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.”
— The Mock Turtle, Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland

The global climate debate bears an increasing resemblance to Alice’s interview with the White Queen. The world’s hardworking climate agencies can’t seem to issue a single proclamation without contrary evidence popping up, as if on cue, somewhere else. That doesn’t, of course, stop the agencies from issuing proclamations, however much they may deviate from the reality certified to a weary public by actual data.

After yesterday’s leak of the “Danish text,” a backroom proposal for a Copenhagen agreement that has the G-77 developing nations in an uproar, it looked like we had identified this climate summit’s Most Ridiculous Moment — and it was a wholly political one. But today the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has gone the authors of the Danish text one better and announced that the current decade, 2000-2009, is on track to be the “warmest since records began in 1850.”

One wonders whom the WMO imagines to be its audience for such a counterfactual pronouncement. More than one online news outlet has responded promptly with links to the celebrated reports from climate scientists in the past two years that global average temperatures have actually been falling since 1998.

But if that’s not enough to tone down the WMO, perhaps this is: a remarkable study performed by Australian Willis Eschenbach of temperature data from Darwin, on Australia’s north coast, in its raw versus “homogenized” state (h/t: Hot Air). The latter state reflects manipulation of the data by climate scientists at East Anglia University — Climategate U. — to homogenize it for the representation of long-term trends. Such homogenization is, in principle, a perfectly legitimate practice; but in my experience (largely dealing with wave propagation for maritime applications), the manipulation doesn’t, if performed properly, change the direction of the trend line of a data set.

Eschenbach’s eye-opening analysis shows that for the Darwin observation area, the homogenization of temperature data by the East Anglia Climate Research Unit produced a trend line that moves upward, whereas the raw temperature observations show a downward trend over the same 120-year period. Eschenbach’s summary is short, readable, and well worth the time. The graphics alone are head shakers. Not since McIntyre and McKittrick debunked the “Hockey Stick” graph have I seen such compelling evidence of the improper manipulation of climate data.

There just isn’t a “scientific” excuse for data homogenization to turn a long-term downward trend into an upward one. The “Climate in Wonderland” debate is taking Benjamin Disraeli’s famous aphorism about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” to a whole new level. There may be some comfort in the knowledge that this pattern in human discourse has been with us for some time. But Disraeli spoke from an era that had not yet seen Nazi Germany, the USSR, or Communist China. The cost of ignoring the statistical manipulation done to advance political causes has gone up exponentially since Disraeli’s century.

“[T]he different branches of arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.”
— The Mock Turtle, Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland

The global climate debate bears an increasing resemblance to Alice’s interview with the White Queen. The world’s hardworking climate agencies can’t seem to issue a single proclamation without contrary evidence popping up, as if on cue, somewhere else. That doesn’t, of course, stop the agencies from issuing proclamations, however much they may deviate from the reality certified to a weary public by actual data.

After yesterday’s leak of the “Danish text,” a backroom proposal for a Copenhagen agreement that has the G-77 developing nations in an uproar, it looked like we had identified this climate summit’s Most Ridiculous Moment — and it was a wholly political one. But today the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has gone the authors of the Danish text one better and announced that the current decade, 2000-2009, is on track to be the “warmest since records began in 1850.”

One wonders whom the WMO imagines to be its audience for such a counterfactual pronouncement. More than one online news outlet has responded promptly with links to the celebrated reports from climate scientists in the past two years that global average temperatures have actually been falling since 1998.

But if that’s not enough to tone down the WMO, perhaps this is: a remarkable study performed by Australian Willis Eschenbach of temperature data from Darwin, on Australia’s north coast, in its raw versus “homogenized” state (h/t: Hot Air). The latter state reflects manipulation of the data by climate scientists at East Anglia University — Climategate U. — to homogenize it for the representation of long-term trends. Such homogenization is, in principle, a perfectly legitimate practice; but in my experience (largely dealing with wave propagation for maritime applications), the manipulation doesn’t, if performed properly, change the direction of the trend line of a data set.

Eschenbach’s eye-opening analysis shows that for the Darwin observation area, the homogenization of temperature data by the East Anglia Climate Research Unit produced a trend line that moves upward, whereas the raw temperature observations show a downward trend over the same 120-year period. Eschenbach’s summary is short, readable, and well worth the time. The graphics alone are head shakers. Not since McIntyre and McKittrick debunked the “Hockey Stick” graph have I seen such compelling evidence of the improper manipulation of climate data.

There just isn’t a “scientific” excuse for data homogenization to turn a long-term downward trend into an upward one. The “Climate in Wonderland” debate is taking Benjamin Disraeli’s famous aphorism about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” to a whole new level. There may be some comfort in the knowledge that this pattern in human discourse has been with us for some time. But Disraeli spoke from an era that had not yet seen Nazi Germany, the USSR, or Communist China. The cost of ignoring the statistical manipulation done to advance political causes has gone up exponentially since Disraeli’s century.

Read Less

“Please Take a Moment . . .”

The Obami have been no friends to human-rights activists and democracy promoters around the globe. Leading the charge … er … retreat has been Hillary Clinton, who infamously told the Chinese that human rights shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with other, more pressing issues like global warming. (Something real, and tangible, you see.) And this is the administration that stiffed the Iranian democracy protesters and defunded them, while Hillary and crew have been busy “engaging” the despotic regimes of Burma and Sudan.

So you can imagine my surprise when an e-mail from Hillary’s longtime gal-pal and frequent media spinner Ann Lewis came to me (well, me and anyone who signed up to get information from Hillary’s failed presidential campaign). It’s actually a fundraising letter and spin-gram from NoLimits.org — born when Hillary discovered there were limits to the Democratic party’s toleration of the Clintons — touting, yes, Hillary’s “strong commitment to human rights and women’s rights.” December 10 is Human Rights Day, so Lewis breathlessly reminds us:

In the last year, she has appointed the first ever Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, chaired the first UN Security Council session on violence against women, and offered significant medical help and protection for rape victims in the Congo. Secretary Clinton has spoken out for religious freedom and diversity in Tazakh, LGBT rights in town halls from Washington, D.C. to Moldova, and increased access to technology for grassroots advocates fighting to be heard in Iran. She’s condemned the murder of journalists in Russia, and called on China to release those still imprisoned for their actions during the protests in Tiananmen Square two decades ago.

Hmm. I think the administration isn’t exactly eager to help Iranian protesters with technology, because that might help Chinese democracy protesters. And we can’t have that. But fidelity to details was never part of Hillary’s campaign operation, so let’s not get too deeply mired in facts.

All this seemed rather out of joint, as if dropped from a time capsule. It seems to be from another year, another decade, in which Hillary was out trolling for support and in which human rights topped the agenda. And then I saw the accompanying photo, which seemed indeed to be from another era, five or six hairstyles ago.

box_join_us

Well, perhaps someone has been messing with the space-time continuum. Or maybe Hillary has been watching those Obama poll numbers that look like the hill for advanced skiers (i.e., featuring a really precipitous decline) – and she’s just keeping her options open.

The Obami have been no friends to human-rights activists and democracy promoters around the globe. Leading the charge … er … retreat has been Hillary Clinton, who infamously told the Chinese that human rights shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with other, more pressing issues like global warming. (Something real, and tangible, you see.) And this is the administration that stiffed the Iranian democracy protesters and defunded them, while Hillary and crew have been busy “engaging” the despotic regimes of Burma and Sudan.

So you can imagine my surprise when an e-mail from Hillary’s longtime gal-pal and frequent media spinner Ann Lewis came to me (well, me and anyone who signed up to get information from Hillary’s failed presidential campaign). It’s actually a fundraising letter and spin-gram from NoLimits.org — born when Hillary discovered there were limits to the Democratic party’s toleration of the Clintons — touting, yes, Hillary’s “strong commitment to human rights and women’s rights.” December 10 is Human Rights Day, so Lewis breathlessly reminds us:

In the last year, she has appointed the first ever Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, chaired the first UN Security Council session on violence against women, and offered significant medical help and protection for rape victims in the Congo. Secretary Clinton has spoken out for religious freedom and diversity in Tazakh, LGBT rights in town halls from Washington, D.C. to Moldova, and increased access to technology for grassroots advocates fighting to be heard in Iran. She’s condemned the murder of journalists in Russia, and called on China to release those still imprisoned for their actions during the protests in Tiananmen Square two decades ago.

Hmm. I think the administration isn’t exactly eager to help Iranian protesters with technology, because that might help Chinese democracy protesters. And we can’t have that. But fidelity to details was never part of Hillary’s campaign operation, so let’s not get too deeply mired in facts.

All this seemed rather out of joint, as if dropped from a time capsule. It seems to be from another year, another decade, in which Hillary was out trolling for support and in which human rights topped the agenda. And then I saw the accompanying photo, which seemed indeed to be from another era, five or six hairstyles ago.

box_join_us

Well, perhaps someone has been messing with the space-time continuum. Or maybe Hillary has been watching those Obama poll numbers that look like the hill for advanced skiers (i.e., featuring a really precipitous decline) – and she’s just keeping her options open.

Read Less

Bush Is Back

In addition to the plummeting support for ObamaCare, that Public Policy Polling survey had this nugget:

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama’s declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they’d rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that’s somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country’s difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited. The closeness in the Obama/Bush numbers also has implications for the 2010 elections. Using the Bush card may not be particularly effective for Democrats anymore, which is good news generally for Republicans and especially ones like Rob Portman who are running for office and have close ties to the former President.

Everything in politics is relative, we see once again. It’s only when presented with an “un-Bush” — the elite, Ivy Leagued cool guy who made media pundits swoon like schoolgirls — that the public, it seems, has come to appreciate George W. Bush: the decider, the man who teared up in the wake of 9/11, the president who frankly couldn’t stand the Israel and America bashers at the UN, and the conservative who may have frustrated conservatives with insufficient frugality but who understood and appreciated the limits of the federal government. Bush’s stalwart position on the war on terror (pro–enhanced interrogations, anti–Guantanamo closing) is shared by a majority of voters. And Obama? The public doesn’t agree with him on KSM, enhanced interrogations, or his signature domestic initiative.

The pollsters’ observation about 2010 is a telling one. Obama and the Democrats have been running on and speechifying about being “not George Bush” for some time. It’s old, and Bush is no longer so unpopular. They’ll have to get a new line and run on their own records. No wonder they’re nervous.

In addition to the plummeting support for ObamaCare, that Public Policy Polling survey had this nugget:

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama’s declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they’d rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that’s somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country’s difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited. The closeness in the Obama/Bush numbers also has implications for the 2010 elections. Using the Bush card may not be particularly effective for Democrats anymore, which is good news generally for Republicans and especially ones like Rob Portman who are running for office and have close ties to the former President.

Everything in politics is relative, we see once again. It’s only when presented with an “un-Bush” — the elite, Ivy Leagued cool guy who made media pundits swoon like schoolgirls — that the public, it seems, has come to appreciate George W. Bush: the decider, the man who teared up in the wake of 9/11, the president who frankly couldn’t stand the Israel and America bashers at the UN, and the conservative who may have frustrated conservatives with insufficient frugality but who understood and appreciated the limits of the federal government. Bush’s stalwart position on the war on terror (pro–enhanced interrogations, anti–Guantanamo closing) is shared by a majority of voters. And Obama? The public doesn’t agree with him on KSM, enhanced interrogations, or his signature domestic initiative.

The pollsters’ observation about 2010 is a telling one. Obama and the Democrats have been running on and speechifying about being “not George Bush” for some time. It’s old, and Bush is no longer so unpopular. They’ll have to get a new line and run on their own records. No wonder they’re nervous.

Read Less

RE: Any Deal

You can see why Harry Reid is trying frantically to throw anything up against the wall to see if 60 votes will stick. In addition to the Quinnipiac poll, there’s this from the Democratic Public Policy poll:

Support for Obama on health care has hit another new low with just 39% of voters now expressing approval of his health care plans and 52% opposed. 90% of respondents who said they were opposed to Obama’s plan said it was because it involved the government too much in health care with just 6% saying their opposition was because it didn’t create enough government involvement. This would seem to refute other recent polling that suggested a large amount of opposition to Obama on health care was coming from the left.

If Congress leaves town to face the voters, the artificially induced momentum cooked up by Reid will dissipate, and the bill, I suspect, will die. But not everyone is willing to be buffaloed into a quickie vote. As Bill Kristol points out, Joe Lieberman is insisting on figuring out what the bill contains and has already caught on to a significant flaw: “Regarding the ‘Medicare buy-in’ proposal that is being discussed, we must remain vigilant about protecting and extending the solvency of the program, which is now in a perilous financial condition.” It will be more perilous after Congress takes out more than $400 billion from Medicare funding.

This is barely half-baked stuff coming out of Reid’s backroom kitchen. And the telltale sign is that the Democrats aren’t releasing any details. As Sen. Mitch McConnell put it: “They are, for lack of a better term, winging it on one of the most consequential pieces of domestic legislation in memory. … So what’s becoming abundantly clear is that the Majority will make any deal, agree to any terms, sign any dotted line that brings them closer to final passage of this terrible bill.” McConnell wryly suggests that “Americans would much rather we get it right than scurry around throwing together untested, last-minute experiments in order to get 60 votes by Christmas.”

We’ll see if the Senate really is the world’s greatest deliberative body and takes seriously its obligation to figure out what is in Reid’s grab bag of ill-conceived schemes to save his — and his party’s — political skin.

You can see why Harry Reid is trying frantically to throw anything up against the wall to see if 60 votes will stick. In addition to the Quinnipiac poll, there’s this from the Democratic Public Policy poll:

Support for Obama on health care has hit another new low with just 39% of voters now expressing approval of his health care plans and 52% opposed. 90% of respondents who said they were opposed to Obama’s plan said it was because it involved the government too much in health care with just 6% saying their opposition was because it didn’t create enough government involvement. This would seem to refute other recent polling that suggested a large amount of opposition to Obama on health care was coming from the left.

If Congress leaves town to face the voters, the artificially induced momentum cooked up by Reid will dissipate, and the bill, I suspect, will die. But not everyone is willing to be buffaloed into a quickie vote. As Bill Kristol points out, Joe Lieberman is insisting on figuring out what the bill contains and has already caught on to a significant flaw: “Regarding the ‘Medicare buy-in’ proposal that is being discussed, we must remain vigilant about protecting and extending the solvency of the program, which is now in a perilous financial condition.” It will be more perilous after Congress takes out more than $400 billion from Medicare funding.

This is barely half-baked stuff coming out of Reid’s backroom kitchen. And the telltale sign is that the Democrats aren’t releasing any details. As Sen. Mitch McConnell put it: “They are, for lack of a better term, winging it on one of the most consequential pieces of domestic legislation in memory. … So what’s becoming abundantly clear is that the Majority will make any deal, agree to any terms, sign any dotted line that brings them closer to final passage of this terrible bill.” McConnell wryly suggests that “Americans would much rather we get it right than scurry around throwing together untested, last-minute experiments in order to get 60 votes by Christmas.”

We’ll see if the Senate really is the world’s greatest deliberative body and takes seriously its obligation to figure out what is in Reid’s grab bag of ill-conceived schemes to save his — and his party’s — political skin.

Read Less

Obama Must Continue to Stump for the War in Afghanistan

There has been a spike in support for the war in Afghanistan since President Obama’s West Point speech. A new Quinnipiac University poll finds public backing for the war effort has shot up by 9 points over the past three weeks. Now 57 percent of voters say fighting the war is the right thing to do. The public is split on Obama’s handling of the war effort, 45-45 percent, but that’s a big jump from three weeks ago, when 49 percent disapproved and only 48 percent approved. And fully 58 percent of those surveyed back the decision to send 30,000 more combat troops, even though 45 percent do not believe he will keep his promise to begin withdrawing them in July 2011 (vs. 40 percent who believe him).

The White House should revel in this public approval, which comes as a welcome contrast to the president’s overall slippage in support (he’s down to 48 percent job approval and 46 percent disapproval in the RealClearPolitics average of polls). But no one should take such continued backing for granted. There will be tough days ahead, with Americans suffering casualties, big terrorist attacks occurring in Afghanistan, and all the problems that attend a war effort against a tough, determined, resilient foe. To keep public support high, Obama needs to keep stumping. The West Point speech can’t be a one-off. He needs to wage the same kind of sustained campaign to drum up support for defeating the Taliban as he has for passing health care. Already he’s had more success in making the sale on Afghanistan; imagine what a sustained level of effort — of the kind we didn’t see after the major Afghan announcement in March — could achieve.

There has been a spike in support for the war in Afghanistan since President Obama’s West Point speech. A new Quinnipiac University poll finds public backing for the war effort has shot up by 9 points over the past three weeks. Now 57 percent of voters say fighting the war is the right thing to do. The public is split on Obama’s handling of the war effort, 45-45 percent, but that’s a big jump from three weeks ago, when 49 percent disapproved and only 48 percent approved. And fully 58 percent of those surveyed back the decision to send 30,000 more combat troops, even though 45 percent do not believe he will keep his promise to begin withdrawing them in July 2011 (vs. 40 percent who believe him).

The White House should revel in this public approval, which comes as a welcome contrast to the president’s overall slippage in support (he’s down to 48 percent job approval and 46 percent disapproval in the RealClearPolitics average of polls). But no one should take such continued backing for granted. There will be tough days ahead, with Americans suffering casualties, big terrorist attacks occurring in Afghanistan, and all the problems that attend a war effort against a tough, determined, resilient foe. To keep public support high, Obama needs to keep stumping. The West Point speech can’t be a one-off. He needs to wage the same kind of sustained campaign to drum up support for defeating the Taliban as he has for passing health care. Already he’s had more success in making the sale on Afghanistan; imagine what a sustained level of effort — of the kind we didn’t see after the major Afghan announcement in March — could achieve.

Read Less

Why Is Obama So Disrespectful of Britain?

The Daily Mail today points out (h/t Instapundit) that Barack Obama, as candidate and president, has not said a single word in a speech regarding the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. That overstates the case a bit, as he did, at least once, use the phrase at a press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he visited Britain in April.

But the Daily Mail is right in general. Obama has been minimal, to say the least, in his treatment of Great Britain. In his speech at West Point last week, he did not mention Britain. This despite the fact that the British have been our staunchest ally in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where the British now have 10,000 soldiers and have suffered 237 killed, more than a hundred this year alone. That’s 15 percent of all deaths in Afghanistan and 25 percent of the number of soldiers the United States has lost there. In other words, Britain has lost more soldiers in Afghanistan, relative to its population, than has the United States. And its contribution to the war effort has been every bit as large relative to its economy.

Obama has not only mostly ignored our British ally, he has positively insulted them.  Hardly had he moved into the Oval Office when he ordered that a bronze bust of Winston Churchill be returned to the British embassy. It had been given to the White House, in a symbolic gesture of solidarity, shortly after 9/11 .

When Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the White House in March, he was denied a joint press conference and a formal dinner, as is standard when world leaders have talks with the president. Brown gave the president a pen holder made from the timbers of HMS Gannet, which had played an active part in suppressing the slave trade in the early 19th century. He also gave him the commissioning papers of HMS Resolute, which had been trapped in arctic ice, abandoned, found by an American whaling vessel, purchased by Congress, and presented to Queen Victoria as a gesture of friendship. In 1880, after the Resolute was broken up, the Queen ordered two magnificent desks made from her timbers. One is in Buckingham Palace. The other was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes and has been used by almost every president since, including Barack Obama.

Obama gave Brown, not a movie buff, a bunch of classic American films on DVDs that won’t even play on British DVD players.

Although Obama bowed deeply to the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emperor of Japan, when he met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in April, a hand shake was deemed sufficient.

When Brown came to the United States for the UN General Assembly meeting and the G20 summit in September, Obama refused repeated requests by the British Foreign Office to meet privately with Brown, although he found time to meet with the presidents of Russia and China, and the Japanese prime minister.

Why is the Obama White House treating the British this way? What has it got to gain from deliberate rudeness, such as returning the gift of a bust of the man who in 1940 saved the world — including the United States – from “a new Dark Age, made more sinister and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science”?

Why treat Gordon Brown as though he headed the government of a banana republic rather than the world’s sixth-largest economy and one of the few friendly countries on earth with serious military capabilities?

Like so much of this administration, it seems just gratuitous arrogance.

The Daily Mail today points out (h/t Instapundit) that Barack Obama, as candidate and president, has not said a single word in a speech regarding the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. That overstates the case a bit, as he did, at least once, use the phrase at a press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he visited Britain in April.

But the Daily Mail is right in general. Obama has been minimal, to say the least, in his treatment of Great Britain. In his speech at West Point last week, he did not mention Britain. This despite the fact that the British have been our staunchest ally in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where the British now have 10,000 soldiers and have suffered 237 killed, more than a hundred this year alone. That’s 15 percent of all deaths in Afghanistan and 25 percent of the number of soldiers the United States has lost there. In other words, Britain has lost more soldiers in Afghanistan, relative to its population, than has the United States. And its contribution to the war effort has been every bit as large relative to its economy.

Obama has not only mostly ignored our British ally, he has positively insulted them.  Hardly had he moved into the Oval Office when he ordered that a bronze bust of Winston Churchill be returned to the British embassy. It had been given to the White House, in a symbolic gesture of solidarity, shortly after 9/11 .

When Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the White House in March, he was denied a joint press conference and a formal dinner, as is standard when world leaders have talks with the president. Brown gave the president a pen holder made from the timbers of HMS Gannet, which had played an active part in suppressing the slave trade in the early 19th century. He also gave him the commissioning papers of HMS Resolute, which had been trapped in arctic ice, abandoned, found by an American whaling vessel, purchased by Congress, and presented to Queen Victoria as a gesture of friendship. In 1880, after the Resolute was broken up, the Queen ordered two magnificent desks made from her timbers. One is in Buckingham Palace. The other was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes and has been used by almost every president since, including Barack Obama.

Obama gave Brown, not a movie buff, a bunch of classic American films on DVDs that won’t even play on British DVD players.

Although Obama bowed deeply to the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emperor of Japan, when he met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in April, a hand shake was deemed sufficient.

When Brown came to the United States for the UN General Assembly meeting and the G20 summit in September, Obama refused repeated requests by the British Foreign Office to meet privately with Brown, although he found time to meet with the presidents of Russia and China, and the Japanese prime minister.

Why is the Obama White House treating the British this way? What has it got to gain from deliberate rudeness, such as returning the gift of a bust of the man who in 1940 saved the world — including the United States – from “a new Dark Age, made more sinister and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science”?

Why treat Gordon Brown as though he headed the government of a banana republic rather than the world’s sixth-largest economy and one of the few friendly countries on earth with serious military capabilities?

Like so much of this administration, it seems just gratuitous arrogance.

Read Less

Any Deal

The apparent deal by 10 senators to drop the public option is a bit baffling. We’re going to get rid of the “public” option but give the option of buying into government-run Medicare to millions? This is going to lower costs and prevent the crowding out of private insurers? Hard to see how. What’s more, we’re going to dump millions more into a program from which we’re contemplating slashing hundreds of billions of dollars.

If nothing else, this has at least woken up the AMA:

The American Medical Association said it opposes expanding Medicare because doctors face steep pay cuts under the program and many Medicare patients are struggling to find a doctor. Hospitals also said expanding Medicare and Medicaid is a bad idea. “We want coverage — in the worst way — expanded, but both of these means are problematic for hospitals and physicians,” said Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, which lobbies on behalf of for-profit hospitals. “It’s going to make it difficult to make it work.”

The deal has yet to be scored by the CBO, and the details have yet to be explained. But what seems to be going on here is a desperate struggle for a deal, any deal. Doesn’t matter if it makes sense or is paid for or accomplishes the purported goals of its supporters. It’s all about saving face for the Democratic leadership. The question remains whether lawmakers will actually scrutinize the monstrous bill or instead just vote for any old thing their leaders put in front of them.

The apparent deal by 10 senators to drop the public option is a bit baffling. We’re going to get rid of the “public” option but give the option of buying into government-run Medicare to millions? This is going to lower costs and prevent the crowding out of private insurers? Hard to see how. What’s more, we’re going to dump millions more into a program from which we’re contemplating slashing hundreds of billions of dollars.

If nothing else, this has at least woken up the AMA:

The American Medical Association said it opposes expanding Medicare because doctors face steep pay cuts under the program and many Medicare patients are struggling to find a doctor. Hospitals also said expanding Medicare and Medicaid is a bad idea. “We want coverage — in the worst way — expanded, but both of these means are problematic for hospitals and physicians,” said Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, which lobbies on behalf of for-profit hospitals. “It’s going to make it difficult to make it work.”

The deal has yet to be scored by the CBO, and the details have yet to be explained. But what seems to be going on here is a desperate struggle for a deal, any deal. Doesn’t matter if it makes sense or is paid for or accomplishes the purported goals of its supporters. It’s all about saving face for the Democratic leadership. The question remains whether lawmakers will actually scrutinize the monstrous bill or instead just vote for any old thing their leaders put in front of them.

Read Less

Cheapening Civil Rights

It’s disturbing when a self-proclaimed civil-rights organization seems to have no idea what civil rights actually means. Yet judging by the annual report it published this week, that is the case with Israel’s premier organization, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

Take, for instance, its criticism of the proposed “Nakba Law.” The original bill (a private initiative, not government-sponsored) would indeed have seriously curtailed freedom of speech: it barred any commemoration of the Nakba — the Arabic term for Israel’s establishment, which literally means “catastrophe.” But public outrage forced its revision even before the Knesset began discussing it. Thus the proposal actually being considered would merely deny public funding to organizations that commemorate the Nakba.

Yet according to ACRI, even this “not only violates the rights of the Arab minority, but crosses a red line in suppressing freedom of expression for us all.”

That reflects a serious misunderstanding of freedom of expression, which merely allows people to express their views without fear of state-sponsored criminal or civil penalties. It does not require the state to finance these views. And it especially doesn’t require the state to finance views it deems detrimental to society’s welfare.

Indeed, ACRI undoubtedly would oppose state funding for some views — for instance, that Israel should expel all its Arabs. Yet if a group’s “right … to express its pain at what it considers to be a catastrophe” necessitates state funding for Nakba commemorations, on what grounds could the state refuse to finance expressions of right-wing extremists’ pain at what they consider a catastrophe — the existence of Israel’s Arab minority?

Nothing could be more inimical to Israel’s welfare than having 20 percent of its citizens teaching their children that the state’s very existence is a catastrophe that must be mourned. And no government should finance such views.

Or take ACRI’s critique of a Foreign Ministry decision to bar anyone who didn’t do either military or civilian national service from its diplomatic training course: “Conditioning basic rights – such as … the right to employment – upon military or national service contravenes the basic tenets of democracy.”

Well, not if it’s a relevant requirement for the job. And because Israel’s diplomats are supposed to represent it overseas, some minimal level of identification with the state certainly should be a requirement. Yet most Arabs shun national service precisely because their community views it as a form of identification with the state — even though they’re allowed to devote their service exclusively to helping their own community.

Conditioning diplomatic jobs on military service would be unfair because the army would probably reject many Arabs even if they applied. But civilian national service is open to everyone. And anyone so reluctant to be perceived as supporting the state that he won’t even volunteer in his own community has no business in Israel’s diplomatic corps.

ACRI’s report lists dozens of similar faux violations — alongside some real ones. The tragedy is that its inability to distinguish genuine civil rights from fake ones cheapens the value of those that truly matter.

It’s disturbing when a self-proclaimed civil-rights organization seems to have no idea what civil rights actually means. Yet judging by the annual report it published this week, that is the case with Israel’s premier organization, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

Take, for instance, its criticism of the proposed “Nakba Law.” The original bill (a private initiative, not government-sponsored) would indeed have seriously curtailed freedom of speech: it barred any commemoration of the Nakba — the Arabic term for Israel’s establishment, which literally means “catastrophe.” But public outrage forced its revision even before the Knesset began discussing it. Thus the proposal actually being considered would merely deny public funding to organizations that commemorate the Nakba.

Yet according to ACRI, even this “not only violates the rights of the Arab minority, but crosses a red line in suppressing freedom of expression for us all.”

That reflects a serious misunderstanding of freedom of expression, which merely allows people to express their views without fear of state-sponsored criminal or civil penalties. It does not require the state to finance these views. And it especially doesn’t require the state to finance views it deems detrimental to society’s welfare.

Indeed, ACRI undoubtedly would oppose state funding for some views — for instance, that Israel should expel all its Arabs. Yet if a group’s “right … to express its pain at what it considers to be a catastrophe” necessitates state funding for Nakba commemorations, on what grounds could the state refuse to finance expressions of right-wing extremists’ pain at what they consider a catastrophe — the existence of Israel’s Arab minority?

Nothing could be more inimical to Israel’s welfare than having 20 percent of its citizens teaching their children that the state’s very existence is a catastrophe that must be mourned. And no government should finance such views.

Or take ACRI’s critique of a Foreign Ministry decision to bar anyone who didn’t do either military or civilian national service from its diplomatic training course: “Conditioning basic rights – such as … the right to employment – upon military or national service contravenes the basic tenets of democracy.”

Well, not if it’s a relevant requirement for the job. And because Israel’s diplomats are supposed to represent it overseas, some minimal level of identification with the state certainly should be a requirement. Yet most Arabs shun national service precisely because their community views it as a form of identification with the state — even though they’re allowed to devote their service exclusively to helping their own community.

Conditioning diplomatic jobs on military service would be unfair because the army would probably reject many Arabs even if they applied. But civilian national service is open to everyone. And anyone so reluctant to be perceived as supporting the state that he won’t even volunteer in his own community has no business in Israel’s diplomatic corps.

ACRI’s report lists dozens of similar faux violations — alongside some real ones. The tragedy is that its inability to distinguish genuine civil rights from fake ones cheapens the value of those that truly matter.

Read Less

The Voters Are Upset

I suppose the Obami will have to add the Quinnipiac pollsters to the hit list, along with those at Gallup. In the latest Quinnipiac:

At 46%, President Obama’s latest job approval rating is the lowest ever in Quinnipiac polls, and he has an upside down rating for his handling of health care. The new survey (Dec. 1-6, 2313 RV, MoE +/- 2%), released this morning, finds 44% disapproving of the job Obama’s doing. More than half (51%) of independents now disapprove of Obama’s job performance, while 37% approve. … On health care, 56% approve of giving people a government-run insurance option. However, voters disapprove by a 52%-38% margin of the overall reform package currently being debated in the Senate, and disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care 56%-38%.

Well that’s not too promising. It’s almost like Americans don’t like what Obama’s doing, as if the poor knaves out there are increasingly frustrated that the president is spending his time — and soon their tax dollars — on a government takeover of health care that they really don’t want. And a 14-point deficit in approval among independent voters? Yikes.

It’s understandable, but perhaps not smart, that Obama will be flitting off to get his Nobel Prize, which only a quarter of Americans think he deserves,  and to hang out with the environment worshippers in Copenhagen and lecture Americans that they’re ignorant when they doubt the “certainty” of climate-change science. Obama’s two audiences — elite opinion makers and the American people — are beginning to diverge sharply in their estimation of him. Unfortunately for Obama, Nobelists don’t vote in American elections.

I suppose the Obami will have to add the Quinnipiac pollsters to the hit list, along with those at Gallup. In the latest Quinnipiac:

At 46%, President Obama’s latest job approval rating is the lowest ever in Quinnipiac polls, and he has an upside down rating for his handling of health care. The new survey (Dec. 1-6, 2313 RV, MoE +/- 2%), released this morning, finds 44% disapproving of the job Obama’s doing. More than half (51%) of independents now disapprove of Obama’s job performance, while 37% approve. … On health care, 56% approve of giving people a government-run insurance option. However, voters disapprove by a 52%-38% margin of the overall reform package currently being debated in the Senate, and disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care 56%-38%.

Well that’s not too promising. It’s almost like Americans don’t like what Obama’s doing, as if the poor knaves out there are increasingly frustrated that the president is spending his time — and soon their tax dollars — on a government takeover of health care that they really don’t want. And a 14-point deficit in approval among independent voters? Yikes.

It’s understandable, but perhaps not smart, that Obama will be flitting off to get his Nobel Prize, which only a quarter of Americans think he deserves,  and to hang out with the environment worshippers in Copenhagen and lecture Americans that they’re ignorant when they doubt the “certainty” of climate-change science. Obama’s two audiences — elite opinion makers and the American people — are beginning to diverge sharply in their estimation of him. Unfortunately for Obama, Nobelists don’t vote in American elections.

Read Less

Expectations

For some time, the Wayne and Garth school of Obama punditry (“We’re not worthy!”) was in fashion to explain why Obama was apparently not living up to expectations. He was too intellectual for us and wouldn’t play the usual partisan games. He was beyond our base nationalistic allegiances. “A sort of a god” was, like the real one, shrouded in mystery and beyond the ability of mere mortals to fully appreciate.

Now along comes a Politico column by Lisa Lerer explaining that the real issue is that we expect too much from the One. At Copenhagen:

But it will be almost impossible for Obama not to disappoint the world when he arrives here next week — in large part because the world keeps ratcheting up the expectations on him. When Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it was declaring global warming a danger to human health, the administration might have hoped it was merely providing a catalyst — a sense of U.S. commitment — on the first day of two weeks of talks here. But leaders from the United Nations and the European Union insist that the EPA endangerment finding is something bigger — proof positive that Obama must have another rabbit to pull from his hat.

“Another rabbit”? I must have missed the Middle East peace accord, the agreement by Iran to give up its nukes, or some other small-mammal miracle. For Obama, of course, has yet to accomplish much of anything, either internationally or domestically (which is why, regarding the latter, we see Son of Stimulus in the works, which now brings guffaws from Jon Stewart).

But the American media and international elites are, if nothing else, dogged in their desire to help Obama succeed — both have invested so much in raising expectations to the dizzying heights they now decry. So now those expectations must be lowered:

Of course, no one expects this round of talks to lead directly to an actual treaty — a more realistic goal is a political agreement that might lead to a treaty down the road. But even that goal seems elusive, with a draft text from Danish negotiators sparking a minirevolt Tuesday from developing nations who say it would give too much power to rich countries. Some experts attributed the draft to a desire to accommodate the United States in the talks. “My sense is that the Danish text is an expression of a tactical mistake; they tried to make an agreement or a proposal that fit with what they believed was the American position,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of World Wildlife Fund’s global climate initiative.

The American people are slowly figuring out that there is no there there. He is, as Lisa Schiffren aptly describes, an “inexperienced, excessively ideological, and weak man who is naïve about the world and uncomfortable exercising American power during a time of war.” And while it is becoming increasingly obvious that he is “not an exceptional, or even particularly competent, leader … because so many politicians, interest groups and factions have an interest in his continued presence, no one is ready to reveal the man behind the curtain just yet.”

Far better, then, to decry the “expectations” of mere mortals than to hold Obama to account for his own actions and failures. Instead, he seems to be making the expectations game worse (“instead of staying home from Copenhagen and sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices, the president has upped the ante”) and has done nothing to ”restore science to its rightful place.” Well, that would entail restoring him to his rightful place within the cosmic order. And there’s no sign that he or his followers are ready for that.

For some time, the Wayne and Garth school of Obama punditry (“We’re not worthy!”) was in fashion to explain why Obama was apparently not living up to expectations. He was too intellectual for us and wouldn’t play the usual partisan games. He was beyond our base nationalistic allegiances. “A sort of a god” was, like the real one, shrouded in mystery and beyond the ability of mere mortals to fully appreciate.

Now along comes a Politico column by Lisa Lerer explaining that the real issue is that we expect too much from the One. At Copenhagen:

But it will be almost impossible for Obama not to disappoint the world when he arrives here next week — in large part because the world keeps ratcheting up the expectations on him. When Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it was declaring global warming a danger to human health, the administration might have hoped it was merely providing a catalyst — a sense of U.S. commitment — on the first day of two weeks of talks here. But leaders from the United Nations and the European Union insist that the EPA endangerment finding is something bigger — proof positive that Obama must have another rabbit to pull from his hat.

“Another rabbit”? I must have missed the Middle East peace accord, the agreement by Iran to give up its nukes, or some other small-mammal miracle. For Obama, of course, has yet to accomplish much of anything, either internationally or domestically (which is why, regarding the latter, we see Son of Stimulus in the works, which now brings guffaws from Jon Stewart).

But the American media and international elites are, if nothing else, dogged in their desire to help Obama succeed — both have invested so much in raising expectations to the dizzying heights they now decry. So now those expectations must be lowered:

Of course, no one expects this round of talks to lead directly to an actual treaty — a more realistic goal is a political agreement that might lead to a treaty down the road. But even that goal seems elusive, with a draft text from Danish negotiators sparking a minirevolt Tuesday from developing nations who say it would give too much power to rich countries. Some experts attributed the draft to a desire to accommodate the United States in the talks. “My sense is that the Danish text is an expression of a tactical mistake; they tried to make an agreement or a proposal that fit with what they believed was the American position,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of World Wildlife Fund’s global climate initiative.

The American people are slowly figuring out that there is no there there. He is, as Lisa Schiffren aptly describes, an “inexperienced, excessively ideological, and weak man who is naïve about the world and uncomfortable exercising American power during a time of war.” And while it is becoming increasingly obvious that he is “not an exceptional, or even particularly competent, leader … because so many politicians, interest groups and factions have an interest in his continued presence, no one is ready to reveal the man behind the curtain just yet.”

Far better, then, to decry the “expectations” of mere mortals than to hold Obama to account for his own actions and failures. Instead, he seems to be making the expectations game worse (“instead of staying home from Copenhagen and sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices, the president has upped the ante”) and has done nothing to ”restore science to its rightful place.” Well, that would entail restoring him to his rightful place within the cosmic order. And there’s no sign that he or his followers are ready for that.

Read Less

Dick Cheney on KSM

Dick Cheney concedes to Sean Hannity in an interview worth viewing in its entirety here that he had Obama pegged wrong: Cheney thought Obama was “a liberal Democrat, but conventional in a sense,” but the president has turned out to be “more radical than that.” This portion of the interview centers on the KSM trial, which Cheney dubs a “huge mistake.” Cheney recounts the historic and legal precedents in which military tribunals have been used rather than civilian trials. By affording KSM a civilian trial, we are giving him “a huge platform” where he will be able to “proselytize” to a ”whole new generation of terrorists.” We are, says Cheney, about to “give aid and comfort” to the enemy and run the risk of making KSM “as important or more important than Osama bin Laden — and we will have made it possible.” While pleading that he is not a lawyer, Cheney picks up on the contradiction between Eric Holder’s assurance that this is a slam-dunk certain conviction and the requirements of a fair, impartial trial.

The interview raises several points. First, as vilified as Cheney has been for years by the mainstream media, his arguments are widely accepted now, and his criticisms of Obama’s atrocious decision are shared by a large majority of the American people. When the administration and their media spinners repeatedly brush him off as “unpopular,” they are, of course, throwing out a non sequitur in place of reasoned argument.

And that brings us to the second point: since announcing the decision, the administration has yet to adequately answer the very questions Cheney and other conservatives have raised. Why give KSM a forum to spew his jihadist rhetoric and influence millions of potential followers? What guarantees do we have that national intelligence materials won’t be disclosed as they were in previous terrorism trials? What could be more “certain” than allowing KSM to be executed as he requested in the military tribunal system? Holder stumbled through one hearing. He should be brought back and grilled until satisfactory answers are provided.

Finally, the president, thanks to a skittish media, has yet to explain in detail what input he had into the process. We got the “tick tock” on the Afghanistan-war decision-making process but nothing on this decision, which has long-term and serious consequences for national security and the administration of justice. Did the president really tell Holder to deal with this? Did no one from the White House influence the decision?

Cheney remains perhaps the most frequent and painful thorn in the White House’s side. But that’s in large part because neither Congress nor the media are doing their job in asking hard questions and getting to the bottom of how this unprecedented and potentially dangerous judgment was arrived at. However, the voters do get the last say. The KSM trial will and properly should be a subject of debate in the 2010 elections by candidates who supported and opposed the decision. As for the former, they should be held to account for their willingness to fund Holder and Obama’s foolhardy legal escapade.

Dick Cheney concedes to Sean Hannity in an interview worth viewing in its entirety here that he had Obama pegged wrong: Cheney thought Obama was “a liberal Democrat, but conventional in a sense,” but the president has turned out to be “more radical than that.” This portion of the interview centers on the KSM trial, which Cheney dubs a “huge mistake.” Cheney recounts the historic and legal precedents in which military tribunals have been used rather than civilian trials. By affording KSM a civilian trial, we are giving him “a huge platform” where he will be able to “proselytize” to a ”whole new generation of terrorists.” We are, says Cheney, about to “give aid and comfort” to the enemy and run the risk of making KSM “as important or more important than Osama bin Laden — and we will have made it possible.” While pleading that he is not a lawyer, Cheney picks up on the contradiction between Eric Holder’s assurance that this is a slam-dunk certain conviction and the requirements of a fair, impartial trial.

The interview raises several points. First, as vilified as Cheney has been for years by the mainstream media, his arguments are widely accepted now, and his criticisms of Obama’s atrocious decision are shared by a large majority of the American people. When the administration and their media spinners repeatedly brush him off as “unpopular,” they are, of course, throwing out a non sequitur in place of reasoned argument.

And that brings us to the second point: since announcing the decision, the administration has yet to adequately answer the very questions Cheney and other conservatives have raised. Why give KSM a forum to spew his jihadist rhetoric and influence millions of potential followers? What guarantees do we have that national intelligence materials won’t be disclosed as they were in previous terrorism trials? What could be more “certain” than allowing KSM to be executed as he requested in the military tribunal system? Holder stumbled through one hearing. He should be brought back and grilled until satisfactory answers are provided.

Finally, the president, thanks to a skittish media, has yet to explain in detail what input he had into the process. We got the “tick tock” on the Afghanistan-war decision-making process but nothing on this decision, which has long-term and serious consequences for national security and the administration of justice. Did the president really tell Holder to deal with this? Did no one from the White House influence the decision?

Cheney remains perhaps the most frequent and painful thorn in the White House’s side. But that’s in large part because neither Congress nor the media are doing their job in asking hard questions and getting to the bottom of how this unprecedented and potentially dangerous judgment was arrived at. However, the voters do get the last say. The KSM trial will and properly should be a subject of debate in the 2010 elections by candidates who supported and opposed the decision. As for the former, they should be held to account for their willingness to fund Holder and Obama’s foolhardy legal escapade.

Read Less

Free Mara and Juan!

It seems that the lively but unanimous conclusion (Let her stay!) of those in Politico’s discussion about NPR’s Mara Liasson appearing on Fox News was duplicated by NPR’s own listeners. NPR’s ombuds-gal Alicia Shepard (h/t Michael Calderone) tells us that she was flooded with calls and messages pleading: Let her stay! There was this one:

“I am outraged that NPR would try to control the appearances of Mara Liasson and Juan Williams on Fox News,” wrote Anna Moore of Amherst, VA. “You are now (and have been for a long time) guilty of the very thing you are accusing Fox News of–bias. Mara and Juan bring a different perspective to the discussions on Fox News, something all the media should welcome instead of stifle. Leave Mara and Juan alone!”

Hmm. So Shepard, being the good ombuds-gal (the primary qualification for which is to deflect real scrutiny from the people who sign your paycheck), pronounces that no one ever “ordered” Liasson off the air. Well, no. The original story didn’t say that, only that she was cajoled and pressured and that Liasson pushed back, noting that she actually had a contract with Fox.

Next straw man: there was no actual conversation between NPR and the White House, which started the anti-Fox crusade:

“NPR has not had any communication of any kind with the White House regarding the status of any of our reporters or their work for anyone outside of NPR,” said Dick Meyer, executive editor for news, in an email. “Any suggestion to the contrary is simply false. Internal discussions about the application of NPR policy to each NPR reporter are just that, internal discussions. That is why we do not comment on them publicly.”

Again, no one ever said that NPR’s execs got on the phone with David Axelrod. The sharp cookies at government-subsidized NPR didn’t need to have a conversation with the Obami to understand that Fox was the target and that the name of the game here was to delegitimize, disassociate, and shun the Fox network. Really, Axelrod’s and Anita Dunn’s comments were quite clear about what was afoot. It was in the news and everything.

Sheppard is plainly irritated with NPR’s fickle audience, however. She sniffs: “It appears ironic that some folks are coming to Liasson’s rescue and defending her right to appear on Fox when I have hundreds of previous emails suggesting she shouldn’t.” Really, can’t these people make up their minds? Well, all’s well that end’s well. Mara — and Juan Williams too! — gets to stay. Fox gets more publicity. Conservatives have newfound allies in the NPR listening audience. And NPR winds up with egg on its face. What could be better?

It seems that the lively but unanimous conclusion (Let her stay!) of those in Politico’s discussion about NPR’s Mara Liasson appearing on Fox News was duplicated by NPR’s own listeners. NPR’s ombuds-gal Alicia Shepard (h/t Michael Calderone) tells us that she was flooded with calls and messages pleading: Let her stay! There was this one:

“I am outraged that NPR would try to control the appearances of Mara Liasson and Juan Williams on Fox News,” wrote Anna Moore of Amherst, VA. “You are now (and have been for a long time) guilty of the very thing you are accusing Fox News of–bias. Mara and Juan bring a different perspective to the discussions on Fox News, something all the media should welcome instead of stifle. Leave Mara and Juan alone!”

Hmm. So Shepard, being the good ombuds-gal (the primary qualification for which is to deflect real scrutiny from the people who sign your paycheck), pronounces that no one ever “ordered” Liasson off the air. Well, no. The original story didn’t say that, only that she was cajoled and pressured and that Liasson pushed back, noting that she actually had a contract with Fox.

Next straw man: there was no actual conversation between NPR and the White House, which started the anti-Fox crusade:

“NPR has not had any communication of any kind with the White House regarding the status of any of our reporters or their work for anyone outside of NPR,” said Dick Meyer, executive editor for news, in an email. “Any suggestion to the contrary is simply false. Internal discussions about the application of NPR policy to each NPR reporter are just that, internal discussions. That is why we do not comment on them publicly.”

Again, no one ever said that NPR’s execs got on the phone with David Axelrod. The sharp cookies at government-subsidized NPR didn’t need to have a conversation with the Obami to understand that Fox was the target and that the name of the game here was to delegitimize, disassociate, and shun the Fox network. Really, Axelrod’s and Anita Dunn’s comments were quite clear about what was afoot. It was in the news and everything.

Sheppard is plainly irritated with NPR’s fickle audience, however. She sniffs: “It appears ironic that some folks are coming to Liasson’s rescue and defending her right to appear on Fox when I have hundreds of previous emails suggesting she shouldn’t.” Really, can’t these people make up their minds? Well, all’s well that end’s well. Mara — and Juan Williams too! — gets to stay. Fox gets more publicity. Conservatives have newfound allies in the NPR listening audience. And NPR winds up with egg on its face. What could be better?

Read Less

Could They Just Stop?

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

If at first fiscal stimulus doesn’t succeed, spend, spend again. That’s the motto President Obama embraced yesterday, even if he didn’t use the word “stimulus,” which has managed to set a political record in the speed with which it has become unpopular with voters. This time, the spending is being called “Proposals to Accelerate Job Growth and Lay the Foundation for Robust Economic Growth.”

But wasn’t that also supposed to be the point of last February’s $787 billion stimulus, or for that matter of the Nancy Pelosi-George W. Bush $165 billion stimulus of February 2008?

Yes, there are a few trinkets for conservatives, but they are so small and limited as to be meaningless (a capital-gains tax rate of zero for small business for a year, allowing businesses to expense certain investments up to $250K), particularly in the face of gigantic, anti-growth, anti-jobs initiatives like cap-and-trade (or the more noxious just-cap via EPA edict), hundreds of billions in new taxes in the guise of ObamaCare, and the massive tax hikes that will come when the Democrats allow the Bush tax hikes to expire.

Most of what Obama is talking about, however, is spending, spending, and more spending — turning TARP into a “revolving line of Democratic political credit.” After all, if you’re going to allow the EPA to legislate emission output when even Congress won’t, why not ignore the language and intent of Congress and use the bailout money for whatever the administration likes? The Obami don’t allow constitutional or statutory niceties get in the way. Moreover, as Sen. Judd Gregg explains, it’s fiscal silliness on stilts:

“It’s a huge shell game to try to give political cover to the fact that he wants to create a new stimulus program of about $200 billion,” Gregg said. “And it’s all going to be borrowed money, which means it’s all going to go on the deficit, and it’s all going to go in the debt, and it’s all going to be paid for by our kids. And they really can’t afford it because we’re already giving them enough deficit and debt.”

Gregg added: “I don’t think adding another $200 billion of debt here and claiming that you’re wrapping it around TARP makes any sense at all, because actually, you’re not doing anything relevant to TARP. All you’re doing is borrowing more money.”

None of this will sound very enticing to employers and investors, I suspect. They’d rather see the big-ticket job killers and tax hikes taken off the table and some realization that public spending must be curbed. The Journal‘s editors have it right: “If Congress won’t reduce taxes, the best stimulus now would be for Congress to stop scaring private job creators by promising to help them. Just do nothing at all.” We should be so lucky.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

If at first fiscal stimulus doesn’t succeed, spend, spend again. That’s the motto President Obama embraced yesterday, even if he didn’t use the word “stimulus,” which has managed to set a political record in the speed with which it has become unpopular with voters. This time, the spending is being called “Proposals to Accelerate Job Growth and Lay the Foundation for Robust Economic Growth.”

But wasn’t that also supposed to be the point of last February’s $787 billion stimulus, or for that matter of the Nancy Pelosi-George W. Bush $165 billion stimulus of February 2008?

Yes, there are a few trinkets for conservatives, but they are so small and limited as to be meaningless (a capital-gains tax rate of zero for small business for a year, allowing businesses to expense certain investments up to $250K), particularly in the face of gigantic, anti-growth, anti-jobs initiatives like cap-and-trade (or the more noxious just-cap via EPA edict), hundreds of billions in new taxes in the guise of ObamaCare, and the massive tax hikes that will come when the Democrats allow the Bush tax hikes to expire.

Most of what Obama is talking about, however, is spending, spending, and more spending — turning TARP into a “revolving line of Democratic political credit.” After all, if you’re going to allow the EPA to legislate emission output when even Congress won’t, why not ignore the language and intent of Congress and use the bailout money for whatever the administration likes? The Obami don’t allow constitutional or statutory niceties get in the way. Moreover, as Sen. Judd Gregg explains, it’s fiscal silliness on stilts:

“It’s a huge shell game to try to give political cover to the fact that he wants to create a new stimulus program of about $200 billion,” Gregg said. “And it’s all going to be borrowed money, which means it’s all going to go on the deficit, and it’s all going to go in the debt, and it’s all going to be paid for by our kids. And they really can’t afford it because we’re already giving them enough deficit and debt.”

Gregg added: “I don’t think adding another $200 billion of debt here and claiming that you’re wrapping it around TARP makes any sense at all, because actually, you’re not doing anything relevant to TARP. All you’re doing is borrowing more money.”

None of this will sound very enticing to employers and investors, I suspect. They’d rather see the big-ticket job killers and tax hikes taken off the table and some realization that public spending must be curbed. The Journal‘s editors have it right: “If Congress won’t reduce taxes, the best stimulus now would be for Congress to stop scaring private job creators by promising to help them. Just do nothing at all.” We should be so lucky.

Read Less

Not So Much Hope

Bloomberg reports:

Americans have grown gloomier about both the economy and the nation’s direction over the past three months even as the U.S. shows signs of moving from recession to recovery. Almost half the people now feel less financially secure than when President Barack Obama took office in January, a Bloomberg National Poll shows. …

Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans think the economy will improve in the next six months. They are pessimistic that the government will succeed in reducing unemployment or lowering the budget deficit. A year into Obama’s presidency, only 32 percent of poll respondents believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 40 percent who said so in September.

Even Democrats are souring: “the proportion saying the country is on the right track dropped to 58 percent from 71 percent in September.” Only 26 percent of independents think we’re on the right track, down 3 points from September.

Plainly the high unemployment rate has much to do with the national mood. There’s also a disconnect between what Congress and the White House are spending nights and weekends on — a health-care plan Americans don’t want — and the real top priority for Americans: “Eight of 10 Americans rate joblessness a high risk to the economy in the next two years, outranking the federal budget deficit, which is cited by 7 of 10. An increase in taxes is named as a high risk by almost 6 of 10.” The Obami can read the polls, too, which accounts for the “jobs summit” and another set of stimulus proposals.

But I suspect it will take more than dog-and-pony shows and serial stimulus plans to lift Americans’ spirits. They expect the Congress and White House to do something about what they care about and do it fast. Since the Democrats remain obsessed with their liberal wish list — climate control and ObamaCare, neither of which rates very high on the public’s list of priorities, incumbents run the risk of appearing disconnected from their constituents, if not downright clueless. Probably not a desirable position to be in going into an election year.

Bloomberg reports:

Americans have grown gloomier about both the economy and the nation’s direction over the past three months even as the U.S. shows signs of moving from recession to recovery. Almost half the people now feel less financially secure than when President Barack Obama took office in January, a Bloomberg National Poll shows. …

Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans think the economy will improve in the next six months. They are pessimistic that the government will succeed in reducing unemployment or lowering the budget deficit. A year into Obama’s presidency, only 32 percent of poll respondents believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 40 percent who said so in September.

Even Democrats are souring: “the proportion saying the country is on the right track dropped to 58 percent from 71 percent in September.” Only 26 percent of independents think we’re on the right track, down 3 points from September.

Plainly the high unemployment rate has much to do with the national mood. There’s also a disconnect between what Congress and the White House are spending nights and weekends on — a health-care plan Americans don’t want — and the real top priority for Americans: “Eight of 10 Americans rate joblessness a high risk to the economy in the next two years, outranking the federal budget deficit, which is cited by 7 of 10. An increase in taxes is named as a high risk by almost 6 of 10.” The Obami can read the polls, too, which accounts for the “jobs summit” and another set of stimulus proposals.

But I suspect it will take more than dog-and-pony shows and serial stimulus plans to lift Americans’ spirits. They expect the Congress and White House to do something about what they care about and do it fast. Since the Democrats remain obsessed with their liberal wish list — climate control and ObamaCare, neither of which rates very high on the public’s list of priorities, incumbents run the risk of appearing disconnected from their constituents, if not downright clueless. Probably not a desirable position to be in going into an election year.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s hard to believe that pro-choice Democrats actually think Barbara Boxer helps their cause. Really, she can figure out why Viagra funding and abortion subsidies are different, right?

Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like abortion-funding amendment goes down to defeat 54-45. We’ll see if the vote comes back to haunt Blanche Lincoln and other supposedly pro-life Democrats who voted against it.

More important, will Nelson keep his word to filibuster ObamaCare without his amendment? “The Senate voted against strengthening restrictions against federal funding of abortion Tuesday evening, a development that could imperil Democrats’ efforts to pass an underlying healthcare reform bill. … Reid needs to hold together the entire 60-member Democratic caucus if he hopes to pass the healthcare reform bill. Losing Nelson would be fatal unless Reid made concessions in other areas to win the votes of Snowe or other GOP senators.”

Even before that vote, Rasmussen reported that “only 41% of U.S. voters favor the health care plan proposed by the president and congressional Democrats … [while] 51% oppose the plan. And as has been the case for months, the emotion’s on the [side] of the naysayers: 40% Strongly Oppose the plan, while just 23% Strongly favor it.”

The war on Fox and the Chamber of Commerce is expanding to Gallup. Yes, Gallup. Perhaps NPR will instruct Mara Liasson not to mention Gallup anymore. Just to be helpful, you know.

James Taranto on one of the political mysteries of our age, in the wake of Harry Reid’s slavery smear of Republicans (members of the party of Lincoln): “He has a propensity for saying things that are splenetic, inappropriate and ignorant, such as his embarrassing series of claims a few years ago that Clarence Thomas was unintelligent. This, however, raises a question that has long puzzled us about Reid: How did such an unappealing man who says so many foolish things get so far in politics? He has been elected to Congress six times, and the Senate’s Democrats chose him as their leader. Maybe he has exceptional backroom skills, or comes across better in person than on television. … Still, his success to this point seems something of a miracle–an inspiration to dour, foolish men everywhere.”

Unlike the White House, the public is not ignoring Climategate, it seems: “For the first time in more than two and a half years, a majority of the American public no longer believes global warming is a ‘proven fact’ that is mostly caused by man, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research. Only 45% of those surveyed agreed with the statement that ‘Global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by emissions from cars and industrial facilities such as power plants and factories.’ That number is down from 54% who agreed with the statement in June of last year and in May of 2007.”

From the Washington Post, no less: “If Obama and Congress were really as serious as they say they are about reducing unemployment, they would at least be willing to discuss rolling back last July’s minimum wage increase. It would create some jobs for those who need them most, and it would not cost taxpayers a dime. Yes, those who get hired at a reduced minimum wage would have to work for less. But at least they’d be working.”

It’s hard to believe that pro-choice Democrats actually think Barbara Boxer helps their cause. Really, she can figure out why Viagra funding and abortion subsidies are different, right?

Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like abortion-funding amendment goes down to defeat 54-45. We’ll see if the vote comes back to haunt Blanche Lincoln and other supposedly pro-life Democrats who voted against it.

More important, will Nelson keep his word to filibuster ObamaCare without his amendment? “The Senate voted against strengthening restrictions against federal funding of abortion Tuesday evening, a development that could imperil Democrats’ efforts to pass an underlying healthcare reform bill. … Reid needs to hold together the entire 60-member Democratic caucus if he hopes to pass the healthcare reform bill. Losing Nelson would be fatal unless Reid made concessions in other areas to win the votes of Snowe or other GOP senators.”

Even before that vote, Rasmussen reported that “only 41% of U.S. voters favor the health care plan proposed by the president and congressional Democrats … [while] 51% oppose the plan. And as has been the case for months, the emotion’s on the [side] of the naysayers: 40% Strongly Oppose the plan, while just 23% Strongly favor it.”

The war on Fox and the Chamber of Commerce is expanding to Gallup. Yes, Gallup. Perhaps NPR will instruct Mara Liasson not to mention Gallup anymore. Just to be helpful, you know.

James Taranto on one of the political mysteries of our age, in the wake of Harry Reid’s slavery smear of Republicans (members of the party of Lincoln): “He has a propensity for saying things that are splenetic, inappropriate and ignorant, such as his embarrassing series of claims a few years ago that Clarence Thomas was unintelligent. This, however, raises a question that has long puzzled us about Reid: How did such an unappealing man who says so many foolish things get so far in politics? He has been elected to Congress six times, and the Senate’s Democrats chose him as their leader. Maybe he has exceptional backroom skills, or comes across better in person than on television. … Still, his success to this point seems something of a miracle–an inspiration to dour, foolish men everywhere.”

Unlike the White House, the public is not ignoring Climategate, it seems: “For the first time in more than two and a half years, a majority of the American public no longer believes global warming is a ‘proven fact’ that is mostly caused by man, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research. Only 45% of those surveyed agreed with the statement that ‘Global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by emissions from cars and industrial facilities such as power plants and factories.’ That number is down from 54% who agreed with the statement in June of last year and in May of 2007.”

From the Washington Post, no less: “If Obama and Congress were really as serious as they say they are about reducing unemployment, they would at least be willing to discuss rolling back last July’s minimum wage increase. It would create some jobs for those who need them most, and it would not cost taxpayers a dime. Yes, those who get hired at a reduced minimum wage would have to work for less. But at least they’d be working.”

Read Less