Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 10, 2009

Painful Changes in the Publishing Industry

I am not usually saddened to hear that publications that I never read will cease to be published. But I am saddened to learn of the fate of Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews, two publishing-industry trade titles.

From my vantage point as an author, their demise is part and parcel of the general decline of the publishing industry. There are still lots of publishers producing plenty of titles, but there are increasingly fewer bookstores and book reviews to peddle their wares. To some extent the slack has been taken up by the Internet — but only to an extent. Amazon is a godsend for all sorts of reasons, not least because it makes it so easy to acquire even obscure titles — a service of which I make ample use.

But Amazon is also leading the march toward e-books. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; you can argue from an author’s standpoint that it shouldn’t matter whether words are delivered by paper and ink or by digital means. But the pricing structure of e-books — with most new titles going for less than $10 — severely undercuts the economics that have traditionally underpinned the industry. If books no longer sell for $15 or $20 or more in hardcover, there will not be much left over to support editors, publishers, publicists, designers, and all the rest. It’s not as if book publishing had fat margins to begin with; e-books threaten to make financial statements that once looked weak into sheer catastrophes.

I realize that there’s a danger of sounding old and cranky when you complain about the impact of technology upon any industry. No doubt buggy makers around the turn of the 20th century felt similarly threatened by the arrival of automobiles and missed the fact that the transportation industry as a whole was growing even as their small sector of it was receding into nothingness. And no doubt information will continue to be purveyed in the digital age, and information purveyors will continue to be paid — just not in the same way as they were before.

Still, the adjustment is a painful one. The scribbling classes are now feeling the pain felt for decades by industrial workers. Wonder who will be next as computers continue to transform one economic sector after another?

I am not usually saddened to hear that publications that I never read will cease to be published. But I am saddened to learn of the fate of Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews, two publishing-industry trade titles.

From my vantage point as an author, their demise is part and parcel of the general decline of the publishing industry. There are still lots of publishers producing plenty of titles, but there are increasingly fewer bookstores and book reviews to peddle their wares. To some extent the slack has been taken up by the Internet — but only to an extent. Amazon is a godsend for all sorts of reasons, not least because it makes it so easy to acquire even obscure titles — a service of which I make ample use.

But Amazon is also leading the march toward e-books. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; you can argue from an author’s standpoint that it shouldn’t matter whether words are delivered by paper and ink or by digital means. But the pricing structure of e-books — with most new titles going for less than $10 — severely undercuts the economics that have traditionally underpinned the industry. If books no longer sell for $15 or $20 or more in hardcover, there will not be much left over to support editors, publishers, publicists, designers, and all the rest. It’s not as if book publishing had fat margins to begin with; e-books threaten to make financial statements that once looked weak into sheer catastrophes.

I realize that there’s a danger of sounding old and cranky when you complain about the impact of technology upon any industry. No doubt buggy makers around the turn of the 20th century felt similarly threatened by the arrival of automobiles and missed the fact that the transportation industry as a whole was growing even as their small sector of it was receding into nothingness. And no doubt information will continue to be purveyed in the digital age, and information purveyors will continue to be paid — just not in the same way as they were before.

Still, the adjustment is a painful one. The scribbling classes are now feeling the pain felt for decades by industrial workers. Wonder who will be next as computers continue to transform one economic sector after another?

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Obama’s Finest Hour

I agree with Jackson Diehl that there was something missing from Obama’s Noble Peace Prize address:

Obama could have used the speech to make clear to Iranians that the United States supports the cause of change in their country. Instead he settled, as he has before, for a passive construction: “We will bear witness,” he said, “to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” But will the Obama administration support them? Iranians are not sure. During student demonstrations in Tehran this week, one instance of graffiti read: “Obama — are you with them or with us?” The president’s speech could have clearly answered that question; too bad it didn’t.

Still, that reservation aside, all I can say is: Wow. What a boffo address. I was not as disappointed as many on the Right with some of Obama’s previous speeches abroad, such as his famous attempt in Cairo to reach out to the Arab world, but he has never said anything as stirring or hard-headed as he did in Oslo. The tribute to brave dissidents … the defense of “just war”… the reflection on the limits of pacifism, nonviolent protest, and international resolutions as a weapon against the “evil” that “does exist in the world”… the appreciation for America’s role in underwriting “global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms”… the warning to North Korea and Iran not to “game the system”… the exhortation to promote human rights … the condemnation of Muslim extremists (“no Holy War can ever be a just war”) …

The speech had just about everything I or any other American would want to hear from our president. And mercifully it was not full of apologies for America’s past sins or knocks against the previous president — as so many previous Obama speeches have been.

Obama is an eloquent guy, but this is the first speech he’s given that I would class a masterpiece that deserves inclusion in compendia of the finest presidential speeches. The question now is whether he will live up to his rhetoric. That remains to be seen, but his speech is a significant step in the right direction. Coming so soon after his decision to “escalate” the war in Afghanistan (as his more liberal supporters put it), it suggests that he may be “growing” in office — and not in a liberal direction.

I agree with Jackson Diehl that there was something missing from Obama’s Noble Peace Prize address:

Obama could have used the speech to make clear to Iranians that the United States supports the cause of change in their country. Instead he settled, as he has before, for a passive construction: “We will bear witness,” he said, “to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” But will the Obama administration support them? Iranians are not sure. During student demonstrations in Tehran this week, one instance of graffiti read: “Obama — are you with them or with us?” The president’s speech could have clearly answered that question; too bad it didn’t.

Still, that reservation aside, all I can say is: Wow. What a boffo address. I was not as disappointed as many on the Right with some of Obama’s previous speeches abroad, such as his famous attempt in Cairo to reach out to the Arab world, but he has never said anything as stirring or hard-headed as he did in Oslo. The tribute to brave dissidents … the defense of “just war”… the reflection on the limits of pacifism, nonviolent protest, and international resolutions as a weapon against the “evil” that “does exist in the world”… the appreciation for America’s role in underwriting “global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms”… the warning to North Korea and Iran not to “game the system”… the exhortation to promote human rights … the condemnation of Muslim extremists (“no Holy War can ever be a just war”) …

The speech had just about everything I or any other American would want to hear from our president. And mercifully it was not full of apologies for America’s past sins or knocks against the previous president — as so many previous Obama speeches have been.

Obama is an eloquent guy, but this is the first speech he’s given that I would class a masterpiece that deserves inclusion in compendia of the finest presidential speeches. The question now is whether he will live up to his rhetoric. That remains to be seen, but his speech is a significant step in the right direction. Coming so soon after his decision to “escalate” the war in Afghanistan (as his more liberal supporters put it), it suggests that he may be “growing” in office — and not in a liberal direction.

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Yikes

Polling on ObamaCare is frightfully bad for the Democrats and worsening, it seems, every week and month. Today from the CNN/Opinion Dynamics we learn that only 36 percent approve of the Democrats’ health-care plans, and a stunning 61 percent disapprove. Just last month 46 percent approved and 49 percent did not. Seventy-nine percent think the deficit will increase if the Senate bill passes. The Fox poll tells us:

A majority — 57% — oppose the health-care reform legislation being considered right now. About a third of Americans – 34% — favor the reforms. These results are from a FOX News poll released Thursday, and show the highest level of opposition to the health care bill to date.

Similarly, while 41% of Americans want Congress to pass major health care reform legislation this year, a 54% majority says they would rather Congress “do nothing on health care for now,” up from 48% who felt that way in July. … Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) think the reforms will cost them money, up from 58% who thought so previously (July 2009). Fewer than one in four people — 23% — currently think the plan will save them money. By 52% to 28%, Americans say the quality of health care their family receives would be worse under the proposed plan.

Sixty-six percent of independents in the Fox poll oppose the plan.

If wavering Democrats cannot be persuaded to discern the gaping contradictions in a bill with no bipartisan support in Congress (which would simultaneously dump millions of new patients into Medicare and slash funding), maybe these figures will serve as a wake-up call. Passing a hugely unpopular bill to improve their chances of re-election? It makes less sense than the bill itself.

Polling on ObamaCare is frightfully bad for the Democrats and worsening, it seems, every week and month. Today from the CNN/Opinion Dynamics we learn that only 36 percent approve of the Democrats’ health-care plans, and a stunning 61 percent disapprove. Just last month 46 percent approved and 49 percent did not. Seventy-nine percent think the deficit will increase if the Senate bill passes. The Fox poll tells us:

A majority — 57% — oppose the health-care reform legislation being considered right now. About a third of Americans – 34% — favor the reforms. These results are from a FOX News poll released Thursday, and show the highest level of opposition to the health care bill to date.

Similarly, while 41% of Americans want Congress to pass major health care reform legislation this year, a 54% majority says they would rather Congress “do nothing on health care for now,” up from 48% who felt that way in July. … Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) think the reforms will cost them money, up from 58% who thought so previously (July 2009). Fewer than one in four people — 23% — currently think the plan will save them money. By 52% to 28%, Americans say the quality of health care their family receives would be worse under the proposed plan.

Sixty-six percent of independents in the Fox poll oppose the plan.

If wavering Democrats cannot be persuaded to discern the gaping contradictions in a bill with no bipartisan support in Congress (which would simultaneously dump millions of new patients into Medicare and slash funding), maybe these figures will serve as a wake-up call. Passing a hugely unpopular bill to improve their chances of re-election? It makes less sense than the bill itself.

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Havel Unplugged

Vaclav Havel, in a intriguing interview, explains why “small compromises” on human rights have a dangerously cumulative effect:

We know this from our modern history. When [French Prime Minister Edouard] Daladier returned from the [1938] Munich conference, the whole nation was applauding him for saving the peace. He made a miniscule compromise in the interest of peace. But it was the beginning of a chain of evil that subsequently brought about many millions of deaths. We can’t just say, “This is just a small compromise that can be overlooked. First we will go to China and then perhaps talk with the Dalai Lama.” It all looks practical, pragmatic, logical, but it is necessary to think about whether it is not the first small compromise that can be the beginning of that long chain that is no good. In this case perhaps it will not be, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.

Havel then shares an anecdote that comes at a timely juncture. At West Point and again in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Obama waxed lyrical about human rights. But in practice he has consistently shoved human rights off his agenda, going as far as defunding Iranian democracy protesters and objecting to support for new media for Iranian dissidents. This as he engages despotic regimes without any sign of progress in their treatment of their own people. Havel argues, “Politics, it means, every day making some compromises, and to choose between one evil and another evil, and to decide which is bigger and which is smaller.” He recounts:

Two days after I was elected president, I invited the Dalai Lama to visit. I was the first head of the state who invited him in this way, directly. And everybody was saying that it was a terribly dangerous act and issued their disapproving statements and expressions. But it was a ritual matter. Later, the Chinese deputy prime minister and the foreign minister came for a visit and brought me a pile of books about the Dalai Lama and some governmental documents about what good care they have taken of Tibet, and so on. They were propagandist, fabricated books, but he felt the need to explain something to me.

I had a press conference with this minister of foreign affairs. And he said, “It was wonderful, meeting, because we were speaking openly. Mr. Havel gave me his opinion, and I explained the opinion of our government. I gave him this book, and he thanked me for it.”

This was unbelievable! Why did they feel the need to explain their point of view to the leader of such a small nation? Because they respect it when someone is standing his ground, when someone is not afraid of them. When someone soils his pants prematurely, then they do not respect you more for it.

Well, that’s one way of putting it. The question is an apt one for the Obami: what have they gained from pushing human rights off the agenda and what evidence do we have that this has produced benefits for America or for those living under the boot of thugocracies? It seems we might earn respect — restore America’s standing in the world, as the Obami like to say — by standing up to Iran, China, Russia, and the rest rather than saving pretty words for West Point cadets and Norwegian elites who are less in need of a lecture than the despots to whom Obama has strained to ingratiate himself.

Vaclav Havel, in a intriguing interview, explains why “small compromises” on human rights have a dangerously cumulative effect:

We know this from our modern history. When [French Prime Minister Edouard] Daladier returned from the [1938] Munich conference, the whole nation was applauding him for saving the peace. He made a miniscule compromise in the interest of peace. But it was the beginning of a chain of evil that subsequently brought about many millions of deaths. We can’t just say, “This is just a small compromise that can be overlooked. First we will go to China and then perhaps talk with the Dalai Lama.” It all looks practical, pragmatic, logical, but it is necessary to think about whether it is not the first small compromise that can be the beginning of that long chain that is no good. In this case perhaps it will not be, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.

Havel then shares an anecdote that comes at a timely juncture. At West Point and again in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Obama waxed lyrical about human rights. But in practice he has consistently shoved human rights off his agenda, going as far as defunding Iranian democracy protesters and objecting to support for new media for Iranian dissidents. This as he engages despotic regimes without any sign of progress in their treatment of their own people. Havel argues, “Politics, it means, every day making some compromises, and to choose between one evil and another evil, and to decide which is bigger and which is smaller.” He recounts:

Two days after I was elected president, I invited the Dalai Lama to visit. I was the first head of the state who invited him in this way, directly. And everybody was saying that it was a terribly dangerous act and issued their disapproving statements and expressions. But it was a ritual matter. Later, the Chinese deputy prime minister and the foreign minister came for a visit and brought me a pile of books about the Dalai Lama and some governmental documents about what good care they have taken of Tibet, and so on. They were propagandist, fabricated books, but he felt the need to explain something to me.

I had a press conference with this minister of foreign affairs. And he said, “It was wonderful, meeting, because we were speaking openly. Mr. Havel gave me his opinion, and I explained the opinion of our government. I gave him this book, and he thanked me for it.”

This was unbelievable! Why did they feel the need to explain their point of view to the leader of such a small nation? Because they respect it when someone is standing his ground, when someone is not afraid of them. When someone soils his pants prematurely, then they do not respect you more for it.

Well, that’s one way of putting it. The question is an apt one for the Obami: what have they gained from pushing human rights off the agenda and what evidence do we have that this has produced benefits for America or for those living under the boot of thugocracies? It seems we might earn respect — restore America’s standing in the world, as the Obami like to say — by standing up to Iran, China, Russia, and the rest rather than saving pretty words for West Point cadets and Norwegian elites who are less in need of a lecture than the despots to whom Obama has strained to ingratiate himself.

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Agenda Polling

So J Street’s pollster, Jim Gerstein (who was also a founding VP of J Street), has done a poll of Israelis for the New America Foundation. It is being billed as a repudiation of the famous Jerusalem Post poll conducted in June that found that only 6 percent of Israelis consider the Obama administration to be pro-Israel. The new Gerstein poll is advertised by NAF as proving that “Israelis actually demonstrate a much more supportive and nuanced view of President Obama” than was the case in the previous poll.

I was always skeptical of the original poll. The numbers just seemed too low to be credible, and the poll was conducted right after Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech, when passions were high. But the way to credibly disprove those numbers is to sample a similar group and ask the same questions. Unsurprisingly, that’s not what Gerstein did.

The JPost poll was conducted among Jewish Israelis. Gerstein, however, polled everyone, including Arabs, who comprised 16 percent of his sample (an under-sampling, actually — almost 20 percent of Israelis are Arab). More important, he did not ask the same, or even a similar, question. He asked a question that was sure to make Obama look better than the previous poll: not whether the respondent thought that the Obama administration was pro-Israel, but whether the respondent had warm feelings toward Barack Obama personally.

This is where the poll found a 41 percent “favorable rating” for Obama. But having warm feelings toward a politician is not the same thing as approving of his performance in office. The exact same phenomenon has been documented in numerous polls of Americans, who consistently give Barack Obama higher approval marks than his policies.

It looks to me like the poll itself was conducted responsibly, and it has many interesting findings, including that more than twice the number of Israelis identify with the Right than with the Left. But the PR effort being waged on its behalf, however, is not being conducted all that honestly. There was no effort in the Gerstein poll to replicate, even vaguely, the question that the Jerusalem Post poll asked: Do you believe that the Obama administration is pro-Israel? Instead, Gerstein asked an Oprah Winfrey–style question about whether Barack Obama gives you warm fuzzies, and included the Israeli Arab population in his sample, which the JPost poll did not.

I have little doubt that another poll replicating the JPost‘s questions and sample demographic would find that far more than 6 percent of Israeli Jews believe that the Obama administration is pro-Israel. It’s too bad that the New America Foundation didn’t take the opportunity to find out. The full poll can be read here.

So J Street’s pollster, Jim Gerstein (who was also a founding VP of J Street), has done a poll of Israelis for the New America Foundation. It is being billed as a repudiation of the famous Jerusalem Post poll conducted in June that found that only 6 percent of Israelis consider the Obama administration to be pro-Israel. The new Gerstein poll is advertised by NAF as proving that “Israelis actually demonstrate a much more supportive and nuanced view of President Obama” than was the case in the previous poll.

I was always skeptical of the original poll. The numbers just seemed too low to be credible, and the poll was conducted right after Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech, when passions were high. But the way to credibly disprove those numbers is to sample a similar group and ask the same questions. Unsurprisingly, that’s not what Gerstein did.

The JPost poll was conducted among Jewish Israelis. Gerstein, however, polled everyone, including Arabs, who comprised 16 percent of his sample (an under-sampling, actually — almost 20 percent of Israelis are Arab). More important, he did not ask the same, or even a similar, question. He asked a question that was sure to make Obama look better than the previous poll: not whether the respondent thought that the Obama administration was pro-Israel, but whether the respondent had warm feelings toward Barack Obama personally.

This is where the poll found a 41 percent “favorable rating” for Obama. But having warm feelings toward a politician is not the same thing as approving of his performance in office. The exact same phenomenon has been documented in numerous polls of Americans, who consistently give Barack Obama higher approval marks than his policies.

It looks to me like the poll itself was conducted responsibly, and it has many interesting findings, including that more than twice the number of Israelis identify with the Right than with the Left. But the PR effort being waged on its behalf, however, is not being conducted all that honestly. There was no effort in the Gerstein poll to replicate, even vaguely, the question that the Jerusalem Post poll asked: Do you believe that the Obama administration is pro-Israel? Instead, Gerstein asked an Oprah Winfrey–style question about whether Barack Obama gives you warm fuzzies, and included the Israeli Arab population in his sample, which the JPost poll did not.

I have little doubt that another poll replicating the JPost‘s questions and sample demographic would find that far more than 6 percent of Israeli Jews believe that the Obama administration is pro-Israel. It’s too bad that the New America Foundation didn’t take the opportunity to find out. The full poll can be read here.

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Must We Aid Them?

This report on Anwar al-Aulaqi, Major Nidal Hasan’s e-mail pal and the former imam of a northern Virginia mosque, explains:

The Yemeni American cleric at the center of investigations into last month’s massacre of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., became more openly radical in Yemen, following a path taken by other extremists in this failing Middle East nation with a growing al-Qaeda presence, according to relatives, friends and associates in Yemen.

Why was it, then, that we dumped a number of Guantanamo detainees into Yemen? We did, a move that Congressman Frank Wolf decried after the Fort Hood terror attack. It seems not to have been very wise.

And the story also makes clear the power of such figures to recruit and spread the message of Islamic jihadism:

By 2006, Aulaqi’s influence had widened into the world of terrorism through his Web site and Facebook page, even though most Yemenis had never heard of him. Starting that year, investigators have found Aulaqi’s sermons downloaded on the computers of suspects in nearly a dozen terrorism cases in Britain and Canada.

In mid-2006, Yemeni authorities arrested him. Aulaqi was accused of inciting attacks against a man over a tribal matter involving a woman. Aulaqi denied the allegations in an interview with Begg last year and accused the U.S. government of pressuring Yemen to keep him locked up.

Yet we are prepared to give KSM a public forum and nonstop cable and Internet coverage in a New York courtroom to do the same.

It does at times appear that the Obami have divorced themselves from reality. They seem blissfully unaware or unconcerned that their own policies may actually aid fanatics in their effort to spread the message of Islamic fundamentalism. When the Obami stop releasing detainees to hotbeds of Islamic fanaticism and providing free publicity for terrorists, we’ll know that the administration is finally clued in to the nature of our enemy and the requirements of fighting a war against religious fanatics.

This report on Anwar al-Aulaqi, Major Nidal Hasan’s e-mail pal and the former imam of a northern Virginia mosque, explains:

The Yemeni American cleric at the center of investigations into last month’s massacre of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., became more openly radical in Yemen, following a path taken by other extremists in this failing Middle East nation with a growing al-Qaeda presence, according to relatives, friends and associates in Yemen.

Why was it, then, that we dumped a number of Guantanamo detainees into Yemen? We did, a move that Congressman Frank Wolf decried after the Fort Hood terror attack. It seems not to have been very wise.

And the story also makes clear the power of such figures to recruit and spread the message of Islamic jihadism:

By 2006, Aulaqi’s influence had widened into the world of terrorism through his Web site and Facebook page, even though most Yemenis had never heard of him. Starting that year, investigators have found Aulaqi’s sermons downloaded on the computers of suspects in nearly a dozen terrorism cases in Britain and Canada.

In mid-2006, Yemeni authorities arrested him. Aulaqi was accused of inciting attacks against a man over a tribal matter involving a woman. Aulaqi denied the allegations in an interview with Begg last year and accused the U.S. government of pressuring Yemen to keep him locked up.

Yet we are prepared to give KSM a public forum and nonstop cable and Internet coverage in a New York courtroom to do the same.

It does at times appear that the Obami have divorced themselves from reality. They seem blissfully unaware or unconcerned that their own policies may actually aid fanatics in their effort to spread the message of Islamic fundamentalism. When the Obami stop releasing detainees to hotbeds of Islamic fanaticism and providing free publicity for terrorists, we’ll know that the administration is finally clued in to the nature of our enemy and the requirements of fighting a war against religious fanatics.

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No We Can’t, D.C. Kids

Tucked on page 4 of the Metro section of the Washington Post is a story explaining:

Congress appears likely to keep the D.C. voucher program closed to new students but open to current ones, curtailing the hopes of advocates who had pressed for a full revival of the controversial program. The news is buried deep within a thousand-page omnibus spending bill released Monday by a joint conference of House and Senate Appropriations Committee members.

It was buried in the Post. This seems like rather big news, however. The president who strode into office promising “real” education reform and a willingness to slay vested special interests has, along with the Democrat-controlled Congress, been rolled by the teachers’ union. It seems that the Democrats are prepared to let this very successful and popular program that benefited inner-city kids simply die on the vine:

There is still a chance the program could be reopened to new students, but that appears unlikely given the language in the appropriations bill and general Democratic opposition to vouchers. More than 1,700 students participated in the program in the 2008-09 school year. That number dropped to 1,319 this year because applications were closed to new students in the spring, and some students have graduated or left the program. President Obama has expressed support for keeping the program open only to current students.

This is bad policy and bad politics. At a time when the president and Congressional Democrats are plummeting in the polls and bereft of bipartisan proposals, preserving and even extending school vouchers seems like a no-brainer. Help poor kids? Work across the aisle? Sounds entirely reasonable. But Big Labor is not to be trifled with.

Tucked on page 4 of the Metro section of the Washington Post is a story explaining:

Congress appears likely to keep the D.C. voucher program closed to new students but open to current ones, curtailing the hopes of advocates who had pressed for a full revival of the controversial program. The news is buried deep within a thousand-page omnibus spending bill released Monday by a joint conference of House and Senate Appropriations Committee members.

It was buried in the Post. This seems like rather big news, however. The president who strode into office promising “real” education reform and a willingness to slay vested special interests has, along with the Democrat-controlled Congress, been rolled by the teachers’ union. It seems that the Democrats are prepared to let this very successful and popular program that benefited inner-city kids simply die on the vine:

There is still a chance the program could be reopened to new students, but that appears unlikely given the language in the appropriations bill and general Democratic opposition to vouchers. More than 1,700 students participated in the program in the 2008-09 school year. That number dropped to 1,319 this year because applications were closed to new students in the spring, and some students have graduated or left the program. President Obama has expressed support for keeping the program open only to current students.

This is bad policy and bad politics. At a time when the president and Congressional Democrats are plummeting in the polls and bereft of bipartisan proposals, preserving and even extending school vouchers seems like a no-brainer. Help poor kids? Work across the aisle? Sounds entirely reasonable. But Big Labor is not to be trifled with.

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11th-Hour Monstrosity

The Washington Post‘s editors argue that Harry Reid’s “11th hour compromise” is actually a very old idea going back decades and “a far more dramatic step toward a single-payer system than lawmakers on either side realize.” Actually, I think Senate leaders on one side realize exactly what is afoot here and are daring moderates and conservatives in their party to cry foul. There is plenty to cry foul about. The editors reel off a list of queries and issues:

Currently, Medicare benefits are less generous in significant ways than the plans to be offered on the [bill’s planned insurance] exchanges. For instance, there is no cap on out-of-pocket expenses. So would near-seniors who buy in to Medicare get Medicare-level benefits? If so, who would tend to purchase that coverage? Sicker near-seniors might be better off purchasing private insurance on the an exchange. But the educated guessing — and that’s a generous description — is that sicker near-seniors might tend to place more trust in a government-run program; they might assume, with good reason, that the government will be more accommodating in approving treatments, and they might flock to Medicare. That would raise premium costs and, correspondingly, the pressure to dip into federal funds for extra help. …

Will providers cut costs — or will they shift them to private insurers, driving up premiums? Will they stop taking Medicare patients or go to Congress demanding higher rates? Once 55-year-olds are in, they are not likely to be kicked out, and the pressure will be on to expand the program to make more people eligible.

Reid and the White House, in the guise of taking out the public option to allay centrists’ concerns, are setting up a financially reckless but very obvious gateway to a single-payer system. The purported moderate and conservative Democratic senators who objected to the public option because it would crowd out private insurers, do nothing to reduce costs, and insert the heavy hand of government into personal medical decisions should be doubly alarmed by this scheme. We’re going to herd millions of new, more sickly patients into a system that’s already facing financial strain — and then cut hundreds of billions in funding from that same system. Whoever thinks this can be done without severely impacting care and/or knocking a jumbo hole in the deficit raise your hand. No hands, I see.

Yes, it’s actually a worse plan than PelosiCare. That’s why Reid is so desperate to do this very, very fast. If it took only a day for the Post to figure this out, the rest of the Senate will certainly clue in by the end of the month. And once they do, it will become increasingly hard for conscientious senators to go along with this spasm of irresponsibility.

The Washington Post‘s editors argue that Harry Reid’s “11th hour compromise” is actually a very old idea going back decades and “a far more dramatic step toward a single-payer system than lawmakers on either side realize.” Actually, I think Senate leaders on one side realize exactly what is afoot here and are daring moderates and conservatives in their party to cry foul. There is plenty to cry foul about. The editors reel off a list of queries and issues:

Currently, Medicare benefits are less generous in significant ways than the plans to be offered on the [bill’s planned insurance] exchanges. For instance, there is no cap on out-of-pocket expenses. So would near-seniors who buy in to Medicare get Medicare-level benefits? If so, who would tend to purchase that coverage? Sicker near-seniors might be better off purchasing private insurance on the an exchange. But the educated guessing — and that’s a generous description — is that sicker near-seniors might tend to place more trust in a government-run program; they might assume, with good reason, that the government will be more accommodating in approving treatments, and they might flock to Medicare. That would raise premium costs and, correspondingly, the pressure to dip into federal funds for extra help. …

Will providers cut costs — or will they shift them to private insurers, driving up premiums? Will they stop taking Medicare patients or go to Congress demanding higher rates? Once 55-year-olds are in, they are not likely to be kicked out, and the pressure will be on to expand the program to make more people eligible.

Reid and the White House, in the guise of taking out the public option to allay centrists’ concerns, are setting up a financially reckless but very obvious gateway to a single-payer system. The purported moderate and conservative Democratic senators who objected to the public option because it would crowd out private insurers, do nothing to reduce costs, and insert the heavy hand of government into personal medical decisions should be doubly alarmed by this scheme. We’re going to herd millions of new, more sickly patients into a system that’s already facing financial strain — and then cut hundreds of billions in funding from that same system. Whoever thinks this can be done without severely impacting care and/or knocking a jumbo hole in the deficit raise your hand. No hands, I see.

Yes, it’s actually a worse plan than PelosiCare. That’s why Reid is so desperate to do this very, very fast. If it took only a day for the Post to figure this out, the rest of the Senate will certainly clue in by the end of the month. And once they do, it will become increasingly hard for conscientious senators to go along with this spasm of irresponsibility.

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Finding His Inner Pol

Noemie Emery smartly observes, “Patrolling the world is not an idea that appeals to Obama by nature, nor one he can reach without strain.” She explains:

He was not taken, like Kennedy, to North Church as a toddler, and made to recite “Paul Revere’s Ride.” In more ways than one he grew up outside of the mainland, with an outsider’s view of America’s presence, and when he came here, he gravitated to its more radical critics. … If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality, Obama is a liberal who is being mugged slowly by the realization that the weight of the world really does rest on his shoulders: That he is no longer an outsider or activist or a professor, but the real life commander in chief.

It isn’t yet clear that Obama has made that transition or is willing to put aside his lefty academic fixations. At West Point, he still couldn’t get out the word victory or avoid providing the netroots with a security blanket (i.e., a withdrawal date), which then had to be ripped from their clutches by the principal grown-up in the administration, Robert Gates. At West Point, Obama also felt compelled to prattle on about “prohibiting torture” (actually, he prohibited everything from a face slap to loud music; torture was illegal before) and closing Guantanamo. He’s still pressing ahead with the KSM civilian trial. All this suggests that he’s not quite able to give up the lure of leftist lawyers and activists, whose goal above all else is to demonstrate the Neanderthal-ness of the Bushies. Being commander in chief means fighting a war on terror against the terrorists, not the prior administration or our own intelligence community.

Meanwhile Obama seems blissfully unconcerned about Iran’s dogged pursuit of nuclear weapons and disdain for engagement. He seems to lack a viable Plan B. (Plan A was “Obama charms the mullahs by denigrating America.”) As Bob Kagan wrote recently, we don’t yet know whether Obama can play “hardball” with our enemies (the real ones, not Fox News and ObamaCare opponents).

But Obama is plainly a president in progress when it comes to foreign policy. He had no significant national-security or military experience before coming to the Oval Office, so it’s not surprising that he would treat war-planning like a negotiation over a public-works bill. Perhaps their all-consuming addiction to politics and desire to see foreign policy through the prism of domestic politics will, in this case, actually help the Obami get it right. After all, the public opposes a KSM civilian trial and the closing of Guantanamo, is willing to use military force to deprive the mullahs of nuclear weapons, and is supportive of a troop surge for Afghanistan. So if Obama can’t find his inner commander in chief, perhaps he can simply be a smart pol — something he’s quite practiced at.

Noemie Emery smartly observes, “Patrolling the world is not an idea that appeals to Obama by nature, nor one he can reach without strain.” She explains:

He was not taken, like Kennedy, to North Church as a toddler, and made to recite “Paul Revere’s Ride.” In more ways than one he grew up outside of the mainland, with an outsider’s view of America’s presence, and when he came here, he gravitated to its more radical critics. … If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality, Obama is a liberal who is being mugged slowly by the realization that the weight of the world really does rest on his shoulders: That he is no longer an outsider or activist or a professor, but the real life commander in chief.

It isn’t yet clear that Obama has made that transition or is willing to put aside his lefty academic fixations. At West Point, he still couldn’t get out the word victory or avoid providing the netroots with a security blanket (i.e., a withdrawal date), which then had to be ripped from their clutches by the principal grown-up in the administration, Robert Gates. At West Point, Obama also felt compelled to prattle on about “prohibiting torture” (actually, he prohibited everything from a face slap to loud music; torture was illegal before) and closing Guantanamo. He’s still pressing ahead with the KSM civilian trial. All this suggests that he’s not quite able to give up the lure of leftist lawyers and activists, whose goal above all else is to demonstrate the Neanderthal-ness of the Bushies. Being commander in chief means fighting a war on terror against the terrorists, not the prior administration or our own intelligence community.

Meanwhile Obama seems blissfully unconcerned about Iran’s dogged pursuit of nuclear weapons and disdain for engagement. He seems to lack a viable Plan B. (Plan A was “Obama charms the mullahs by denigrating America.”) As Bob Kagan wrote recently, we don’t yet know whether Obama can play “hardball” with our enemies (the real ones, not Fox News and ObamaCare opponents).

But Obama is plainly a president in progress when it comes to foreign policy. He had no significant national-security or military experience before coming to the Oval Office, so it’s not surprising that he would treat war-planning like a negotiation over a public-works bill. Perhaps their all-consuming addiction to politics and desire to see foreign policy through the prism of domestic politics will, in this case, actually help the Obami get it right. After all, the public opposes a KSM civilian trial and the closing of Guantanamo, is willing to use military force to deprive the mullahs of nuclear weapons, and is supportive of a troop surge for Afghanistan. So if Obama can’t find his inner commander in chief, perhaps he can simply be a smart pol — something he’s quite practiced at.

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The Docs Are Out

Groups that were lured by the White House to dog-and-pony confabs and promised sweetheart deals in exchange for acquiescence on health care have gotten a rude awakening: ObamaCare in its latest incarnation is a terrible bill antithetical to their members’ interests. Well, it’s not like they weren’t warned.

USA Today reports that the Medicare “buy-in” has set off a firestorm from an array of medical groups that have finally figured out what’s afoot:

“Bringing more people into a system that doesn’t work very well is not a good answer,” said Jeffrey Korsmo, executive director of the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center. “The current Medicare program is not sustainable.” … Many details have not been announced, but the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, pounced on a proposal to expand the seniors program because doctors receive less from Medicare than from private insurance for the same procedure. “If more people move into Medicare we’d … bear the financial brunt of this,” said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the hospital trade group.

Will this opposition from key groups make a difference? Only if senators care about what’s in the bill and whether we’re solving some problem or creating many new ones. And as for those groups that played footsie with the Democratic lawmakers and the White House, it should be a lesson that when liberal politicians come looking for a government-centric health-care “reform” plan, it is best to run the other way and use their resources to educate the public about the dangers of such a scheme (reduced technological innovation, doctor shortages, rationing, medicine by government “experts” rather than medical professionals). Otherwise, patients, hospitals, and doctors are going to wind up the losers.

Groups that were lured by the White House to dog-and-pony confabs and promised sweetheart deals in exchange for acquiescence on health care have gotten a rude awakening: ObamaCare in its latest incarnation is a terrible bill antithetical to their members’ interests. Well, it’s not like they weren’t warned.

USA Today reports that the Medicare “buy-in” has set off a firestorm from an array of medical groups that have finally figured out what’s afoot:

“Bringing more people into a system that doesn’t work very well is not a good answer,” said Jeffrey Korsmo, executive director of the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center. “The current Medicare program is not sustainable.” … Many details have not been announced, but the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, pounced on a proposal to expand the seniors program because doctors receive less from Medicare than from private insurance for the same procedure. “If more people move into Medicare we’d … bear the financial brunt of this,” said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the hospital trade group.

Will this opposition from key groups make a difference? Only if senators care about what’s in the bill and whether we’re solving some problem or creating many new ones. And as for those groups that played footsie with the Democratic lawmakers and the White House, it should be a lesson that when liberal politicians come looking for a government-centric health-care “reform” plan, it is best to run the other way and use their resources to educate the public about the dangers of such a scheme (reduced technological innovation, doctor shortages, rationing, medicine by government “experts” rather than medical professionals). Otherwise, patients, hospitals, and doctors are going to wind up the losers.

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Nobel Speech

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech could have been a whole lot worse. In fact, there is much for conservatives to crow about and much to drive the antiwar(s) Left up the wall. He did acknowledge the obvious:

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

But more important, the president gives perhaps his most robust defense yet of America’s role in the world and of his responsibilities as a wartime commander in chief. Moreover, he uses the E world — yes, evil. He explains:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

This will stick in the craw of the Left, which found George Bush hopelessly daft and downright dangerous for identifying “evildoers” and an “axis of evil” and which vilified (and still does) the vast neocon conspiracy (or Manichean conspiracy, as Peter Beinart recently sneered) — namely, those who have made the case for robust wars against the forces of evil that threaten America and the West.

Now before we get too carried away, the speech is not without much unnecessary liberal angst and considerable evidence of Obama’s infatuation with multilateralism. (“But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan.” We can’t act alone? What if others won’t act?) He insists on braying about his ill-conceived positions on the war on terror, and suggests that before his arrival, “torture” was permissible. (“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”)

He again gives a ludicrously limp warning to Iran and North Korea (“it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system”). And his paean to human rights reveals that there are no limits to the Obami’s hypocrisy. “We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” Bearing witness apparently does not involve doing anything other than taking notes.

But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics:

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war.

For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech could have been a whole lot worse. In fact, there is much for conservatives to crow about and much to drive the antiwar(s) Left up the wall. He did acknowledge the obvious:

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

But more important, the president gives perhaps his most robust defense yet of America’s role in the world and of his responsibilities as a wartime commander in chief. Moreover, he uses the E world — yes, evil. He explains:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

This will stick in the craw of the Left, which found George Bush hopelessly daft and downright dangerous for identifying “evildoers” and an “axis of evil” and which vilified (and still does) the vast neocon conspiracy (or Manichean conspiracy, as Peter Beinart recently sneered) — namely, those who have made the case for robust wars against the forces of evil that threaten America and the West.

Now before we get too carried away, the speech is not without much unnecessary liberal angst and considerable evidence of Obama’s infatuation with multilateralism. (“But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan.” We can’t act alone? What if others won’t act?) He insists on braying about his ill-conceived positions on the war on terror, and suggests that before his arrival, “torture” was permissible. (“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”)

He again gives a ludicrously limp warning to Iran and North Korea (“it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system”). And his paean to human rights reveals that there are no limits to the Obami’s hypocrisy. “We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” Bearing witness apparently does not involve doing anything other than taking notes.

But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics:

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war.

For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House.

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Gray Lady Poll: Conservative Views Prevail

Even with a sampling imbalance in favor Democrats (36 percent, to only 27 percent Republicans, as opposed to the recent Gallup survey showing a 6-point spread) and the polling of all adults (not even registered voters), the New York Times poll has some remarkably unpleasant news for liberals. Obama’s approval has slid 3 points in a month, to 50 percent, and their signature legislative item, health care, is seen by only 12 percent of the respondents as the most important issue (23 percent say the economy, 24 percent say jobs). Forty-two percent like the president’s handling of health care, while 50 percent disapprove. Thirty-four percent think health-care reform will hurt them personally, while 16 percent think it will help. Forty-two percent say it will make no difference.

On Afghanistan, the Gray Lady’s readers really may be shocked to discover that by a 49 to 39 percent margin, Americans think we’re doing the right thing fighting there; and by a 51 to 43 percent margin, they approve of the deployment of troops, even though by a 47 to 42 percent margin they think the president hasn’t explained his plan clearly enough. The kicker: by a margin of 55 to 41 percent, Americans disapprove of the “withdrawal date.” To pay for the war, 53 percent favor spending cuts, while only 10 percent favor tax hikes. Hmm. Sounds like the neocon conspiracy now extends to a majority of the country.

All in all, it’s quite an impressive showing — for the widespread acceptance of conservative views. But it sure must come as a shock to the New York Times‘s readers, who, if they only read the Times, would be lead to believe that Afghanistan is a disaster and health care is a must-have accomplishment for the Democratic party.

Even with a sampling imbalance in favor Democrats (36 percent, to only 27 percent Republicans, as opposed to the recent Gallup survey showing a 6-point spread) and the polling of all adults (not even registered voters), the New York Times poll has some remarkably unpleasant news for liberals. Obama’s approval has slid 3 points in a month, to 50 percent, and their signature legislative item, health care, is seen by only 12 percent of the respondents as the most important issue (23 percent say the economy, 24 percent say jobs). Forty-two percent like the president’s handling of health care, while 50 percent disapprove. Thirty-four percent think health-care reform will hurt them personally, while 16 percent think it will help. Forty-two percent say it will make no difference.

On Afghanistan, the Gray Lady’s readers really may be shocked to discover that by a 49 to 39 percent margin, Americans think we’re doing the right thing fighting there; and by a 51 to 43 percent margin, they approve of the deployment of troops, even though by a 47 to 42 percent margin they think the president hasn’t explained his plan clearly enough. The kicker: by a margin of 55 to 41 percent, Americans disapprove of the “withdrawal date.” To pay for the war, 53 percent favor spending cuts, while only 10 percent favor tax hikes. Hmm. Sounds like the neocon conspiracy now extends to a majority of the country.

All in all, it’s quite an impressive showing — for the widespread acceptance of conservative views. But it sure must come as a shock to the New York Times‘s readers, who, if they only read the Times, would be lead to believe that Afghanistan is a disaster and health care is a must-have accomplishment for the Democratic party.

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Losing Control in the Senate

Karl Rove reviews the list of vulnerable Democratic senators in places recently not seen as fertile ground for Republicans (e.g., Connecticut, Illinois, Delaware, Pennsylvania) and concludes:

The GOP probably won’t win control of the Senate, but Republicans lead five incumbent Democratic senators in the polls, often by double digits, and trail in just one seat of their own (by a point). A lot can happen in a year, but if Democrats keep telling themselves that their greatest danger will come from not passing monstrosities like Mr. Reid’s health-care bill, Republicans will have a target-rich environment next year. We are once again in a GOP ascendancy, sparked by talented, energetic challengers.

But as we have learned this year, “control” of the Senate is not 51 but 60 votes. Should Republicans pick up a handful of seats (giving them 41 plus a few to spare for inevitable defections), the Democrats will no longer have the ability to trample over the minority, and the rush of ultra-Left legislation will grind to a halt. Moreover, as the Democrats’ numbers shrink, wavering senators who’d really rather not be the deciding vote on controversial issues and join former colleagues in retirement will begin to have second thoughts about jumping onto the Obama legislative express.

The poll numbers for Democrats, albeit 11 months from Election Day 2010, are looking bleak, as is the president’s own standing, a good predictor of midterm elections. As Nate Silver put it:

The relationship between Presidential approval and his party’s performance at the midterms is fairly strong historically. So this would point toward a pretty steep loss for the Democrats (although you could have gathered that from other evidence without looking at Obama’s numbers).

Going back to 1954, the worst midterm wipeout in the Senate was in 1994 (8 seats), when Bill Clinton’s approval stood at 46 percent. As inconceivable as that may have seemed a year ago, a similar scenario may be in the offing in 2010. Senators who would like to remain senators should consider how they might go about saving their skins. Step No. 1 could be: don’t vote for a health-care bill their constituents hate.

Karl Rove reviews the list of vulnerable Democratic senators in places recently not seen as fertile ground for Republicans (e.g., Connecticut, Illinois, Delaware, Pennsylvania) and concludes:

The GOP probably won’t win control of the Senate, but Republicans lead five incumbent Democratic senators in the polls, often by double digits, and trail in just one seat of their own (by a point). A lot can happen in a year, but if Democrats keep telling themselves that their greatest danger will come from not passing monstrosities like Mr. Reid’s health-care bill, Republicans will have a target-rich environment next year. We are once again in a GOP ascendancy, sparked by talented, energetic challengers.

But as we have learned this year, “control” of the Senate is not 51 but 60 votes. Should Republicans pick up a handful of seats (giving them 41 plus a few to spare for inevitable defections), the Democrats will no longer have the ability to trample over the minority, and the rush of ultra-Left legislation will grind to a halt. Moreover, as the Democrats’ numbers shrink, wavering senators who’d really rather not be the deciding vote on controversial issues and join former colleagues in retirement will begin to have second thoughts about jumping onto the Obama legislative express.

The poll numbers for Democrats, albeit 11 months from Election Day 2010, are looking bleak, as is the president’s own standing, a good predictor of midterm elections. As Nate Silver put it:

The relationship between Presidential approval and his party’s performance at the midterms is fairly strong historically. So this would point toward a pretty steep loss for the Democrats (although you could have gathered that from other evidence without looking at Obama’s numbers).

Going back to 1954, the worst midterm wipeout in the Senate was in 1994 (8 seats), when Bill Clinton’s approval stood at 46 percent. As inconceivable as that may have seemed a year ago, a similar scenario may be in the offing in 2010. Senators who would like to remain senators should consider how they might go about saving their skins. Step No. 1 could be: don’t vote for a health-care bill their constituents hate.

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What Bad News?

This is not an administration that takes bad news well. Or to put it more precisely, this is not an administration that takes in bad news. The president pretended not to hear the Tea Party protesters outside his window in April. The administration brushed off ordinary citizens who turned out to object to ObamaCare at town-hall meetings in August as stooges of the insurance industry or ignoramuses. It went to war with Fox for refusing to toe the sycophantic line. And in December it’s reduced to screeching at Gallup for bearing bad polling news. (Watch out RealClearPolitics!)

Charles Franklin of Pollster.com responds to Robert Gibbs’s outburst:

Gibbs’ “EKG” analogy for President Obama’s approval level is typical rhetoric of any administration in trouble with the public. First imply the polls are “all over the place” and then assert that the president doesn’t govern based on polls. Dems and Reps alike reach a point in their approval ratings when they trot out these chestnuts. Sadly, both assertions are false and administrations that truly ignore public opinion are in more trouble than they know.

And another pollster explains:

I would have to heartily disagree with Gibbs’ comments — the reality is I have that situation all the time when I bring clients bad news. When I bring my clients good news they always tell me how smart I am and when I bring them bad news they tell me that I’m stupid and no better than a 6-year-old with a box of crayons.

The disinclination to hear and process bad news is part of human nature. No one, most especially a “sort of god” who had been virtually immune from criticism, likes to hear complaints and wails of disappointment. But a White House that treats critics as enemies and bad news as disinformation does so at its peril. Without a realistic picture of public opinion and how its own policies are being received, the administration is incapable of making the needed course corrections, personnel changes, and message refinements that every White House must undertake to keep from going off the rails.

This administration, however, seems to have a singular strategy: double down on its nasty rhetoric, keep turning Left on policy, rage at the media for missing the “real story,” and admit no errors. It’s a recipe for failure, both policy and political. The Obami may see more of both.

This is not an administration that takes bad news well. Or to put it more precisely, this is not an administration that takes in bad news. The president pretended not to hear the Tea Party protesters outside his window in April. The administration brushed off ordinary citizens who turned out to object to ObamaCare at town-hall meetings in August as stooges of the insurance industry or ignoramuses. It went to war with Fox for refusing to toe the sycophantic line. And in December it’s reduced to screeching at Gallup for bearing bad polling news. (Watch out RealClearPolitics!)

Charles Franklin of Pollster.com responds to Robert Gibbs’s outburst:

Gibbs’ “EKG” analogy for President Obama’s approval level is typical rhetoric of any administration in trouble with the public. First imply the polls are “all over the place” and then assert that the president doesn’t govern based on polls. Dems and Reps alike reach a point in their approval ratings when they trot out these chestnuts. Sadly, both assertions are false and administrations that truly ignore public opinion are in more trouble than they know.

And another pollster explains:

I would have to heartily disagree with Gibbs’ comments — the reality is I have that situation all the time when I bring clients bad news. When I bring my clients good news they always tell me how smart I am and when I bring them bad news they tell me that I’m stupid and no better than a 6-year-old with a box of crayons.

The disinclination to hear and process bad news is part of human nature. No one, most especially a “sort of god” who had been virtually immune from criticism, likes to hear complaints and wails of disappointment. But a White House that treats critics as enemies and bad news as disinformation does so at its peril. Without a realistic picture of public opinion and how its own policies are being received, the administration is incapable of making the needed course corrections, personnel changes, and message refinements that every White House must undertake to keep from going off the rails.

This administration, however, seems to have a singular strategy: double down on its nasty rhetoric, keep turning Left on policy, rage at the media for missing the “real story,” and admit no errors. It’s a recipe for failure, both policy and political. The Obami may see more of both.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Well this is a relief: “Gibbs: Obama knows he’s no Gandhi.”

One minute (1:56 p.m.) Robert Gibbs decries the “blame game” and the next (1:57 p.m.) he’s back blaming the Bush administration.

Sen. Chris Dodd trails all challengers.

Yuval Levin on Harry Reid’s grand health-care deal: “The parts make very little policy sense, individually or together, and don’t really make political sense outside the Senate either (for instance, sending huge numbers of younger people into Medicare is likely to turn off the AMA, which hates the way Medicare treats doctors, and will send the hospitals screaming for the same reason). But the idea is to cobble together whatever it takes to get 60 votes in the short term and worry about it later.”

But there really isn’t a deal, it seems: “Two centrist Democrats at the center of the Senate’s tense healthcare reform negotiations insisted that there has been no compromise deal on the legislation despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) pronouncements. ‘There’s no specific compromise. There were discussions,’ Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at a press conference Wednesday.” Blanche Lincoln says all they agreed to was to send the proposal to the CBO. You mean Harry Reid lied? Shocking.

But if there is a deal, liberals don’t like it. ABC News explains: “One week after President Obama’s liberal base opposed his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, several liberal groups are once again lining up against the president and Senate Democrats on the health care reform compromise worked out by the so-called Gang of Ten. … It will certainly be fascinating to watch how the White House and congressional Democrats will tend to their base and get them energized as the calendar turns to the midterm election year in January.”

Deal or no deal, the public doesn’t like what Obama is doing on health care. Pollster.com’s survey average shows 52.9 percent disapproval and 40.7 approval.

Another Democrat retires: “Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his retirement tonight, becoming the third Dem in a vulnerable seat to announce his departure in the last few weeks. … Baird is the third Dem in as many weeks to call it quits. Reps. Dennis Moore (R-KS) and John Tanner (R-TN) are the other two Dems, and all three sit in very marginal CDs. Dems explained Moore and Tanner’s retirements away as individual cases, and not the beginning of a coming wave of retirements. But Baird’s decision, which was unexpected, is sure to crank up expectations for further retirements.”

Elite opinion makers are always surprised when stories they’d like to ignore catch on: “‘Climategate’ has muddied the good green message that was supposed to come out of the United Nations climate change talks here, forcing leaders to spend time justifying the science behind global warming when they want to focus on ending it. … But again and again this week, U.N. officials and government leaders have felt the need to defend climate science in public — something few of them would have thought necessary just a few weeks ago.” Gotta love the “news” report defending the “good green message” from pesky distractions (that would be a massive scientific fraud challenging the basis for environmental hysteria).

Well this is a relief: “Gibbs: Obama knows he’s no Gandhi.”

One minute (1:56 p.m.) Robert Gibbs decries the “blame game” and the next (1:57 p.m.) he’s back blaming the Bush administration.

Sen. Chris Dodd trails all challengers.

Yuval Levin on Harry Reid’s grand health-care deal: “The parts make very little policy sense, individually or together, and don’t really make political sense outside the Senate either (for instance, sending huge numbers of younger people into Medicare is likely to turn off the AMA, which hates the way Medicare treats doctors, and will send the hospitals screaming for the same reason). But the idea is to cobble together whatever it takes to get 60 votes in the short term and worry about it later.”

But there really isn’t a deal, it seems: “Two centrist Democrats at the center of the Senate’s tense healthcare reform negotiations insisted that there has been no compromise deal on the legislation despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) pronouncements. ‘There’s no specific compromise. There were discussions,’ Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at a press conference Wednesday.” Blanche Lincoln says all they agreed to was to send the proposal to the CBO. You mean Harry Reid lied? Shocking.

But if there is a deal, liberals don’t like it. ABC News explains: “One week after President Obama’s liberal base opposed his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, several liberal groups are once again lining up against the president and Senate Democrats on the health care reform compromise worked out by the so-called Gang of Ten. … It will certainly be fascinating to watch how the White House and congressional Democrats will tend to their base and get them energized as the calendar turns to the midterm election year in January.”

Deal or no deal, the public doesn’t like what Obama is doing on health care. Pollster.com’s survey average shows 52.9 percent disapproval and 40.7 approval.

Another Democrat retires: “Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his retirement tonight, becoming the third Dem in a vulnerable seat to announce his departure in the last few weeks. … Baird is the third Dem in as many weeks to call it quits. Reps. Dennis Moore (R-KS) and John Tanner (R-TN) are the other two Dems, and all three sit in very marginal CDs. Dems explained Moore and Tanner’s retirements away as individual cases, and not the beginning of a coming wave of retirements. But Baird’s decision, which was unexpected, is sure to crank up expectations for further retirements.”

Elite opinion makers are always surprised when stories they’d like to ignore catch on: “‘Climategate’ has muddied the good green message that was supposed to come out of the United Nations climate change talks here, forcing leaders to spend time justifying the science behind global warming when they want to focus on ending it. … But again and again this week, U.N. officials and government leaders have felt the need to defend climate science in public — something few of them would have thought necessary just a few weeks ago.” Gotta love the “news” report defending the “good green message” from pesky distractions (that would be a massive scientific fraud challenging the basis for environmental hysteria).

Read Less




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