Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 14, 2009

RE: Can the Obama Administration Afford Any More Missteps?

Well, Pete, they had another today from Christina Romer, who seems to be, like Robert Gates, one of the few in this administration who really can’t lie. For months and months, Democrats have been pushing the notion that we’re going to save money by enacting health-care “reform.” This is balderdash, of course. Today Romer agreed:

We are going to be expanding coverage to some 30 million Americans. And, of course, that’s going to up the level of health-care spending. You can’t do that and not spend more.

But eventually, she says, there will be “a dramatic impact on where we are relative to where we might otherwise have been.” Sort of sounds like those millions of jobs “created or saved” by the stimulus plan that saw us go from 8 percent unemployment to double digits. She explains:

While the legislation initially would increase government spending on Medicare and Medicaid, Romer told reporters, the total cost of the two programs would begin to diminish by 2019, when the legislation would deliver an estimated $14 billion in savings. Lower payments to Medicare providers would translate into savings for Medicare beneficiaries, who have seen some premiums double over the past decade, rising at three times the rate of Social Security.

So by slashing payments to doctors and hospitals, we’ll save money. Maybe. In 10 years. Who could resist such a plan?

Well, Pete, they had another today from Christina Romer, who seems to be, like Robert Gates, one of the few in this administration who really can’t lie. For months and months, Democrats have been pushing the notion that we’re going to save money by enacting health-care “reform.” This is balderdash, of course. Today Romer agreed:

We are going to be expanding coverage to some 30 million Americans. And, of course, that’s going to up the level of health-care spending. You can’t do that and not spend more.

But eventually, she says, there will be “a dramatic impact on where we are relative to where we might otherwise have been.” Sort of sounds like those millions of jobs “created or saved” by the stimulus plan that saw us go from 8 percent unemployment to double digits. She explains:

While the legislation initially would increase government spending on Medicare and Medicaid, Romer told reporters, the total cost of the two programs would begin to diminish by 2019, when the legislation would deliver an estimated $14 billion in savings. Lower payments to Medicare providers would translate into savings for Medicare beneficiaries, who have seen some premiums double over the past decade, rising at three times the rate of Social Security.

So by slashing payments to doctors and hospitals, we’ll save money. Maybe. In 10 years. Who could resist such a plan?

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Personal?

Still stumped about the difference between funding Viagra and funding abortions, Sen. Barbara Boxer now laments that the climate-change debate has gotten off track:

Sen. Boxer criticized global warming skeptics who have “personalized” last month’s climate e-mail spat and this week’s talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. While the senator acknowledged the strong sentiments pervading this year’s debate are valid, she ultimately expressed concern the “personal” could soon “get in the way of the science.”

What’s “personal” about the discovery of e-mails showing an orchestrated scheme to conceal inconvenient data about climate change? What’s “personal” about a climate-change confab that has pitted the international emissions-limits agenda against developing countries’ ability to make a better life for their citizens by building a more prosperous society? I think that, in the Boxer lexicon, “personal” means “embarrassing facts that have popped up at a most inopportune time.”

One senses that things are not going so well for the environmental-hysteria mongers. But at least they’re consistent: so fervent in their belief system are they that all new evidence and new political developments inconsistent with the global-warming “emergency” must be discounted and ignored. Move along. Nothing to see. Let’s get back to the business of micromanaging economies.

The public seems increasingly unconvinced by this approach and more skeptical of the Chicken Little urgency that the global-warming crowd needs to justify the trillions to be spent and the economic regulation to be enacted. They must be taking it all too “personally.”

Still stumped about the difference between funding Viagra and funding abortions, Sen. Barbara Boxer now laments that the climate-change debate has gotten off track:

Sen. Boxer criticized global warming skeptics who have “personalized” last month’s climate e-mail spat and this week’s talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. While the senator acknowledged the strong sentiments pervading this year’s debate are valid, she ultimately expressed concern the “personal” could soon “get in the way of the science.”

What’s “personal” about the discovery of e-mails showing an orchestrated scheme to conceal inconvenient data about climate change? What’s “personal” about a climate-change confab that has pitted the international emissions-limits agenda against developing countries’ ability to make a better life for their citizens by building a more prosperous society? I think that, in the Boxer lexicon, “personal” means “embarrassing facts that have popped up at a most inopportune time.”

One senses that things are not going so well for the environmental-hysteria mongers. But at least they’re consistent: so fervent in their belief system are they that all new evidence and new political developments inconsistent with the global-warming “emergency” must be discounted and ignored. Move along. Nothing to see. Let’s get back to the business of micromanaging economies.

The public seems increasingly unconvinced by this approach and more skeptical of the Chicken Little urgency that the global-warming crowd needs to justify the trillions to be spent and the economic regulation to be enacted. They must be taking it all too “personally.”

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Can the Obama Administration Afford Any More Missteps?

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

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RE: Reid Panics

Now it’s the White House’s turn to panic. The Obami are apparently unimpressed with Harry Reid’s attempt to pin the collapse of health-care reform on Sen. Joe Lieberman. So they are throwing Reid and his “unnamed senatorial leadership aides” under the bus and telling them to figure out how to make a deal, if needed, without a nonsensical Medicare buy-in concoction. But Reid is having none of that:

Reid is described as so frustrated with Lieberman that he is not ready to sacrifice a key element of the health care bill, and first wants to see the Congressional Budget Office cost analysis of the Medicare buy-in. The analysis is expected early this week.

He really wants that CBO scoring? Well, that’s what he says. But now we’re into face-saving on the face-saving deal (Medicare buy-in), so every day Reid’s strategy makes less and less sense. Benjamin Zycher points out the irony here:

[T]he Left could have had health-care socialism passed on a bipartisan basis months ago, if only they had suppressed their hubris. Republicans were (and remain) perfectly willing to approve community-rating and guaranteed-access regulations for private insurers; and if those were implemented, no one would need a government option or any of the other nostrums: Coverage would be transformed into a public-utility-type service, the insurers would remain “private” in only the most superficial of senses, and the government control and wealth transfers that represent the Holy Grails of the Left would be achieved.

But the Democrats, as Zycher observes, “just could not resist the temptation to shove it all down our throats.” And now Reid can’t bring himself to give up his Medicare buy-in Ponzi scheme. Conservatives should count themselves very fortunate to have Democratic leadership this inept.

UPDATE: This now from Greg Sargent suggests the legislative buffoonery continues. He received an email from the White House senior communications adviser “The report is inaccurate. The White House is not pushing Senator Reid in any direction. We are working hand in hand with the Senate Leadership to work through the various issues and pass health reform as soon as possible.” Sargent’s interpretation: “Whatever the case, it doesn’t seem unlikely that the Medicare buy-in will be dropped if that’s what is necessary to get to 60 votes. But the White House insists it’s not pushing for any such thing, at least for now.” For now. But the day is not done. The comedy isn’t over.

Now it’s the White House’s turn to panic. The Obami are apparently unimpressed with Harry Reid’s attempt to pin the collapse of health-care reform on Sen. Joe Lieberman. So they are throwing Reid and his “unnamed senatorial leadership aides” under the bus and telling them to figure out how to make a deal, if needed, without a nonsensical Medicare buy-in concoction. But Reid is having none of that:

Reid is described as so frustrated with Lieberman that he is not ready to sacrifice a key element of the health care bill, and first wants to see the Congressional Budget Office cost analysis of the Medicare buy-in. The analysis is expected early this week.

He really wants that CBO scoring? Well, that’s what he says. But now we’re into face-saving on the face-saving deal (Medicare buy-in), so every day Reid’s strategy makes less and less sense. Benjamin Zycher points out the irony here:

[T]he Left could have had health-care socialism passed on a bipartisan basis months ago, if only they had suppressed their hubris. Republicans were (and remain) perfectly willing to approve community-rating and guaranteed-access regulations for private insurers; and if those were implemented, no one would need a government option or any of the other nostrums: Coverage would be transformed into a public-utility-type service, the insurers would remain “private” in only the most superficial of senses, and the government control and wealth transfers that represent the Holy Grails of the Left would be achieved.

But the Democrats, as Zycher observes, “just could not resist the temptation to shove it all down our throats.” And now Reid can’t bring himself to give up his Medicare buy-in Ponzi scheme. Conservatives should count themselves very fortunate to have Democratic leadership this inept.

UPDATE: This now from Greg Sargent suggests the legislative buffoonery continues. He received an email from the White House senior communications adviser “The report is inaccurate. The White House is not pushing Senator Reid in any direction. We are working hand in hand with the Senate Leadership to work through the various issues and pass health reform as soon as possible.” Sargent’s interpretation: “Whatever the case, it doesn’t seem unlikely that the Medicare buy-in will be dropped if that’s what is necessary to get to 60 votes. But the White House insists it’s not pushing for any such thing, at least for now.” For now. But the day is not done. The comedy isn’t over.

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What if a Synagogue Were Burned and Other Silly Questions

The New York Times reports that the “West Bank Is Tense After Arson at Mosque,” which is believed to be the work of Jewish extremists. Palestinian Arabs are rightly upset at this crime. So are Israelis. And therein hangs the tale of Middle East peace.

The fire at the mosque in the village of Yasuf appears to have been set last week by some Jewish settlers demonstrating their anger toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to temporarily freeze building in Jewish communities in the West Bank. Extremists have vowed to counter such moves by increasing tensions with the Arabs. If it is true that Jews committed this crime, this is clearly madness and is rejected not only by the overwhelming majority of the people of Israel but also by the overwhelming majority of the approximately 300,000 Jews who live in the settlements. Local Jewish religious leaders attempted to visit Yasuf to express their condolences, but they were prevented from going there. So instead they met with Munir Abbushi, the Palestinian Authority’s regional governor, and presented him with new Korans. Abbushi accepted the Korans but then stated that Palestinian independence would mean that all Jews would have to be removed from the region. The Palestinians reject the right of Jews to live in their midst under any circumstances and regardless of who has or has not committed crimes.

But if you really wanted to get a feel for how differently the two communities think about these things, ask yourself what would happen if, instead of a mosque, a synagogue had been burned down. But this is not a hypothetical question.

In October 2000, at the start of the Palestinians’ second intifada, the Tomb of Joseph, a Jewish holy site in Nablus that served as a synagogue and religious school, was literally torn to pieces by an Arab mob. As Palestinian Authority “police” looked on, the mob destroyed the building and burned the sacred texts inside. But instead of treating the crime as an embarrassment to the national cause, among Palestinians it was treated as a cause for celebration. Another ancient synagogue in Jericho was also burned down that month. And even before the intifada, the Tomb of Rachel, a Jewish shrine near Bethlehem, was subjected to continual attacks. It had to be surrounded by fortifications to keep both the building and worshipers from harm.

In 2005, the Israeli government evacuated Gaza and removed every single Jewish soldier and settler from the area. The only things left behind were buildings, including the synagogues that had served the Jews who were forced out. But rather than treat these edifices with respect, if only to use them for their own purposes, the Palestinians burned every one down in a barbaric communal orgy of destruction. Again, no apologies were forthcoming from the Palestinians. Nor did world opinion treat this incident as worthy of condemnation. The fact that the Palestinians could not bring themselves to let even one former synagogue stand was a frightening reminder that the two sides still don’t view the conflict in the same way. To the Palestinians, this is not a tragic misunderstanding between two peoples but rather a zero-sum game.

So, as much as friends of Israel are right to condemn the mosque attack, let us not forget that when the tables were turned and Jewish sensibilities were offended, the Palestinians were not only unwilling to condemn similar incidents but instead celebrated them. Until that imbalance changes, hopes for peace will never be realized.

The New York Times reports that the “West Bank Is Tense After Arson at Mosque,” which is believed to be the work of Jewish extremists. Palestinian Arabs are rightly upset at this crime. So are Israelis. And therein hangs the tale of Middle East peace.

The fire at the mosque in the village of Yasuf appears to have been set last week by some Jewish settlers demonstrating their anger toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to temporarily freeze building in Jewish communities in the West Bank. Extremists have vowed to counter such moves by increasing tensions with the Arabs. If it is true that Jews committed this crime, this is clearly madness and is rejected not only by the overwhelming majority of the people of Israel but also by the overwhelming majority of the approximately 300,000 Jews who live in the settlements. Local Jewish religious leaders attempted to visit Yasuf to express their condolences, but they were prevented from going there. So instead they met with Munir Abbushi, the Palestinian Authority’s regional governor, and presented him with new Korans. Abbushi accepted the Korans but then stated that Palestinian independence would mean that all Jews would have to be removed from the region. The Palestinians reject the right of Jews to live in their midst under any circumstances and regardless of who has or has not committed crimes.

But if you really wanted to get a feel for how differently the two communities think about these things, ask yourself what would happen if, instead of a mosque, a synagogue had been burned down. But this is not a hypothetical question.

In October 2000, at the start of the Palestinians’ second intifada, the Tomb of Joseph, a Jewish holy site in Nablus that served as a synagogue and religious school, was literally torn to pieces by an Arab mob. As Palestinian Authority “police” looked on, the mob destroyed the building and burned the sacred texts inside. But instead of treating the crime as an embarrassment to the national cause, among Palestinians it was treated as a cause for celebration. Another ancient synagogue in Jericho was also burned down that month. And even before the intifada, the Tomb of Rachel, a Jewish shrine near Bethlehem, was subjected to continual attacks. It had to be surrounded by fortifications to keep both the building and worshipers from harm.

In 2005, the Israeli government evacuated Gaza and removed every single Jewish soldier and settler from the area. The only things left behind were buildings, including the synagogues that had served the Jews who were forced out. But rather than treat these edifices with respect, if only to use them for their own purposes, the Palestinians burned every one down in a barbaric communal orgy of destruction. Again, no apologies were forthcoming from the Palestinians. Nor did world opinion treat this incident as worthy of condemnation. The fact that the Palestinians could not bring themselves to let even one former synagogue stand was a frightening reminder that the two sides still don’t view the conflict in the same way. To the Palestinians, this is not a tragic misunderstanding between two peoples but rather a zero-sum game.

So, as much as friends of Israel are right to condemn the mosque attack, let us not forget that when the tables were turned and Jewish sensibilities were offended, the Palestinians were not only unwilling to condemn similar incidents but instead celebrated them. Until that imbalance changes, hopes for peace will never be realized.

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Fleeing the Scene?

In an e-mail update, the Cook Political Report describes the latest Democratic retirement: “Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon’s decision to retire from a district that is 13 points more Republican than the national average presents House Democrats with their most problematic open seat yet. It is the fourth troublesome retirement for Democrats in as many weeks, bringing the total number of open seats in marginal or GOP-leaning districts to seven.” It’s officially a trend. As Chris Cillizza observes: “Democratic strategists have insisted that the series of retirements are isolated cases not indicative of a broader fear among Members of Congress that the political environment is shaping up badly for their party in 2010. It may be more difficult to make that argument now.”

Or even impossible. It’s pretty hard to make the case that things are going well for the Democrats. Obama has hit a new low in Rasmussen, at 44 percent, creating tweezer-like graphs. And the congressional generic polling looks very red. Things can change, of course. But the danger for the Democrats in the meantime is that the retirements pile up, better GOP candidates enter the race, donors on the Democratic side get depressed, and the polling becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit explains the concern:

“Republicans are more and more in position to pick up a lot of Congressional seats next year,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “The tide continues to turn against the Democrats and that’s putting some districts that haven’t been close in quite a while into the competitive category.”

Congress could stop annoying the voters, of course: end the frenzied search for a magic formula to take over health care, work on some common-sense job-creation ideas, dial back on the spending binge, and find popular, bipartisan measures to champion (on education, for example). But it seems that’s not yet the game plan. Maybe some more retirements will do the trick.

In an e-mail update, the Cook Political Report describes the latest Democratic retirement: “Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon’s decision to retire from a district that is 13 points more Republican than the national average presents House Democrats with their most problematic open seat yet. It is the fourth troublesome retirement for Democrats in as many weeks, bringing the total number of open seats in marginal or GOP-leaning districts to seven.” It’s officially a trend. As Chris Cillizza observes: “Democratic strategists have insisted that the series of retirements are isolated cases not indicative of a broader fear among Members of Congress that the political environment is shaping up badly for their party in 2010. It may be more difficult to make that argument now.”

Or even impossible. It’s pretty hard to make the case that things are going well for the Democrats. Obama has hit a new low in Rasmussen, at 44 percent, creating tweezer-like graphs. And the congressional generic polling looks very red. Things can change, of course. But the danger for the Democrats in the meantime is that the retirements pile up, better GOP candidates enter the race, donors on the Democratic side get depressed, and the polling becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit explains the concern:

“Republicans are more and more in position to pick up a lot of Congressional seats next year,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “The tide continues to turn against the Democrats and that’s putting some districts that haven’t been close in quite a while into the competitive category.”

Congress could stop annoying the voters, of course: end the frenzied search for a magic formula to take over health care, work on some common-sense job-creation ideas, dial back on the spending binge, and find popular, bipartisan measures to champion (on education, for example). But it seems that’s not yet the game plan. Maybe some more retirements will do the trick.

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They Decided?

I didn’t watch President Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes last night, which Jennifer reported on this morning. But I was struck by one thing she quotes Obama as saying, that this war in Afghanistan ”was foisted on us as a consequence of 19 men deciding to kill thousands of Americans back in 2001.”

The 19 decided? The 19 men didn’t “decide” to fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon any more than the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor decided to sink the American Pacific fleet in 1941. They were ordered to after elaborate planning and strategic decisions were made by a large and complex organization that regarded itself as an enemy of America.

This strikes me as a window into the inner Obama. In his head he knows that this is a war and has to be fought as one. That’s why he ordered 30,000 additional troops into a foreign country and made the speech he made at West Point. But perhaps the reason he seemed so unhappy making it is that, in his heart, he still thinks of 9/11 as a crime, a horrendous one to be sure, but a discrete act by evil men, operating on their own authority, like bank robbers.

I didn’t watch President Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes last night, which Jennifer reported on this morning. But I was struck by one thing she quotes Obama as saying, that this war in Afghanistan ”was foisted on us as a consequence of 19 men deciding to kill thousands of Americans back in 2001.”

The 19 decided? The 19 men didn’t “decide” to fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon any more than the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor decided to sink the American Pacific fleet in 1941. They were ordered to after elaborate planning and strategic decisions were made by a large and complex organization that regarded itself as an enemy of America.

This strikes me as a window into the inner Obama. In his head he knows that this is a war and has to be fought as one. That’s why he ordered 30,000 additional troops into a foreign country and made the speech he made at West Point. But perhaps the reason he seemed so unhappy making it is that, in his heart, he still thinks of 9/11 as a crime, a horrendous one to be sure, but a discrete act by evil men, operating on their own authority, like bank robbers.

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All in the Name of Diversity

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is looking into suspected gender discrimination at colleges and universities. As this report explains, women are “more plentiful” in college admissions, despite years of angst generated by the feminist civil-rights lobby about supposed discrimination against girls. Women are approaching 60 percent of the applicant pool. So it may be that, in the name of gender bias, schools are now trying to suppress the number of females they admit in order to give a boost to less deserving males:

William and Mary admitted 43 percent of its male applicants and 29 percent of its female applicants in fall 2008, according to its institutional data. Vassar College in New York’s Hudson Valley admitted 34 percent of the men who applied and 21 percent of the women. Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania admitted 19 percent of male applicants and 14 percent of female applicants. Wesleyan University in Connecticut admitted 30 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women. Female applicants far outnumbered male candidates at all four schools.

This week the commission will decide on the precise schools to examine from a pool of “nonprofit, non-seminary, four-year institutions that have more than 1,000 students, are at least moderately selective and are within 100 miles of Washington.” If the schools are public or publicly funded and have a two-tiered system for women and male applicants, “that would be illegal,” a commission spokeswoman explained.

Some of the college administrators aren’t so adept at covering their tracks. For example, the dean of admissions at the University of Richmond confides: “It’s always going to be an issue because there are not enough men in the pipeline.” So they need a little “help,” one supposes, so that “enough” men arrive on campus. Others try to obscure the issue in a haze of verbiage, parroting the language of applicable Supreme Court cases that have held that, for example, admissions officers can consider the applicant’s race as one of many factors:

According to higher-education leaders, investigators will be hard-pressed to find a college, public or private, that is intentionally favoring one sex over the other. Most of the region’s selective colleges practice “holistic” admissions, a process that considers each applicant as an individual, and as a whole, rather than as a sum of grades, test scores and demographic traits, in the quest to build a diverse class.

“In terms of importance, an applicant’s gender is near the bottom of the list of factors considered,” said Tony Pals, spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in the District.

“Near the bottom” — but apparently still a factor.

This is noteworthy for several reasons. First, where are the Justice Department and so-called feminist groups? They apparently don’t much care if women are now on the short end of gender preferences. It’s all about “diversity,” you see. And second, one realizes how misplaced has been the hue and cry about anti-female discrimination in education. Apparently there is no civil-rights or other organization upset that men now make up only 40 percent of the college-admissions pool. Are they being discriminated against? Are their educational needs being ignored? We don’t know, and no one seems interested in finding out why.

As I and others have pointed out before, the commission is filling a gap in the civil-rights arena, asking questions others won’t. The results of the study should be illuminating.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is looking into suspected gender discrimination at colleges and universities. As this report explains, women are “more plentiful” in college admissions, despite years of angst generated by the feminist civil-rights lobby about supposed discrimination against girls. Women are approaching 60 percent of the applicant pool. So it may be that, in the name of gender bias, schools are now trying to suppress the number of females they admit in order to give a boost to less deserving males:

William and Mary admitted 43 percent of its male applicants and 29 percent of its female applicants in fall 2008, according to its institutional data. Vassar College in New York’s Hudson Valley admitted 34 percent of the men who applied and 21 percent of the women. Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania admitted 19 percent of male applicants and 14 percent of female applicants. Wesleyan University in Connecticut admitted 30 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women. Female applicants far outnumbered male candidates at all four schools.

This week the commission will decide on the precise schools to examine from a pool of “nonprofit, non-seminary, four-year institutions that have more than 1,000 students, are at least moderately selective and are within 100 miles of Washington.” If the schools are public or publicly funded and have a two-tiered system for women and male applicants, “that would be illegal,” a commission spokeswoman explained.

Some of the college administrators aren’t so adept at covering their tracks. For example, the dean of admissions at the University of Richmond confides: “It’s always going to be an issue because there are not enough men in the pipeline.” So they need a little “help,” one supposes, so that “enough” men arrive on campus. Others try to obscure the issue in a haze of verbiage, parroting the language of applicable Supreme Court cases that have held that, for example, admissions officers can consider the applicant’s race as one of many factors:

According to higher-education leaders, investigators will be hard-pressed to find a college, public or private, that is intentionally favoring one sex over the other. Most of the region’s selective colleges practice “holistic” admissions, a process that considers each applicant as an individual, and as a whole, rather than as a sum of grades, test scores and demographic traits, in the quest to build a diverse class.

“In terms of importance, an applicant’s gender is near the bottom of the list of factors considered,” said Tony Pals, spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in the District.

“Near the bottom” — but apparently still a factor.

This is noteworthy for several reasons. First, where are the Justice Department and so-called feminist groups? They apparently don’t much care if women are now on the short end of gender preferences. It’s all about “diversity,” you see. And second, one realizes how misplaced has been the hue and cry about anti-female discrimination in education. Apparently there is no civil-rights or other organization upset that men now make up only 40 percent of the college-admissions pool. Are they being discriminated against? Are their educational needs being ignored? We don’t know, and no one seems interested in finding out why.

As I and others have pointed out before, the commission is filling a gap in the civil-rights arena, asking questions others won’t. The results of the study should be illuminating.

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Web Exclusive: Dodging Shoes, One Year Later

What a difference a year makes when it comes to breaches of presidential security. Oh, how the world laughed when an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at President Bush during a news conference in Baghdad on December 14 last year. The episode in the waning days of the Bush administration was catnip for the chattering class: an aptly ludicrous finale for a presidency that smug critics had lampooned at every opportunity.

Yet when a genuinely comic security lapse occurred nearly 12 months later—the invasion of a White House state dinner by a couple apparently bent on the shabby fame of reality TV—the same folks who guffawed at the Baghdad shoe-throwing episode fretted about the potential threat to President Obama. A congressional hearing was quickly convened for the airing of much worried tut-tutting.


To continue reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

What a difference a year makes when it comes to breaches of presidential security. Oh, how the world laughed when an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at President Bush during a news conference in Baghdad on December 14 last year. The episode in the waning days of the Bush administration was catnip for the chattering class: an aptly ludicrous finale for a presidency that smug critics had lampooned at every opportunity.

Yet when a genuinely comic security lapse occurred nearly 12 months later—the invasion of a White House state dinner by a couple apparently bent on the shabby fame of reality TV—the same folks who guffawed at the Baghdad shoe-throwing episode fretted about the potential threat to President Obama. A congressional hearing was quickly convened for the airing of much worried tut-tutting.


To continue reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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The Real Hypocrisy

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick, observing NPR’s ever-so-helpful effort to assist in the Obami’s Fox vendetta by pressuring Mara Liasson to stay off its news programs, spots the double standard at play. He writes:

“By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations,” declared Jacob Weisberg in a Newsweek column titled “Why Fox News Is Un-American” (remember that title the next time a liberal accuses a conservative of “questioning my patriotism”). “Respectable journalists — I’m talking to you, Mara Liasson — should stop appearing on its programs,” Weisberg insisted.

Kirchick wants to know why Weisberg hasn’t spotted the ”violators of the Fourth Estate’s vaunted ethical standards” in his own shop — those who regularly turn up on the netroot network, MSNBC. Yes, it seems that Newsweek‘s supposedly impartial newsmen — Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, and Jonathan Alter — all have visited Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Unlike Liasson, who confines herself to news programs, this trio has offered themselves up as bit players in Olbermann’s rant-athon and cogs in the Obama hype-machine. And, as Kirchick notes, Wolffe wrote a slobbering account of the Obama campaign. And then there was this embarrassing episode:

This year, Fineman went beyond the bounds of journalistic propriety by introducing Olbermann at a political fund-raiser. “He’s not a liberal,” Fineman gushed. “What Keith is is an anti-establishment character who doesn’t want people in power to get away with things.” Fineman added that Olbermann “rediscovered the role of journalism and that role is deeply informed judgment about people in power and about the morality of our country.”

Yikes. But perhaps the Newsweek vs. NPR journalist comparison isn’t precisely accurate. Liasson actually is a neutral newsperson who makes some effort to cover events fairly and to leave hyper-partisan invectives to others. She might be cheerily susceptible to liberal spin, but she’s not in the business of spinning for the Obami herself or gratuitously throwing jabs at the Right.

By contrast, the new Newsweek gang gave up “news” reporting a while ago. The entire publication is now devoted to Obama-hype and slams against the usual conservative suspects, those in biking shorts and with talk-radio shows in particular. Newsweek is, in effect, the MSNBC of the weekly “news” magazine world, minus the more extreme Republicans = Nazis formulations one hears on Countdown. So the real hypocrisy here is not only that the media elites see Liasson alone as violating some code of journalistic purity; it is that they accept the pretense that Newsweek is a news outlet rather than a liberal opinion journal in search of an audience.

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick, observing NPR’s ever-so-helpful effort to assist in the Obami’s Fox vendetta by pressuring Mara Liasson to stay off its news programs, spots the double standard at play. He writes:

“By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations,” declared Jacob Weisberg in a Newsweek column titled “Why Fox News Is Un-American” (remember that title the next time a liberal accuses a conservative of “questioning my patriotism”). “Respectable journalists — I’m talking to you, Mara Liasson — should stop appearing on its programs,” Weisberg insisted.

Kirchick wants to know why Weisberg hasn’t spotted the ”violators of the Fourth Estate’s vaunted ethical standards” in his own shop — those who regularly turn up on the netroot network, MSNBC. Yes, it seems that Newsweek‘s supposedly impartial newsmen — Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, and Jonathan Alter — all have visited Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Unlike Liasson, who confines herself to news programs, this trio has offered themselves up as bit players in Olbermann’s rant-athon and cogs in the Obama hype-machine. And, as Kirchick notes, Wolffe wrote a slobbering account of the Obama campaign. And then there was this embarrassing episode:

This year, Fineman went beyond the bounds of journalistic propriety by introducing Olbermann at a political fund-raiser. “He’s not a liberal,” Fineman gushed. “What Keith is is an anti-establishment character who doesn’t want people in power to get away with things.” Fineman added that Olbermann “rediscovered the role of journalism and that role is deeply informed judgment about people in power and about the morality of our country.”

Yikes. But perhaps the Newsweek vs. NPR journalist comparison isn’t precisely accurate. Liasson actually is a neutral newsperson who makes some effort to cover events fairly and to leave hyper-partisan invectives to others. She might be cheerily susceptible to liberal spin, but she’s not in the business of spinning for the Obami herself or gratuitously throwing jabs at the Right.

By contrast, the new Newsweek gang gave up “news” reporting a while ago. The entire publication is now devoted to Obama-hype and slams against the usual conservative suspects, those in biking shorts and with talk-radio shows in particular. Newsweek is, in effect, the MSNBC of the weekly “news” magazine world, minus the more extreme Republicans = Nazis formulations one hears on Countdown. So the real hypocrisy here is not only that the media elites see Liasson alone as violating some code of journalistic purity; it is that they accept the pretense that Newsweek is a news outlet rather than a liberal opinion journal in search of an audience.

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Toward a Saner Policy on Free Speech

Kudos to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak for yesterday’s decision to oust a yeshiva from the hesder program, which combines Torah study with army service, thereby laying down an important principle: the right to say what you please does not include the right to do so on the government’s dime.

The Har Bracha Yeshiva was expelled because its head, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, repeatedly urged his soldier-students to disobey orders to evacuate settlements. Were Melamed a private individual, this would have been unexceptionable. I vehemently oppose such disobedience, because it would undermine the army, on which Israel’s survival depends. But the other side has serious arguments as well — from the importance of obeying one’s conscience to the value of civil disobedience as a way of protesting problematic policies. Hence in principle, Melamed’s position is a legitimate part of the ongoing political debate.

But it ought to be clear that you cannot urge your soldier-students to disobey orders while accepting NIS 700,000 a year — 20 percent of your budget — from the very army you are telling them to disobey. The army need not and should not be funding activities aimed at undermining its ability to function.

Unfortunately, Barak’s decision did not fully establish this principle, as one other yeshiva whose head advocates disobedience remains in the hesder (which includes 61 yeshivas altogether). Indeed, Barak probably wouldn’t have expelled Har Bracha had Melamed not publicly humiliated him by refusing even to meet with him to discuss the issue.

Still, this is the first time a yeshiva has ever been removed from the program. And therefore it sets an important precedent.

What is necessary now is to expand this precedent to other areas of Israeli life. For instance, while it’s legitimate in principle for a professor to advocate boycotting Israel, it is not legitimate to do so while accepting a salary from the very university — and often, the very state — you are asking your overseas colleagues to boycott. How private institutions handle this issue is their business, but most Israeli colleges and universities are state funded. And the state should not be underwriting the paychecks of those who are soliciting others to boycott it.

Similarly, while it’s legitimate for ultra-Orthodox parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs, the state need not and should not finance a curriculum it deems inimical to its long-term health — because that curriculum both preaches eschewing work and army service in favor of full-time Torah study and omits secular subjects necessary to the modern workplace, such as English and math. Yet currently, the state covers up to 75 percent of these schools’ budgets.

For too long, Israel has acted as if the right to free speech includes the right to government financing for your views. Barak’s decision is a first step toward a more rational policy under which people may still say what they please, but the state will no longer finance views it deems inimical. Its importance thus goes far beyond a single yeshiva.

Kudos to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak for yesterday’s decision to oust a yeshiva from the hesder program, which combines Torah study with army service, thereby laying down an important principle: the right to say what you please does not include the right to do so on the government’s dime.

The Har Bracha Yeshiva was expelled because its head, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, repeatedly urged his soldier-students to disobey orders to evacuate settlements. Were Melamed a private individual, this would have been unexceptionable. I vehemently oppose such disobedience, because it would undermine the army, on which Israel’s survival depends. But the other side has serious arguments as well — from the importance of obeying one’s conscience to the value of civil disobedience as a way of protesting problematic policies. Hence in principle, Melamed’s position is a legitimate part of the ongoing political debate.

But it ought to be clear that you cannot urge your soldier-students to disobey orders while accepting NIS 700,000 a year — 20 percent of your budget — from the very army you are telling them to disobey. The army need not and should not be funding activities aimed at undermining its ability to function.

Unfortunately, Barak’s decision did not fully establish this principle, as one other yeshiva whose head advocates disobedience remains in the hesder (which includes 61 yeshivas altogether). Indeed, Barak probably wouldn’t have expelled Har Bracha had Melamed not publicly humiliated him by refusing even to meet with him to discuss the issue.

Still, this is the first time a yeshiva has ever been removed from the program. And therefore it sets an important precedent.

What is necessary now is to expand this precedent to other areas of Israeli life. For instance, while it’s legitimate in principle for a professor to advocate boycotting Israel, it is not legitimate to do so while accepting a salary from the very university — and often, the very state — you are asking your overseas colleagues to boycott. How private institutions handle this issue is their business, but most Israeli colleges and universities are state funded. And the state should not be underwriting the paychecks of those who are soliciting others to boycott it.

Similarly, while it’s legitimate for ultra-Orthodox parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs, the state need not and should not finance a curriculum it deems inimical to its long-term health — because that curriculum both preaches eschewing work and army service in favor of full-time Torah study and omits secular subjects necessary to the modern workplace, such as English and math. Yet currently, the state covers up to 75 percent of these schools’ budgets.

For too long, Israel has acted as if the right to free speech includes the right to government financing for your views. Barak’s decision is a first step toward a more rational policy under which people may still say what they please, but the state will no longer finance views it deems inimical. Its importance thus goes far beyond a single yeshiva.

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60 Minutes and One Giant Step Back

For those celebrating the West Point and Oslo speeches – and reassured by Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates that the 18-month ”deadline” wasn’t a deadline, Obama’s 60 Minutes interview should come as a rude awakening. The lefty netroot rhetoric, contemptuous of the idea that victory is America’s goal and that of the commander in chief, was back in full force. And typically for Obama, it came in an apparent fit of pique after Steve Kroft criticized his West Point speech as too detached and unemotional:

You know, that was actually probably the most emotional speech that I’ve made, in terms of how I felt about it. Because I was looking out over a group of cadets, some of whom were gonna be deployed in Afghanistan. And potentially some might not come back.

There is not a speech that I’ve made that hit me in the gut as much as that speech. But I do think that it was important in that speech to recognize that there are costs to war. That this is a burden we don’t welcome. It’s one that was foisted on us as a consequence of 19 men deciding to kill thousands of Americans back in 2001. That there’s unfinished business. And, you know, I think that one of the mistakes that was made over the last eight years is for us to have a triumphant sense about war. This is a tough business. And there are tough costs to it. And I think because it was detached from our day to day lives in so many ways — unless you were a military family; unless you were one of those who were being deployed. Because we didn’t even get asked to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was a tendency to say, “We can go in. We can kick some tail. You know this is some glorious exercise.”

For starters, there’s something odd indeed about this president if he considers his West Point offering an emotional speech. (Perhaps next time he could tap his foot or the podium to signal his heightened emotional state.) But the remainder of his comments on this point are simply jaw-dropping. We learn that he’s above all that “We win, they lose” sort of stuff. We have troops in the field, and this president disparages the notion that we should commit ourselves to victory — triumph – and declare our motives “glorious.” Are they not? Isn’t this about fighting “evil”? One can hardly imagine any other president turning up his nose at the idea that we should unashamedly declare ourselves devoted to triumph in battle or that our cause in defending ourselves (and Western civilization) is anything other than glorious. Can one imagine if he had said that in front of the West Point cadets? I suspect he wouldn’t have dared. Read More

For those celebrating the West Point and Oslo speeches – and reassured by Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates that the 18-month ”deadline” wasn’t a deadline, Obama’s 60 Minutes interview should come as a rude awakening. The lefty netroot rhetoric, contemptuous of the idea that victory is America’s goal and that of the commander in chief, was back in full force. And typically for Obama, it came in an apparent fit of pique after Steve Kroft criticized his West Point speech as too detached and unemotional:

You know, that was actually probably the most emotional speech that I’ve made, in terms of how I felt about it. Because I was looking out over a group of cadets, some of whom were gonna be deployed in Afghanistan. And potentially some might not come back.

There is not a speech that I’ve made that hit me in the gut as much as that speech. But I do think that it was important in that speech to recognize that there are costs to war. That this is a burden we don’t welcome. It’s one that was foisted on us as a consequence of 19 men deciding to kill thousands of Americans back in 2001. That there’s unfinished business. And, you know, I think that one of the mistakes that was made over the last eight years is for us to have a triumphant sense about war. This is a tough business. And there are tough costs to it. And I think because it was detached from our day to day lives in so many ways — unless you were a military family; unless you were one of those who were being deployed. Because we didn’t even get asked to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was a tendency to say, “We can go in. We can kick some tail. You know this is some glorious exercise.”

For starters, there’s something odd indeed about this president if he considers his West Point offering an emotional speech. (Perhaps next time he could tap his foot or the podium to signal his heightened emotional state.) But the remainder of his comments on this point are simply jaw-dropping. We learn that he’s above all that “We win, they lose” sort of stuff. We have troops in the field, and this president disparages the notion that we should commit ourselves to victory — triumph – and declare our motives “glorious.” Are they not? Isn’t this about fighting “evil”? One can hardly imagine any other president turning up his nose at the idea that we should unashamedly declare ourselves devoted to triumph in battle or that our cause in defending ourselves (and Western civilization) is anything other than glorious. Can one imagine if he had said that in front of the West Point cadets? I suspect he wouldn’t have dared.

And then there’s the deadline. It seems that despite the best efforts of Clinton and Gates, Obama really is all about limits. He explains that “it was a mistake for us to engage in open-ended commitment in Afghanistan. That was not necessary in order for us to meet our national interests as properly defined. It was in our interest to make sure that we had this boost of troops that could train Afghan forces, stabilize the country, sustain a platform for us going after Al Qaeda aggressively. And that is exactly the order that I gave.” But he really doesn’t mean to signal to the enemy that we aren’t in this to win, does he? Hmm. After repeatedly objecting to the notion that his war address was contradictory or confusing, he had this to say:

Well, as I’ve said, we’ve got a mission that is time-definite in order to accomplish a particular goal, which is to stand up Afghan security forces. And as I said, we did this in Iraq just two years ago. And General [David] Petraeus, who was involved in my consultations in designing this strategy, I think is the first to acknowledge that had it not been for those additional troops combined with effective political work inside of Iraq, we might have seen a much worse outcome in Iraq than the one that we’re gonna see.

(Yes, Obama was one who denied that the additional troops were going to work in Iraq, but this is as close as we’re getting to a confession from him.) We then get a mishmash, at best. On one hand, he says of the drawdown:

The pace of that drawdown, how many U.S. troops are coming out, how quickly, what the slope is of that drawdown will be determined by conditions on the ground. And we are gonna be making consistent assessments to make sure that as we are standing up Afghan troops, that we are replacing U.S. troops or ally troops, and we’re not gonna do it in a precipitous way that in any way endangers our troops or endangers the progress that we’ve made.

Yet he’s also signaling that the limit itself is necessary because he and his constituents have other things to do: “In the absence of a deadline, the message we are sending to the Afghans is, ‘It’s business as usual. This is an open-ended commitment.’ ” Later on, he emphasizes:

I think what is true is that if we have an open-ended commitment in a place like Afghanistan with no clear benchmarks for what success means, that the American people who have just gone through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, who’ve already endured eight years of war, at some point are gonna say: enough. And rightly so. And my job is to come up with a strategy that is time-constrained, that matches the resources that we’re expended to the nature of our national interest.

Actually, his job is to win a critical war. But he’s not into triumphalism.

Frankly the interview is a mess — a mass of contradictory signals and a leap back into netroot-land. According to the 60 Minutes Obama, we shouldn’t announce that we intend to triumph. Our cause shouldn’t be characterized as glorious. We’ve got limited time and resources for this sort of war. I think the Obama’s spinners who promoted the appearance of a tougher, more realistic, and frankly more pro-American Obama will have their work cut out for them explaining away the 60 Minutes Obama.

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And Where Is the White House?

Give credit to the Washington Post‘s opinion editors: they extracted the story of the death of the D.C. school-voucher program from the inside pages of the Metro section. They write:

It is distressingly clear that congressional leaders never really meant it when they said there would be a fair hearing to determine the future of the District’s federally funded school voucher program. How else to explain language tucked away in the mammoth omnibus spending bill that would effectively kill the Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program?

They note that “deep in the folds of the thousand-page 2010 spending bill, which wraps together six bills” is language that will keep funding for current students but shut the door behind them to new ones and add on “onerous requirements about testing and site visits.” And the Post names names, singling out Sen. Richard J. Durbin and Rep. Jose E. Serrano, who “have been, at best, disingenuous about their intentions, thus placing the program’s advocates in their current no-win situation.” But who’s missing from the list? Why the president, of course. He talked a good game about school reform but hasn’t lifted a finger to keep the school-voucher program in operation.

The Post‘s editors slam Congress: “If Congress, no doubt egged on by its allies in the teachers unions, is so intent on killing this program, it should be upfront in accepting the responsibility.” But the paper’s well-founded complaint is equally applicable to the White House, which has done virtually nothing on this or any other education issue that would challenge the educational establishment. It seems that there are some more kids in D.C. who will now suffer the consequences as a result.

Give credit to the Washington Post‘s opinion editors: they extracted the story of the death of the D.C. school-voucher program from the inside pages of the Metro section. They write:

It is distressingly clear that congressional leaders never really meant it when they said there would be a fair hearing to determine the future of the District’s federally funded school voucher program. How else to explain language tucked away in the mammoth omnibus spending bill that would effectively kill the Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program?

They note that “deep in the folds of the thousand-page 2010 spending bill, which wraps together six bills” is language that will keep funding for current students but shut the door behind them to new ones and add on “onerous requirements about testing and site visits.” And the Post names names, singling out Sen. Richard J. Durbin and Rep. Jose E. Serrano, who “have been, at best, disingenuous about their intentions, thus placing the program’s advocates in their current no-win situation.” But who’s missing from the list? Why the president, of course. He talked a good game about school reform but hasn’t lifted a finger to keep the school-voucher program in operation.

The Post‘s editors slam Congress: “If Congress, no doubt egged on by its allies in the teachers unions, is so intent on killing this program, it should be upfront in accepting the responsibility.” But the paper’s well-founded complaint is equally applicable to the White House, which has done virtually nothing on this or any other education issue that would challenge the educational establishment. It seems that there are some more kids in D.C. who will now suffer the consequences as a result.

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Job Killers

Offering a blast of common sense, Charles Lane suggests that we do three things to promote job growth: (1) end sugar protectionism and price supports (“In 2006, the Commerce Department estimated that the sugar program cost three confectionery manufacturing jobs for each job it saved in sugar growing and harvesting”); (2) repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contracts to pay the “prevailing” (i.e., union) wage, which now covers roughly a third of public construction spending, at an added cost to tax payers of $8.6B; and (3) reduce the minimum wage. He chides both the president and Republicans for failing to mention any of these in their list of job-creating ideas: “None of these measures alone, or even all three together, would eliminate unemployment. But they might significantly decrease it at a time when every job counts.”

Of course there are powerful special interests defending each of these, especially organized labor, which “argues for Davis-Bacon and the minimum wage with rhetoric about fairness and workers’ rights, despite economic evidence to the contrary.” The White House and Congress are not merely resistant to good ideas for improving the job outlook. They also want to make it worse. Cap-and-trade, card check, and ObamaCare all impose new costs, taxes, and mandates on business. Just as surely as Davis Bacon increases the cost of labor, new mandates to pay for super-duper health insurance for all but a fraction of workers will do so as well. If the minimum wage “prices low-skilled workers out of entry-level jobs,” ObamaCare will price workers at all levels out of jobs. And Midwestern senators have already figured out the job-killing implications of cap-and-trade.

It remains a wonder that politicians don’t seem to connect the dots between their policies and the impact on employment. Or maybe they do and simply don’t care. But let’s be clear: the jobs picture is bleak, and both Congress and the White House should jettison existing barriers to employment and junk agenda items that will make things worse if, as Lane says, ”they’re really serious about putting America back to work.”

Offering a blast of common sense, Charles Lane suggests that we do three things to promote job growth: (1) end sugar protectionism and price supports (“In 2006, the Commerce Department estimated that the sugar program cost three confectionery manufacturing jobs for each job it saved in sugar growing and harvesting”); (2) repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contracts to pay the “prevailing” (i.e., union) wage, which now covers roughly a third of public construction spending, at an added cost to tax payers of $8.6B; and (3) reduce the minimum wage. He chides both the president and Republicans for failing to mention any of these in their list of job-creating ideas: “None of these measures alone, or even all three together, would eliminate unemployment. But they might significantly decrease it at a time when every job counts.”

Of course there are powerful special interests defending each of these, especially organized labor, which “argues for Davis-Bacon and the minimum wage with rhetoric about fairness and workers’ rights, despite economic evidence to the contrary.” The White House and Congress are not merely resistant to good ideas for improving the job outlook. They also want to make it worse. Cap-and-trade, card check, and ObamaCare all impose new costs, taxes, and mandates on business. Just as surely as Davis Bacon increases the cost of labor, new mandates to pay for super-duper health insurance for all but a fraction of workers will do so as well. If the minimum wage “prices low-skilled workers out of entry-level jobs,” ObamaCare will price workers at all levels out of jobs. And Midwestern senators have already figured out the job-killing implications of cap-and-trade.

It remains a wonder that politicians don’t seem to connect the dots between their policies and the impact on employment. Or maybe they do and simply don’t care. But let’s be clear: the jobs picture is bleak, and both Congress and the White House should jettison existing barriers to employment and junk agenda items that will make things worse if, as Lane says, ”they’re really serious about putting America back to work.”

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The Real Death Panel

Politico’s headline reads “Mammograms as political weapon.” A more accurate headline might have been “Mammogram Advisers Become ObamaCare Death Panel.” It was the pronouncement of that panel — which contained not a single oncologist or radiologist — that provided Americans with a vivid example of what happens when bureaucrats are given authority to insert themselves into health-care decisions previously made on a case-by-case basis by doctors. It has become a “weapon” only in the sense that facts are powerful things, still, in politics. The report explains:

“It resonates with 52 percent of the electorate,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for the Cook Political Report. “You can get yourself in a good bit of trouble being on the wrong side of the issue.” … “There’s sort of a ‘What?’ factor,” said Michael Dimock, a pollster for the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. [T]his struck so many as pulling the rug under people.”

More precisely, it showed people just how the rug is going to get pulled out from many of us once we set in place a government-centric system administered by “effectiveness research” proponents — panels of gurus who turn out to be not really expert in the field but who operate under huge pressure to shave costs by chiseling on care.

The report bends over backward to paint this as some sort of bipartisan problem, as if Republicans are pushing for panels of bureaucrats to run health care. Politico intones that in Virginia, Creigh Deeds “ripped into his opponent for supposedly supporting a policy that would have let the state’s employers drop breast cancer screenings from health plans.” That would be the guy who lost by 20 points. And yes, Jon Corzine tried to use the issue, suggesting that Chris Christie wanted to limit mammograms too. Corzine lost.

What actually happened is that people got a taste of ObamaCare. It’s sent Democrats into a defensive crouch and emboldened Republicans to attack ObamaCare as a threat to Americans’ health. Both Carly Fiorina, who’s running for the Senate in California, and Mark Kirk of Illinois have had an overwhelming response by tying the mammogram-guideline backlash to the larger issue of ObamaCare. (A Kirk message explained, “This Task Force features prominently in the health care legislation being considered by the Senate, and its recommendations will carry tremendous weight under any government takeover of healthcare.”)

In a sense, the mammogram advisers did us all a favor. They reminded us of just how dangerous it can be to turn over your health care to the government.

Politico’s headline reads “Mammograms as political weapon.” A more accurate headline might have been “Mammogram Advisers Become ObamaCare Death Panel.” It was the pronouncement of that panel — which contained not a single oncologist or radiologist — that provided Americans with a vivid example of what happens when bureaucrats are given authority to insert themselves into health-care decisions previously made on a case-by-case basis by doctors. It has become a “weapon” only in the sense that facts are powerful things, still, in politics. The report explains:

“It resonates with 52 percent of the electorate,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for the Cook Political Report. “You can get yourself in a good bit of trouble being on the wrong side of the issue.” … “There’s sort of a ‘What?’ factor,” said Michael Dimock, a pollster for the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. [T]his struck so many as pulling the rug under people.”

More precisely, it showed people just how the rug is going to get pulled out from many of us once we set in place a government-centric system administered by “effectiveness research” proponents — panels of gurus who turn out to be not really expert in the field but who operate under huge pressure to shave costs by chiseling on care.

The report bends over backward to paint this as some sort of bipartisan problem, as if Republicans are pushing for panels of bureaucrats to run health care. Politico intones that in Virginia, Creigh Deeds “ripped into his opponent for supposedly supporting a policy that would have let the state’s employers drop breast cancer screenings from health plans.” That would be the guy who lost by 20 points. And yes, Jon Corzine tried to use the issue, suggesting that Chris Christie wanted to limit mammograms too. Corzine lost.

What actually happened is that people got a taste of ObamaCare. It’s sent Democrats into a defensive crouch and emboldened Republicans to attack ObamaCare as a threat to Americans’ health. Both Carly Fiorina, who’s running for the Senate in California, and Mark Kirk of Illinois have had an overwhelming response by tying the mammogram-guideline backlash to the larger issue of ObamaCare. (A Kirk message explained, “This Task Force features prominently in the health care legislation being considered by the Senate, and its recommendations will carry tremendous weight under any government takeover of healthcare.”)

In a sense, the mammogram advisers did us all a favor. They reminded us of just how dangerous it can be to turn over your health care to the government.

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Not There Yet

Conservatives and those Democrats who had grown nervous about Obama’s foreign-policy bent have become ever so hopeful that Obama has shifted away from his leftist vision in that regard. Many of these optimistic observers have chosen to skip over or simply roll their eyes at Obama’s comments at West Point, and again at Oslo, concerning our anti-terror policies. But Liz Cheney was having none of that. On Fox News Sunday she declared:

I think the key will be whether the policies now follow that, and I certainly hope that they do. But we still had in this speech — you know, it’s almost like it’s become reflexive, this notion that America abandoned our ideals after 9/11, and I think that it is — you know, as we see this president repeatedly go onto foreign soil and accuse America of having tortured people, talk about Guantanamo Bay as an abandonment of our ideals, you know, I — that part of the speech to me really is nothing short of shameful.

And it’s not just an attack on political opponents. You know, it really is casting aspersions and, I would say, slandering the men and women in the CIA who carried out key programs that kept us safe and the people, frankly, right now at Guantanamo Bay who are guarding some of the world’s worst terrorists.

Well, yes, it’s a bit hard to square the president’s two major addresses with the notion that he has woken up to reality, seen the nature of the enemy, grown in office, and assumed a more realistic attitude toward his obligations as commander in chief. Why is he still spouting netroot-approved rhetoric on Guantanamo, the CIA, and enhanced interrogation, and planning to move detainees to Illinois and hold a civilian trial for KSM if he now “gets it”?

If the president has in fact decided that it’s time to put away childish leftist rhetoric and embrace the responsibilities of a commander in chief who is fighting a war on terror in a world where “evil” exists — he told us so, remember — then it’s incumbent upon him to stop spouting silliness and to adopt a mature policy on the war on terror. But he has done neither.

Obama didn’t ban “torture”; it was illegal before he divined that slapping a terrorist or making him sleepy offended our deepest values. Obama has banned enhanced interrogation — prohibiting our intelligence agents from using methods we know were successful in extracting life-saving information in the past. He chose to release notes that detailed interrogation memos and to reinvestigate CIA operatives, sending a message to the intelligence community to do as little as possible and take no action for which they might subsequently be prosecuted. He is affording KSM and his cohorts a legal forum to propagate their jihadist message. He is willing to relocate terrorists to American soil or to terrorist training grounds like Yemen, increasing security risks for Americans and again making it more likely that they’ll spread their message to others.

Those rooting for Obama are understandably excited at the prospect of his breaking out of his netroot cocoon. But those squinting to make out the outlines of an Obama epiphany should be candid: we’re a long way from a mature, robust position on the war on terror.

Conservatives and those Democrats who had grown nervous about Obama’s foreign-policy bent have become ever so hopeful that Obama has shifted away from his leftist vision in that regard. Many of these optimistic observers have chosen to skip over or simply roll their eyes at Obama’s comments at West Point, and again at Oslo, concerning our anti-terror policies. But Liz Cheney was having none of that. On Fox News Sunday she declared:

I think the key will be whether the policies now follow that, and I certainly hope that they do. But we still had in this speech — you know, it’s almost like it’s become reflexive, this notion that America abandoned our ideals after 9/11, and I think that it is — you know, as we see this president repeatedly go onto foreign soil and accuse America of having tortured people, talk about Guantanamo Bay as an abandonment of our ideals, you know, I — that part of the speech to me really is nothing short of shameful.

And it’s not just an attack on political opponents. You know, it really is casting aspersions and, I would say, slandering the men and women in the CIA who carried out key programs that kept us safe and the people, frankly, right now at Guantanamo Bay who are guarding some of the world’s worst terrorists.

Well, yes, it’s a bit hard to square the president’s two major addresses with the notion that he has woken up to reality, seen the nature of the enemy, grown in office, and assumed a more realistic attitude toward his obligations as commander in chief. Why is he still spouting netroot-approved rhetoric on Guantanamo, the CIA, and enhanced interrogation, and planning to move detainees to Illinois and hold a civilian trial for KSM if he now “gets it”?

If the president has in fact decided that it’s time to put away childish leftist rhetoric and embrace the responsibilities of a commander in chief who is fighting a war on terror in a world where “evil” exists — he told us so, remember — then it’s incumbent upon him to stop spouting silliness and to adopt a mature policy on the war on terror. But he has done neither.

Obama didn’t ban “torture”; it was illegal before he divined that slapping a terrorist or making him sleepy offended our deepest values. Obama has banned enhanced interrogation — prohibiting our intelligence agents from using methods we know were successful in extracting life-saving information in the past. He chose to release notes that detailed interrogation memos and to reinvestigate CIA operatives, sending a message to the intelligence community to do as little as possible and take no action for which they might subsequently be prosecuted. He is affording KSM and his cohorts a legal forum to propagate their jihadist message. He is willing to relocate terrorists to American soil or to terrorist training grounds like Yemen, increasing security risks for Americans and again making it more likely that they’ll spread their message to others.

Those rooting for Obama are understandably excited at the prospect of his breaking out of his netroot cocoon. But those squinting to make out the outlines of an Obama epiphany should be candid: we’re a long way from a mature, robust position on the war on terror.

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Reid Panics

Harry Reid must be one nervous pol. He concocted a half-baked deal to rescue ObamaCare, spun to the media that there was a “deal” among moderate senators, and is now watching health care — and possibly his career — go up in smoke. Roll Call reports:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) formally notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday afternoon that he would filibuster the health care reform bill if it includes a Medicare “buy-in” provision.

Lieberman’s position came as a surprise to Reid, considering the self-described Independent Democrat was among the first people Reid spoke to about the Medicare provision when it was discussed by a Democratic group of centrists and liberals attempting to craft a compromise that could secure the votes of all 60 Members of the Democratic Conference. At the time, Lieberman “voiced support” for the plan, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.

Lieberman spokesman Marshall Wittmann strongly disputed the leadership aide’s account.

“The suggestion by an anonymous ‘aide’ that Senator Lieberman ever supported the Medicare buy in proposal is absolutely and totally false. The fact that the ‘aide’ won’t identify him/herself is a testimony that they are telling a deliberate falsehood or he/she is completely confused,” Wittmann said.

It’s rather apparent that the “Senate aide” — almost certainly a Reid aide — is telling a tall tale. Almost as soon as the “deal” was announced, Lieberman voiced his concern about the funding of the plan and his ongoing opposition to any public option. Reid is plainly trying to box Lieberman in, suggesting that the senator from Connecticut and others had bought into a deal, when in fact none existed. And the gambit, like the Medicare buy-in itself, is harebrained and has in effect forced Lieberman to come out in flat opposition to any Medicare “deal.” Note the word “ever.” Lieberman, we now know, never supported Reid’s non-deal on Medicare.

Moreover, one has to marvel at the blind quote (likely from that same office): “It’s all coming down to one guy who’s prepared to vote against the interests of children and families in Connecticut who need health care reform.” No, it seems that Sen. Ben Nelson is opposed to it too. And I suspect that there are many Red State senators who aren’t on board either. But Reid’s fake agreement is evaporating before his eyes, so he’s looking for someone to blame.

Indeed, Reid’s office is now out spinning the New York Times‘s take, which declares Lieberman’s opposition to be “a surprise.” To whom exactly? Once again, unnamed aides say they thought they had a deal. Oh really? What about Lieberman’s statement last week explicitly withholding judgment? Once again, Reid’s ploy is obvious — try to keep the finger in the dam, try to prevent others who never agreed to the Medicare buy-in scam from letting the cat out of the bag, and try to maintain the appearance of momentum. But really, other senators know there was no deal, and they’re hardly going to pretend there was now that both Lieberman and Nelson have blown the whistle on Reid’s chicanery.

But all this just goes to show how quickly ReidCare is unraveling.

Harry Reid must be one nervous pol. He concocted a half-baked deal to rescue ObamaCare, spun to the media that there was a “deal” among moderate senators, and is now watching health care — and possibly his career — go up in smoke. Roll Call reports:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) formally notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday afternoon that he would filibuster the health care reform bill if it includes a Medicare “buy-in” provision.

Lieberman’s position came as a surprise to Reid, considering the self-described Independent Democrat was among the first people Reid spoke to about the Medicare provision when it was discussed by a Democratic group of centrists and liberals attempting to craft a compromise that could secure the votes of all 60 Members of the Democratic Conference. At the time, Lieberman “voiced support” for the plan, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.

Lieberman spokesman Marshall Wittmann strongly disputed the leadership aide’s account.

“The suggestion by an anonymous ‘aide’ that Senator Lieberman ever supported the Medicare buy in proposal is absolutely and totally false. The fact that the ‘aide’ won’t identify him/herself is a testimony that they are telling a deliberate falsehood or he/she is completely confused,” Wittmann said.

It’s rather apparent that the “Senate aide” — almost certainly a Reid aide — is telling a tall tale. Almost as soon as the “deal” was announced, Lieberman voiced his concern about the funding of the plan and his ongoing opposition to any public option. Reid is plainly trying to box Lieberman in, suggesting that the senator from Connecticut and others had bought into a deal, when in fact none existed. And the gambit, like the Medicare buy-in itself, is harebrained and has in effect forced Lieberman to come out in flat opposition to any Medicare “deal.” Note the word “ever.” Lieberman, we now know, never supported Reid’s non-deal on Medicare.

Moreover, one has to marvel at the blind quote (likely from that same office): “It’s all coming down to one guy who’s prepared to vote against the interests of children and families in Connecticut who need health care reform.” No, it seems that Sen. Ben Nelson is opposed to it too. And I suspect that there are many Red State senators who aren’t on board either. But Reid’s fake agreement is evaporating before his eyes, so he’s looking for someone to blame.

Indeed, Reid’s office is now out spinning the New York Times‘s take, which declares Lieberman’s opposition to be “a surprise.” To whom exactly? Once again, unnamed aides say they thought they had a deal. Oh really? What about Lieberman’s statement last week explicitly withholding judgment? Once again, Reid’s ploy is obvious — try to keep the finger in the dam, try to prevent others who never agreed to the Medicare buy-in scam from letting the cat out of the bag, and try to maintain the appearance of momentum. But really, other senators know there was no deal, and they’re hardly going to pretend there was now that both Lieberman and Nelson have blown the whistle on Reid’s chicanery.

But all this just goes to show how quickly ReidCare is unraveling.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

Read Less