Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 15, 2009

Abbas Still Says No to Talks but Everyone Still Blames Bibi

The decision of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a freeze on building homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank has earned him little credit either in Europe or among his country’s Arab foes. Rather than respond to Israel’s gesture aimed at re-starting peace talks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas raised the ante today by telling the PLO Central Council that he won’t engage in talks unless the international community recognize the 1967 lines as the borders of a Palestinian state and unless Israel halt all construction work not only in the settlements but also in Israel’s capital Jerusalem. In other words, until the Israelis make concessions that ensure that nothing be left to negotiate about, he won’t engage in negotiations.

Abbas, whose term in office will probably be extended without holding an election because his Fatah Party knows it might lose to the Islamists of Hamas, has been telegraphing his lack of interest in talks all year. Given the fact that the Palestinian public still won’t accept any deal with Israel no matter where the borders are set, it’s not likely that this will change. Having turned down a Palestinian state in virtually all of the territories as well as East Jerusalem when former Israeli leader Ehud Olmert offered it last year, it’s hard to understand why anyone would think the supposedly moderate Abbas would make peace now. But the focus of pressure and international speculation about peaceful intentions continues to be put on Netanyahu, not on the Palestinians.

Thus the conceit of Ethan Bronner’s latest “Mideast Memo” in the New York Times, which ponders the sincerity of Netanyahu’s desire for peace. The notion that Netanyahu is possibly undergoing some kind of conversion to a love for peace is, of course, absurd. His formal embrace this past summer of a two-state solution was a departure but he has always been on record as favoring a negotiated settlement to the conflict. The question is whether or not he’s willing to bend to the dictates of the West as to borders or the terms of Palestinian statehood, not whether a peace agreement would provide the Palestinians with sovereignty over part of the country.

But the frustrating aspect of this discussion isn’t so much in the condescension toward Netanyahu, but rather in the way the peace process is framed—that is, in such a way as to put the entire onus on Israel to make concessions, while the Palestinians continue complete refusal to accept the concept of peace with a Jewish state is virtually ignored. The point is, rather than wasting time worrying whether editorial writers at Ha’aretz or President Shimon Peres think Netanyahu is sincere, foreign correspondents based in Israel might want to spend a little more time paying attention to the fact that the political culture of the Palestinians makes peace an impossibility even for their allegedly moderate leader.

The decision of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a freeze on building homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank has earned him little credit either in Europe or among his country’s Arab foes. Rather than respond to Israel’s gesture aimed at re-starting peace talks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas raised the ante today by telling the PLO Central Council that he won’t engage in talks unless the international community recognize the 1967 lines as the borders of a Palestinian state and unless Israel halt all construction work not only in the settlements but also in Israel’s capital Jerusalem. In other words, until the Israelis make concessions that ensure that nothing be left to negotiate about, he won’t engage in negotiations.

Abbas, whose term in office will probably be extended without holding an election because his Fatah Party knows it might lose to the Islamists of Hamas, has been telegraphing his lack of interest in talks all year. Given the fact that the Palestinian public still won’t accept any deal with Israel no matter where the borders are set, it’s not likely that this will change. Having turned down a Palestinian state in virtually all of the territories as well as East Jerusalem when former Israeli leader Ehud Olmert offered it last year, it’s hard to understand why anyone would think the supposedly moderate Abbas would make peace now. But the focus of pressure and international speculation about peaceful intentions continues to be put on Netanyahu, not on the Palestinians.

Thus the conceit of Ethan Bronner’s latest “Mideast Memo” in the New York Times, which ponders the sincerity of Netanyahu’s desire for peace. The notion that Netanyahu is possibly undergoing some kind of conversion to a love for peace is, of course, absurd. His formal embrace this past summer of a two-state solution was a departure but he has always been on record as favoring a negotiated settlement to the conflict. The question is whether or not he’s willing to bend to the dictates of the West as to borders or the terms of Palestinian statehood, not whether a peace agreement would provide the Palestinians with sovereignty over part of the country.

But the frustrating aspect of this discussion isn’t so much in the condescension toward Netanyahu, but rather in the way the peace process is framed—that is, in such a way as to put the entire onus on Israel to make concessions, while the Palestinians continue complete refusal to accept the concept of peace with a Jewish state is virtually ignored. The point is, rather than wasting time worrying whether editorial writers at Ha’aretz or President Shimon Peres think Netanyahu is sincere, foreign correspondents based in Israel might want to spend a little more time paying attention to the fact that the political culture of the Palestinians makes peace an impossibility even for their allegedly moderate leader.

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Not Keeping America Safe

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

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Obama’s Broken Promises

As the political class focuses on President Obama’s efforts to jam through health-care legislation along party-line votes, it’s important that we not give him a pass for his string of broken promises. The one that jumps to mind today — as Obama is hosting a health-care meeting of only Democrats (plus Independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders), capping an approach that froze out Republicans from the get-go — is the promise Obama made during the campaign to work with those across the aisle. It was Obama, we were told (by Obama), who would repair the breach and “turn the page.” It is he who told us that “genuine bipartisanship assumes an honest process of give-and-take” and that the majority must be constrained “by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate” to “negotiate in good faith.” Obama would set aside politics as usual and listen carefully to others, “especially,” he said on the night of his election, “when we disagree.”

These promises — which were more than incidental; they were central to the Obama campaign and the Obama appeal — were fiction. It seems clear now that Mr. Obama never intended to act on what he said.

It is quite a distinction our 44th president has achieved as he ends his first year in office. He is both the most unpopular and the most polarizing and partisan president in our lifetime.

As the political class focuses on President Obama’s efforts to jam through health-care legislation along party-line votes, it’s important that we not give him a pass for his string of broken promises. The one that jumps to mind today — as Obama is hosting a health-care meeting of only Democrats (plus Independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders), capping an approach that froze out Republicans from the get-go — is the promise Obama made during the campaign to work with those across the aisle. It was Obama, we were told (by Obama), who would repair the breach and “turn the page.” It is he who told us that “genuine bipartisanship assumes an honest process of give-and-take” and that the majority must be constrained “by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate” to “negotiate in good faith.” Obama would set aside politics as usual and listen carefully to others, “especially,” he said on the night of his election, “when we disagree.”

These promises — which were more than incidental; they were central to the Obama campaign and the Obama appeal — were fiction. It seems clear now that Mr. Obama never intended to act on what he said.

It is quite a distinction our 44th president has achieved as he ends his first year in office. He is both the most unpopular and the most polarizing and partisan president in our lifetime.

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Getting What You Pay For

This week we have a beautiful illustration of what has been driving our consumer prices steadily upward for the last 50 years. Debt-driven inflation accounts for only some of the increase in the prices of many consumer goods since 1960; the rest is due to the growing burden of regulation. Efficiencies from technology, innovation, and outsourcing have only partly offset the upward climb of consumer prices.

Now the Consumer Product Safety Commission, with voluntary compliance from the Window Covering Safety Council (yes, there is one), is recalling 50 million roll-up window coverings, including blinds and Roman shades. Eight children have reportedly died in the past 10 years from getting their necks wrapped up in cords related to blinds and shades.

Presumably the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) is doing this because it figures that a recall is cheaper than a flood of lawsuits, and at least some of its industry members will survive the hit, even in a bad economy. Large-scale manufacturers may be in a position to do so. But this move could be a death blow for some smaller manufacturers, as well as for the low-margin window-covering retailers who are struggling to remain in business throughout the recession. Wal-Mart will hardly notice having empty shelves, at least for a few weeks, where the roll-up window coverings used to be. But suppose department-store retailers decide to offer refunds or exchanges on “unsafe” blinds and shades. Trying to follow suit would represent a business-killing cash hemorrhage for many specialty retailers.

The WCSC helpfully advises consumers to improve their window-covering safety posture by installing “only cordless window coverings in homes with young children.” We are informed that blinds and shades manufactured after 2001 are safer than those made before 2001; but as one whose home is fitted with nothing but window coverings manufactured after 2001, I can assure you that these newer items still have cords all over them. There are, of course, cordless blinds and shades on the market, but they cost substantially more than their serviceable and attractive cord-operated counterparts.

And that is precisely my point. Perhaps public demand for cheap blinds will restore the standard cord-infested ones to the shelves after the echoes of this recall have faded. The public may not respond to the recall in great numbers anyway. But to the extent that retailers choose to make only more expensive blinds available, and to the extent that fewer manufacturers and retailers are able to remain in business through a recall that imposes unrecoverable costs, the price of window coverings will go up for all consumers while choice will go down. This seems like a small thing – until we realize that every industry we buy from is affected by the same regulatory zeal. It all adds up; it makes it harder for businesses to remain viable; and you are paying the freight.

This week we have a beautiful illustration of what has been driving our consumer prices steadily upward for the last 50 years. Debt-driven inflation accounts for only some of the increase in the prices of many consumer goods since 1960; the rest is due to the growing burden of regulation. Efficiencies from technology, innovation, and outsourcing have only partly offset the upward climb of consumer prices.

Now the Consumer Product Safety Commission, with voluntary compliance from the Window Covering Safety Council (yes, there is one), is recalling 50 million roll-up window coverings, including blinds and Roman shades. Eight children have reportedly died in the past 10 years from getting their necks wrapped up in cords related to blinds and shades.

Presumably the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) is doing this because it figures that a recall is cheaper than a flood of lawsuits, and at least some of its industry members will survive the hit, even in a bad economy. Large-scale manufacturers may be in a position to do so. But this move could be a death blow for some smaller manufacturers, as well as for the low-margin window-covering retailers who are struggling to remain in business throughout the recession. Wal-Mart will hardly notice having empty shelves, at least for a few weeks, where the roll-up window coverings used to be. But suppose department-store retailers decide to offer refunds or exchanges on “unsafe” blinds and shades. Trying to follow suit would represent a business-killing cash hemorrhage for many specialty retailers.

The WCSC helpfully advises consumers to improve their window-covering safety posture by installing “only cordless window coverings in homes with young children.” We are informed that blinds and shades manufactured after 2001 are safer than those made before 2001; but as one whose home is fitted with nothing but window coverings manufactured after 2001, I can assure you that these newer items still have cords all over them. There are, of course, cordless blinds and shades on the market, but they cost substantially more than their serviceable and attractive cord-operated counterparts.

And that is precisely my point. Perhaps public demand for cheap blinds will restore the standard cord-infested ones to the shelves after the echoes of this recall have faded. The public may not respond to the recall in great numbers anyway. But to the extent that retailers choose to make only more expensive blinds available, and to the extent that fewer manufacturers and retailers are able to remain in business through a recall that imposes unrecoverable costs, the price of window coverings will go up for all consumers while choice will go down. This seems like a small thing – until we realize that every industry we buy from is affected by the same regulatory zeal. It all adds up; it makes it harder for businesses to remain viable; and you are paying the freight.

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Not So Speedy a Buildup After All

David Ignatius makes an important observation about Obama’s announced schedule for a troop surge in Afghanistan:

I asked Lt Gen. David Rodriquez, the No. 2 US commander here, in a briefing tonight how long the deployment of the extra 30,000 would take. He answered that “it will happen between nine and eleven months,” starting in January 2010. Which means that some troops might not arrive until November 2010. The next month after that, December 2010, is when Obama plans to assess how well the troops are doing — so he can decide how many to pull out when the withdrawal begins in July 2011. That doesn’t give him much time to make good decisions. Am I the only person who worries that “fuzzy math” is being used here?

It seems that the super-speedy troop buildup that Obama wanted and the corresponding 18-month deadline don’t have much to do with military reality. Ignatius explains: “As Rodriguez said in tonight’s briefing, you can move people only so fast into a landlocked battlefield half a world away from the U.S. McChrystal’s original finishing point for adding 40,000 troops was March 2011. Now it has been ‘rushed’ to November 2010 for 30,000 troops.” So before you know it, we’ll be up against a July 2011 date, when pressure will build to begin to draw down the troops. And the president, at least the 60 Minutes version, seems to take that date somewhat seriously.

All this suggests that the troop schedule has less to do with military strategy and much more to do with assuring the Left (and the president himself) that this really is a limited commitment and that we’ll be out soon enough, with resources freed up to do what they really want — continue the ultra-liberal domestic agenda. Conservatives are hoping it’s all meaningless, that reality will once again force Obama’s hand, and that if it really takes longer to get the troops there, the date will simply slide. Maybe. But domestic opponents of the war will be ready to pounce come July 2011, and Obama may be hard-pressed to explain that he really didn’t mean exactly what he said. Meanwhile, those in Pakistan and Afghanistan deciding which side to align themselves with will continue to wonder whether America intends to stick it out when progress is slow and casualties mount.

David Ignatius makes an important observation about Obama’s announced schedule for a troop surge in Afghanistan:

I asked Lt Gen. David Rodriquez, the No. 2 US commander here, in a briefing tonight how long the deployment of the extra 30,000 would take. He answered that “it will happen between nine and eleven months,” starting in January 2010. Which means that some troops might not arrive until November 2010. The next month after that, December 2010, is when Obama plans to assess how well the troops are doing — so he can decide how many to pull out when the withdrawal begins in July 2011. That doesn’t give him much time to make good decisions. Am I the only person who worries that “fuzzy math” is being used here?

It seems that the super-speedy troop buildup that Obama wanted and the corresponding 18-month deadline don’t have much to do with military reality. Ignatius explains: “As Rodriguez said in tonight’s briefing, you can move people only so fast into a landlocked battlefield half a world away from the U.S. McChrystal’s original finishing point for adding 40,000 troops was March 2011. Now it has been ‘rushed’ to November 2010 for 30,000 troops.” So before you know it, we’ll be up against a July 2011 date, when pressure will build to begin to draw down the troops. And the president, at least the 60 Minutes version, seems to take that date somewhat seriously.

All this suggests that the troop schedule has less to do with military strategy and much more to do with assuring the Left (and the president himself) that this really is a limited commitment and that we’ll be out soon enough, with resources freed up to do what they really want — continue the ultra-liberal domestic agenda. Conservatives are hoping it’s all meaningless, that reality will once again force Obama’s hand, and that if it really takes longer to get the troops there, the date will simply slide. Maybe. But domestic opponents of the war will be ready to pounce come July 2011, and Obama may be hard-pressed to explain that he really didn’t mean exactly what he said. Meanwhile, those in Pakistan and Afghanistan deciding which side to align themselves with will continue to wonder whether America intends to stick it out when progress is slow and casualties mount.

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Hillary Admits Failure on Iran

The Washington Post reports:

The accumulating evidence of Iran’s nuclear momentum emerges as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded Monday that the White House has little to show for nearly a year of diplomatic engagement with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. “I don’t think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of a positive response from the Iranians,” Clinton told reporters.

So in other words, rather than pursuing regime change or using evidence of the Qom enrichment reactor to garner support for those “crippling sanctions,” we frittered away another year, allowing the mullahs to solidify power and the Iran nuclear program to advance. And it certainly has advanced, as the report notes:

The internal documents and expert analysis point to a growing Iranian mastery of disciplines including uranium metallurgy, heavy-water production and the high-precision explosives used to trigger a nuclear detonation. Although U.S. spy agencies have thought that Iran’s leaders halted research on nuclear warheads in 2003, European and Middle Eastern analysts point to evidence that Iran has continued to hone its skills, as recently as 2007.

Hmm. That would be the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declaring that Iran had dropped its nuclear military ambitions. Turns out that it was bunk. And knowing it was bunk and that the Qom and perhaps other facilities were under development, one has to wonder why the Obami wasted time in a fruitless effort to engage a regime bent on brutalizing its own people, supporting terror groups, and acquiring a nuclear blackmail card.

We’re told that the Obama administration intends to press forward on sanctions next year. Perhaps, and maybe the Obama team can avoid the endless haggling and watering down that will be needed to get others on board. And then we’ll see if the sanctions have any real impact. And then we’ll argue about whether they “worked.” And then there’ll be more talks. But in the meantime, the entire process has been delayed for yet another year as the Iranians inch forward to the day when they will declare themselves a nuclear power. And soon, I suspect, we will hear that “containment” is really the only option left. One wonders if that wasn’t the end game all along.

The Washington Post reports:

The accumulating evidence of Iran’s nuclear momentum emerges as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded Monday that the White House has little to show for nearly a year of diplomatic engagement with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. “I don’t think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of a positive response from the Iranians,” Clinton told reporters.

So in other words, rather than pursuing regime change or using evidence of the Qom enrichment reactor to garner support for those “crippling sanctions,” we frittered away another year, allowing the mullahs to solidify power and the Iran nuclear program to advance. And it certainly has advanced, as the report notes:

The internal documents and expert analysis point to a growing Iranian mastery of disciplines including uranium metallurgy, heavy-water production and the high-precision explosives used to trigger a nuclear detonation. Although U.S. spy agencies have thought that Iran’s leaders halted research on nuclear warheads in 2003, European and Middle Eastern analysts point to evidence that Iran has continued to hone its skills, as recently as 2007.

Hmm. That would be the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declaring that Iran had dropped its nuclear military ambitions. Turns out that it was bunk. And knowing it was bunk and that the Qom and perhaps other facilities were under development, one has to wonder why the Obami wasted time in a fruitless effort to engage a regime bent on brutalizing its own people, supporting terror groups, and acquiring a nuclear blackmail card.

We’re told that the Obama administration intends to press forward on sanctions next year. Perhaps, and maybe the Obama team can avoid the endless haggling and watering down that will be needed to get others on board. And then we’ll see if the sanctions have any real impact. And then we’ll argue about whether they “worked.” And then there’ll be more talks. But in the meantime, the entire process has been delayed for yet another year as the Iranians inch forward to the day when they will declare themselves a nuclear power. And soon, I suspect, we will hear that “containment” is really the only option left. One wonders if that wasn’t the end game all along.

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Re: Detainees Coming to Illinois

Well, maybe not so fast. A Republican leadership aide explained that the administration can announce whatever it wants “but there’s no money to buy the prison or move people here for indefinite detention. They would need to come back to Congress to get some money for all this.” Right now the obvious vehicle for doing so is the only remaining appropriations bill which is for the Department of Defense. That, however, is nearly done and is supposed to go through the House this week. According to this aide, the bottom line is that “Congress would have to have a vote if they want to be able to expend any funds moving detainees to Illinois.”

So what say you, Congress? Lawmakers have a choice. They can support the administration’s ill-conceived notion that we should dump terrorists into our U.S. prison system or they can reject the notion that we should revert to a pre-9/11 mindset—a criminal justice model—in conducting the war on terror. There is no ducking this one. Are they for or against this? We’ll find out.

Well, maybe not so fast. A Republican leadership aide explained that the administration can announce whatever it wants “but there’s no money to buy the prison or move people here for indefinite detention. They would need to come back to Congress to get some money for all this.” Right now the obvious vehicle for doing so is the only remaining appropriations bill which is for the Department of Defense. That, however, is nearly done and is supposed to go through the House this week. According to this aide, the bottom line is that “Congress would have to have a vote if they want to be able to expend any funds moving detainees to Illinois.”

So what say you, Congress? Lawmakers have a choice. They can support the administration’s ill-conceived notion that we should dump terrorists into our U.S. prison system or they can reject the notion that we should revert to a pre-9/11 mindset—a criminal justice model—in conducting the war on terror. There is no ducking this one. Are they for or against this? We’ll find out.

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The Obama Agenda Is Sinking Fast

According to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll out today, in comparison with the approval ratings for modern elected presidents in December of their first year in office, Obama’s standing is the worst. The latest survey puts the president’s approval at 49 percent, with 46 percent disapproval. That is Obama’s narrowest margin of the year.

As a reference point, when he was inaugurated in January, Mr. Obama scored a job rating of 64 percent approve/25 percent disapprove in the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. To have seen the gap shrink from 39 percentage points to just 3, all in his first year in office, is staggering; the slide has been both rapid and consistent. And what must worry the White House and Democrats most is that this unprecedented drop is not tied to a single event (like, say, Gerald Ford’s pardoning of Richard Nixon) but rather to Obama’s entire governing agenda, from A to Z. The public is rising up against Obamaism, in almost all its particulars. This administration is therefore weaker than many people think – and if ObamaCare passes, it will be weaker still.

President Obama, like President Clinton before him, will need to make some fairly dramatic midcourse corrections. Whether he does or not is another matter (Obama strikes me as significantly more liberal and ideological than Clinton ever was). In any event, these are difficult days for modern liberalism. The high hopes and expectations of Obama and his supporters are crashing down all around them. And those who pronounced the death of conservatism earlier this year look sillier and sillier with every passing month.

According to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll out today, in comparison with the approval ratings for modern elected presidents in December of their first year in office, Obama’s standing is the worst. The latest survey puts the president’s approval at 49 percent, with 46 percent disapproval. That is Obama’s narrowest margin of the year.

As a reference point, when he was inaugurated in January, Mr. Obama scored a job rating of 64 percent approve/25 percent disapprove in the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. To have seen the gap shrink from 39 percentage points to just 3, all in his first year in office, is staggering; the slide has been both rapid and consistent. And what must worry the White House and Democrats most is that this unprecedented drop is not tied to a single event (like, say, Gerald Ford’s pardoning of Richard Nixon) but rather to Obama’s entire governing agenda, from A to Z. The public is rising up against Obamaism, in almost all its particulars. This administration is therefore weaker than many people think – and if ObamaCare passes, it will be weaker still.

President Obama, like President Clinton before him, will need to make some fairly dramatic midcourse corrections. Whether he does or not is another matter (Obama strikes me as significantly more liberal and ideological than Clinton ever was). In any event, these are difficult days for modern liberalism. The high hopes and expectations of Obama and his supporters are crashing down all around them. And those who pronounced the death of conservatism earlier this year look sillier and sillier with every passing month.

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Obama Breaks the Arrogance Meter

Just when you think the Obami can’t get more arrogant, along comes a report like this:

In a provocative argument designed to rescue his foundering health-care plan, President Barack Obama will warn Senate Democrats in a White House meeting Tuesday that this is the “last chance” to pass comprehensive reform. Obama will contend that if it fails now, no other president will attempt it, aides said.

No other president will attempt it? Ever? Really, you have to marvel at where they come up with this stuff. Obama is apparently the only one, ever, who can pass health-care reform. And his powers, like Cinderella’s, I suppose, evaporate when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. They must do it now.

On one level, it’s jaw-dropping desperation when a White House stoops to making such a nonsensical argument. It suggests that Harry Reid has managed to drive the administration’s top priority into a ditch, and the White House is panicked. The Left is furious, the Senate looks like it’s made up of a bunch of Keystone Kops, and there’s still no bill to vote on. But it’s the arrogance that’s most striking. Of course other presidents will address health care, entitlements, jobs, and the rest. History does not begin or end with Him. But he seems to think it does.

Now if history and health care depend on Obama, why hasn’t he come up with a bill? Perhaps his magical powers of legislation — his unique ability to pass historic legislation — work only on a generic level. Otherwise one might expect that the great and powerful president would come up with his solution and get everyone on board. But maybe he’s not all that powerful. In fact, maybe he’s been inept and ineffectual in getting everyone to sign up for an obvious list of discrete reforms, one that even Republicans could support. It might be that another president could have done better, or will do better in the future. Perish the thought! It’s now or never. History hangs in the balance.

Just when you think the Obami can’t get more arrogant, along comes a report like this:

In a provocative argument designed to rescue his foundering health-care plan, President Barack Obama will warn Senate Democrats in a White House meeting Tuesday that this is the “last chance” to pass comprehensive reform. Obama will contend that if it fails now, no other president will attempt it, aides said.

No other president will attempt it? Ever? Really, you have to marvel at where they come up with this stuff. Obama is apparently the only one, ever, who can pass health-care reform. And his powers, like Cinderella’s, I suppose, evaporate when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. They must do it now.

On one level, it’s jaw-dropping desperation when a White House stoops to making such a nonsensical argument. It suggests that Harry Reid has managed to drive the administration’s top priority into a ditch, and the White House is panicked. The Left is furious, the Senate looks like it’s made up of a bunch of Keystone Kops, and there’s still no bill to vote on. But it’s the arrogance that’s most striking. Of course other presidents will address health care, entitlements, jobs, and the rest. History does not begin or end with Him. But he seems to think it does.

Now if history and health care depend on Obama, why hasn’t he come up with a bill? Perhaps his magical powers of legislation — his unique ability to pass historic legislation — work only on a generic level. Otherwise one might expect that the great and powerful president would come up with his solution and get everyone on board. But maybe he’s not all that powerful. In fact, maybe he’s been inept and ineffectual in getting everyone to sign up for an obvious list of discrete reforms, one that even Republicans could support. It might be that another president could have done better, or will do better in the future. Perish the thought! It’s now or never. History hangs in the balance.

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Willie Sutton Pushes Health Care

As Jennifer has pointed out, since the polls show ObamaCare becoming less and less popular almost with every passing day (the RealClearPolitics average of several polls shows the public opposed 53-38 percent, and CNN’s poll has 61 percent against — well into landslide territory), the question inevitably arises as to why the Democrats seem bent on committing political suicide by insisting on passing it anyway.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked that question of a Democratic strategist who, not surprisingly, wanted to be anonymous. His answer coincides with Jennifer’s, but he adds an interesting extra point: the Democrats are like bank robbers in the midst of a heist gone wrong:

… he compared congressional Democrats with robbers who have passed the point of no return in deciding to hold up a bank. Whatever they do, they’re guilty of something. “They’re in the bank, they’ve got their guns out. They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”

And this, remember, is a Democratic strategist talking.

As Jennifer has pointed out, since the polls show ObamaCare becoming less and less popular almost with every passing day (the RealClearPolitics average of several polls shows the public opposed 53-38 percent, and CNN’s poll has 61 percent against — well into landslide territory), the question inevitably arises as to why the Democrats seem bent on committing political suicide by insisting on passing it anyway.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked that question of a Democratic strategist who, not surprisingly, wanted to be anonymous. His answer coincides with Jennifer’s, but he adds an interesting extra point: the Democrats are like bank robbers in the midst of a heist gone wrong:

… he compared congressional Democrats with robbers who have passed the point of no return in deciding to hold up a bank. Whatever they do, they’re guilty of something. “They’re in the bank, they’ve got their guns out. They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”

And this, remember, is a Democratic strategist talking.

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Clinton, Dictators, and Doubletalk

There are many nauseating features of Hillary Clinton’s human-rights speech. There’s the hypocrisy of touting our forthrightness in dealing with China. (Does the Dalai Lama know? Why no freewheeling interchange in China between Obama and democracy activists? Why did she tell the Chinese leaders in February that human rights wouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of the important stuff?). There’s the loathsome confession that our legal and well-founded anti-terror policies are human-rights sins to be expiated. And then there’s her discussion of Iran.

She does her best to conceal the unconcealable: that at a critical juncture, we refused to deny legitimacy to the Iranian regime and to support both rhetorically and financially the democracy advocates. So, as Hillary is wont to do, she shades and minces words — and downright lies:

We acknowledge that one size does not fit all. And when old approaches aren’t working, we won’t be afraid to attempt new ones, as we have this year by ending the stalemate of isolation and instead pursuing measured engagement with Burma. In Iran, we have offered to negotiate directly with the government on nuclear issues, but have at the same time expressed solidarity with those inside Iran struggling for democratic change. As President Obama said in his Nobel speech, “They have us on their side.”

And we will hold governments accountable for their actions, as we have just recently by terminating Millennium Challenge Corporation grants this year for Madagascar and Niger in the wake of government behavior. As the President said last week, “we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.”

So the Obami were on the side of the protesters? Or, rather, did they cut the legs out from under them by plunging ahead with negotiations, bestowing complete legitimacy on a regime that had stolen an election and brutalized its people? And just how did we hold Tehran “accountable” for its actions? We haven’t. Not in the least. Read More

There are many nauseating features of Hillary Clinton’s human-rights speech. There’s the hypocrisy of touting our forthrightness in dealing with China. (Does the Dalai Lama know? Why no freewheeling interchange in China between Obama and democracy activists? Why did she tell the Chinese leaders in February that human rights wouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of the important stuff?). There’s the loathsome confession that our legal and well-founded anti-terror policies are human-rights sins to be expiated. And then there’s her discussion of Iran.

She does her best to conceal the unconcealable: that at a critical juncture, we refused to deny legitimacy to the Iranian regime and to support both rhetorically and financially the democracy advocates. So, as Hillary is wont to do, she shades and minces words — and downright lies:

We acknowledge that one size does not fit all. And when old approaches aren’t working, we won’t be afraid to attempt new ones, as we have this year by ending the stalemate of isolation and instead pursuing measured engagement with Burma. In Iran, we have offered to negotiate directly with the government on nuclear issues, but have at the same time expressed solidarity with those inside Iran struggling for democratic change. As President Obama said in his Nobel speech, “They have us on their side.”

And we will hold governments accountable for their actions, as we have just recently by terminating Millennium Challenge Corporation grants this year for Madagascar and Niger in the wake of government behavior. As the President said last week, “we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.”

So the Obami were on the side of the protesters? Or, rather, did they cut the legs out from under them by plunging ahead with negotiations, bestowing complete legitimacy on a regime that had stolen an election and brutalized its people? And just how did we hold Tehran “accountable” for its actions? We haven’t. Not in the least.

But it’s in the Q&A that the full incoherence and abject hypocrisy of the Obami’s nonhuman-rights policy is revealed. When asked how we balance concerns about Iran’s nuclear program with human rights, Clinton gushed gibberish:

Right. Well, it is a balancing act. But the more important balancing act is to make sure that our very strong opposition to what is going on inside Iran doesn’t in any way undermine the legitimacy of the protest movement that has taken hold. Now, this is one of those very good examples of a hard call. After the election and the reaction that began almost immediately by people who felt that the election was invalid, put us in a position of seriously considering what is the best way we can support those who are putting their lives on the line by going into the streets. We wanted to convey clear support, but we didn’t want the attention shifted from the legitimate concerns to the United States, because we had nothing to do with the spontaneous reaction that grew up in response to the behavior of the Iranian Government.

So it’s been a delicate walk, but I think that the activists inside Iran know that we support them. We have certainly encouraged their continuing communication of what’s going on inside Iran. One of the calls that we made shortly after the election in the midst of the demonstrations is this unit of these very tech-savvy young people that we’ve created inside the State Department knew that there was a lot of communication going on about demonstrations and sharing information on Twitter, and that totally unconnected to what was going on in Iran, Twitter had planned some kind of lapse in service to do something on their system – you can tell I have no idea what they were doing. (Laughter.) I mean, you know, I don’t know Twitter from Tweeter, so – (laughter) – to be honest with you.

So these young tech people in the State Department called Twitter and said don’t take Twitter down right now. Whatever you’re going to do to reboot or whatever it is – (laughter) – don’t take Twitter down because people in Iran are dependent upon Twitter. So we have done that careful balancing.

Now, clearly, we think that pursuing an agenda of nonproliferation is a human rights issue. I mean, what would be worse than nuclear material or even a nuclear weapon being in the hands of either a state or a non-state actor that would be used to intimidate and threaten and even, in the worst-case scenario, destroy?

What??!! Nuclear proliferation becomes a human-rights issue. And walking a fine line means doing nothing to fund or lend aid to the protesters. As of now, the Obami have failed on both counts. Iran’s thugocracy is fully established and its nuclear program is proceeding full steam ahead. But she sort of knows what Twitter is. (Her speech doesn’t end there, by the way, and should be savored complete and unedited.)

This is what passes for “smart” diplomacy. But it’s revealing. Never does it dawn on the Obami that human rights, support for democracy, and regime change might actually enhance our objectives and afford us a solution to the problem of an Islamic fundamentalist state’s acquisition of nuclear arms. She’s in the business of walking fine lines and delivering double talk, which speaks volumes about how fundamentally unserious this group is about human rights.

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Detainees Coming to Illinois

Apparently, the Obami have not turned a new leaf after all. No, they’re still playing to the netroot crowd and treating the war on terror as if it were about something other than the security of Americans and the defeat of murderous foes. As leaked documents over the weekend indicated, the administration wants to acquire and upgrade the Thomson Correctional Center, located 150 miles northwest of Chicago, and transfer Guantanamo detainees there. They’ll have to spend hundreds of millions to duplicate the secure facility and accommodations already in place in Guantanamo. And — this is key — Congress will have to vote to allow detainees to be housed there. Republicans, especially Rep. Mark Kirk, who is running for the Senate, is raising the red flag, saying it’s an unnecessary risk.

But, as others have pointed out, the Democrats’ delight over the spending spree needed to upgrade the facility is oddly misplaced:

This exorbitant “injection” of funds would be necessary because TCC is not ready to accommodate international jihadists, who are prone to riot, savagely attack their custodians, attempt escape, and plot terror attacks while in U.S. prisons. The jail would have to be hardened before it could become the new Gitmo. So even if financial considerations were the first-order priority here — and they should not be — the administration’s plan would be inexcusably wasteful. Gitmo has already been hardened, at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. It is now a state-of-the-art, Geneva Conventions-compliant detention center. It makes no sense to sink those expenditures down a black hole, spending another fortune on a project that won’t generate sustainable growth. Illinois found that out when it built TCC in the first place.

And we risk more than that. Federal court judges will gain jurisdiction over the detainees and will be empowered to release them and/or entertain their claims to enjoy the full array of privileges enjoyed by ordinary prisoners. When you add in the risk that detainees will commit acts of violence, spread jihadist propaganda, and create targets for other terrorists, one has to wonder, once again, why?

The answer, or a partial answer, comes from a noxious speech on human rights given yesterday by Hillary Clinton. In the eyes of the Obami, you see, we’re human-rights violators and miscreants and must atone for our sins by putting our own citizens at risk and tying our hands in extracting information that might in the future save lives. In detailing the four elements of the Obami’s human-rights approach, No. 1 on the list was this:

First, a commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves. On his second full day in office, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the use of torture or official cruelty by any U.S. official and ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay. …

We know that all governments and all leaders sometimes fall short. So there have to be internal mechanisms of accountability when rights are violated. Often the toughest test for governments, which is essential to the protection of human rights, is absorbing and accepting criticism. And here too, we should lead by example. In the last six decades we have done this – imperfectly at times but with significant outcomes – from making amends for the internment of our own Japanese American citizens in World War II, to establishing legal recourse for victims of discrimination in the Jim Crow South, to passing hate crimes legislation to include attacks against gays and lesbians. When injustice anywhere is ignored, justice everywhere is denied. Acknowledging and remedying mistakes does not make us weaker, it reaffirms the strength of our principles and institutions.

We’re now in the game of hobbling ourselves and, indeed, putting ourselves in greater peril. The Obami, in all their sanctimonious glory, will rise above the mundane concerns for safety and security and throw overboard our own judicial history and precedents. This is nothing more than an exercise in moral preening. We’ll impress our European friends and the academic Left. For the enemy is us. And the Obami are on the case.

Congress need not buy into this insanity. It has the power of the purse and should put an end to the Obama team’s misguided and dangerous gambits. If not, there are elections next year, and the voters can make their voices heard.

Apparently, the Obami have not turned a new leaf after all. No, they’re still playing to the netroot crowd and treating the war on terror as if it were about something other than the security of Americans and the defeat of murderous foes. As leaked documents over the weekend indicated, the administration wants to acquire and upgrade the Thomson Correctional Center, located 150 miles northwest of Chicago, and transfer Guantanamo detainees there. They’ll have to spend hundreds of millions to duplicate the secure facility and accommodations already in place in Guantanamo. And — this is key — Congress will have to vote to allow detainees to be housed there. Republicans, especially Rep. Mark Kirk, who is running for the Senate, is raising the red flag, saying it’s an unnecessary risk.

But, as others have pointed out, the Democrats’ delight over the spending spree needed to upgrade the facility is oddly misplaced:

This exorbitant “injection” of funds would be necessary because TCC is not ready to accommodate international jihadists, who are prone to riot, savagely attack their custodians, attempt escape, and plot terror attacks while in U.S. prisons. The jail would have to be hardened before it could become the new Gitmo. So even if financial considerations were the first-order priority here — and they should not be — the administration’s plan would be inexcusably wasteful. Gitmo has already been hardened, at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. It is now a state-of-the-art, Geneva Conventions-compliant detention center. It makes no sense to sink those expenditures down a black hole, spending another fortune on a project that won’t generate sustainable growth. Illinois found that out when it built TCC in the first place.

And we risk more than that. Federal court judges will gain jurisdiction over the detainees and will be empowered to release them and/or entertain their claims to enjoy the full array of privileges enjoyed by ordinary prisoners. When you add in the risk that detainees will commit acts of violence, spread jihadist propaganda, and create targets for other terrorists, one has to wonder, once again, why?

The answer, or a partial answer, comes from a noxious speech on human rights given yesterday by Hillary Clinton. In the eyes of the Obami, you see, we’re human-rights violators and miscreants and must atone for our sins by putting our own citizens at risk and tying our hands in extracting information that might in the future save lives. In detailing the four elements of the Obami’s human-rights approach, No. 1 on the list was this:

First, a commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves. On his second full day in office, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the use of torture or official cruelty by any U.S. official and ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay. …

We know that all governments and all leaders sometimes fall short. So there have to be internal mechanisms of accountability when rights are violated. Often the toughest test for governments, which is essential to the protection of human rights, is absorbing and accepting criticism. And here too, we should lead by example. In the last six decades we have done this – imperfectly at times but with significant outcomes – from making amends for the internment of our own Japanese American citizens in World War II, to establishing legal recourse for victims of discrimination in the Jim Crow South, to passing hate crimes legislation to include attacks against gays and lesbians. When injustice anywhere is ignored, justice everywhere is denied. Acknowledging and remedying mistakes does not make us weaker, it reaffirms the strength of our principles and institutions.

We’re now in the game of hobbling ourselves and, indeed, putting ourselves in greater peril. The Obami, in all their sanctimonious glory, will rise above the mundane concerns for safety and security and throw overboard our own judicial history and precedents. This is nothing more than an exercise in moral preening. We’ll impress our European friends and the academic Left. For the enemy is us. And the Obami are on the case.

Congress need not buy into this insanity. It has the power of the purse and should put an end to the Obama team’s misguided and dangerous gambits. If not, there are elections next year, and the voters can make their voices heard.

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ObamaThink

It’s sometimes hard to figure out why the Democrats are so anxious to pass such awful health-care legislation — in fact indefinite, awful legislation — which is also so unpopular. Taking issue with liberal pollster Nate Silver, who thinks passing ObamaCare would be courageous, James Taranto concludes that the legislation has become highly unpopular because the public has figured out that it’s a “monstrosity.” He explains:

Whose job was it to make ObamaCare popular? The politicians who backed ObamaCare, of course. If 61% of Americans oppose the Senate bill, it is because the senators who support it have failed to make their case. It’s hard to see how someone who thinks they had a good case to make can excuse this failure, much less present it as an achievement of near-courage.

Moreover, Democrats are convinced, in a groupthink exercise outmatched only by the global-warming hysterics, that passing a hugely unpopular bill is the only chance to save themselves from a 2010 wipeout. There are several explanations for this delusion. First, they really don’t believe it’s politically wise but want universal, government-run health care so badly that they’re willing to take a dive politically. (This is the rationalization of the ideological true believer.) Second, they think the voters are dopey and don’t understand how wonderful life under the monstrous tax, mandate, and rationing scheme will be, only that, in the end, they’ll learn to love it. Third, Democrats are petrified of their liberal base and worry about primary challengers and donor rebellion. (As far as the 61 percent of Americans go, however, they seem willing to take their chances.) Of course, more than one explanation may be valid here.

We’ll see if the Democrats manage to cobble together a bill that can attract 60 senators. That seems to be the sole focus of their energies. Then they’ll have to worry about the tens of millions of enraged voters who will be very unhappy with them. Like Scarlett O’Hara — they’ll worry about that another day.

It’s sometimes hard to figure out why the Democrats are so anxious to pass such awful health-care legislation — in fact indefinite, awful legislation — which is also so unpopular. Taking issue with liberal pollster Nate Silver, who thinks passing ObamaCare would be courageous, James Taranto concludes that the legislation has become highly unpopular because the public has figured out that it’s a “monstrosity.” He explains:

Whose job was it to make ObamaCare popular? The politicians who backed ObamaCare, of course. If 61% of Americans oppose the Senate bill, it is because the senators who support it have failed to make their case. It’s hard to see how someone who thinks they had a good case to make can excuse this failure, much less present it as an achievement of near-courage.

Moreover, Democrats are convinced, in a groupthink exercise outmatched only by the global-warming hysterics, that passing a hugely unpopular bill is the only chance to save themselves from a 2010 wipeout. There are several explanations for this delusion. First, they really don’t believe it’s politically wise but want universal, government-run health care so badly that they’re willing to take a dive politically. (This is the rationalization of the ideological true believer.) Second, they think the voters are dopey and don’t understand how wonderful life under the monstrous tax, mandate, and rationing scheme will be, only that, in the end, they’ll learn to love it. Third, Democrats are petrified of their liberal base and worry about primary challengers and donor rebellion. (As far as the 61 percent of Americans go, however, they seem willing to take their chances.) Of course, more than one explanation may be valid here.

We’ll see if the Democrats manage to cobble together a bill that can attract 60 senators. That seems to be the sole focus of their energies. Then they’ll have to worry about the tens of millions of enraged voters who will be very unhappy with them. Like Scarlett O’Hara — they’ll worry about that another day.

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Blowing Up ReidCare

It’s out. It was in, and everyone tried to keep a straight face for several days. But Sens. Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and Ben Nelson would not play along. So the Medicare buy-in may is getting yanked as quickly as it was inserted into the madcap race for a health-care deal, any deal. The New York Times reports:

After a tense 90-minute meeting on Monday evening, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, was asked if Democrats were likely to jettison the Medicare proposal. “It’s looking like that’s the case,” Mr. Baucus said, indicating that the provision might be scrapped as a way of “getting support from 60 senators.”

So another harebrained Harry Reid scheme implodes. But what do they want to pass now? After all “not the public option” and “not Medicare buy-in” are not exactly the stuff of legislation. They need, because a few centrists insist on it, something that is semi-coherent and that actually might allow the Democrats to face the voters, who currently disfavor ObamaCare by a huge margin.

Really, what’s left after they take out the public option and the Medicare buy-in? A GOP leadership aide put it this way: “$500 billion in Medicare cuts, $400 billion in tax increases, raises premiums, raises costs, onerous regulations, individual mandates, employer mandate,  and expensive subsidies.” So what’s not to like? Well, just about everything. Perhaps, in a moment of clarity, everyone will go home, think this through clearly, and come back with a list of a few discrete reforms that will have bipartisan support. Then they can declare victory. Makes too much sense. Instead the Democratic leadership seems hell-bent on coming up with the umpteenth version of ObamaCare no matter how unpopular it may be with the public and making vulnerable members walk the plank. Seems crazy, huh? It is.

It’s out. It was in, and everyone tried to keep a straight face for several days. But Sens. Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and Ben Nelson would not play along. So the Medicare buy-in may is getting yanked as quickly as it was inserted into the madcap race for a health-care deal, any deal. The New York Times reports:

After a tense 90-minute meeting on Monday evening, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, was asked if Democrats were likely to jettison the Medicare proposal. “It’s looking like that’s the case,” Mr. Baucus said, indicating that the provision might be scrapped as a way of “getting support from 60 senators.”

So another harebrained Harry Reid scheme implodes. But what do they want to pass now? After all “not the public option” and “not Medicare buy-in” are not exactly the stuff of legislation. They need, because a few centrists insist on it, something that is semi-coherent and that actually might allow the Democrats to face the voters, who currently disfavor ObamaCare by a huge margin.

Really, what’s left after they take out the public option and the Medicare buy-in? A GOP leadership aide put it this way: “$500 billion in Medicare cuts, $400 billion in tax increases, raises premiums, raises costs, onerous regulations, individual mandates, employer mandate,  and expensive subsidies.” So what’s not to like? Well, just about everything. Perhaps, in a moment of clarity, everyone will go home, think this through clearly, and come back with a list of a few discrete reforms that will have bipartisan support. Then they can declare victory. Makes too much sense. Instead the Democratic leadership seems hell-bent on coming up with the umpteenth version of ObamaCare no matter how unpopular it may be with the public and making vulnerable members walk the plank. Seems crazy, huh? It is.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

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