Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 17, 2009

Another Peace Process in Our Time

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — currently in the 60th month of his 48-month term, a declared non-candidate for re-election (in the event there is ever another Palestinian election), presently governing only half of the putative Palestinian state — has told Haaretz that a peace agreement could be reached within six months if Israel will make more pre-negotiation concessions.

Peace could be reached not only in our time but with four full months left over to complete Netanyahu’s 10-month settlement freeze. Abbas will hold the football himself.

Not even those on the Left in Israel believe in this process any more. Ari Shavit, writing in today’s Haaretz, notes that:

There’s one small problem: Similar things were said to us when the Beilin-Abbas agreement was formulated in 1995. Similar things were said to us on the eve of Camp David 2000. Similar things were promised us when the Geneva Initiative was signed in 2003. Similar things were promised us when Israel went to Annapolis in 2007.

Six months is in fact exactly what Abbas promised at the beginning of the Annapolis Process in 2007, only to reject still another Israeli offer of a state 12 months later.

Shavit encapsulates in a single paragraph the reason there is currently no prospect of peace, with or without additional Israeli concessions, made before or after negotiations begin:

With Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip, arming itself to the teeth and enjoying the support of about one-third of the Palestinians, it has the right to veto any diplomatic progress. With Fatah unwilling to recognize the Jewish nation-state and objecting to a demilitarized Palestinian state, there is no chance for a peace treaty.

Perhaps one day there will be another Palestinian presidential election, with a candidate campaigning on a platform calling for recognition of a Jewish state and acceptance of a demilitarized Palestinian one. Perhaps one day the Palestinians will elect such a person. But today there is no such candidate, nor even another scheduled election. The Palestinian peace movement consists of recycled interviews with Haaretz.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — currently in the 60th month of his 48-month term, a declared non-candidate for re-election (in the event there is ever another Palestinian election), presently governing only half of the putative Palestinian state — has told Haaretz that a peace agreement could be reached within six months if Israel will make more pre-negotiation concessions.

Peace could be reached not only in our time but with four full months left over to complete Netanyahu’s 10-month settlement freeze. Abbas will hold the football himself.

Not even those on the Left in Israel believe in this process any more. Ari Shavit, writing in today’s Haaretz, notes that:

There’s one small problem: Similar things were said to us when the Beilin-Abbas agreement was formulated in 1995. Similar things were said to us on the eve of Camp David 2000. Similar things were promised us when the Geneva Initiative was signed in 2003. Similar things were promised us when Israel went to Annapolis in 2007.

Six months is in fact exactly what Abbas promised at the beginning of the Annapolis Process in 2007, only to reject still another Israeli offer of a state 12 months later.

Shavit encapsulates in a single paragraph the reason there is currently no prospect of peace, with or without additional Israeli concessions, made before or after negotiations begin:

With Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip, arming itself to the teeth and enjoying the support of about one-third of the Palestinians, it has the right to veto any diplomatic progress. With Fatah unwilling to recognize the Jewish nation-state and objecting to a demilitarized Palestinian state, there is no chance for a peace treaty.

Perhaps one day there will be another Palestinian presidential election, with a candidate campaigning on a platform calling for recognition of a Jewish state and acceptance of a demilitarized Palestinian one. Perhaps one day the Palestinians will elect such a person. But today there is no such candidate, nor even another scheduled election. The Palestinian peace movement consists of recycled interviews with Haaretz.

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Wolf Turns Up the Heat on Black Panther Case

Rep. Frank Wolf turned up the heat on the Justice Department yesterday, introducing a Resolution of Inquiry that recounts the degree to which the Justice Department has stonewalled on efforts to find out why a serious case of voter intimidation was dismissed. Wolf wants the attorney general to hand over to the House all information relating to the dismissal of the case United States v. New Black Panther Party, the egregious voter-intimidation case that was captured on videotape. Wolf ‘s resolution explains:

This case was inexplicably dismissed earlier this year — over the ardent objections of the career attorneys overseeing the case as well as the department’s own appeal office.  I regret that Congress must resort to oversight resolutions as a means to receive information about the dismissal of this case, but the Congress and the American people have a right to know why this case was not prosecuted.

As ranking Republican member of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, I take oversight of the department very seriously. … Time and again over the last year, the department has stonewalled any effort to learn about the decision to dismiss this case. I have written Attorney General Holder on six occasions asking for an explanation for the dismissal of this case. To date, I have received no response from him.

Wolf recounts his efforts to get answers — from the DOJ inspector general, who passed the buck, to the Office of Professional Responsibility, supervised by the attorney general. He notes that he has written to OPR, but the office not only refused to share information but also provided an incomplete and inaccurate response from a legislative-affairs staff member. He also chides the inadequate congressional oversight of House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and notes that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, also rebuffed, has been forced to resort to issuing subpoenas. Confirming press accounts, Wolf asserts that “the attorney general has instructed his department to ignore these subpoenas,” giving his employees the choice between obeying the law and complying with the attorney general’s obstruction, regardless of his standing as the nation’s chief law enforcer.

Wolf implores the House not to turn a “blind eye” to the attorney general’s obstruction. He also urges the attorney general to answer the commission’s inquiries. The resolution must be voted on by the Judiciary Committee and will likely be defeated in a party-line vote. But the issue is slowly and surely getting some visibility.

Perhaps more important, Wolf inserted in the appropriation bill for the Justice Department language that directs Justice to report back on the findings of the inquiry by the Office of Professional Responsibility and to advise Congress of its ensuing recommendations for action.

It seems as though the Obami’s plan to conceal the Black Panther case under the radar screen is being thwarted. As one Capitol Hill source told me of the Obama Justice Department, “They will HATE this … there is no dodging this now.” At the very least, we may find out why Obama political appointees subverted the efforts of career attorneys.

Rep. Frank Wolf turned up the heat on the Justice Department yesterday, introducing a Resolution of Inquiry that recounts the degree to which the Justice Department has stonewalled on efforts to find out why a serious case of voter intimidation was dismissed. Wolf wants the attorney general to hand over to the House all information relating to the dismissal of the case United States v. New Black Panther Party, the egregious voter-intimidation case that was captured on videotape. Wolf ‘s resolution explains:

This case was inexplicably dismissed earlier this year — over the ardent objections of the career attorneys overseeing the case as well as the department’s own appeal office.  I regret that Congress must resort to oversight resolutions as a means to receive information about the dismissal of this case, but the Congress and the American people have a right to know why this case was not prosecuted.

As ranking Republican member of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, I take oversight of the department very seriously. … Time and again over the last year, the department has stonewalled any effort to learn about the decision to dismiss this case. I have written Attorney General Holder on six occasions asking for an explanation for the dismissal of this case. To date, I have received no response from him.

Wolf recounts his efforts to get answers — from the DOJ inspector general, who passed the buck, to the Office of Professional Responsibility, supervised by the attorney general. He notes that he has written to OPR, but the office not only refused to share information but also provided an incomplete and inaccurate response from a legislative-affairs staff member. He also chides the inadequate congressional oversight of House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and notes that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, also rebuffed, has been forced to resort to issuing subpoenas. Confirming press accounts, Wolf asserts that “the attorney general has instructed his department to ignore these subpoenas,” giving his employees the choice between obeying the law and complying with the attorney general’s obstruction, regardless of his standing as the nation’s chief law enforcer.

Wolf implores the House not to turn a “blind eye” to the attorney general’s obstruction. He also urges the attorney general to answer the commission’s inquiries. The resolution must be voted on by the Judiciary Committee and will likely be defeated in a party-line vote. But the issue is slowly and surely getting some visibility.

Perhaps more important, Wolf inserted in the appropriation bill for the Justice Department language that directs Justice to report back on the findings of the inquiry by the Office of Professional Responsibility and to advise Congress of its ensuing recommendations for action.

It seems as though the Obami’s plan to conceal the Black Panther case under the radar screen is being thwarted. As one Capitol Hill source told me of the Obama Justice Department, “They will HATE this … there is no dodging this now.” At the very least, we may find out why Obama political appointees subverted the efforts of career attorneys.

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Missiles? Yawn

The Obama administration’s reaction to Iran’s Sajjil-2 missile launch on Wednesday has been beyond perfunctory; in fact, it has been disjointed and blasé to the point of haplessness. One has the sense of a vacuum where the conventional signals on defense policy used to be, as if no serious effort were being made.

The Sajjil missile program is two things. It’s a game-changer for our own missile-defense planning—a type of game-changer anticipated in theory for some years, and now being tested live in Iran. The pace of its development is, in the words of Israel’s former missile-defense chief, “phenomenal.” The launch-testing program started in November 2008 and has straddled two U.S. administrations, a political disadvantage for the objective analysis of its import. But from a professional military standpoint, the program’s progress naturally cues an adjustment to our own planning.

It’s therefore misleading—even a touch disingenuous—for the Pentagon’s spokesman to dismiss the Sajjil-2 launch on December 16 (the missile’s second successful launch ever) as “not particularly different than [sic] anything we’ve seen before.” This is narrowly accurate, but it’s not what matters. Downplaying the significance of the Sajjil program is lazy and sloppy; the professional approach would be conveying that we are taking steps to position ourselves for its emergence—which we are, at least from a long-term programmatic perspective.

The Sajjil is also the kind of missile program Obama had in mind in September, when he announced he was changing our missile-defense policy to be better prepared for the “emerging medium-range threat.” This announcement was made with some fanfare, attended by a phalanx of officials and experts explaining how the Obama policy would position us better for missile defense in the near future. It’s therefore particularly odd that the administration spokesmen didn’t make that connection in their public comments about Wednesday’s missile launch.

Perhaps they were deterred by the fact that the individual elements of Obama’s missile-defense plan are either not proven against an Iran/Sajjil threat scenario or out of sync with the Sajjil program’s rapid time line (e.g., the ground-launched version of the Navy’s SM-3, which is to substitute for Bush’s silo-based interceptors in Europe, doesn’t exist yet). But I doubt it. Spinning a policy initiative to de-emphasize its inconvenient particulars is just basic political competence. In theory, Obama’s policy shift in September was targeted precisely on the threat represented by the Sajjil. That no one in an official capacity has promptly spun this point for positive effect argues a weird lack of interest and focus.

Media reports are pairing the Sajjil-2 launch with Monday’s earlier announcement that the Pentagon will test our silo-based interceptors—which are operationally deployed in Alaska and California— against a simulated Iranian attack scenario in January. The testing program for U.S missile defenses has concentrated on a North Korea scenario up to now, with the threat mimicking the No Dong missile, the prototype for Iran’s older Shahab. This certainly seems linked to the Sajjil story. But since the silo-based interceptors are exactly the ones Obama has decided not to put in Europe, it’s another story with loose ends. What does it mean that we are doing this?

We can speculate, and many are busy doing just that; but we shouldn’t have to. Neither should Iran—or Russia or China, for that matter. There is no downside to sending signals on this topic that are clear, consistent, and unified. There is a serious downside, however, to sending signals about our defense policy that come off as detached and random.

The Obama administration’s reaction to Iran’s Sajjil-2 missile launch on Wednesday has been beyond perfunctory; in fact, it has been disjointed and blasé to the point of haplessness. One has the sense of a vacuum where the conventional signals on defense policy used to be, as if no serious effort were being made.

The Sajjil missile program is two things. It’s a game-changer for our own missile-defense planning—a type of game-changer anticipated in theory for some years, and now being tested live in Iran. The pace of its development is, in the words of Israel’s former missile-defense chief, “phenomenal.” The launch-testing program started in November 2008 and has straddled two U.S. administrations, a political disadvantage for the objective analysis of its import. But from a professional military standpoint, the program’s progress naturally cues an adjustment to our own planning.

It’s therefore misleading—even a touch disingenuous—for the Pentagon’s spokesman to dismiss the Sajjil-2 launch on December 16 (the missile’s second successful launch ever) as “not particularly different than [sic] anything we’ve seen before.” This is narrowly accurate, but it’s not what matters. Downplaying the significance of the Sajjil program is lazy and sloppy; the professional approach would be conveying that we are taking steps to position ourselves for its emergence—which we are, at least from a long-term programmatic perspective.

The Sajjil is also the kind of missile program Obama had in mind in September, when he announced he was changing our missile-defense policy to be better prepared for the “emerging medium-range threat.” This announcement was made with some fanfare, attended by a phalanx of officials and experts explaining how the Obama policy would position us better for missile defense in the near future. It’s therefore particularly odd that the administration spokesmen didn’t make that connection in their public comments about Wednesday’s missile launch.

Perhaps they were deterred by the fact that the individual elements of Obama’s missile-defense plan are either not proven against an Iran/Sajjil threat scenario or out of sync with the Sajjil program’s rapid time line (e.g., the ground-launched version of the Navy’s SM-3, which is to substitute for Bush’s silo-based interceptors in Europe, doesn’t exist yet). But I doubt it. Spinning a policy initiative to de-emphasize its inconvenient particulars is just basic political competence. In theory, Obama’s policy shift in September was targeted precisely on the threat represented by the Sajjil. That no one in an official capacity has promptly spun this point for positive effect argues a weird lack of interest and focus.

Media reports are pairing the Sajjil-2 launch with Monday’s earlier announcement that the Pentagon will test our silo-based interceptors—which are operationally deployed in Alaska and California— against a simulated Iranian attack scenario in January. The testing program for U.S missile defenses has concentrated on a North Korea scenario up to now, with the threat mimicking the No Dong missile, the prototype for Iran’s older Shahab. This certainly seems linked to the Sajjil story. But since the silo-based interceptors are exactly the ones Obama has decided not to put in Europe, it’s another story with loose ends. What does it mean that we are doing this?

We can speculate, and many are busy doing just that; but we shouldn’t have to. Neither should Iran—or Russia or China, for that matter. There is no downside to sending signals on this topic that are clear, consistent, and unified. There is a serious downside, however, to sending signals about our defense policy that come off as detached and random.

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Oops, They Forgot to Include Siberia

First it was the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia playing fast and loose with scientific data, manipulating it to produce desired results while discarding much of the raw data. Now, according to a report in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, the Hadley Center for Climate Change, part of the government’s British Meteorological Office, did some data-cooking as well, leaving out temperature records for about 40 percent of the Russian landmass in calculating recent temperature trends.

Since Russia constitutes 12.5 percent of the world’s landmass, much of that a byword for brutal winters, that is no small omission. And the data from weather stations that were omitted do not show substantial global warming in recent decades.

Climategate is beginning to seem more and more like its namesake, Watergate. Those around in those days remember how, day after day after day, new revelations came out and ever more desperate attempts to minimize their significance or to explain them away were made. (One of my all-time favorite Herblock cartoons, from June 1973, as Watergate was just beginning to expand, shows a press conference in the East Room. In the background is a very large, very dead whale labeled “Nixon Scandals,” inadequately hidden beneath a small rug. The spokesman holding the press conference says, “I am authorized to say, ‘What whale?’ “)

The constant water drip of revelations and Nixon’s attempts to explain them and prevent further ones from leaking slowly but surely destroyed the Nixon presidency. The chronology of Watergate as it evolved over a year and a half is a fascinating window into the greatest scandal in American history as it slowly reached critical mass.

Climategate bids fair to be equally interesting, and it seems that we are getting nearer and nearer to that critical mass. I suspect that Al Gore, flying around in his private jet telling everyone else to walk, is not too happy right now.

First it was the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia playing fast and loose with scientific data, manipulating it to produce desired results while discarding much of the raw data. Now, according to a report in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, the Hadley Center for Climate Change, part of the government’s British Meteorological Office, did some data-cooking as well, leaving out temperature records for about 40 percent of the Russian landmass in calculating recent temperature trends.

Since Russia constitutes 12.5 percent of the world’s landmass, much of that a byword for brutal winters, that is no small omission. And the data from weather stations that were omitted do not show substantial global warming in recent decades.

Climategate is beginning to seem more and more like its namesake, Watergate. Those around in those days remember how, day after day after day, new revelations came out and ever more desperate attempts to minimize their significance or to explain them away were made. (One of my all-time favorite Herblock cartoons, from June 1973, as Watergate was just beginning to expand, shows a press conference in the East Room. In the background is a very large, very dead whale labeled “Nixon Scandals,” inadequately hidden beneath a small rug. The spokesman holding the press conference says, “I am authorized to say, ‘What whale?’ “)

The constant water drip of revelations and Nixon’s attempts to explain them and prevent further ones from leaking slowly but surely destroyed the Nixon presidency. The chronology of Watergate as it evolved over a year and a half is a fascinating window into the greatest scandal in American history as it slowly reached critical mass.

Climategate bids fair to be equally interesting, and it seems that we are getting nearer and nearer to that critical mass. I suspect that Al Gore, flying around in his private jet telling everyone else to walk, is not too happy right now.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Finally, a Valid Vietnam Analogy for Afghanistan

We’ve spent most of the past several years listening to liberals nattering away about how first Iraq and now Afghanistan is the new Vietnam. But finally, those making such arguments in the hope of undermining our efforts to resist the Taliban have a leg to stand on, even if a proper understanding of this episode leads to conclusions they don’t like.

Today’s front-page story in the New York Times about the efforts of American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith to depose the president of Afghanistan last year ought to set our collective Vietnam-analogy alarm bells ringing.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

We’ve spent most of the past several years listening to liberals nattering away about how first Iraq and now Afghanistan is the new Vietnam. But finally, those making such arguments in the hope of undermining our efforts to resist the Taliban have a leg to stand on, even if a proper understanding of this episode leads to conclusions they don’t like.

Today’s front-page story in the New York Times about the efforts of American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith to depose the president of Afghanistan last year ought to set our collective Vietnam-analogy alarm bells ringing.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Global-Warming Poetry

Al Gore has departed from fictional films … er … “documentaries” to write some truly atrocious poetry. A COMMENTARY reader who prefers to go nameless has an alternative offering:

I do not want the Earth to warm
I do not want to do it harm
I do not want the Earth to heat
I fear the flames will hurt my feet
The time has come for me to rhyme
To save the Earth, I’m just in time

To save the planet from this flame
Aloft I, in my private plane
Hysterically my warnings shriek
Sounding not unlike some goofy freak
Fake data backs my warming shtick
The temp curve is a hockey stick

I can help relieve your guilt
Because you see, my fortune’s built
On carbon offsets that I sell
Before the world turns to hell
You’d best send money, for a tree
That I will plant in Zimbabwe

Dr. Seuss, take that!

(If you think that you, too, are a budding Wallace Stevens of eco-disaster, I’m sure Mr. Gore would love to hear from you. Perhaps there’s an anthology in the works!)

Al Gore has departed from fictional films … er … “documentaries” to write some truly atrocious poetry. A COMMENTARY reader who prefers to go nameless has an alternative offering:

I do not want the Earth to warm
I do not want to do it harm
I do not want the Earth to heat
I fear the flames will hurt my feet
The time has come for me to rhyme
To save the Earth, I’m just in time

To save the planet from this flame
Aloft I, in my private plane
Hysterically my warnings shriek
Sounding not unlike some goofy freak
Fake data backs my warming shtick
The temp curve is a hockey stick

I can help relieve your guilt
Because you see, my fortune’s built
On carbon offsets that I sell
Before the world turns to hell
You’d best send money, for a tree
That I will plant in Zimbabwe

Dr. Seuss, take that!

(If you think that you, too, are a budding Wallace Stevens of eco-disaster, I’m sure Mr. Gore would love to hear from you. Perhaps there’s an anthology in the works!)

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But What About the Voters?

It seems as though the gap between liberal elites and American voters has never been so great. The Left’s two top-agenda items are climate control and health-care reform. The electorate has other ideas. On global warming, the latest poll from Rasmussen tells us:

Public skepticism about the officially promoted cause of global warming has reached an all-time high among Americans. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 50% of adults now believe that global warming is caused primarily by long-term planetary trends. Just 34% say climate change is due primarily to human activity, even as President Obama and other world leaders gather at a UN summit to limit the human activity they blame for global warming.

Americans are increasingly skeptical of the hype and even more so of the “cure” — massive taxes and regulation.

The plunge in support for health-care “reform” is now becoming another inconvenient truth for the Democrats. Whichever survey you look at, the conclusion is the same: the public doesn’t want this monstrosity. The solution to this unfortunate lack of public support? Rush it through so voters don’t get the chance they had in August to impress upon their elected leaders how angry they are. Sen. Mitch McConnell took to the floor today to explain:

They know Americans overwhelmingly oppose it, so they want to get it over with. Americans are already outraged at the fact that Democrat leaders took their eyes off the ball. Rushing the process on a partisan line makes the situation even worse. Americans were told the purpose of reform was to reduce the cost of health care. Instead, Democrat leaders produced a $2.5 trillion, 2,074-page monstrosity that vastly expands government, raises taxes, raises premiums, and wrecks Medicare. And they want to rush this bill through by Christmas — one of the most significant, far-reaching pieces of legislation in U.S. history. They want to rush it.

It takes a remarkable degree of hubris to insist on pushing a radical agenda without popular support. The Obami have resorted to bureaucratic fiat (e.g., the EPA carbon-emission edit) and the Senate is hiding the bill until it can be sprung and sped to a vote on Christmas Eve. Democrats seem to believe they operate in a world devoid of accountability. But we have elections to sort this out. In eleven months the 60 percent or so of voters who don’t want ObamaCare and the millions who want jobs, not energy taxes, can express their views. Democrats may not believe it now, but the voters always get the last say.

It seems as though the gap between liberal elites and American voters has never been so great. The Left’s two top-agenda items are climate control and health-care reform. The electorate has other ideas. On global warming, the latest poll from Rasmussen tells us:

Public skepticism about the officially promoted cause of global warming has reached an all-time high among Americans. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 50% of adults now believe that global warming is caused primarily by long-term planetary trends. Just 34% say climate change is due primarily to human activity, even as President Obama and other world leaders gather at a UN summit to limit the human activity they blame for global warming.

Americans are increasingly skeptical of the hype and even more so of the “cure” — massive taxes and regulation.

The plunge in support for health-care “reform” is now becoming another inconvenient truth for the Democrats. Whichever survey you look at, the conclusion is the same: the public doesn’t want this monstrosity. The solution to this unfortunate lack of public support? Rush it through so voters don’t get the chance they had in August to impress upon their elected leaders how angry they are. Sen. Mitch McConnell took to the floor today to explain:

They know Americans overwhelmingly oppose it, so they want to get it over with. Americans are already outraged at the fact that Democrat leaders took their eyes off the ball. Rushing the process on a partisan line makes the situation even worse. Americans were told the purpose of reform was to reduce the cost of health care. Instead, Democrat leaders produced a $2.5 trillion, 2,074-page monstrosity that vastly expands government, raises taxes, raises premiums, and wrecks Medicare. And they want to rush this bill through by Christmas — one of the most significant, far-reaching pieces of legislation in U.S. history. They want to rush it.

It takes a remarkable degree of hubris to insist on pushing a radical agenda without popular support. The Obami have resorted to bureaucratic fiat (e.g., the EPA carbon-emission edit) and the Senate is hiding the bill until it can be sprung and sped to a vote on Christmas Eve. Democrats seem to believe they operate in a world devoid of accountability. But we have elections to sort this out. In eleven months the 60 percent or so of voters who don’t want ObamaCare and the millions who want jobs, not energy taxes, can express their views. Democrats may not believe it now, but the voters always get the last say.

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Re: Why There Are Primaries

A Florida columnist (h/t) Ben Smith offers an explanation for Charlie Crist’s belly flop in the senate primary:

This is a serial politician campaigning for his fifth office in less than 10 years (education commissioner, attorney general, governor, vice president, Senate).  Every one of his major initiatives in Florida – insurance reform, renewable energy, tax policy, health insurance and the Everglades – has fallen flat. Confronted with mounting challenges in Tallahassee, his response is to abandon ship for the Senate rather than deal with them. Even taking Rubio out of the equation, why in the world would anyone argue Crist has earned a spot in the Senate?

Well a lot of snooty pundits and Washington insiders thought they knew best. And they are still at it, grousing about a divisive primary and wailing that “blood will be spilled.” Puleez. If Crist actually is a crudy candidate with a record of underachievement, Republicans are fortunate to find that out in the primary. And if Crist goes bonkers with a hyper-negative campaign, the Florida voters can register their disapproval. It’s politics. It’s elections. And when Republicans pre-select a candidate with a problematic record and don’t hold primaries, as we saw in NY-23, disaster happens in the general election.

A Florida columnist (h/t) Ben Smith offers an explanation for Charlie Crist’s belly flop in the senate primary:

This is a serial politician campaigning for his fifth office in less than 10 years (education commissioner, attorney general, governor, vice president, Senate).  Every one of his major initiatives in Florida – insurance reform, renewable energy, tax policy, health insurance and the Everglades – has fallen flat. Confronted with mounting challenges in Tallahassee, his response is to abandon ship for the Senate rather than deal with them. Even taking Rubio out of the equation, why in the world would anyone argue Crist has earned a spot in the Senate?

Well a lot of snooty pundits and Washington insiders thought they knew best. And they are still at it, grousing about a divisive primary and wailing that “blood will be spilled.” Puleez. If Crist actually is a crudy candidate with a record of underachievement, Republicans are fortunate to find that out in the primary. And if Crist goes bonkers with a hyper-negative campaign, the Florida voters can register their disapproval. It’s politics. It’s elections. And when Republicans pre-select a candidate with a problematic record and don’t hold primaries, as we saw in NY-23, disaster happens in the general election.

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Technology in the Military

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating scoop today about how insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan are hacking into Predator feeds. Using software that costs less than $30, they are able to see what American commanders see when employing some of our most sophisticated surveillance systems. The Journal account notes:

U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America’s enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance.

I predict that this is only the beginning of such efforts to neutralize our advantage in ISR –intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. If lowly insurgents can hack into our Predator feeds, many of which are not encrypted, imagine what more sophisticated adversaries such as China could do. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine armed Predators, known as Reapers, being reprogrammed to hit U.S. bases. This is part of a historical process that I analyzed in my book, War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today:

It is a truism that new technology, if it proves effective, tends to disseminate quickly…. The process of technological dissemination and nullification has speeded up since the rise in the mid-nineteenth century of such major arms manufacturers as Krupp, Winchester, and Armstrong, which were happy to sell to just about anyone…. Pervasive today are firms that sell dual-use devices such as computers, night-vision goggles, and GPS trackers which can have both military and civil applications. Thanks to their success, may of America’s key Information Age advantages are rapidly passing into the hands of friends and foes alike.

The U.S. has certainly sprinted to a lead in utilizing Information Age technology for military (as well as civil) purposes. But there is no room for complacency. Every new weapons system or surveillance platform we introduce only heightens our reliance on digital networks that are in turn very vulnerable to disruption. Wars of the future will have an important cyber aspect and it will be a major challenge for the Industrial Age bureaucracy known as the Department of Defense to adjust. The latest news about the hacking of the Predator feeds shows just how urgent is our need to stay ahead of our foes on these virtual battlefields.

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating scoop today about how insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan are hacking into Predator feeds. Using software that costs less than $30, they are able to see what American commanders see when employing some of our most sophisticated surveillance systems. The Journal account notes:

U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America’s enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance.

I predict that this is only the beginning of such efforts to neutralize our advantage in ISR –intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. If lowly insurgents can hack into our Predator feeds, many of which are not encrypted, imagine what more sophisticated adversaries such as China could do. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine armed Predators, known as Reapers, being reprogrammed to hit U.S. bases. This is part of a historical process that I analyzed in my book, War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today:

It is a truism that new technology, if it proves effective, tends to disseminate quickly…. The process of technological dissemination and nullification has speeded up since the rise in the mid-nineteenth century of such major arms manufacturers as Krupp, Winchester, and Armstrong, which were happy to sell to just about anyone…. Pervasive today are firms that sell dual-use devices such as computers, night-vision goggles, and GPS trackers which can have both military and civil applications. Thanks to their success, may of America’s key Information Age advantages are rapidly passing into the hands of friends and foes alike.

The U.S. has certainly sprinted to a lead in utilizing Information Age technology for military (as well as civil) purposes. But there is no room for complacency. Every new weapons system or surveillance platform we introduce only heightens our reliance on digital networks that are in turn very vulnerable to disruption. Wars of the future will have an important cyber aspect and it will be a major challenge for the Industrial Age bureaucracy known as the Department of Defense to adjust. The latest news about the hacking of the Predator feeds shows just how urgent is our need to stay ahead of our foes on these virtual battlefields.

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No Deal in Copenhagen?

The negotiations have hit a snag. A key player won’t get on board. It’s going to end in failure. Health-care reform? Perhaps. But that’s the scenario being played out in Copenhagen, where lo and behold the Chinese are refusing to go along with efforts to hamstring their economy:

With just two days remaining in historic and contentious climate talks here, China signaled overnight that it sees virtually no possibility that the nearly 200 nations gathered would find agreement by Friday. A participant in the talks said that China would agree only to a brief political declaration that left unresolved virtually all the major issues.

Hillary Clinton cheerfully offered up the U.S. taxpayers’ money and unspecified private financing for a $100B fund to “help poor and vulnerable nations adapt to climate change and build more energy efficient economies,” but only if there’s a deal. She solemnly announced that “we actually think $100 billion is appropriate, usable and will be effective.” (I rather doubt that the taxpayers agree, and some might even think that such private financing might be put to better use to restart the U.S. economy.) Nevertheless, the Chinese seem impervious to our charms and the pleas of the developing countries. The latter are upset, you see, about “the economic and environmental tyranny of the industrial world”:

“The rich are destroying the planet,” said Hugo Chávez, the socialist president of Venezuela, on Wednesday. “Perhaps they think they’re going off to another one after they’ve destroyed this one.” On Monday, African nations briefly brought the climate talks to a standstill. China, by far the largest economic power in the group, has dragged its feet throughout the week by raising one technical objection after another to the basic negotiating text. And on Wednesday night, the group refused to take part in negotiations that conference organizers had hoped would produce a definitive negotiating text by Thursday morning. Instead, many Group of 77 leaders spent the day hurling accusations at wealthier countries.

But we want to give them a hundred billion dollars — isn’t that enough to buy some goodwill? Well, no. It’s shocking, I know, but just as they misread the IOC, the Obami didn’t appreciate “the depth of anger in the developing world and the height of grandstanding that would consume so much of the conference’s time.” They didn’t foresee the beg-and-bribe-athon, the spread-the-wealth frenzy, and the battle-to-hobble the West, nor it seems did they anticipate China’s refusal to offer up its own people’s economic opportunities for the sake of appeasing the likes of Hugo Chavez.

If this all comes to naught, there will be many in the U.S. who ask (re-ask, really) why we should hobble our own economy when China, to name just one major power, refuses to do the same. Why should we restrict emissions, setting up an exodus of jobs? Good questions all. Politico notes:

If China has, in fact, pulled the plug it would deal a major blow to efforts by Democrats in the Senate to revive stalled efforts at passing vitally important companion legislation. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) warned the conference Wednesday that the Senate isn’t likely to move if lawmaker perceive America taking more stringent steps than trading partners and rivals in China and India.

Meanwhile, in the White House, someone is probably asking how it was that they managed to mess up yet another Copenhagen confab, raising expectations only to demonstrate, once again, the severe limits of Obama’s influence. Perhaps multilateralism isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

The negotiations have hit a snag. A key player won’t get on board. It’s going to end in failure. Health-care reform? Perhaps. But that’s the scenario being played out in Copenhagen, where lo and behold the Chinese are refusing to go along with efforts to hamstring their economy:

With just two days remaining in historic and contentious climate talks here, China signaled overnight that it sees virtually no possibility that the nearly 200 nations gathered would find agreement by Friday. A participant in the talks said that China would agree only to a brief political declaration that left unresolved virtually all the major issues.

Hillary Clinton cheerfully offered up the U.S. taxpayers’ money and unspecified private financing for a $100B fund to “help poor and vulnerable nations adapt to climate change and build more energy efficient economies,” but only if there’s a deal. She solemnly announced that “we actually think $100 billion is appropriate, usable and will be effective.” (I rather doubt that the taxpayers agree, and some might even think that such private financing might be put to better use to restart the U.S. economy.) Nevertheless, the Chinese seem impervious to our charms and the pleas of the developing countries. The latter are upset, you see, about “the economic and environmental tyranny of the industrial world”:

“The rich are destroying the planet,” said Hugo Chávez, the socialist president of Venezuela, on Wednesday. “Perhaps they think they’re going off to another one after they’ve destroyed this one.” On Monday, African nations briefly brought the climate talks to a standstill. China, by far the largest economic power in the group, has dragged its feet throughout the week by raising one technical objection after another to the basic negotiating text. And on Wednesday night, the group refused to take part in negotiations that conference organizers had hoped would produce a definitive negotiating text by Thursday morning. Instead, many Group of 77 leaders spent the day hurling accusations at wealthier countries.

But we want to give them a hundred billion dollars — isn’t that enough to buy some goodwill? Well, no. It’s shocking, I know, but just as they misread the IOC, the Obami didn’t appreciate “the depth of anger in the developing world and the height of grandstanding that would consume so much of the conference’s time.” They didn’t foresee the beg-and-bribe-athon, the spread-the-wealth frenzy, and the battle-to-hobble the West, nor it seems did they anticipate China’s refusal to offer up its own people’s economic opportunities for the sake of appeasing the likes of Hugo Chavez.

If this all comes to naught, there will be many in the U.S. who ask (re-ask, really) why we should hobble our own economy when China, to name just one major power, refuses to do the same. Why should we restrict emissions, setting up an exodus of jobs? Good questions all. Politico notes:

If China has, in fact, pulled the plug it would deal a major blow to efforts by Democrats in the Senate to revive stalled efforts at passing vitally important companion legislation. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) warned the conference Wednesday that the Senate isn’t likely to move if lawmaker perceive America taking more stringent steps than trading partners and rivals in China and India.

Meanwhile, in the White House, someone is probably asking how it was that they managed to mess up yet another Copenhagen confab, raising expectations only to demonstrate, once again, the severe limits of Obama’s influence. Perhaps multilateralism isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

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Death — Panels and Otherwise

Doctor and Senator Tom Coburn goes chapter and verse through ObamaCare, making the case that even without a public option, the bill is replete with rationing provisions that will squeeze care to save costs. He explains:

For instance, the Reid bill (in sections 3403 and 2021) explicitly empowers Medicare to deny treatment based on cost. An Independent Medicare Advisory Board created by the bill—composed of permanent, unelected and, therefore, unaccountable members—will greatly expand the rationing practices that already occur in the program. Medicare, for example, has limited cancer patients’ access to Epogen, a costly but vital drug that stimulates red blood cell production. It has limited the use of virtual, and safer, colonoscopies due to cost concerns. And Medicare refuses medical claims at twice the rate of the largest private insurers.

There are also the comparative-effectiveness research programs that have been employed “as rationing commissions in other countries such as the U.K., where 15,000 cancer patients die prematurely every year.” There are also 14 mentions of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, one example of which was the now infamous mammogram guideline recommendation. And while Medicare “buy-in” is dead, the Reid bill still plans to increase Medicaid coverage to those with incomes at 133 percent of the poverty level, meaning more rationing. (“Washington bureaucrats have created a system that underpays doctors, 40% of doctors already restrict access to Medicaid patients, and therefore ration care.”)

Americans may not have figured out all the details yet. (And who can blame them, since Reid and his bill-to-be remain behind closed doors.) But they’ve figured out that their care will not be what it once was if ObamaCare passes. Democrats keep insisting that the public will love it once it’s in place. But will they? It’s hard to see how denying care is going to be popular. Funny, it used to be liberals who told us that the measure of a just society was how we treated the sick and old. Now Democrats are straining to pass a bill with creative mechanisms for denying care. You’d think liberals would be appalled.

Doctor and Senator Tom Coburn goes chapter and verse through ObamaCare, making the case that even without a public option, the bill is replete with rationing provisions that will squeeze care to save costs. He explains:

For instance, the Reid bill (in sections 3403 and 2021) explicitly empowers Medicare to deny treatment based on cost. An Independent Medicare Advisory Board created by the bill—composed of permanent, unelected and, therefore, unaccountable members—will greatly expand the rationing practices that already occur in the program. Medicare, for example, has limited cancer patients’ access to Epogen, a costly but vital drug that stimulates red blood cell production. It has limited the use of virtual, and safer, colonoscopies due to cost concerns. And Medicare refuses medical claims at twice the rate of the largest private insurers.

There are also the comparative-effectiveness research programs that have been employed “as rationing commissions in other countries such as the U.K., where 15,000 cancer patients die prematurely every year.” There are also 14 mentions of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, one example of which was the now infamous mammogram guideline recommendation. And while Medicare “buy-in” is dead, the Reid bill still plans to increase Medicaid coverage to those with incomes at 133 percent of the poverty level, meaning more rationing. (“Washington bureaucrats have created a system that underpays doctors, 40% of doctors already restrict access to Medicaid patients, and therefore ration care.”)

Americans may not have figured out all the details yet. (And who can blame them, since Reid and his bill-to-be remain behind closed doors.) But they’ve figured out that their care will not be what it once was if ObamaCare passes. Democrats keep insisting that the public will love it once it’s in place. But will they? It’s hard to see how denying care is going to be popular. Funny, it used to be liberals who told us that the measure of a just society was how we treated the sick and old. Now Democrats are straining to pass a bill with creative mechanisms for denying care. You’d think liberals would be appalled.

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Incentives for Terrorists

Reader Ben Orlanski weighed in yesterday with a key point on the treatment of Guantanamo detainees. His e-mail to Max Boot and me reads, in part:

The principal danger is further undermining the Geneva Conventions. These were, as you two know better than anyone, conventions to protect innocents by incentivizing decent behavior in war. Hence, protections are granted to those who fight decently, and are denied to those who don’t. The great danger here is that, by treating the indecent with decency, we undermine the very distinction the Geneva Conventions were designed to uphold, which, therefore, makes indecency (i.e., terrorism) more attractive, because it has more benefits and fewer disadvantages. … Obama’s plans to move terrorists to the US mainland is just another step in the same direction that has us trying KSM in civilian court.

Ben notes that some of the blurring of distinctions has already occurred thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court but argues it would be a mistake to compound the error. He directs our attention to a recent column by Bill McGurn, who detailed this argument in connection with the KSM trial:

We don’t often speak of incentives in war. That’s a loss, because the whole idea of, say, Geneva rights is based on the idea of providing combatants with incentives to do things that help limit the bloodiness of battle. These include wearing a uniform, carrying arms openly, not targeting civilians, and so on. Terrorists recognize none of these things. …

Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.

And the argument, as Ben points out, is equally applicable to the planned closing of Guantanamo and the relocation of its detainees to U.S. prisons. Indeed, it seems to be the Obama team’s motive to eradicate the distinction between common criminals and the terrorists/detainees, not to mention the distinction (now partially eradicated) between terrorists and those who historically have been afforded protection under the Geneva Convention. The Obami intend to give the terrorists civilian trials, place them within the geographic jurisdiction of federal courts, house them in American prisons, and, as we saw with Richard Reid, afford them all the rights and privileges of ordinary criminals should they complain about their treatment.

In doing so, the administration not only provides perverse incentives to terrorists. It also conveys to them that, while they see this as a war, we do not. And that is the worst message we can possibly send.

Reader Ben Orlanski weighed in yesterday with a key point on the treatment of Guantanamo detainees. His e-mail to Max Boot and me reads, in part:

The principal danger is further undermining the Geneva Conventions. These were, as you two know better than anyone, conventions to protect innocents by incentivizing decent behavior in war. Hence, protections are granted to those who fight decently, and are denied to those who don’t. The great danger here is that, by treating the indecent with decency, we undermine the very distinction the Geneva Conventions were designed to uphold, which, therefore, makes indecency (i.e., terrorism) more attractive, because it has more benefits and fewer disadvantages. … Obama’s plans to move terrorists to the US mainland is just another step in the same direction that has us trying KSM in civilian court.

Ben notes that some of the blurring of distinctions has already occurred thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court but argues it would be a mistake to compound the error. He directs our attention to a recent column by Bill McGurn, who detailed this argument in connection with the KSM trial:

We don’t often speak of incentives in war. That’s a loss, because the whole idea of, say, Geneva rights is based on the idea of providing combatants with incentives to do things that help limit the bloodiness of battle. These include wearing a uniform, carrying arms openly, not targeting civilians, and so on. Terrorists recognize none of these things. …

Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.

And the argument, as Ben points out, is equally applicable to the planned closing of Guantanamo and the relocation of its detainees to U.S. prisons. Indeed, it seems to be the Obama team’s motive to eradicate the distinction between common criminals and the terrorists/detainees, not to mention the distinction (now partially eradicated) between terrorists and those who historically have been afforded protection under the Geneva Convention. The Obami intend to give the terrorists civilian trials, place them within the geographic jurisdiction of federal courts, house them in American prisons, and, as we saw with Richard Reid, afford them all the rights and privileges of ordinary criminals should they complain about their treatment.

In doing so, the administration not only provides perverse incentives to terrorists. It also conveys to them that, while they see this as a war, we do not. And that is the worst message we can possibly send.

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Friedman’s Call for War

Let me get this straight: did Thomas Friedman just call for a literal civil war within the Arab and Muslim world, for the forces of moderation to rise up and physically destroy the jihadists once and for all?

His column in Tuesday’s New York Times is not fully clear on how violent he wants it. At first he talks about the problem of “Virtual Afghanistan,” the spread of anti-West ideas and the recruitment of jihadists via the Internet. “We don’t need more NATO allies to kill more Taliban and Al Qaeda. We need more Arab and Muslim allies to kill their extremist ideas, which, thanks to the Virtual Afghanistan, are now being spread farther than ever before.” That sounds like the Friedman we know.

But then something weird happens. Judge for yourself:

Only Arabs and Muslims can fight the war of ideas within Islam. We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things — namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas and the individuals, leaders and institutions that propagated them, and we did it with such ferocity that five generations later some of their offspring still have not forgiven the North.

Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims — “infidels,” who do not submit to Muslim authority — but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.

Friedman starts with the “war of ideas within Islam,” uses the American Civil War as an example, and then goes on to focus on which ideas are legitimate in the Arab-Muslim world and which are not, and on how many fatwas have been issued against al-Qaeda. As though he hadn’t just said anything shocking.

Hello? The American Civil War was not only a battle of ideas. The “ferocity” he refers to, the lingering antipathy against the North today, was not because Lincoln issued a fatwa or recruited columnists in the South over the Internet or wrote a bestselling book. There was horrific, physical destruction involved. Is he saying that Islam “needs” a moderate-Islamic General Sherman to scorch the earth of Saudi-funded madrasses? Literally?

Because if he doesn’t mean it literally, the metaphor suddenly makes no sense. Certain ideas are deemed illegitimate in the Muslim world because simply expressing them can get you killed. Violence is a crucial component in the equation — that’s what it means not to be part of the democratic world. So if moderate voices are to turn violent against the extremists — even if the violence is not literal but only in the form of condemnation, stopping their funding, pursuing a “war of ideas,” and so forth — first you need to remove the threat of literal violence and create a free environment in which ideas can be aired without fear. But for that you need a much bigger change than just calling for the voices of moderation to wake up. There’s a good reason why they’re asleep in the first place.

So, Mr. Friedman, which is it? A literal civil war, like the one America endured? Or a figurative one, which you call on others to wage, bravely and at high cost, with little hope of victory?

Let me get this straight: did Thomas Friedman just call for a literal civil war within the Arab and Muslim world, for the forces of moderation to rise up and physically destroy the jihadists once and for all?

His column in Tuesday’s New York Times is not fully clear on how violent he wants it. At first he talks about the problem of “Virtual Afghanistan,” the spread of anti-West ideas and the recruitment of jihadists via the Internet. “We don’t need more NATO allies to kill more Taliban and Al Qaeda. We need more Arab and Muslim allies to kill their extremist ideas, which, thanks to the Virtual Afghanistan, are now being spread farther than ever before.” That sounds like the Friedman we know.

But then something weird happens. Judge for yourself:

Only Arabs and Muslims can fight the war of ideas within Islam. We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things — namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas and the individuals, leaders and institutions that propagated them, and we did it with such ferocity that five generations later some of their offspring still have not forgiven the North.

Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims — “infidels,” who do not submit to Muslim authority — but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.

Friedman starts with the “war of ideas within Islam,” uses the American Civil War as an example, and then goes on to focus on which ideas are legitimate in the Arab-Muslim world and which are not, and on how many fatwas have been issued against al-Qaeda. As though he hadn’t just said anything shocking.

Hello? The American Civil War was not only a battle of ideas. The “ferocity” he refers to, the lingering antipathy against the North today, was not because Lincoln issued a fatwa or recruited columnists in the South over the Internet or wrote a bestselling book. There was horrific, physical destruction involved. Is he saying that Islam “needs” a moderate-Islamic General Sherman to scorch the earth of Saudi-funded madrasses? Literally?

Because if he doesn’t mean it literally, the metaphor suddenly makes no sense. Certain ideas are deemed illegitimate in the Muslim world because simply expressing them can get you killed. Violence is a crucial component in the equation — that’s what it means not to be part of the democratic world. So if moderate voices are to turn violent against the extremists — even if the violence is not literal but only in the form of condemnation, stopping their funding, pursuing a “war of ideas,” and so forth — first you need to remove the threat of literal violence and create a free environment in which ideas can be aired without fear. But for that you need a much bigger change than just calling for the voices of moderation to wake up. There’s a good reason why they’re asleep in the first place.

So, Mr. Friedman, which is it? A literal civil war, like the one America endured? Or a figurative one, which you call on others to wage, bravely and at high cost, with little hope of victory?

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You Have to Kill It First — and Then Make a Deal

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –”a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –”a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

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Threatening and Scaring Americans

Obama told us we were on the precipice. That seemed rather, well, scary. People fall off such things and sometimes die. Then we heard that health care had to pass now — or never. No president will ever try this again, although Obama did so after Bill Clinton failed. Now Obama says we have to pass it or go bankrupt. Or he’ll hold his breath and pass out. Or he’ll go on all the Sunday talk shows again. Enough already. Let’s put aside that no one, not even Christina Romer, thinks we’re spending less with this bill. The cost-control provisions are nonexistent, and we’re constructing an unsustainable new entitlement. But aside from the absence of any support for this hooey, it’s the tone that, once again, is striking and so very unpresidential.

Obama has excoriated his opponents for lowering the tone of debate and for scaring their fellow citizens. But really, the flood of invective and hysteria coming from ObamaCare supporters has been unprecedented. Town-hall protesters were “un-American,” according to Harry Reid, and confused or misinformed, according to the president. Now Obama seems to be channeling the global-warming crowd in his never-ending stream of dire predictions. And that’s telling. As George Will summed up: “Rushing to lock the nation into expensive health-care and climate-change commitments, Democrats are in an understandable frenzy because public enthusiasm for both crusades has been inversely proportional to the time the public has had to think about them.”

When liberal elites want to replace private decisions with government mandates, impose massive new costs, give unprecedented powers to government bureaucrats, and generally mess up your life, they must do two things: convince you that the consequences are dire if nothing is done and create a sense of urgency so that thoughtful reflection is replaced by a herd mentality. That’s what the White House and Democratic congressional leadership is reduced to doing now in order to jam through a noxious bill.

One observer remarked:

In Washington, when major bills near final passage, an inside-the-Beltway mentality takes hold. Any bill becomes a victory. Clear thinking is thrown out the window for political calculus. In the heat of battle, decisions are being made that set an irreversible course for how future health reform is done. The result is legislation that has been crafted to get votes, not to reform health care.

Bill Kristol or Sen. Mitch McConnell? No, Howard Dean. And when he has become the voice of sanity and decorum, you know how badly off track we’ve gotten.

Obama told us we were on the precipice. That seemed rather, well, scary. People fall off such things and sometimes die. Then we heard that health care had to pass now — or never. No president will ever try this again, although Obama did so after Bill Clinton failed. Now Obama says we have to pass it or go bankrupt. Or he’ll hold his breath and pass out. Or he’ll go on all the Sunday talk shows again. Enough already. Let’s put aside that no one, not even Christina Romer, thinks we’re spending less with this bill. The cost-control provisions are nonexistent, and we’re constructing an unsustainable new entitlement. But aside from the absence of any support for this hooey, it’s the tone that, once again, is striking and so very unpresidential.

Obama has excoriated his opponents for lowering the tone of debate and for scaring their fellow citizens. But really, the flood of invective and hysteria coming from ObamaCare supporters has been unprecedented. Town-hall protesters were “un-American,” according to Harry Reid, and confused or misinformed, according to the president. Now Obama seems to be channeling the global-warming crowd in his never-ending stream of dire predictions. And that’s telling. As George Will summed up: “Rushing to lock the nation into expensive health-care and climate-change commitments, Democrats are in an understandable frenzy because public enthusiasm for both crusades has been inversely proportional to the time the public has had to think about them.”

When liberal elites want to replace private decisions with government mandates, impose massive new costs, give unprecedented powers to government bureaucrats, and generally mess up your life, they must do two things: convince you that the consequences are dire if nothing is done and create a sense of urgency so that thoughtful reflection is replaced by a herd mentality. That’s what the White House and Democratic congressional leadership is reduced to doing now in order to jam through a noxious bill.

One observer remarked:

In Washington, when major bills near final passage, an inside-the-Beltway mentality takes hold. Any bill becomes a victory. Clear thinking is thrown out the window for political calculus. In the heat of battle, decisions are being made that set an irreversible course for how future health reform is done. The result is legislation that has been crafted to get votes, not to reform health care.

Bill Kristol or Sen. Mitch McConnell? No, Howard Dean. And when he has become the voice of sanity and decorum, you know how badly off track we’ve gotten.

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Not What They Signed Up For

Karl Rove observes that Obama’s self-grading of a B+ constitutes a serious case of grade inflation. He writes:

Mr. Obama has not governed as the centrist, deficit-fighting, bipartisan consensus builder he promised to be. And his promise to embody a new kind of politics—free of finger-pointing, pettiness and spin—was a mirage. He has cheapened his office with needless attacks on his predecessor.

Because so many conservatives never bought into candidate Obama’s image as a “centrist, deficit-fighting, bipartisan consensus builder,” it’s hard for many to appreciate fully just how fervently many voters did embrace that portrait of Obama. He was the candidate who didn’t raise his voice and promised an alternative to the Bush-Clinton-Bush partisan wars. Calm and cool, above the fray. He was going to go line by line through the budget. No taxes on anyone not “rich.” He believed in “markets,” he told CNBC. Voters grabbed on to these messages and averted their eyes from data that didn’t fit the campaign-approved image of a reasoned centrist. And his embrace of the “good war” — Afghanistan — without reservation and of sanctions against Iran conveyed to many that he would be more Clinton than McGovern. That has not been the case.

When, as Rove points out, Obama disparages in his 60 Minutes interview a “a triumphant sense about war” and turns up his nose at the notion that our war to preserve Western civilization is a “glorious” endeavor, he is repudiating a long tradition, really an unbroken one, of American presidents. We’ve never had a president parrot the antiwar Left’s rhetoric, at least not after getting elected. And his domestic agenda is far more radical than those who touted his “moderation” were led to believe — or chose to believe. As for that “superior temperament,” well, we haven’t seen that in some time. We get threats, dire warnings, narcissism, and huffiness.

So it may be that the collapse in Obama’s ratings has much to do with the chasm between expectations and reality. Most voters pretty much had George W. Bush and Bill Clinton pegged. Few were surprised by Ronald Reagan. But many voters took a year to figure out that they weren’t getting what they thought they would get when they elected Obama. Recent polling reflects Obama’s rather shoddy domestic record, the paltry results of his “engagement” foreign-policy ventures, the still bleak jobs situation, and most of all, a large helping of buyer’s remorse. Voters may have been naive, but now they are disappointed.

Karl Rove observes that Obama’s self-grading of a B+ constitutes a serious case of grade inflation. He writes:

Mr. Obama has not governed as the centrist, deficit-fighting, bipartisan consensus builder he promised to be. And his promise to embody a new kind of politics—free of finger-pointing, pettiness and spin—was a mirage. He has cheapened his office with needless attacks on his predecessor.

Because so many conservatives never bought into candidate Obama’s image as a “centrist, deficit-fighting, bipartisan consensus builder,” it’s hard for many to appreciate fully just how fervently many voters did embrace that portrait of Obama. He was the candidate who didn’t raise his voice and promised an alternative to the Bush-Clinton-Bush partisan wars. Calm and cool, above the fray. He was going to go line by line through the budget. No taxes on anyone not “rich.” He believed in “markets,” he told CNBC. Voters grabbed on to these messages and averted their eyes from data that didn’t fit the campaign-approved image of a reasoned centrist. And his embrace of the “good war” — Afghanistan — without reservation and of sanctions against Iran conveyed to many that he would be more Clinton than McGovern. That has not been the case.

When, as Rove points out, Obama disparages in his 60 Minutes interview a “a triumphant sense about war” and turns up his nose at the notion that our war to preserve Western civilization is a “glorious” endeavor, he is repudiating a long tradition, really an unbroken one, of American presidents. We’ve never had a president parrot the antiwar Left’s rhetoric, at least not after getting elected. And his domestic agenda is far more radical than those who touted his “moderation” were led to believe — or chose to believe. As for that “superior temperament,” well, we haven’t seen that in some time. We get threats, dire warnings, narcissism, and huffiness.

So it may be that the collapse in Obama’s ratings has much to do with the chasm between expectations and reality. Most voters pretty much had George W. Bush and Bill Clinton pegged. Few were surprised by Ronald Reagan. But many voters took a year to figure out that they weren’t getting what they thought they would get when they elected Obama. Recent polling reflects Obama’s rather shoddy domestic record, the paltry results of his “engagement” foreign-policy ventures, the still bleak jobs situation, and most of all, a large helping of buyer’s remorse. Voters may have been naive, but now they are disappointed.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

ObamaCare is really unpopular in Nebraska, and Sen. Ben Nelson is getting lots of calls to vote “no.” In his home state, 67 percent oppose and 26 percent favor, and 61 percent say they’d be less likely to vote for Nelson if he supported it. Will Nelson vote for it anyway?

Yuval Levin makes the case that “when it comes to the health-care bill the Senate is working on, [which] is really quite appalling now, and should be so not only to conservatives. In essence, what’s left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem — the problem of exploding costs.”

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos (h/t Political Wire) now objects to forcing all Americans to buy insurance plans they may not like from those greedy, monopolistic insurance companies. The solution: “So here’s the deal — a progressive should step up with an amendment to strip out the mandate. He should get a non-Wall Street Republican to join him, be it Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, one or more of those guys. And then force a roll call vote on the issue.” Game on!

S.E. Cupp on her pick for person of the year: “Attorney General Eric Holder. … In five or ten years, when we are all facing the disastrous consequences of his systematic dismantling of our national security, he will be a person who changed the course of world events. President Obama will be culpable as well, of course, for overseeing a horrific chapter in our national history, but it will be Holder who is responsible for compromising our intelligence and interrogation program at the CIA and trying terrorists as common criminals while the world watched and our enemies laughed.”

Another poll, another thumbs down on ObamaCare. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 32 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. By a 44 to 41 percent margin, voters say they prefer the status quo. Obama’s own performance rating has suffered an 8-point decline since September and now is at 47 approval/46 disapproval. And the kicker: 57 percent say the Iraq war was somewhat or very successful.

The poll analysis: ” ‘For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast,’ said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. ‘What we don’t know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?’ The biggest worry for Democrats is that the findings could set the stage for gains by Republican candidates in next year’s elections.” And Obama seems to have lost his charm: “Fifty percent now feel positively about him, six points lower than in October and an 18-point drop since his early weeks in office.”

Wait until they find out about the tax hits: “Those tax hits include a mandate of up to $750 a year for Americans who fail to purchase health insurance; new levies on small businesses (many of which file individual tax returns) that don’t offer health care to employees; new tax penalties on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts; and higher taxes on medical spending, including restrictions on medical itemized deductions, as well as taxes on cosmetic surgery. A Senate Finance Committee minority staff report finds that by 2019 more than 42 million individuals and families—or 25% of all tax returns under $200,000—will on average see their taxes go up because of the Senate bill. And that’s after government subsidies.”

And when they start breaking the Senate rules, you know it’s desperation time.

Jamie Fly is among those who suspect that the administration is not all that enamored of Iran sanctions. “[The] administration’s efforts to gut the legislation and its sensitivity about the supposedly robust international coalition they like to tout as a product of their willingness to talk to Tehran raises questions about how serious they and their ‘partners’ are about stopping Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”

ObamaCare is really unpopular in Nebraska, and Sen. Ben Nelson is getting lots of calls to vote “no.” In his home state, 67 percent oppose and 26 percent favor, and 61 percent say they’d be less likely to vote for Nelson if he supported it. Will Nelson vote for it anyway?

Yuval Levin makes the case that “when it comes to the health-care bill the Senate is working on, [which] is really quite appalling now, and should be so not only to conservatives. In essence, what’s left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem — the problem of exploding costs.”

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos (h/t Political Wire) now objects to forcing all Americans to buy insurance plans they may not like from those greedy, monopolistic insurance companies. The solution: “So here’s the deal — a progressive should step up with an amendment to strip out the mandate. He should get a non-Wall Street Republican to join him, be it Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, one or more of those guys. And then force a roll call vote on the issue.” Game on!

S.E. Cupp on her pick for person of the year: “Attorney General Eric Holder. … In five or ten years, when we are all facing the disastrous consequences of his systematic dismantling of our national security, he will be a person who changed the course of world events. President Obama will be culpable as well, of course, for overseeing a horrific chapter in our national history, but it will be Holder who is responsible for compromising our intelligence and interrogation program at the CIA and trying terrorists as common criminals while the world watched and our enemies laughed.”

Another poll, another thumbs down on ObamaCare. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 32 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. By a 44 to 41 percent margin, voters say they prefer the status quo. Obama’s own performance rating has suffered an 8-point decline since September and now is at 47 approval/46 disapproval. And the kicker: 57 percent say the Iraq war was somewhat or very successful.

The poll analysis: ” ‘For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast,’ said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. ‘What we don’t know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?’ The biggest worry for Democrats is that the findings could set the stage for gains by Republican candidates in next year’s elections.” And Obama seems to have lost his charm: “Fifty percent now feel positively about him, six points lower than in October and an 18-point drop since his early weeks in office.”

Wait until they find out about the tax hits: “Those tax hits include a mandate of up to $750 a year for Americans who fail to purchase health insurance; new levies on small businesses (many of which file individual tax returns) that don’t offer health care to employees; new tax penalties on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts; and higher taxes on medical spending, including restrictions on medical itemized deductions, as well as taxes on cosmetic surgery. A Senate Finance Committee minority staff report finds that by 2019 more than 42 million individuals and families—or 25% of all tax returns under $200,000—will on average see their taxes go up because of the Senate bill. And that’s after government subsidies.”

And when they start breaking the Senate rules, you know it’s desperation time.

Jamie Fly is among those who suspect that the administration is not all that enamored of Iran sanctions. “[The] administration’s efforts to gut the legislation and its sensitivity about the supposedly robust international coalition they like to tout as a product of their willingness to talk to Tehran raises questions about how serious they and their ‘partners’ are about stopping Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”

Read Less




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