Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 12, 2010

What’s the Basis for Holder’s Stonewall?

In the flap over the New Black Panther Party case, the Justice Department appears to be making up rules as it goes along. Back on December 18, 2009, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a letter from its general counsel David Blackwood to the Justice Department’s Joseph H. Hunt, wrote to explain why the commission had resorted to sending subpoenas to obtain information on the controversial dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and to try to dislodge the reason for the Justice Department’s apparent refusal to cooperate with the commission. He wrote:

To allay your concerns, the Commission requested a meeting where we would negotiate revisions to our discovery plan so as to eliminate or minimize the likelihood the Commission’s work would interfere with OPR’s pending investigation. Your refusal to schedule a meeting even to discuss the Commission’s pending discovery requests and depositions suggests that DOJ is not interested in working to develop a path that will allow each agency to fulfill its statutory obligation. As you are aware, the Commission first began requesting related information from the Department on June 16, 2009, six months ago. After six months passed without a substantive response from DOJ, the Commission felt it necessary to issue subpoenas.

Hunt wrote back on December 23, denying that the department was refusing to cooperate and asserting that it wasn’t unwilling to meet with the commission. Hunt seemed to suggest that the department wanted the chance to “set forth its position in writing,” but alas, it never consented to a meeting and still has not presented a viable legal theory for refusing to cooperate. In its blizzard of excuses in its discovery response, Eric Holder’s Justice Department asserts the attorney-client privilege. But a 1982 opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel specifically found that “the interests implicated by the attorney-client privilege generally are subsumed under a claim of executive privilege … and the considerations of separation of powers and effective performance of constitutional duties determine the validity of the claim of privilege.” A 1986 opinion similarly makes clear that the attorney-client privilege “is not usually considered to constitute a separate basis [from executive privilege] for resisting congressional demands for information.” In short, there really isn’t an attorney-client privilege, just executive privilege, but the Obami seem unwilling to use that politically charged defense. Read More

In the flap over the New Black Panther Party case, the Justice Department appears to be making up rules as it goes along. Back on December 18, 2009, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a letter from its general counsel David Blackwood to the Justice Department’s Joseph H. Hunt, wrote to explain why the commission had resorted to sending subpoenas to obtain information on the controversial dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and to try to dislodge the reason for the Justice Department’s apparent refusal to cooperate with the commission. He wrote:

To allay your concerns, the Commission requested a meeting where we would negotiate revisions to our discovery plan so as to eliminate or minimize the likelihood the Commission’s work would interfere with OPR’s pending investigation. Your refusal to schedule a meeting even to discuss the Commission’s pending discovery requests and depositions suggests that DOJ is not interested in working to develop a path that will allow each agency to fulfill its statutory obligation. As you are aware, the Commission first began requesting related information from the Department on June 16, 2009, six months ago. After six months passed without a substantive response from DOJ, the Commission felt it necessary to issue subpoenas.

Hunt wrote back on December 23, denying that the department was refusing to cooperate and asserting that it wasn’t unwilling to meet with the commission. Hunt seemed to suggest that the department wanted the chance to “set forth its position in writing,” but alas, it never consented to a meeting and still has not presented a viable legal theory for refusing to cooperate. In its blizzard of excuses in its discovery response, Eric Holder’s Justice Department asserts the attorney-client privilege. But a 1982 opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel specifically found that “the interests implicated by the attorney-client privilege generally are subsumed under a claim of executive privilege … and the considerations of separation of powers and effective performance of constitutional duties determine the validity of the claim of privilege.” A 1986 opinion similarly makes clear that the attorney-client privilege “is not usually considered to constitute a separate basis [from executive privilege] for resisting congressional demands for information.” In short, there really isn’t an attorney-client privilege, just executive privilege, but the Obami seem unwilling to use that politically charged defense.

So has the president or his attorney general invoked executive privilege? Commissioner Todd Gaziano told me it’s not clear. He says, “Not only has the Department refused to give us the information — the documents and answers to which we are statutorily entitled — but it still has not given us a legal argument or justification for not doing so.” He noted that this occurs “in the face of binding department authority,” which shows there is no valid attorney-client privilege.

The White House thought it appropriate to invoke executive privilege to block testimony of its social secretary, so perhaps that’s where they’re going with this. But that privilege arguably can only be invoked by the president or his department heads, in this case Holder. Maybe if Obama ever gives a press conference he can tell us. Or maybe at the upcoming confirmation hearing of the not-yet-selected No. 2 man in the Justice Department, an enterprising senator can find out why the department thinks it can make up new rules, avoid explaining what exactly they are, and refuse to permit anyone to peer into a decision that apparently is so indefensible, it requires a Nixonian-like defensive strategy.

While Holder has prevented his employees from testifying before the commission, former voting-rights section chief Chris Coates has made his views known. His rationale (which should be read in full here) for bringing the case against the New Black Panther Party is a tribute to the notions of equal protection and fairness. The Holder team won’t tell us what was wrong with that analysis and why it countermanded the decision of Coates and his team, dismissing a case as egregious as the New Black Panther Party matter. As Coates said in his goodbye remarks to his colleagues:

A lot has been said about the politization [sic] of the Civil Rights Division. I believe that one of the most detrimental ways to politicize the enforcement process in the Voting Section is to enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act only for the protection of certain racial or ethnic minorities; or to take the position that the Voting Section is not going to enforce certain provision [sic] of any of the voting statutes the Voting Section has the responsibility to enforce. Such decisions carry with them obvious, enormous implications for partisan political struggles.

Well that seems to be what’s going on here — made-up rules and politics run rampant in the Justice Department. Not what the Obami promised, is it?

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Game On

China announced its first successful test of an antiballistic-missile system on Jan. 11. The Pentagon confirms detecting the test. American pundits note in passing that this represents an apparent shift in China’s long-maintained political stance on ballistic-missile defense (BMD), but they are more eager to focus on the connection between the Chinese test and our Patriot-system sale to Taiwan.

They should back up and look again at their first point. It’s China’s posture shift on the role of BMD systems in global security that will matter in the long run. China has indeed, as the New York Times analysis points out, been a perennial opponent of the BMD concept advanced in U.S. defense programming. Throughout its participation in the nuclear age, China has hewed to the same line as Russia: that global stability is preserved, in fact if not always in name, by mutual assured destruction. U.S. analysts have known for some years now that Beijing could turn its anti-satellite technology on the BMD problem, but China’s pattern, like Russia’s, has been to develop and test in secret while staking out a contradictory political posture.

The contradictory political posture has been abandoned, and that means more than that China is mad at us. It means that China perceives that the old conditions have expired. Under those old conditions, the chief dynamic involved Russia trying to forestall U.S. deployment of our “National Missile Defense” — the concept that would fully supersede MAD. But that condition no longer obtains, because with President Obama’s September 2009 policy reversal, Russia has succeeded.

The significance for China of our Patriot sale to Taiwan, assuming it is consummated, is that Beijing will have been unable to deter us given the same conditions in which Russia succeeded. That is inevitably a blot on China’s image as a great power. The BMD system launch of Jan. 11 was not announced solely for our benefit; it was a signal to the rest of the world too — starting with Russia, Japan, and India — that China has superpower options of its own and will use them. With Obama’s America retreating self-consciously to a “just one of the guys” security posture, the global interplay of power demonstrations, influence, and intimidation will increasingly be anyone’s game.

Not everything will be about us, in 2010 and beyond — but everything will affect us. Victor Davis Hanson has an apt metaphor for it this week, depicting the emerging international situation as a gunfight brewing at the OK Corral. He correctly predicts that the participants will achieve as much as they can with flashy holster work. But without the early, preemptive intervention of a sheriff, bullets eventually fly. China’s fundamental change of posture this week, regarding the basis of global security, is a signal: game on.

China announced its first successful test of an antiballistic-missile system on Jan. 11. The Pentagon confirms detecting the test. American pundits note in passing that this represents an apparent shift in China’s long-maintained political stance on ballistic-missile defense (BMD), but they are more eager to focus on the connection between the Chinese test and our Patriot-system sale to Taiwan.

They should back up and look again at their first point. It’s China’s posture shift on the role of BMD systems in global security that will matter in the long run. China has indeed, as the New York Times analysis points out, been a perennial opponent of the BMD concept advanced in U.S. defense programming. Throughout its participation in the nuclear age, China has hewed to the same line as Russia: that global stability is preserved, in fact if not always in name, by mutual assured destruction. U.S. analysts have known for some years now that Beijing could turn its anti-satellite technology on the BMD problem, but China’s pattern, like Russia’s, has been to develop and test in secret while staking out a contradictory political posture.

The contradictory political posture has been abandoned, and that means more than that China is mad at us. It means that China perceives that the old conditions have expired. Under those old conditions, the chief dynamic involved Russia trying to forestall U.S. deployment of our “National Missile Defense” — the concept that would fully supersede MAD. But that condition no longer obtains, because with President Obama’s September 2009 policy reversal, Russia has succeeded.

The significance for China of our Patriot sale to Taiwan, assuming it is consummated, is that Beijing will have been unable to deter us given the same conditions in which Russia succeeded. That is inevitably a blot on China’s image as a great power. The BMD system launch of Jan. 11 was not announced solely for our benefit; it was a signal to the rest of the world too — starting with Russia, Japan, and India — that China has superpower options of its own and will use them. With Obama’s America retreating self-consciously to a “just one of the guys” security posture, the global interplay of power demonstrations, influence, and intimidation will increasingly be anyone’s game.

Not everything will be about us, in 2010 and beyond — but everything will affect us. Victor Davis Hanson has an apt metaphor for it this week, depicting the emerging international situation as a gunfight brewing at the OK Corral. He correctly predicts that the participants will achieve as much as they can with flashy holster work. But without the early, preemptive intervention of a sheriff, bullets eventually fly. China’s fundamental change of posture this week, regarding the basis of global security, is a signal: game on.

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An All-Time-High Unfavorable Rating

Obama’s average unfavorable rating has reached an all-time high in RealClearPolitics, at 46.5 percent. Meanwhile, CNN reports:

Forty-eight percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday say Obama’s presidency has been a failure so far, with 47 percent saying Obama has been a success. The poll’s January 12 release comes just 8 days before Obama marks one year in the White House.

On individual issues, the public is recoiling from Obamaism:

“Only 44 percent approve of how Obama is handling the economy; just 4 in 10 give him a thumbs-up on health care and his approval rating on the federal deficit has plunged to 36 percent. Those are three of the four most important issues on the public’s mind today,” says [Polling Director Keating] Holland. “The president’s ratings also suffer from the growing perception that he is too liberal – 46 percent feel that way today, up 10 points from March.”

And they don’t much like his stance on Guantanamo. By a 55 to 32 percent margin, voters think the facility should be kept open.

It seems that having returned from holiday celebrations, hearing about ObamaCare for another couple of weeks, and taking a look at the awful unemployment situation, voters have been reminded how much they don’t agree with the president and how much they object to his leftward lurch. Those politicians who cling to his agenda will do so at their own risk. And those who were promised political cover from the White House were, frankly, had. Obama is struggling to stay afloat; he hardly has the political mojo to help his fellow Democrats — at least not those who come from states that aren’t in the bag. Like Massachusetts.

Obama’s average unfavorable rating has reached an all-time high in RealClearPolitics, at 46.5 percent. Meanwhile, CNN reports:

Forty-eight percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday say Obama’s presidency has been a failure so far, with 47 percent saying Obama has been a success. The poll’s January 12 release comes just 8 days before Obama marks one year in the White House.

On individual issues, the public is recoiling from Obamaism:

“Only 44 percent approve of how Obama is handling the economy; just 4 in 10 give him a thumbs-up on health care and his approval rating on the federal deficit has plunged to 36 percent. Those are three of the four most important issues on the public’s mind today,” says [Polling Director Keating] Holland. “The president’s ratings also suffer from the growing perception that he is too liberal – 46 percent feel that way today, up 10 points from March.”

And they don’t much like his stance on Guantanamo. By a 55 to 32 percent margin, voters think the facility should be kept open.

It seems that having returned from holiday celebrations, hearing about ObamaCare for another couple of weeks, and taking a look at the awful unemployment situation, voters have been reminded how much they don’t agree with the president and how much they object to his leftward lurch. Those politicians who cling to his agenda will do so at their own risk. And those who were promised political cover from the White House were, frankly, had. Obama is struggling to stay afloat; he hardly has the political mojo to help his fellow Democrats — at least not those who come from states that aren’t in the bag. Like Massachusetts.

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Re: New Black Panther Party Case

Based on what I have learned so far, the Justice Department seems to be responding in less than candid fashion to the discovery of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. A knowledgeable source who has reviewed the responses tells me:

There are statements in the response that reveal the Department isn’t replying in good faith and isn’t trying very hard to get to the bottom of the case. For example, the Commission asked for information about communications from a Philadelphia lawyer who said he represented one of the black panthers, even though he never filed a pleading. The Department says they can’t find any evidence of such communications. They might start by looking at the publicly filed pleadings in the case because an affidavit was filed in the case discussing communications with the attorney in some detail.

Then there is the lack of information about those individuals in outside liberal civil rights groups who are believed to have communicated with Obama officials about the case’s dismissal. Despite the Justice Department’s reticence to reveal any information, I am told that the communications from Kristen Clarke of the NAACP about the case are widely known in the division. My source tells me that Loretta King, former acting assistant attorney general of civil rights, spoke with Clarke “inside DOJ headquarters at the Robert F. Kennedy building on numerous occasions.” Former Justice Department lawyer Hans von Spakovsky similarly reports:

One former Voting Section career lawyer who had left the Justice Department to go to work for the NAACP, Kristen Clarke, admitted to the Washington Times that she talked to the new political leadership after Obama was inaugurated, berating them for not dismissing the [New Black Panther Party] case. Sources at Justice tell me Clarke made an identical pitch to her former colleagues in the Voting Section once Obama and Eric Holder came to power.

The entreaties proved productive. According to the Washington Times, Loretta King, whom Obama named the acting assistant attorney general of the [Civil Rights Division], ordered [Chief of the Civil Rights division Chris] Coates to dismiss the case against three of the defendants despite their default. King apparently received approval from Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli to do so. Who else Perrelli spoke with in the Justice Department and the White House is the subject of continued stonewalling in response to the subpoenas served on Justice by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Read More

Based on what I have learned so far, the Justice Department seems to be responding in less than candid fashion to the discovery of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. A knowledgeable source who has reviewed the responses tells me:

There are statements in the response that reveal the Department isn’t replying in good faith and isn’t trying very hard to get to the bottom of the case. For example, the Commission asked for information about communications from a Philadelphia lawyer who said he represented one of the black panthers, even though he never filed a pleading. The Department says they can’t find any evidence of such communications. They might start by looking at the publicly filed pleadings in the case because an affidavit was filed in the case discussing communications with the attorney in some detail.

Then there is the lack of information about those individuals in outside liberal civil rights groups who are believed to have communicated with Obama officials about the case’s dismissal. Despite the Justice Department’s reticence to reveal any information, I am told that the communications from Kristen Clarke of the NAACP about the case are widely known in the division. My source tells me that Loretta King, former acting assistant attorney general of civil rights, spoke with Clarke “inside DOJ headquarters at the Robert F. Kennedy building on numerous occasions.” Former Justice Department lawyer Hans von Spakovsky similarly reports:

One former Voting Section career lawyer who had left the Justice Department to go to work for the NAACP, Kristen Clarke, admitted to the Washington Times that she talked to the new political leadership after Obama was inaugurated, berating them for not dismissing the [New Black Panther Party] case. Sources at Justice tell me Clarke made an identical pitch to her former colleagues in the Voting Section once Obama and Eric Holder came to power.

The entreaties proved productive. According to the Washington Times, Loretta King, whom Obama named the acting assistant attorney general of the [Civil Rights Division], ordered [Chief of the Civil Rights division Chris] Coates to dismiss the case against three of the defendants despite their default. King apparently received approval from Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli to do so. Who else Perrelli spoke with in the Justice Department and the White House is the subject of continued stonewalling in response to the subpoenas served on Justice by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Coates was the head of the department’s New Black Panther Party trial team and has been subpoenaed by the commission. Von Spakovsky also details how Obama officials made life miserable for Coates in recent months, resulting in his recent transfer to South Carolina.

As to the substance of the department’s responses, my source points out that although the Justice Department touts that it sought relief against one defendant, “the injunction was limited to only the city limits, and only to actual weapon possession, over the objections of the career attorneys.” One of those career attorneys who objected was, of course, Coates.

It is noteworthy that even on small matters, the Justice Department’s response comes up short. As is standard practice, the Civil Rights Commission requested a “privilege log” — that is, a detailed explanation of which documents were being withheld because of a claim of privilege, with some basic descriptive material that can then be the basis, if necessary, for review by a judge. However, as far as I can tell, even that log was not provided by the Justice Department. Perhaps even that would have given away too much.

The lengths to which the Justice Department has gone to avoid giving away information that is apparently widely known and available is remarkable. As my source noted, “Reasonable people may start to conclude what is being concealed is worth these lawless risks.”

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Re: Eurabia Debunked

Mark Steyn and Tony Blankley, both commentators for whom I have considerable respect, have responded to my “Eurabia Debunked” and a few other articles taking exception to their warnings about the Muslimization of Europe.

Mark cherry-picks data showing Muslims are supposedly 10 percent of the population in France, that one-fifth of British university students are Muslim, that Brussels’ governing socialist caucus is majority Muslim, etc. Actually, there is considerable uncertainty about these numbers because there is no definitive accounting of Muslims in Europe (or anywhere else). Consider this Pew study, which finds Muslims are only 6 percent of the French population, 5 perccent in Germany, and 2.7 percent in the United Kingdom. Overall, Europe has about 38 million Muslims, or 5 percent of the population, but most of them are concentrated in Russia, Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia.

If there is uncertainty about how many Muslims are in Europe today, there is even greater cloudiness about how many there will be in the future. As this Newsweek article notes, the case made by Mark and other alarmists is based on the worst-case reading of long-term population projections, which are notoriously unreliable. As William Underhill writes in Newsweek:

For the number of Muslims to outnumber non-Muslims by midcentury, it would require either breeding on a scale rarely seen in history or for immigration to continue at a pace that’s now politically unacceptable. More likely, new controls will slow Muslim immigration. The birthrate for Muslim immigrants is also likely to continue to decline, as it has tended to do, with greater affluence and better health care.

That doesn’t mean we have nothing to worry about. Blankley is right to note the “powerful impact of even very small numbers of determined people in a host country riddled with guilt and political correctness.” David Frum makes a powerful point about how Britain has become a center of Muslim radicalization. That obviously is of great concern to us because of the easy access that British subject have to the U.S.

I agree with Steyn, Blankley, et al. that radical Muslims will continue to be a major problem in Europe. I just don’t think they will take over and turn the continent into “Eurabia.” In fact, there are already many signs of a backlash building — for instance, the Swiss banning the construction of new minarets, the French banning the veil in school and now proposing to ban burkas in public, and the British banning the radical group Islam4UK. I still see considerable resiliency in European civilization and great latent power that can and will be deployed against Muslim radicals who seriously threaten internal order.

Mark Steyn and Tony Blankley, both commentators for whom I have considerable respect, have responded to my “Eurabia Debunked” and a few other articles taking exception to their warnings about the Muslimization of Europe.

Mark cherry-picks data showing Muslims are supposedly 10 percent of the population in France, that one-fifth of British university students are Muslim, that Brussels’ governing socialist caucus is majority Muslim, etc. Actually, there is considerable uncertainty about these numbers because there is no definitive accounting of Muslims in Europe (or anywhere else). Consider this Pew study, which finds Muslims are only 6 percent of the French population, 5 perccent in Germany, and 2.7 percent in the United Kingdom. Overall, Europe has about 38 million Muslims, or 5 percent of the population, but most of them are concentrated in Russia, Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia.

If there is uncertainty about how many Muslims are in Europe today, there is even greater cloudiness about how many there will be in the future. As this Newsweek article notes, the case made by Mark and other alarmists is based on the worst-case reading of long-term population projections, which are notoriously unreliable. As William Underhill writes in Newsweek:

For the number of Muslims to outnumber non-Muslims by midcentury, it would require either breeding on a scale rarely seen in history or for immigration to continue at a pace that’s now politically unacceptable. More likely, new controls will slow Muslim immigration. The birthrate for Muslim immigrants is also likely to continue to decline, as it has tended to do, with greater affluence and better health care.

That doesn’t mean we have nothing to worry about. Blankley is right to note the “powerful impact of even very small numbers of determined people in a host country riddled with guilt and political correctness.” David Frum makes a powerful point about how Britain has become a center of Muslim radicalization. That obviously is of great concern to us because of the easy access that British subject have to the U.S.

I agree with Steyn, Blankley, et al. that radical Muslims will continue to be a major problem in Europe. I just don’t think they will take over and turn the continent into “Eurabia.” In fact, there are already many signs of a backlash building — for instance, the Swiss banning the construction of new minarets, the French banning the veil in school and now proposing to ban burkas in public, and the British banning the radical group Islam4UK. I still see considerable resiliency in European civilization and great latent power that can and will be deployed against Muslim radicals who seriously threaten internal order.

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New Black Panther Party Case: Justice Department Stonewall

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last month propounded interrogatories and document requests to the Justice Department seeking answers as to why the New Black Panther Party case of voter intimidation was dismissed, who was involved, what outside groups participated in the decision, and what this portends for the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The Justice Department has responded, I have learned.

In a letter to the commission’s chairman, Joseph Hunt, director of the Federal Programs Branch, contends that the department is limited in what it can provide out of concern for its “deliberative processes” and so as not to “undermine its mission.” He doesn’t invoke “executive privilege” per se, but he does assert attorney-client privilege (which some legal gurus tell me doesn’t really “work” between government entities and agencies as a valid objection).

Although the answers largely consist of boilerplate objections, the department does argue that “career attorneys” with more than 60 years of experience made the call to dump the case and that an injunction was obtained against one individual defendant who actually brandished a weapon. Despite the work of the trial team (which sources inform me had ample factual and legal grounds for bringing the case against additional defendants), the Justice Department now says that unnamed career attorneys determined that it should drop the case against those additional defendants. And, of course, the response says politics played no role in the decision. Asked whether the No. 3 man in the Justice Department, Thomas Perrelli, was involved in the decision, as the Washington Times reported, the Justice Department provided no answer, only series of objections. Likewise, the most transparent administration in history — or so we are told — declines to provide the names of those career attorneys who were the decision makers. And at least for now, the Justice Department is not coughing up the names of civil rights groups that may have encouraged them to drop the case against the additional defendants.

In short, the commission is being stiffed. The Obama administration isn’t explaining anything to anyone, but the commission, not to be deterred, is nevertheless plunging forward. A public hearing at which witnesses are to be called has now been noticed for February 12. At the commission’s next meeting, this Friday, witnesses may be selected. Meanwhile, tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will take up Rep. Frank Wolf’s Resolution No. 894, seeking to direct “the Attorney General to transmit to the House of Representatives all information in the Attorney General’s possession relating to the decision to dismiss United States v. New Black Panther Party.” Well, that’s going nowhere, but it will be interesting to hear liberals — who fancy themselves defenders of civil rights — explain why they don’t want to find out what the Justice Department was up to when it declined to prosecute all the defendants who participated in an egregious case of voter intimidation.

For now the Obama team continues its favorite modus operandi — not telling anyone anything about what it does. After all, they won the election, right? And this is what “de-politicizing” the administration of justice looks like. Who knew?

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last month propounded interrogatories and document requests to the Justice Department seeking answers as to why the New Black Panther Party case of voter intimidation was dismissed, who was involved, what outside groups participated in the decision, and what this portends for the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The Justice Department has responded, I have learned.

In a letter to the commission’s chairman, Joseph Hunt, director of the Federal Programs Branch, contends that the department is limited in what it can provide out of concern for its “deliberative processes” and so as not to “undermine its mission.” He doesn’t invoke “executive privilege” per se, but he does assert attorney-client privilege (which some legal gurus tell me doesn’t really “work” between government entities and agencies as a valid objection).

Although the answers largely consist of boilerplate objections, the department does argue that “career attorneys” with more than 60 years of experience made the call to dump the case and that an injunction was obtained against one individual defendant who actually brandished a weapon. Despite the work of the trial team (which sources inform me had ample factual and legal grounds for bringing the case against additional defendants), the Justice Department now says that unnamed career attorneys determined that it should drop the case against those additional defendants. And, of course, the response says politics played no role in the decision. Asked whether the No. 3 man in the Justice Department, Thomas Perrelli, was involved in the decision, as the Washington Times reported, the Justice Department provided no answer, only series of objections. Likewise, the most transparent administration in history — or so we are told — declines to provide the names of those career attorneys who were the decision makers. And at least for now, the Justice Department is not coughing up the names of civil rights groups that may have encouraged them to drop the case against the additional defendants.

In short, the commission is being stiffed. The Obama administration isn’t explaining anything to anyone, but the commission, not to be deterred, is nevertheless plunging forward. A public hearing at which witnesses are to be called has now been noticed for February 12. At the commission’s next meeting, this Friday, witnesses may be selected. Meanwhile, tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will take up Rep. Frank Wolf’s Resolution No. 894, seeking to direct “the Attorney General to transmit to the House of Representatives all information in the Attorney General’s possession relating to the decision to dismiss United States v. New Black Panther Party.” Well, that’s going nowhere, but it will be interesting to hear liberals — who fancy themselves defenders of civil rights — explain why they don’t want to find out what the Justice Department was up to when it declined to prosecute all the defendants who participated in an egregious case of voter intimidation.

For now the Obama team continues its favorite modus operandi — not telling anyone anything about what it does. After all, they won the election, right? And this is what “de-politicizing” the administration of justice looks like. Who knew?

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Re: The Touch of Political Death

Harold Ford Jr. is no dummy. Writing in the New York Post, he tells New Yorkers he’s not going to let the White House chase him out of the race. In fact, he’s going to use its opposition to his advantage:

Some have already questioned whether I should be running. Others are falsifying my record in public life. New Yorkers deserve a free election. New Yorkers expect a politics where politicians do what’s right based on independent judgment, free of political bosses trying to dictate.

Obama is a political boss? Well, yes. He and Rahm Emanuel are, if nothing else, well practiced in Chicago politics, so I think “bosses” is a term chosen well and that aptly conjures up the image of corruption and contempt for democracy that has voters of all parties upset these days. He also takes time to clarify his stance on hot-button issues that have the netroots in a tizzy. He pledged fidelity to three of the touchstones of the Left: abortion rights, gay rights, and support for Big Labor. (This is a Democratic primary, and it is New York, after all.) And he says he’s been living there for three years, about three years longer than Hillary Clinton before her run for office.

What he has going for him is that he’s not in office, didn’t vote for Cash for Cloture, and hasn’t run Right as a representative and then Left as a senator, as Kirsten Gillibrand did. He’s no Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose name he invokes. But he’s not been there for the last year as voters have become disgusted with the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine. And that may be all he needs. It looks like New Yorkers are going to have a very interesting primary. If Gillibrand were smart, she’d tell the White House to butt out. She has enough problems without another reminder that she is, for purposes of this race, the Washington Insider: not a good thing to be.

Harold Ford Jr. is no dummy. Writing in the New York Post, he tells New Yorkers he’s not going to let the White House chase him out of the race. In fact, he’s going to use its opposition to his advantage:

Some have already questioned whether I should be running. Others are falsifying my record in public life. New Yorkers deserve a free election. New Yorkers expect a politics where politicians do what’s right based on independent judgment, free of political bosses trying to dictate.

Obama is a political boss? Well, yes. He and Rahm Emanuel are, if nothing else, well practiced in Chicago politics, so I think “bosses” is a term chosen well and that aptly conjures up the image of corruption and contempt for democracy that has voters of all parties upset these days. He also takes time to clarify his stance on hot-button issues that have the netroots in a tizzy. He pledged fidelity to three of the touchstones of the Left: abortion rights, gay rights, and support for Big Labor. (This is a Democratic primary, and it is New York, after all.) And he says he’s been living there for three years, about three years longer than Hillary Clinton before her run for office.

What he has going for him is that he’s not in office, didn’t vote for Cash for Cloture, and hasn’t run Right as a representative and then Left as a senator, as Kirsten Gillibrand did. He’s no Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose name he invokes. But he’s not been there for the last year as voters have become disgusted with the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine. And that may be all he needs. It looks like New Yorkers are going to have a very interesting primary. If Gillibrand were smart, she’d tell the White House to butt out. She has enough problems without another reminder that she is, for purposes of this race, the Washington Insider: not a good thing to be.

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From King Canute to a Cork in the Ocean

White House political adviser David Axelrod granted an interview to Ron Brownstein of National Journal that qualifies as either hyper-spin or an almost clinical state of denial. For example, Axelrod tells Brownstein, “It’s almost impossible to win a referendum on yourself. And the Republicans would like this to be a referendum. It’s not going to be a referendum.”

Yes it will. When a political party controls the presidency and, by wide margins, the House and the Senate, the midterm election will be a referendum on the stewardship of that party. There’s no way to get around that. What’s particularly revealing is that Axelrod and his colleagues, rather than welcoming a referendum on their year in office, are terribly afraid of it. They know that if the dominant issues of the 2010 midterm election are how well Democrats have governed, they will absorb tremendous damage.

Axelrod makes this point in a slightly different way when he says:

If the question is what we’ve been able to achieve, which I think is substantial, versus the ideal of what people hope for or hoped for, that’s a harder race for us. If the choice is between the things we’ve achieved and we’re fighting for and what the other side would deliver, I think that’s very motivational to people.

In other words, if people measure us against perfection, we will fall short. But people won’t be measuring Obama and Democrats against perfection; they will be measuring him/them against the standards Obama set up — for example, insisting that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent in 2009 (it is now 10 percent); that the stimulus package would “create or save” 3.5 million jobs over the course of two years (2.8 million jobs have been lost since it was signed into law); that the deficit and debt would go down on his watch (Obama’s budget will double the debt in five years and triple it in 10 years); and so forth. Read More

White House political adviser David Axelrod granted an interview to Ron Brownstein of National Journal that qualifies as either hyper-spin or an almost clinical state of denial. For example, Axelrod tells Brownstein, “It’s almost impossible to win a referendum on yourself. And the Republicans would like this to be a referendum. It’s not going to be a referendum.”

Yes it will. When a political party controls the presidency and, by wide margins, the House and the Senate, the midterm election will be a referendum on the stewardship of that party. There’s no way to get around that. What’s particularly revealing is that Axelrod and his colleagues, rather than welcoming a referendum on their year in office, are terribly afraid of it. They know that if the dominant issues of the 2010 midterm election are how well Democrats have governed, they will absorb tremendous damage.

Axelrod makes this point in a slightly different way when he says:

If the question is what we’ve been able to achieve, which I think is substantial, versus the ideal of what people hope for or hoped for, that’s a harder race for us. If the choice is between the things we’ve achieved and we’re fighting for and what the other side would deliver, I think that’s very motivational to people.

In other words, if people measure us against perfection, we will fall short. But people won’t be measuring Obama and Democrats against perfection; they will be measuring him/them against the standards Obama set up — for example, insisting that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent in 2009 (it is now 10 percent); that the stimulus package would “create or save” 3.5 million jobs over the course of two years (2.8 million jobs have been lost since it was signed into law); that the deficit and debt would go down on his watch (Obama’s budget will double the debt in five years and triple it in 10 years); and so forth.

Mr. Axelrod also tells Brownstein that next on his checklist is “finish this health care bill successfully.” And after that? “Then we have to go out and sell it. I think we can run on this.”

The problem is that the president has been trying to “sell” ObamaCare for more than half a year. He has spoken out on its behalf repeatedly and in every forum imaginable. And the more Obama attempts to sell the Democrats’ health-care plan, the more unpopular it becomes. After a prolonged and intense debate on this issue, here’s what they have to show for it: “The president’s marks on handling health care, with reforms still under debate in Congress, are even lower [than his overall job approval rating of 46 percent] — just 36 percent approve, while 54 percent disapprove,” according to the latest CBS News poll. “Both of these approval ratings are the lowest of Mr. Obama’s presidency.”

If Axelrod and the Obama White House really believe the problem here is with their sales job rather than with the product they are trying to sell, then they are living in an alternative universe. ObamaCare is responsible in large measure for the devastating Democratic losses in the Virginia and New Jersey governors races. The political environment is so bad right now that even Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat is viewed by Republicans and Democrats as endangered. This is a remarkable political development.

Finally, Mr. Axelrod says this:

In certain ways we are at the mercy of forces that are larger than things we can control. If we see steady months of jobs growth between now and next November, I think the picture will be different than if we don’t. I think Ronald Reagan learned that lesson in 1982. We’re not immune to the physics of all of this. But I’m guardedly optimistic that we are going to see that progress.

Here’s a pretty good rule of thumb: when senior White House political advisers begin to use phrases like “we are at the mercy of forces that are larger than we can control” and “we’re not immune to the physics of all this,” you can assume they are in deep trouble. That is especially the case for those who work for a president who proclaimed that his victory would mark the moment “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Now Obama and Axelrod portray themselves like corks in the ocean. They invoke the laws of physics to explain why unemployment is in double digits. It turns out it is a quick journey from political messianism to political fatalism.

Axelrod’s words are a revealing (if unwitting) concession: he and his colleagues understand that they are overmatched by events and, in office for less than a year, they are scrambling to find excuses for the problems they face. But the fault, dear David, is not in the stars, but in yourselves. There will be a high political price to pay for this — perhaps starting next week but almost certainly by next November.

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Al-Qaeda’s Resiliency No Excuse to Abandon Afghanistan

Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown had an important report in Sunday’s Washington Post on al-Qaeda’s emerging strategy, which can be glimpsed in such plots as the Christmas Day attempted airplane bombing and the suicide bombing at the CIA base in Afghanistan. He notes that such attacks suggest that al-Qaeda is exceedingly resilient and that reports of its demise are premature:

While the United States remains preoccupied with trying to secure yesterday’s failed state — Afghanistan — al-Qaeda is busy staking out new terrain. The terrorist network sees failing states as providing opportunities to extend its reach, and it conducts local campaigns of subversion to hasten their decline. Over the past year, it has increased its activities in places such as Pakistan, Algeria, the Sahel, Somalia and, in particular, Yemen.

He’s right about al-Qaeda’s ability to fill vacuums in undergoverned countries, but I disagree with the implication that the war in Afghanistan is a distraction from the wider campaign. If we were to lose in Afghanistan, it would become tomorrow’s failed state, as well as yesterday’s, and that would constitute a massive win for al-Qaeda. Among other things, it would further destabilize Pakistan, which is already facing a horrific threat. (A new think-tank report finds that in Pakistan, “terrorist attacks killed 3,021 people and injured 7,334 in 2009. There were 87 suicide bombings amid 2,586 terrorist strikes, a 45 percent increase over the previous year.”)

The answer isn’t to give up in Afghanistan but to do better on those other battlefields where we will have to fight without benefit of large numbers of our own ground troops.

Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown had an important report in Sunday’s Washington Post on al-Qaeda’s emerging strategy, which can be glimpsed in such plots as the Christmas Day attempted airplane bombing and the suicide bombing at the CIA base in Afghanistan. He notes that such attacks suggest that al-Qaeda is exceedingly resilient and that reports of its demise are premature:

While the United States remains preoccupied with trying to secure yesterday’s failed state — Afghanistan — al-Qaeda is busy staking out new terrain. The terrorist network sees failing states as providing opportunities to extend its reach, and it conducts local campaigns of subversion to hasten their decline. Over the past year, it has increased its activities in places such as Pakistan, Algeria, the Sahel, Somalia and, in particular, Yemen.

He’s right about al-Qaeda’s ability to fill vacuums in undergoverned countries, but I disagree with the implication that the war in Afghanistan is a distraction from the wider campaign. If we were to lose in Afghanistan, it would become tomorrow’s failed state, as well as yesterday’s, and that would constitute a massive win for al-Qaeda. Among other things, it would further destabilize Pakistan, which is already facing a horrific threat. (A new think-tank report finds that in Pakistan, “terrorist attacks killed 3,021 people and injured 7,334 in 2009. There were 87 suicide bombings amid 2,586 terrorist strikes, a 45 percent increase over the previous year.”)

The answer isn’t to give up in Afghanistan but to do better on those other battlefields where we will have to fight without benefit of large numbers of our own ground troops.

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Smart Diplomacy — Watch Out!

Watch out when the Obami use the word smart — or even worse, smarter. It usually means something very silly is in the cards. And it denotes an air of condescension — as if others who came before them practiced dumb or dumber diplomacy and their critics are opposed to being smart. “Smarter diplomacy,” however, brought us such dumb ideas as downplaying human rights, engaging Iran for a year, bullying Israel, backing Hugo Chavez’s lackey in Honduras, and pulling the rug out from under our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic. But the Obami aren’t done being smart. Hillary Clinton tells us what’s in store on Iran sanctions:

”It is clear that there is a relatively small group of decision makers inside Iran,” she told reporters traveling with her on the first leg of a nine-day trip across the Pacific. ”They are in both political and commercial relationships, and if we can create a sanctions track that targets those who actually make the decisions, we think that is a smarter way to do sanctions. But all that is yet to be decided upon.” …

Clinton mentioned that the meeting, of representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France — plus Germany would meet at the end of the week in New York. She did not cite a specific day. ”They will be exploring the kind and degree of sanctions that we should be pursuing,” she said. She was not specific about those inside Iran who might be targeted with new international sanctions, but her allusion to Iranian leaders with political and commercial ties suggested that she was referring to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite group that is separate from the Iranian military and is charged with protecting the Islamic revolution that brought the clerics to power in 1979.

So with all this time, they haven’t quite decided what would be smart. But they’re positive they can focus like a laser on just the right bad guys, because bad guys rarely know how to set up middle men and third-party relations to evade detection. And even smarter yet, we don’t have any date in mind. Brilliant, huh?

Actually it’s appalling. And it suggests that the Obami were never serious about crippling sanctions to begin with. Apparently they were interested in stringing engagement along until no one could quite keep a straight face. Now it seems that the Obama administration has no interest in regime change and no interest in exacting meaningful sanctions that might alter the mullahs’ nuclear plans. But maybe we all aren’t smart enough to figure out how this is going to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Because it sure looks like the next declaration of “smart” diplomacy will be an admonition that we have to live with Iran in the club of nuclear powers.

Watch out when the Obami use the word smart — or even worse, smarter. It usually means something very silly is in the cards. And it denotes an air of condescension — as if others who came before them practiced dumb or dumber diplomacy and their critics are opposed to being smart. “Smarter diplomacy,” however, brought us such dumb ideas as downplaying human rights, engaging Iran for a year, bullying Israel, backing Hugo Chavez’s lackey in Honduras, and pulling the rug out from under our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic. But the Obami aren’t done being smart. Hillary Clinton tells us what’s in store on Iran sanctions:

”It is clear that there is a relatively small group of decision makers inside Iran,” she told reporters traveling with her on the first leg of a nine-day trip across the Pacific. ”They are in both political and commercial relationships, and if we can create a sanctions track that targets those who actually make the decisions, we think that is a smarter way to do sanctions. But all that is yet to be decided upon.” …

Clinton mentioned that the meeting, of representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France — plus Germany would meet at the end of the week in New York. She did not cite a specific day. ”They will be exploring the kind and degree of sanctions that we should be pursuing,” she said. She was not specific about those inside Iran who might be targeted with new international sanctions, but her allusion to Iranian leaders with political and commercial ties suggested that she was referring to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite group that is separate from the Iranian military and is charged with protecting the Islamic revolution that brought the clerics to power in 1979.

So with all this time, they haven’t quite decided what would be smart. But they’re positive they can focus like a laser on just the right bad guys, because bad guys rarely know how to set up middle men and third-party relations to evade detection. And even smarter yet, we don’t have any date in mind. Brilliant, huh?

Actually it’s appalling. And it suggests that the Obami were never serious about crippling sanctions to begin with. Apparently they were interested in stringing engagement along until no one could quite keep a straight face. Now it seems that the Obama administration has no interest in regime change and no interest in exacting meaningful sanctions that might alter the mullahs’ nuclear plans. But maybe we all aren’t smart enough to figure out how this is going to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Because it sure looks like the next declaration of “smart” diplomacy will be an admonition that we have to live with Iran in the club of nuclear powers.

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You’re Not Going to Believe This, But…

Yet another “human rights” NGO has been caught trafficking in made-up statistics. As Yaacov Lozowick and Elder of Ziyon report, Addameer, a Palestinian “prisoners’ rights” NGO, has been inflating the number of Palestinians it claims have been arrested by Israel to a point of total absurdity:

For Addameer’s numbers to be accurate, Israel would be arresting some 10,000 people a month. Yet the PCHR [Palestinian Centre for Human Rights — no PR operation for Israel by any stretch of the imagination] says that the number of arrests was 23 last week, 26 the previous week, 23 the week before and 17 the week before that – for a total of less than 100 people a month.

And B’Tselem says that “about 6,831 Palestinians were held in Israel as of the end of December ’09.” How could only 6,800 Palestinians be held in Israel if the IDF is arresting 10,000 Palestinians per month?

Addameer not only made up the initial numbers but they keep grossly inflating them, confident that their anti-Israel audience will lap them up without question.

Precisely right: click here for an example of a prominent anti-Israel blog spreading the lie. (Naturally, this site is also the first link in the “Daily Reads” section of Stephen Walt’s blog.) This claim appears in the Goldstone Report and has been cited by everyone from UN “Special Rapporteur” John Dugard to Jimmy Carter to Time magazine.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the international press and NGOs such as Addameer: the NGOs supply reporters with context, anecdotes, and “data” they can use to bolster the preferred narrative, which is Israeli cruelty and Palestinian victimhood. In exchange, the press sanitizes the NGOs with credulous and often celebratory media attention, transforming what are in fact small and disreputable groups of political activists into sources of objective information. It remains true that hacks will always cover for hacks.

Yet another “human rights” NGO has been caught trafficking in made-up statistics. As Yaacov Lozowick and Elder of Ziyon report, Addameer, a Palestinian “prisoners’ rights” NGO, has been inflating the number of Palestinians it claims have been arrested by Israel to a point of total absurdity:

For Addameer’s numbers to be accurate, Israel would be arresting some 10,000 people a month. Yet the PCHR [Palestinian Centre for Human Rights — no PR operation for Israel by any stretch of the imagination] says that the number of arrests was 23 last week, 26 the previous week, 23 the week before and 17 the week before that – for a total of less than 100 people a month.

And B’Tselem says that “about 6,831 Palestinians were held in Israel as of the end of December ’09.” How could only 6,800 Palestinians be held in Israel if the IDF is arresting 10,000 Palestinians per month?

Addameer not only made up the initial numbers but they keep grossly inflating them, confident that their anti-Israel audience will lap them up without question.

Precisely right: click here for an example of a prominent anti-Israel blog spreading the lie. (Naturally, this site is also the first link in the “Daily Reads” section of Stephen Walt’s blog.) This claim appears in the Goldstone Report and has been cited by everyone from UN “Special Rapporteur” John Dugard to Jimmy Carter to Time magazine.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the international press and NGOs such as Addameer: the NGOs supply reporters with context, anecdotes, and “data” they can use to bolster the preferred narrative, which is Israeli cruelty and Palestinian victimhood. In exchange, the press sanitizes the NGOs with credulous and often celebratory media attention, transforming what are in fact small and disreputable groups of political activists into sources of objective information. It remains true that hacks will always cover for hacks.

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Crist Doesn’t Seem to Get It

The St. Petersburg Times reports:

Republican Party activists in his own county of Pinellas, many of whom have been campaigning alongside Crist for years, on Monday overwhelmingly declared that they prefer Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate. The 106-54 “straw poll” vote is officially meaningless, but it’s a symbolic blow for Crist. After all, many of the people lining up to cast secret ballots against Crist on Monday night at Tucson’s restaurant were the party activists who know him best.

The standard operating procedure for a candidate when he loses one of these straw polls is to declare it meaningless and say he didn’t try all that hard. But here Crist did try, because he knows the perception is out there that his campaign has hit the skids. (“Before Monday night’s nonbinding vote, Crist supporters worked phones to line up support and sent mailers to executive committee members touting Crist’s conservative principles.”) But not to worry, say the Crist people. They’ve got this wired. As for all those activists, a Crist insider sniffs, “These tea party people don’t really grasp consensus politics.”

Rather, it seems that it’s Crist’s people who don’t grasp — or can’t relate to — the conservative grassroots activists:

Longtime Crist supporter Margie Milford, recalling how Crist keeps phoning her lately to check on the health of her ailing husband, lamented that the governor is being buffeted by angry forces in the GOP.

“It’s a group of people, they’re dissatisfied, they’re angry. They don’t know who to take it out on, so they’re taking it out on Charlie Crist,” she said. “When all is said and done, I think they’ll realize he has them in his heart.”

Actually, they do know whom to take it out on — Obama, his agenda, and the go-alongism that Crist seemed to represent. What’s so striking is the degree to which Crist’s campaign seems to be apart from and the victim of, rather than the beneficiary of, the excitement and enthusiasm sweeping the GOP ranks. He’s managed to get on the wrong side of those people most likely to turn out in a primary and who will be vital to securing a win in November. First by policy misstep (embracing the stimulus plan) and now in the disdainful tone permeating his campaign, Crist is communicating that he really doesn’t understand the populist, anti- big-government fervor that’s now the dominate ethos in the Republican party.

Can he reverse course and figure out how to appeal to both GOP-establishment types and those activists for whom his supporters express such scorn? He’ll have to, or Marco Rubio will be the upset nominee and the new darling of those Tea Party activists.

The St. Petersburg Times reports:

Republican Party activists in his own county of Pinellas, many of whom have been campaigning alongside Crist for years, on Monday overwhelmingly declared that they prefer Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate. The 106-54 “straw poll” vote is officially meaningless, but it’s a symbolic blow for Crist. After all, many of the people lining up to cast secret ballots against Crist on Monday night at Tucson’s restaurant were the party activists who know him best.

The standard operating procedure for a candidate when he loses one of these straw polls is to declare it meaningless and say he didn’t try all that hard. But here Crist did try, because he knows the perception is out there that his campaign has hit the skids. (“Before Monday night’s nonbinding vote, Crist supporters worked phones to line up support and sent mailers to executive committee members touting Crist’s conservative principles.”) But not to worry, say the Crist people. They’ve got this wired. As for all those activists, a Crist insider sniffs, “These tea party people don’t really grasp consensus politics.”

Rather, it seems that it’s Crist’s people who don’t grasp — or can’t relate to — the conservative grassroots activists:

Longtime Crist supporter Margie Milford, recalling how Crist keeps phoning her lately to check on the health of her ailing husband, lamented that the governor is being buffeted by angry forces in the GOP.

“It’s a group of people, they’re dissatisfied, they’re angry. They don’t know who to take it out on, so they’re taking it out on Charlie Crist,” she said. “When all is said and done, I think they’ll realize he has them in his heart.”

Actually, they do know whom to take it out on — Obama, his agenda, and the go-alongism that Crist seemed to represent. What’s so striking is the degree to which Crist’s campaign seems to be apart from and the victim of, rather than the beneficiary of, the excitement and enthusiasm sweeping the GOP ranks. He’s managed to get on the wrong side of those people most likely to turn out in a primary and who will be vital to securing a win in November. First by policy misstep (embracing the stimulus plan) and now in the disdainful tone permeating his campaign, Crist is communicating that he really doesn’t understand the populist, anti- big-government fervor that’s now the dominate ethos in the Republican party.

Can he reverse course and figure out how to appeal to both GOP-establishment types and those activists for whom his supporters express such scorn? He’ll have to, or Marco Rubio will be the upset nominee and the new darling of those Tea Party activists.

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A Whiff of Desperation in Massachusetts

Byron York relates this amusing account of the latest pull-out-all-the-stops frantic effort by Democrats in Massachusetts:

Frantic over the possibility that a Democrat might lose the race to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, the Democratic National Committee has sent its top spinner, Hari Sevugan, to the aid of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, who appears to be rapidly losing ground to Republican Scott Brown. But what can Sevugan do to shore up Coakley’s struggling campaign? Well, he spent his first day on the job trying to tie Brown to Sarah Palin.

Early Monday afternoon, Sevugan sent out an email to reporters featuring a link to a story on the lefty website TPM. The headline: “Is Sarah Palin Avoiding Mass Senate Race?” The story quoted a Democratic strategist saying that “it’s interesting” that Palin is “nowhere to be found in this race.” TPM conceded that GOP sources say there has been “no talk” about Palin visiting Massachusetts. But that didn’t stop Sevugan, who is quoted declaring that Palin’s supporters “are anxious for her to weigh in.” At the top of his email to journalists, Sevugan wrote, “Come on, Sarah, why are you being so shy?”

And that was just the beginning, it seems, of Sevugan’s “scare the voters with Sarah” e-mails. So what does this tells us? Perhaps that the race is in fact much closer than Democrats, already smarting from a run of bad news, can take. Maybe that they’re reduced to high school tactics because the party, a mere year into the presidency of the man who was to revolutionize politics, is mired is sleazy old-school politics and is largely bereft of ideas other than “spend more money and raise taxes.” It might also signify that George W. Bush is about to be replaced by Palin as the Left’s favorite bogey-person. Not that the Left isn’t planning on running against the “Bush economy” this November, but when they need to go to the well to force their netroots off their couches and out of their moms’ basements, Bush may be losing his usefulness.

Now there’s good reason for Democrats not to talk about issues. In the debate, Martha Coakley managed a “Poland is not controlled by the Soviet Union” gaffe. It concerned her opposition to the surge in Afghanistan:

I am not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the vision in Afghanistan was to go in because we believe the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists, we supported that, I supported that goal. They are gone, they are not there anymore, they are in apparently Yemen and Pakistan. Let’s focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is.

I think even Joe Biden knows there are al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, and of course the president supports the surge. But if the goal is to maximize the ultra-Left vote, then I suppose this, too, will get a few netroots off the couch and to the polls.  But then again, conservatives and independents who think the Christmas Day bombing was a wake-up call to get serious about the worldwide threat of Islamic fundamentalists might be charged up too.

We’ll know next week if Coakley’s cynical campaign can stumble across the finish line. If she manages to win by the standard double-digit margin in Massachusetts, all this will fade into memory. If not, Democrats will be in high panic, although it at least might get Harry Reid off the front pages.

Byron York relates this amusing account of the latest pull-out-all-the-stops frantic effort by Democrats in Massachusetts:

Frantic over the possibility that a Democrat might lose the race to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, the Democratic National Committee has sent its top spinner, Hari Sevugan, to the aid of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, who appears to be rapidly losing ground to Republican Scott Brown. But what can Sevugan do to shore up Coakley’s struggling campaign? Well, he spent his first day on the job trying to tie Brown to Sarah Palin.

Early Monday afternoon, Sevugan sent out an email to reporters featuring a link to a story on the lefty website TPM. The headline: “Is Sarah Palin Avoiding Mass Senate Race?” The story quoted a Democratic strategist saying that “it’s interesting” that Palin is “nowhere to be found in this race.” TPM conceded that GOP sources say there has been “no talk” about Palin visiting Massachusetts. But that didn’t stop Sevugan, who is quoted declaring that Palin’s supporters “are anxious for her to weigh in.” At the top of his email to journalists, Sevugan wrote, “Come on, Sarah, why are you being so shy?”

And that was just the beginning, it seems, of Sevugan’s “scare the voters with Sarah” e-mails. So what does this tells us? Perhaps that the race is in fact much closer than Democrats, already smarting from a run of bad news, can take. Maybe that they’re reduced to high school tactics because the party, a mere year into the presidency of the man who was to revolutionize politics, is mired is sleazy old-school politics and is largely bereft of ideas other than “spend more money and raise taxes.” It might also signify that George W. Bush is about to be replaced by Palin as the Left’s favorite bogey-person. Not that the Left isn’t planning on running against the “Bush economy” this November, but when they need to go to the well to force their netroots off their couches and out of their moms’ basements, Bush may be losing his usefulness.

Now there’s good reason for Democrats not to talk about issues. In the debate, Martha Coakley managed a “Poland is not controlled by the Soviet Union” gaffe. It concerned her opposition to the surge in Afghanistan:

I am not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the vision in Afghanistan was to go in because we believe the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists, we supported that, I supported that goal. They are gone, they are not there anymore, they are in apparently Yemen and Pakistan. Let’s focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is.

I think even Joe Biden knows there are al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, and of course the president supports the surge. But if the goal is to maximize the ultra-Left vote, then I suppose this, too, will get a few netroots off the couch and to the polls.  But then again, conservatives and independents who think the Christmas Day bombing was a wake-up call to get serious about the worldwide threat of Islamic fundamentalists might be charged up too.

We’ll know next week if Coakley’s cynical campaign can stumble across the finish line. If she manages to win by the standard double-digit margin in Massachusetts, all this will fade into memory. If not, Democrats will be in high panic, although it at least might get Harry Reid off the front pages.

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No Way to Run a War

It seems that even on Afghanistan, arguably the high point of Obama’s foreign policy to date (everything in politics is relative), things are not going smoothly. Jamie Fly observes: “With the president having decided to send Gen. McChrystal the bulk of the additional forces he requested, one would think that all is settled, right? Well, it seems that key White House officials don’t think so. They continue to snipe at Gen. McChrystal as he sets out to implement the strategy that the president announced at West Point on December 1.”

First we saw Joe Biden denying that the president had adopted an insurgency strategy and reinforcing the notion that a withdrawal in 18 months would amount to a quick drawdown in forces, not at all what McChrystal, Hillary Clinton, and Robert Gates had explained. Fly notes another round of leaking via the New York Times in which it appears that “White House officials are supposedly upset because an essential component of a fast drawdown in 2011 is getting the initial surge there as soon as possible to begin to make progress. The Pentagon agrees with the need to make progress quickly, but is dealing with real-world logistical challenges of implementing what is essentially a politically-imposed timeline.” Fly concludes that the ever-so-helpful Joe Biden is up to no good:

It seems that Biden et al. are still frustrated that the lost the battle during the Afghanistan policy review (Biden was also on the losing side of the first review back in March as well) and are looking for ways to further their agenda and sow doubt about what can be accomplished prior to July 2011.

This illustrates several unfortunate aspects of the Obama White House, the first being Joe Biden. Yes, he’s Obama’s choice and he’s proved to be a gaffe machine, a policy disaster, and the source of much angst. (Do we think Hillary is betting he’ll be bounced in 2012? ) But more fundamentally, it shows that the president often seems to be a bystander in his own administration. Where is his forceful follow-up on the West Point speech? Why wasn’t he reinforcing McChrystal’s position. Well, recall that no sooner had he delivered the West Point address than he was on 60 Minutes bad-mouthing triumphalism and emphasizing that he didn’t much care for those open-ended commitments. So really, if there’s a vacuum in presidential leadership, we shouldn’t be surprised to see it filled by Biden or others.

And finally, we see how very hard it is for the White House to turn that corner that many conservatives keep spotting. Obama really is stepping up to the plate and embracing the job of commander in chief, we were told. But it’s never quite clear that his heart is in it. He described Afghanistan as “a critical war” . . . but . . . it’s also one the president keeps telling us has a time frame. Obama has backed his military advisers over political flunkies . . . but . . .  he can’t manage to keep the latter under wraps.

If Obama appears to domestic observers to be both conflicted and peripheral in the decision-making process for a “critical” battleground in the war against Islamic fascists, how must all this appear to our Afghan partners? Or to our enemies? Once again, Obama seems to have convinced himself that all that was required on this issue was a single decision and a speech. But of course, being commander in chief requires much more. It entails an ongoing process of rallying the country, explaining our mission, tamping down infighting, publicly supporting our military commanders, and assuring friends and foes that we’re committed to victory. Unfortunately, Obama seems to have other things to do. The country and his own image will suffer as a result.

It seems that even on Afghanistan, arguably the high point of Obama’s foreign policy to date (everything in politics is relative), things are not going smoothly. Jamie Fly observes: “With the president having decided to send Gen. McChrystal the bulk of the additional forces he requested, one would think that all is settled, right? Well, it seems that key White House officials don’t think so. They continue to snipe at Gen. McChrystal as he sets out to implement the strategy that the president announced at West Point on December 1.”

First we saw Joe Biden denying that the president had adopted an insurgency strategy and reinforcing the notion that a withdrawal in 18 months would amount to a quick drawdown in forces, not at all what McChrystal, Hillary Clinton, and Robert Gates had explained. Fly notes another round of leaking via the New York Times in which it appears that “White House officials are supposedly upset because an essential component of a fast drawdown in 2011 is getting the initial surge there as soon as possible to begin to make progress. The Pentagon agrees with the need to make progress quickly, but is dealing with real-world logistical challenges of implementing what is essentially a politically-imposed timeline.” Fly concludes that the ever-so-helpful Joe Biden is up to no good:

It seems that Biden et al. are still frustrated that the lost the battle during the Afghanistan policy review (Biden was also on the losing side of the first review back in March as well) and are looking for ways to further their agenda and sow doubt about what can be accomplished prior to July 2011.

This illustrates several unfortunate aspects of the Obama White House, the first being Joe Biden. Yes, he’s Obama’s choice and he’s proved to be a gaffe machine, a policy disaster, and the source of much angst. (Do we think Hillary is betting he’ll be bounced in 2012? ) But more fundamentally, it shows that the president often seems to be a bystander in his own administration. Where is his forceful follow-up on the West Point speech? Why wasn’t he reinforcing McChrystal’s position. Well, recall that no sooner had he delivered the West Point address than he was on 60 Minutes bad-mouthing triumphalism and emphasizing that he didn’t much care for those open-ended commitments. So really, if there’s a vacuum in presidential leadership, we shouldn’t be surprised to see it filled by Biden or others.

And finally, we see how very hard it is for the White House to turn that corner that many conservatives keep spotting. Obama really is stepping up to the plate and embracing the job of commander in chief, we were told. But it’s never quite clear that his heart is in it. He described Afghanistan as “a critical war” . . . but . . . it’s also one the president keeps telling us has a time frame. Obama has backed his military advisers over political flunkies . . . but . . .  he can’t manage to keep the latter under wraps.

If Obama appears to domestic observers to be both conflicted and peripheral in the decision-making process for a “critical” battleground in the war against Islamic fascists, how must all this appear to our Afghan partners? Or to our enemies? Once again, Obama seems to have convinced himself that all that was required on this issue was a single decision and a speech. But of course, being commander in chief requires much more. It entails an ongoing process of rallying the country, explaining our mission, tamping down infighting, publicly supporting our military commanders, and assuring friends and foes that we’re committed to victory. Unfortunately, Obama seems to have other things to do. The country and his own image will suffer as a result.

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The Touch of Political Death?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The White House is reaching into political races nationwide to urge its preferred candidates to seek election to competitive seats, while helping to nudge weak contenders out of the way, according to party officials familiar with the moves.

It isn’t unusual for a president to pick favorites, but the sense of urgency is heightened this year by Democrats’ sense that a difficult election year lies ahead.

Sometimes this might make sense, as with the effort to push Chris Dodd into retirement and potentially rescue the Connecticut Senate seat that had appeared lost as long as the senator from Countrywide remained in the race. But the danger of White House meddling is three-fold.

First, the appearance on the scene of the White House political hacks has the aura of buzzards circling a bleeding beast. For example:

In Ohio, White House political director Patrick Gaspard has been in conversations with Gov. Ted Strickland, whose approval ratings have slipped and who is facing a challenge from former Republican Rep. John Kasich. Democrats there say the White House is backing Mr. Strickland’s re-election bid but is focused on reigniting the grassroots effort that helped Mr. Obama win there in 2008 and would be necessary for success again in 2012.

Translation: Strickland is in trouble (having gone from a huge double-digit lead to a 9-point deficit in the last Rasmussen poll in his matchup against John Kasich), and the White House has now advertised that to voters and donors alike. No doubt Strickland isn’t pleased to have it known that he’s been paid a visit by the White House fix-it team.

Second, this may not be the year to be the handpicked candidate of Barack Obama. It didn’t do Jon Corzine any good. And that was in a state in which Obama is still relatively popular. Do candidates in Michigan or Ohio really want to be tied to the White House and its agenda? That seemed to work out not at all for Creigh Deeds in Virginia.

And finally, it’s not clear that the White House has the magic touch. It seems that the White House is backing Kirsten Gillibrand against a potential challenge from Harold Ford Jr. (who doesn’t thrill the liberal base), but is Gillibrand really the strongest candidate in the field? (In December, the Quinnipiac poll reported: “New York City Comptroller William Thompson leads incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 41 – 28 percent in a possible 2010 Democratic primary race.”) And recall it was the White House, with the keen political acumen of Joe Biden, that convinced Arlen Specter to switch parties and now is backing him in the Pennsylvania primary, though he’s now tied with Republican Pat Toomey in recent polling.

The White House’s triage efforts are understandable. Democrats may be headed for a shellacking in November, so it’s time to pull out all the stops. But it’s not at all clear that candidates selected by the White House will fare any better than those whom Democratic voters, through a normal primary process, may select. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Democrats are in trouble in no small part because of the White House’s hyper-partisan tone, ultra-left-wing agenda, and fixation on a health-care bill the country doesn’t want. Democrats might do better if they distanced themselves from Obama and found candidates who weren’t propped up by the gang that thought ObamaCare and cap-and-trade were political winners.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The White House is reaching into political races nationwide to urge its preferred candidates to seek election to competitive seats, while helping to nudge weak contenders out of the way, according to party officials familiar with the moves.

It isn’t unusual for a president to pick favorites, but the sense of urgency is heightened this year by Democrats’ sense that a difficult election year lies ahead.

Sometimes this might make sense, as with the effort to push Chris Dodd into retirement and potentially rescue the Connecticut Senate seat that had appeared lost as long as the senator from Countrywide remained in the race. But the danger of White House meddling is three-fold.

First, the appearance on the scene of the White House political hacks has the aura of buzzards circling a bleeding beast. For example:

In Ohio, White House political director Patrick Gaspard has been in conversations with Gov. Ted Strickland, whose approval ratings have slipped and who is facing a challenge from former Republican Rep. John Kasich. Democrats there say the White House is backing Mr. Strickland’s re-election bid but is focused on reigniting the grassroots effort that helped Mr. Obama win there in 2008 and would be necessary for success again in 2012.

Translation: Strickland is in trouble (having gone from a huge double-digit lead to a 9-point deficit in the last Rasmussen poll in his matchup against John Kasich), and the White House has now advertised that to voters and donors alike. No doubt Strickland isn’t pleased to have it known that he’s been paid a visit by the White House fix-it team.

Second, this may not be the year to be the handpicked candidate of Barack Obama. It didn’t do Jon Corzine any good. And that was in a state in which Obama is still relatively popular. Do candidates in Michigan or Ohio really want to be tied to the White House and its agenda? That seemed to work out not at all for Creigh Deeds in Virginia.

And finally, it’s not clear that the White House has the magic touch. It seems that the White House is backing Kirsten Gillibrand against a potential challenge from Harold Ford Jr. (who doesn’t thrill the liberal base), but is Gillibrand really the strongest candidate in the field? (In December, the Quinnipiac poll reported: “New York City Comptroller William Thompson leads incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 41 – 28 percent in a possible 2010 Democratic primary race.”) And recall it was the White House, with the keen political acumen of Joe Biden, that convinced Arlen Specter to switch parties and now is backing him in the Pennsylvania primary, though he’s now tied with Republican Pat Toomey in recent polling.

The White House’s triage efforts are understandable. Democrats may be headed for a shellacking in November, so it’s time to pull out all the stops. But it’s not at all clear that candidates selected by the White House will fare any better than those whom Democratic voters, through a normal primary process, may select. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Democrats are in trouble in no small part because of the White House’s hyper-partisan tone, ultra-left-wing agenda, and fixation on a health-care bill the country doesn’t want. Democrats might do better if they distanced themselves from Obama and found candidates who weren’t propped up by the gang that thought ObamaCare and cap-and-trade were political winners.

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Aid to Israel: The Story in Numbers

While everyone over here in Israel is tittering over the question of whether George Mitchell did or did not threaten to cut back on American aid to Israel if there is no progress in peace talks, it might be worth getting a little perspective on what those numbers actually look like, both for Israelis and for Americans.

In 1985, the year Israel started receiving such high levels of American aid, U.S. taxpayers gave Israel about $3.4 billion in economic and military grants. That year, Israel’s GDP stood at about $24.1 billion in current dollars. American aid constituted about 14 percent of Israel’s GDP — an enormous amount of support for a country struggling with both a severe economic crisis and an ongoing war in Lebanon.

In 1996, the year Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress and declared his aim of ending Israel’s dependence on American aid, total grants came to $3.1 billion, while Israel’s GDP stood at $105 billion. U.S. aid was then only about 3 percent of Israel’s GDP.

In 2008, U.S. aid was down to about $2.4 billion, while Israel’s GDP was up to $199 billion. We’re talking about 1.2 percent of Israel’s GDP.

So whereas nobody would consider $2.4 billion a trivial amount of money, the economic significance of that aid has dropped dramatically, as far as Israelis are concerned. Israel’s “dependence” on American aid is not zero, but it’s heading there.

But what about American taxpayers? Here, too, we see a dramatic drop in economic significance as measured as a portion of the U.S. federal budget. In 1985, the $3.4 billion was out of an overall budget of some $947 billion — or 0.35 percent. In 2008, Israel received $2.4 billion out of a total budget of $2.99 trillion — which looks like 0.08 percent, or less than one one-thousandth. A similar drop is seen when comparing the aid against the overall GDP of the United States: from about 0.081 percent down to 0.016 percent. So while the Israelis feel the lift of American aid less than a tenth as much as they used to, Americans feel its bite less than a quarter of what they used to.

At the same time, the makeup of U.S. aid has shifted dramatically as well. If in 1985, aid was about three-fifths economic and two-fifths military, in 2008 economic aid was down to just $120 million, with the rest as military aid. The shift reflects Israel’s economic success: it no longer needs American charity, and in fact gets very little. Military aid, on the other hand, reflects Israel’s contribution to advancing U.S. strategic interests — a proposition that can be legitimately debated but should not be confused with an anachronistic sentimentality for the plight of struggling Zionist farmers. (Note: I have focused on grants and deliberately left out the billions in military loan guarantees the U.S. makes to Israel, which are not a handout as much as a promise of business for the American military industry.)

Bottom line: U.S. aid to Israel has plummeted in the past two decades by nearly every reasonable measure. And anyone who thinks the Israel lobby is bilking American taxpayers out of a false and outdated sentimentality for Israel’s plight is not paying attention to the numbers. That kind of American generosity ended a while ago.

(Sources: here, here, here, and here.)

While everyone over here in Israel is tittering over the question of whether George Mitchell did or did not threaten to cut back on American aid to Israel if there is no progress in peace talks, it might be worth getting a little perspective on what those numbers actually look like, both for Israelis and for Americans.

In 1985, the year Israel started receiving such high levels of American aid, U.S. taxpayers gave Israel about $3.4 billion in economic and military grants. That year, Israel’s GDP stood at about $24.1 billion in current dollars. American aid constituted about 14 percent of Israel’s GDP — an enormous amount of support for a country struggling with both a severe economic crisis and an ongoing war in Lebanon.

In 1996, the year Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress and declared his aim of ending Israel’s dependence on American aid, total grants came to $3.1 billion, while Israel’s GDP stood at $105 billion. U.S. aid was then only about 3 percent of Israel’s GDP.

In 2008, U.S. aid was down to about $2.4 billion, while Israel’s GDP was up to $199 billion. We’re talking about 1.2 percent of Israel’s GDP.

So whereas nobody would consider $2.4 billion a trivial amount of money, the economic significance of that aid has dropped dramatically, as far as Israelis are concerned. Israel’s “dependence” on American aid is not zero, but it’s heading there.

But what about American taxpayers? Here, too, we see a dramatic drop in economic significance as measured as a portion of the U.S. federal budget. In 1985, the $3.4 billion was out of an overall budget of some $947 billion — or 0.35 percent. In 2008, Israel received $2.4 billion out of a total budget of $2.99 trillion — which looks like 0.08 percent, or less than one one-thousandth. A similar drop is seen when comparing the aid against the overall GDP of the United States: from about 0.081 percent down to 0.016 percent. So while the Israelis feel the lift of American aid less than a tenth as much as they used to, Americans feel its bite less than a quarter of what they used to.

At the same time, the makeup of U.S. aid has shifted dramatically as well. If in 1985, aid was about three-fifths economic and two-fifths military, in 2008 economic aid was down to just $120 million, with the rest as military aid. The shift reflects Israel’s economic success: it no longer needs American charity, and in fact gets very little. Military aid, on the other hand, reflects Israel’s contribution to advancing U.S. strategic interests — a proposition that can be legitimately debated but should not be confused with an anachronistic sentimentality for the plight of struggling Zionist farmers. (Note: I have focused on grants and deliberately left out the billions in military loan guarantees the U.S. makes to Israel, which are not a handout as much as a promise of business for the American military industry.)

Bottom line: U.S. aid to Israel has plummeted in the past two decades by nearly every reasonable measure. And anyone who thinks the Israel lobby is bilking American taxpayers out of a false and outdated sentimentality for Israel’s plight is not paying attention to the numbers. That kind of American generosity ended a while ago.

(Sources: here, here, here, and here.)

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Re: Promises? What Promises?

The confab between Obama and Big Labor bosses didn’t exactly go swimmingly. It seems ObamaCare is not living up to Big Labor’s expectations:

The final bill will not include the House’s government-run insurance plan, or “public option”; it will probably include the Senate’s new tax on high-cost health plans that could affect many union members. …

Three hours earlier, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a hard-edged speech at the National Press Club that discontent with the final bill, when combined with a general perception that Obama and Congress have been insufficiently populist in responding to the recession and financial crisis, could demoralize his members. The risk, he said, was a replay of the Democratic blowout in the 1994 elections, when, after the passage of NAFTA and other disappointments to unions, “there was no way to persuade enough working Americans to go to the polls when they couldn’t tell the difference between the two parties.”

Big Labor’s distaste for the bill is not so strong as to warrant the union bosses’ outright opposition to the bill — though it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t oppose a measure that focuses  taxes on many union members without any obvious benefit. Nevertheless, the warning of unenthusiasm in 2010 is not an empty or insignificant threat. Considering the millions poured into Democratic coffers and the get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Obama and congressional candidates in 2008, it’s no small thing for Big Labor to threaten to sit on its collective hands. Democrats in virtually all polls show a lower level of enthusiasm than do Republicans, who are fired up and eager to throw the rascals out.

So once again we return to the colossal political inanity of ObamaCare. It’s the rare piece of legislation that has inflamed and energized the opposition, and depressed and divided its supporters. Republicans are fortunate indeed. Now we’ll see what, if anything, they can make of the opportunity presented by their opponents.

The confab between Obama and Big Labor bosses didn’t exactly go swimmingly. It seems ObamaCare is not living up to Big Labor’s expectations:

The final bill will not include the House’s government-run insurance plan, or “public option”; it will probably include the Senate’s new tax on high-cost health plans that could affect many union members. …

Three hours earlier, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a hard-edged speech at the National Press Club that discontent with the final bill, when combined with a general perception that Obama and Congress have been insufficiently populist in responding to the recession and financial crisis, could demoralize his members. The risk, he said, was a replay of the Democratic blowout in the 1994 elections, when, after the passage of NAFTA and other disappointments to unions, “there was no way to persuade enough working Americans to go to the polls when they couldn’t tell the difference between the two parties.”

Big Labor’s distaste for the bill is not so strong as to warrant the union bosses’ outright opposition to the bill — though it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t oppose a measure that focuses  taxes on many union members without any obvious benefit. Nevertheless, the warning of unenthusiasm in 2010 is not an empty or insignificant threat. Considering the millions poured into Democratic coffers and the get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Obama and congressional candidates in 2008, it’s no small thing for Big Labor to threaten to sit on its collective hands. Democrats in virtually all polls show a lower level of enthusiasm than do Republicans, who are fired up and eager to throw the rascals out.

So once again we return to the colossal political inanity of ObamaCare. It’s the rare piece of legislation that has inflamed and energized the opposition, and depressed and divided its supporters. Republicans are fortunate indeed. Now we’ll see what, if anything, they can make of the opportunity presented by their opponents.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

First, governors of both parties object to ObamaCare. Now this: “A growing number of state regulators are urging the Obama administration to slow the rollout of proposed federal rules curbing industrial greenhouse-gas emissions, saying the administration’s approach could overwhelm them with paperwork, delay construction projects and undercut their own efforts to fight climate change.” It’s almost like the Obama agenda isn’t popular around the country.

A smart take on the snooty pundit set that looks down its nose at the Tea Party protesters: “Now that the country is run mostly by graduates of Ivy League schools, however, that they look down on the electorate is becoming not only vastly irritating to the electorate but also rather dangerous. Elitism, now, might have adverse political consequences—and a backlash.”

Democrats are sensing that the end of Harry Reid’s Senate career is nearing: “‘He’s in deep trouble, I think,’ said one senior aide to a member of the House Democratic leadership. ‘Even with the apology, no matter what it’s a negative thing. There are a lot of minorities that vote [in Nevada].'” At least some activists would like to try to save the seat: “Markos Moulitsas, the prominent liberal blogger and grassroots activist, went one step further, stating on his Twitter feed that he hoped Reid would not only resign leadership but also retire, ‘so we can hold the Nevada Senate seat.'”

Well, I think the voters will figure out they’re related: “As if Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t have enough problems, say hello to Rory Reid, his eldest son. Looks just like him. He’s running for governor of Nevada. It will be Reid and Reid atop the November ballot in this state, the father running for his sixth term, the son making his first bid at statewide office. So far, this double bill is not going so great. Each candidate is dragging down the other, to look at the polls and listen to the Silver State’s political oddsmakers. And neither is mentioning the other’s campaign.”

Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma thinks his fellow Democrats messed up: ” ‘I think the House Democratic leadership along with the administration made a very large mistake by focusing on a lot of different pieces of legislation that would not do a lot to help the economy,” Boren said. At the top of that list of mistakes, he places health-care legislation, which is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks, and the cap-and-trade measure, which passed the House but is not at this point expected to come out of Washington.” He voted against both, but many of his colleagues walked the plank and may pay the price in November.

When it rains, it pours for the Democrats: “North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) has decided to run for the state’s newly-open Senate seat, a major recruiting victory for Republicans as they seek to expand the playing field in hopes of capitalizing on a national environment that favors their party.”

And Obama may not be able to help incumbent Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level yet in CBS News Polls, and for the first time is below the 50% mark — just 46% now approve of the job he is doing as president.” Only 42 percent of independents approve of his performance.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post has figured out why the Fox deal with Sarah Palin really matters: “Doing TV, Palin will learn how to think on her feet. She should get used to getting to the studio thinking that she’s going to talk about one thing only to find out that she’s talking about something else. She’ll learn how to debate other people in a forum with no real ground rules. And if Palin gets boffo ratings with her occasional specials on people in what she might call the ‘real America,’ we can expect to see her star rise.”

Democrats still think ObamaCare is a winner. The voters? Not so much: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 17% believe passage of the legislation will achieve the stated goal of reducing health care costs. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think it will lead to higher costs. Fifty-two percent (52%) also believe passage of the legislation will lead to a decline in the quality of care. Overall, 40% of voters nationwide favor the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Fifty-five percent (55%) are opposed. As has been the case throughout the debate, those who feel strongly about the issue are more likely to be opposed. Just 19% of voters Strongly Favor the plan while 45% are Strongly Opposed.” Sounds like a political train wreck, but we’ll see.

First, governors of both parties object to ObamaCare. Now this: “A growing number of state regulators are urging the Obama administration to slow the rollout of proposed federal rules curbing industrial greenhouse-gas emissions, saying the administration’s approach could overwhelm them with paperwork, delay construction projects and undercut their own efforts to fight climate change.” It’s almost like the Obama agenda isn’t popular around the country.

A smart take on the snooty pundit set that looks down its nose at the Tea Party protesters: “Now that the country is run mostly by graduates of Ivy League schools, however, that they look down on the electorate is becoming not only vastly irritating to the electorate but also rather dangerous. Elitism, now, might have adverse political consequences—and a backlash.”

Democrats are sensing that the end of Harry Reid’s Senate career is nearing: “‘He’s in deep trouble, I think,’ said one senior aide to a member of the House Democratic leadership. ‘Even with the apology, no matter what it’s a negative thing. There are a lot of minorities that vote [in Nevada].'” At least some activists would like to try to save the seat: “Markos Moulitsas, the prominent liberal blogger and grassroots activist, went one step further, stating on his Twitter feed that he hoped Reid would not only resign leadership but also retire, ‘so we can hold the Nevada Senate seat.'”

Well, I think the voters will figure out they’re related: “As if Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t have enough problems, say hello to Rory Reid, his eldest son. Looks just like him. He’s running for governor of Nevada. It will be Reid and Reid atop the November ballot in this state, the father running for his sixth term, the son making his first bid at statewide office. So far, this double bill is not going so great. Each candidate is dragging down the other, to look at the polls and listen to the Silver State’s political oddsmakers. And neither is mentioning the other’s campaign.”

Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma thinks his fellow Democrats messed up: ” ‘I think the House Democratic leadership along with the administration made a very large mistake by focusing on a lot of different pieces of legislation that would not do a lot to help the economy,” Boren said. At the top of that list of mistakes, he places health-care legislation, which is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks, and the cap-and-trade measure, which passed the House but is not at this point expected to come out of Washington.” He voted against both, but many of his colleagues walked the plank and may pay the price in November.

When it rains, it pours for the Democrats: “North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) has decided to run for the state’s newly-open Senate seat, a major recruiting victory for Republicans as they seek to expand the playing field in hopes of capitalizing on a national environment that favors their party.”

And Obama may not be able to help incumbent Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level yet in CBS News Polls, and for the first time is below the 50% mark — just 46% now approve of the job he is doing as president.” Only 42 percent of independents approve of his performance.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post has figured out why the Fox deal with Sarah Palin really matters: “Doing TV, Palin will learn how to think on her feet. She should get used to getting to the studio thinking that she’s going to talk about one thing only to find out that she’s talking about something else. She’ll learn how to debate other people in a forum with no real ground rules. And if Palin gets boffo ratings with her occasional specials on people in what she might call the ‘real America,’ we can expect to see her star rise.”

Democrats still think ObamaCare is a winner. The voters? Not so much: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 17% believe passage of the legislation will achieve the stated goal of reducing health care costs. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think it will lead to higher costs. Fifty-two percent (52%) also believe passage of the legislation will lead to a decline in the quality of care. Overall, 40% of voters nationwide favor the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Fifty-five percent (55%) are opposed. As has been the case throughout the debate, those who feel strongly about the issue are more likely to be opposed. Just 19% of voters Strongly Favor the plan while 45% are Strongly Opposed.” Sounds like a political train wreck, but we’ll see.

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