Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 13, 2010

Fortunate to Have These Opponents

Give Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein credit. He doesn’t think much of the flap over Harry Reid’s racial remarks. He has bigger fish to fry:

But the most damning indictment to emerge from the mess was the Democrats’ relief at Reid’s survival. Our party knew of his severe limitations before we made him leader–same with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We have watched them consistently hurt the party’s image and undermine its productivity. And while much of the country is now mocking Reid’s obvious liabilities, we cheer his staying in power. Talk about tone-deafness–Reid’s is nothing compared to the Democrats who continue to uncritically accept his and Pelosi’s chronic embarrassments and ineffectiveness.

Ouch. He likes Pelosi even less, declaring that she is “more divisive.” Echoing Republican complaints, he writes:

She doesn’t even bother with the pretense that she is Speaker for the entire House of Representatives. She treats Republicans as the enemy, and they respond in kind, creating a vicious partisan cycle that practically precludes any meaningful negotiating. It also leads much of the country to discount or tune out anything she says before she opens her mouth.

He thinks Obama needs to distance himself from Congress. But the criticism that Reid and Pelosi are hyper-partisan and now subject to being tuned out applies to a large degree to the president as well. All of that poses a problem, a giant one, for Democrats on the ballot in the fall. They can proclaim their “independence,” but when they elect Reid and Pelosi as leaders and vote for the Obama agenda, it will be hard for them to differentiate themselves from the increasingly unpopular triumvirate that is the face of the Democratic party. Republicans will need an agenda and some message refinement, but they have the good fortune to be able to run against the Democratic leadership. As everyone discovered in 2006 and 2008, running against the other guy can be a very effective strategy.

Give Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein credit. He doesn’t think much of the flap over Harry Reid’s racial remarks. He has bigger fish to fry:

But the most damning indictment to emerge from the mess was the Democrats’ relief at Reid’s survival. Our party knew of his severe limitations before we made him leader–same with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We have watched them consistently hurt the party’s image and undermine its productivity. And while much of the country is now mocking Reid’s obvious liabilities, we cheer his staying in power. Talk about tone-deafness–Reid’s is nothing compared to the Democrats who continue to uncritically accept his and Pelosi’s chronic embarrassments and ineffectiveness.

Ouch. He likes Pelosi even less, declaring that she is “more divisive.” Echoing Republican complaints, he writes:

She doesn’t even bother with the pretense that she is Speaker for the entire House of Representatives. She treats Republicans as the enemy, and they respond in kind, creating a vicious partisan cycle that practically precludes any meaningful negotiating. It also leads much of the country to discount or tune out anything she says before she opens her mouth.

He thinks Obama needs to distance himself from Congress. But the criticism that Reid and Pelosi are hyper-partisan and now subject to being tuned out applies to a large degree to the president as well. All of that poses a problem, a giant one, for Democrats on the ballot in the fall. They can proclaim their “independence,” but when they elect Reid and Pelosi as leaders and vote for the Obama agenda, it will be hard for them to differentiate themselves from the increasingly unpopular triumvirate that is the face of the Democratic party. Republicans will need an agenda and some message refinement, but they have the good fortune to be able to run against the Democratic leadership. As everyone discovered in 2006 and 2008, running against the other guy can be a very effective strategy.

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Tennessee Harold Ford’s Not Your Ordinary “Joe”

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

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Google’s Moral Triumph

Google’s virile decision to stop cooperation with Chinese censors struck a pretty contrast yesterday with Hillary Clinton’s near-simultaneous speech at the East-West Center. While Google bluntly called out a moral conflict, Ms. Clinton’s speech conveniently sidestepped ideology. But those divergent morals and ideas are both powerful and problematic.

Clinton spent her speech focusing on the other sources of power — economic, political, and military. It was diplomatically savvy of her. But while morality and ideology can be approached with subtlety, they are the substance that underwrites American diplomacy. They do not need to be stridently asserted, but if they disappear altogether, America has made the biggest concession of all.

Clinton referred to the “principles that will define America’s continued engagement and leadership in the region” — but her principles seemed grounded in utility rather than moral or ideological commitment. Even her brief bone-toss to human rights fell short: she “applauds” the flaccid ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, in which even Burma has veto power. And without irony, in the subsequent sentence, she advanced her “principle” that “our institutions must be effective and be focused on delivering results.”

Compare that with the lancing statement from Google’s news-making blog. After discovering a hacking attempt that targeted Chinese human-rights activists, Google announced its decision publicly “not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech.” Furthermore, Google wrote, “We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially all our offices in China.”

That was a gutsy statement, and it forces China to take Google seriously. Like the U.S., Google knows it may suffer greatly from impaired relations with China. And like American statesmen and diplomats, the Google executives have rightly attempted for years to uphold both their ethics and their interests.

However, when totalitarian China sits in the same room as democratic America or freedom-reliant business, there are underlying and fundamental differences in ideology and morality. Temporary agreements about specific details of the relationship — though often necessary and even good — do not mean that those conflicts have disappeared. Google’s stand against the Chinese Goliath has only increased its international reputation. Hopefully, if the United States is faced with a similar immediate quandary, Hillary Clinton will respond with the same moxie.

Google’s virile decision to stop cooperation with Chinese censors struck a pretty contrast yesterday with Hillary Clinton’s near-simultaneous speech at the East-West Center. While Google bluntly called out a moral conflict, Ms. Clinton’s speech conveniently sidestepped ideology. But those divergent morals and ideas are both powerful and problematic.

Clinton spent her speech focusing on the other sources of power — economic, political, and military. It was diplomatically savvy of her. But while morality and ideology can be approached with subtlety, they are the substance that underwrites American diplomacy. They do not need to be stridently asserted, but if they disappear altogether, America has made the biggest concession of all.

Clinton referred to the “principles that will define America’s continued engagement and leadership in the region” — but her principles seemed grounded in utility rather than moral or ideological commitment. Even her brief bone-toss to human rights fell short: she “applauds” the flaccid ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, in which even Burma has veto power. And without irony, in the subsequent sentence, she advanced her “principle” that “our institutions must be effective and be focused on delivering results.”

Compare that with the lancing statement from Google’s news-making blog. After discovering a hacking attempt that targeted Chinese human-rights activists, Google announced its decision publicly “not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech.” Furthermore, Google wrote, “We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially all our offices in China.”

That was a gutsy statement, and it forces China to take Google seriously. Like the U.S., Google knows it may suffer greatly from impaired relations with China. And like American statesmen and diplomats, the Google executives have rightly attempted for years to uphold both their ethics and their interests.

However, when totalitarian China sits in the same room as democratic America or freedom-reliant business, there are underlying and fundamental differences in ideology and morality. Temporary agreements about specific details of the relationship — though often necessary and even good — do not mean that those conflicts have disappeared. Google’s stand against the Chinese Goliath has only increased its international reputation. Hopefully, if the United States is faced with a similar immediate quandary, Hillary Clinton will respond with the same moxie.

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Who First Said That Universalism Was the Parochialism of the Jews?

I need to make a correction to my post about faux Jewish-Arab dialogue from last Friday. In it I quoted the distinguished American literary critic Edward Alexander as the author of the quip that rightly noted, “universalism is the parochialism of the Jews.” The source, or so I thought, for that quote was Alexander’s wonderful 1988 book The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies. However, my memory appears to have betrayed me: a look at the original text revealed that, in fact, on page 101 of that volume, while endorsing the substance of this remark, Alexander credits this insight to writer Cynthia Ozick. My apologies go to both Mr. Alexander and Ms. Ozick.

I need to make a correction to my post about faux Jewish-Arab dialogue from last Friday. In it I quoted the distinguished American literary critic Edward Alexander as the author of the quip that rightly noted, “universalism is the parochialism of the Jews.” The source, or so I thought, for that quote was Alexander’s wonderful 1988 book The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies. However, my memory appears to have betrayed me: a look at the original text revealed that, in fact, on page 101 of that volume, while endorsing the substance of this remark, Alexander credits this insight to writer Cynthia Ozick. My apologies go to both Mr. Alexander and Ms. Ozick.

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Re: Democrats Not Interested

Additional attendees at the hearing advise me that Chairman John Conyers did open the proceedings with a statement. On one hand, he defended the Justice Department, contending that career professionals made the decision to dismiss three Black Panther defendants and that it had turned over all “non-privileged” documents. But he also left the door open just a crack, indicating he would be willing to work with Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf but that the current motion seeking information from the Justice Department was “premature.” Perhaps the Democrats don’t want to be seen as helping to cover the tracks of those in the Justice Department who acted to dismiss a serious voter-intimidation case. Just in case the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights should turn up something, you see.

Following the hearing, Rep. Wolf issued a powerful statement that includes this:

I am deeply disappointed that Judiciary Committee defeated my resolution of inquiry on a party-line vote.  There has been no oversight, no accountability and certainly no transparency with regard to this attorney general and this Department of Justice.

Where is the ‘unprecedented transparency’ that this administration promised?  Where is the honesty and openness that the majority party pledged?  The American people deserve better.

After ignoring my seven letters over seven months and failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the attorney general continues to thwart all efforts to compel an explanation for the dismissal of U.S. v. New Black Panther Party.  DOJ is claiming broad privileges – which many legal scholars question – in order to avoid disclosing any new information regarding this case.  The committee’s failure to approve my resolution has set a troubling precedent.  Is it going to continue to blindly defer to all unsubstantiated claims of privilege from the department?

He also added a few tidbits about the Justice Department’s responses: the department claimed “privilege” and redacted seven pages of a letter Wolf sent to Eric Holder and released publicly on July 31, 2009. It also withheld other letters that it previously said it was prepared to share.

Transparency, it seems, is not the order of the day.

Additional attendees at the hearing advise me that Chairman John Conyers did open the proceedings with a statement. On one hand, he defended the Justice Department, contending that career professionals made the decision to dismiss three Black Panther defendants and that it had turned over all “non-privileged” documents. But he also left the door open just a crack, indicating he would be willing to work with Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf but that the current motion seeking information from the Justice Department was “premature.” Perhaps the Democrats don’t want to be seen as helping to cover the tracks of those in the Justice Department who acted to dismiss a serious voter-intimidation case. Just in case the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights should turn up something, you see.

Following the hearing, Rep. Wolf issued a powerful statement that includes this:

I am deeply disappointed that Judiciary Committee defeated my resolution of inquiry on a party-line vote.  There has been no oversight, no accountability and certainly no transparency with regard to this attorney general and this Department of Justice.

Where is the ‘unprecedented transparency’ that this administration promised?  Where is the honesty and openness that the majority party pledged?  The American people deserve better.

After ignoring my seven letters over seven months and failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the attorney general continues to thwart all efforts to compel an explanation for the dismissal of U.S. v. New Black Panther Party.  DOJ is claiming broad privileges – which many legal scholars question – in order to avoid disclosing any new information regarding this case.  The committee’s failure to approve my resolution has set a troubling precedent.  Is it going to continue to blindly defer to all unsubstantiated claims of privilege from the department?

He also added a few tidbits about the Justice Department’s responses: the department claimed “privilege” and redacted seven pages of a letter Wolf sent to Eric Holder and released publicly on July 31, 2009. It also withheld other letters that it previously said it was prepared to share.

Transparency, it seems, is not the order of the day.

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Obama’s Polling Blues

The raft of bad polling data continues for President Obama. When voters were asked in a CNN/Opinion Research survey published on Tuesday to rate Obama’s performance since taking office, 48 percent judged it a failure while 47 percent saw a success. This corresponds with a new Quinnipiac University poll released today, showing voters split 45-45 on whether Obama’s first year was a success or failure. Earlier this week, a CBS News poll showed Obama’s job approval rating at 46 percent, marking the first time he had polled below 50 percent in that survey. The CBS poll also showed that Obama’s support among independent voters has fallen 10 points in the last few months alone.

Today’s Gallup poll has Obama’s approval rating on the economy – far and away the most important issue for the country – at an anemic 40 percent. His approval rating on health care – the issue he has devoted most of his presidency to – is at 37 percent. These numbers are the lowest of his presidency. In addition, Obama has the highest disapproval rating of any president in the January after the first year in office. And as Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies points out, since Gallup first started measuring presidential job approval, every single president has had a lower job approval on the last poll before their first mid-term election than they did at the beginning of that year.

These data points continue a trend more than half a year old. There is hardly any good news to be found for Democrats anywhere – and things are likely to get worse before they get better. In fact, they may get a whole lot worse for Democrats  sooner than anyone thought just a week or so ago. I have in mind, of course, the Senate race in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, with the latest Rasmussen poll showing Brown within two points of Coakley. (Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote). The conventional wisdom is that the national and state Democratic party has been awakened in the nick of time and that Coakley – with lots of outside help and money – will pull out a victory.

I’m not so sure. She obviously has enormous advantages working in her favor. But the entire feel of this campaign is very bad for Democrats, including the lurching shift from complacency to over-the-top attack ads; the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased more than $550,000 in ads in the Boston and Springfield markets; the need for Coakley to rush down to Washington to speak before a group of lobbyists and special interest groups only a week before the election; the fine, confident performance by Brown in Tuesday’s debate versus the sub-par performance by Coakley; the spontaneous enthusiasm Brown is generating in Massachusetts; and now the roughing up of a Weekly Standard reporter by a Coakley aide/mercenary, exactly the kind of thing Coakley’s campaign does not need.

An enormous backlash against Obama and Democrats has been building in the country for months; that will continue regardless of what happens in Massachusetts on Tuesday. But if Scott Brown pulls out a victory, it would have enormously far-reaching consequences for Democrats and for modern-day liberalism. It would shake their confidence to the core. It would trigger panic and recriminations in the Democratic party. It might convince a few more lawmakers that passing ObamaCare is just about the worst thing they can do. And when combined with the results of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, it would lead many Democrats to conclude that embracing Barack Obama and his brand of liberalism is a political death sentence.

Liberalism’s “sort-of God” is crashing before our eyes. So, it seems, is his party. It is really quite an extraordinary thing to witness.

The raft of bad polling data continues for President Obama. When voters were asked in a CNN/Opinion Research survey published on Tuesday to rate Obama’s performance since taking office, 48 percent judged it a failure while 47 percent saw a success. This corresponds with a new Quinnipiac University poll released today, showing voters split 45-45 on whether Obama’s first year was a success or failure. Earlier this week, a CBS News poll showed Obama’s job approval rating at 46 percent, marking the first time he had polled below 50 percent in that survey. The CBS poll also showed that Obama’s support among independent voters has fallen 10 points in the last few months alone.

Today’s Gallup poll has Obama’s approval rating on the economy – far and away the most important issue for the country – at an anemic 40 percent. His approval rating on health care – the issue he has devoted most of his presidency to – is at 37 percent. These numbers are the lowest of his presidency. In addition, Obama has the highest disapproval rating of any president in the January after the first year in office. And as Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies points out, since Gallup first started measuring presidential job approval, every single president has had a lower job approval on the last poll before their first mid-term election than they did at the beginning of that year.

These data points continue a trend more than half a year old. There is hardly any good news to be found for Democrats anywhere – and things are likely to get worse before they get better. In fact, they may get a whole lot worse for Democrats  sooner than anyone thought just a week or so ago. I have in mind, of course, the Senate race in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, with the latest Rasmussen poll showing Brown within two points of Coakley. (Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote). The conventional wisdom is that the national and state Democratic party has been awakened in the nick of time and that Coakley – with lots of outside help and money – will pull out a victory.

I’m not so sure. She obviously has enormous advantages working in her favor. But the entire feel of this campaign is very bad for Democrats, including the lurching shift from complacency to over-the-top attack ads; the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased more than $550,000 in ads in the Boston and Springfield markets; the need for Coakley to rush down to Washington to speak before a group of lobbyists and special interest groups only a week before the election; the fine, confident performance by Brown in Tuesday’s debate versus the sub-par performance by Coakley; the spontaneous enthusiasm Brown is generating in Massachusetts; and now the roughing up of a Weekly Standard reporter by a Coakley aide/mercenary, exactly the kind of thing Coakley’s campaign does not need.

An enormous backlash against Obama and Democrats has been building in the country for months; that will continue regardless of what happens in Massachusetts on Tuesday. But if Scott Brown pulls out a victory, it would have enormously far-reaching consequences for Democrats and for modern-day liberalism. It would shake their confidence to the core. It would trigger panic and recriminations in the Democratic party. It might convince a few more lawmakers that passing ObamaCare is just about the worst thing they can do. And when combined with the results of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, it would lead many Democrats to conclude that embracing Barack Obama and his brand of liberalism is a political death sentence.

Liberalism’s “sort-of God” is crashing before our eyes. So, it seems, is his party. It is really quite an extraordinary thing to witness.

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Google Grows a Conscience in China. Will Obama?

For the past two decades the Communist government of China has managed the unique trick of expanding its economy while maintaining its iron grip on the political life of the country. Western businesses have become willing accomplices in Beijing’s tyrannical rule in exchange for access to cheap labor and the world’s largest market. This has created a huge surge in China’s economic growth while solidifying the party’s hold on power. But it appears that one large Western company may have had enough. Yesterday, Google announced that it may soon close its Chinese operation as a result of the government’s attempt to hack into its computer system to penetrate the e-mail accounts of human-rights activists.

This is a reversal for Google, since in order to do business in China it had previously agreed to allow Communist censorship of its site in Chinese. That meant that in China, if you did a Google search for phrases such as “Tiananmen Square massacre” or “Dalai Llama,” the response would come up blank. Google had rationalized that the benefits of Google’s resources to ordinary Chinese would outweigh the deleterious effect of their participation in the regime’s thought-control policies. But the recent attacks on Google’s database — part of an ongoing crackdown on dissent and appeals for democracy in China — from sources that are almost certainly controlled by Beijing have convinced Google that there is no way they can continue to operate as an unwitting ally to the world’s largest tyranny. Google says it will attempt to negotiate an agreement with the government to create an uncensored Internet, but if it fails to obtain satisfactory results, it will close their Chinese offices and shut down Google.cn.

This is an important milestone for Westerners doing business in China. The attacks on Google have shown again that for all the opportunity for profit in that vast nation as its economy has opened up, it still lacks the basic premise for a free-market system: the rule of law. Property rights remain at the mercy of an all-powerful state that reserves the right to suppress any individual, company, or group that threatens its monopoly on power. Individuals and companies can certainly do business in China and make money, but they do so only at the mercy of a vicious authoritarian government.

It isn’t clear whether Google is flexing its libertarian muscles in China because of a decision that competing with the more widely trafficked but also more heavily censored local search engine Baidu is pointless or because it feels that it is strong enough to force Beijing to back down. But no matter what the source of their motivation, it’s apparent that the latest provocations by the Communists have convinced Google’s leadership that they must take a stand. And for that they deserve the applause of all believers in civil liberties and freedom. For too long, the vast forces dedicated to accommodation and appeasement of Beijing have sought to convince Americans that Chinese don’t care about freedom and that we shouldn’t lift a finger to help them obtain it. This attitude has been reflected in the Obama administration’s conscious decision to downplay the issue of human rights in our dealings with China. Such weakness hasn’t earned America China’s help on other issues, such as stopping Iran’s nuclear program. But it has resulted in a situation where the Communists think they can do virtually anything to the West and get away with it.

Who would have thought that an Internet company like Google, with much to lose, would show more backbone and commitment to freedom than the government of the United States? Is it too much to hope that Washington can take inspiration from Silicon Valley when it comes to China? Let’s hope that Google sticks to its guns on censorship. Whether it wins and forces Beijing to back down or even if it doesn’t, Google has thrown down the gauntlet of liberty to tyrants in a way that should make all Americans proud. It’s also given our elected leaders an example to follow.

For the past two decades the Communist government of China has managed the unique trick of expanding its economy while maintaining its iron grip on the political life of the country. Western businesses have become willing accomplices in Beijing’s tyrannical rule in exchange for access to cheap labor and the world’s largest market. This has created a huge surge in China’s economic growth while solidifying the party’s hold on power. But it appears that one large Western company may have had enough. Yesterday, Google announced that it may soon close its Chinese operation as a result of the government’s attempt to hack into its computer system to penetrate the e-mail accounts of human-rights activists.

This is a reversal for Google, since in order to do business in China it had previously agreed to allow Communist censorship of its site in Chinese. That meant that in China, if you did a Google search for phrases such as “Tiananmen Square massacre” or “Dalai Llama,” the response would come up blank. Google had rationalized that the benefits of Google’s resources to ordinary Chinese would outweigh the deleterious effect of their participation in the regime’s thought-control policies. But the recent attacks on Google’s database — part of an ongoing crackdown on dissent and appeals for democracy in China — from sources that are almost certainly controlled by Beijing have convinced Google that there is no way they can continue to operate as an unwitting ally to the world’s largest tyranny. Google says it will attempt to negotiate an agreement with the government to create an uncensored Internet, but if it fails to obtain satisfactory results, it will close their Chinese offices and shut down Google.cn.

This is an important milestone for Westerners doing business in China. The attacks on Google have shown again that for all the opportunity for profit in that vast nation as its economy has opened up, it still lacks the basic premise for a free-market system: the rule of law. Property rights remain at the mercy of an all-powerful state that reserves the right to suppress any individual, company, or group that threatens its monopoly on power. Individuals and companies can certainly do business in China and make money, but they do so only at the mercy of a vicious authoritarian government.

It isn’t clear whether Google is flexing its libertarian muscles in China because of a decision that competing with the more widely trafficked but also more heavily censored local search engine Baidu is pointless or because it feels that it is strong enough to force Beijing to back down. But no matter what the source of their motivation, it’s apparent that the latest provocations by the Communists have convinced Google’s leadership that they must take a stand. And for that they deserve the applause of all believers in civil liberties and freedom. For too long, the vast forces dedicated to accommodation and appeasement of Beijing have sought to convince Americans that Chinese don’t care about freedom and that we shouldn’t lift a finger to help them obtain it. This attitude has been reflected in the Obama administration’s conscious decision to downplay the issue of human rights in our dealings with China. Such weakness hasn’t earned America China’s help on other issues, such as stopping Iran’s nuclear program. But it has resulted in a situation where the Communists think they can do virtually anything to the West and get away with it.

Who would have thought that an Internet company like Google, with much to lose, would show more backbone and commitment to freedom than the government of the United States? Is it too much to hope that Washington can take inspiration from Silicon Valley when it comes to China? Let’s hope that Google sticks to its guns on censorship. Whether it wins and forces Beijing to back down or even if it doesn’t, Google has thrown down the gauntlet of liberty to tyrants in a way that should make all Americans proud. It’s also given our elected leaders an example to follow.

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Democrats Not Interested in Voter Intimidation Case Scandal

The House Judiciary Committee took up a resolution forced by Rep. Frank Wolf, calling on the Justice Department to fork over information on its endless, secretive, and (sources with direct knowledge tell me) quite lackadaisical investigation of the Obama Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the New Black Panther Party case. As expected, the resolution was voted down on a party-line vote of 15-14. The House Democrats don’t really seem as though they need to know why the Justice Department wouldn’t enforce the law fully against all defendants (for whom the U.S. government had a default judgment in hand) who intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day, 2008. As Ranking Minority Leader Rep. Lamar Smith explained in his prepared remarks:

No facts had changed. No new evidence was uncovered. The only thing that did change is the political party in charge of the Justice Department. So why would the Obama Administration suddenly drop charges in a case that had effectively been won? It appears that the Justice Department gave a free pass to its political allies—one of the defendants against whom charges were dropped was a Democratic poll watcher. Despite continued requests from Congress, the Justice Department has refused to give any explanation for dropping the charges. The Department’s silence appears to be an admission of guilt. According to media reports, senior political appointees may have overridden the decision of career attorneys. The decision to dismiss charges against political allies who allegedly intimidated voters on Election Day 2008 reeks of political interference.

An observer at the hearing tells me that only Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee bothered to speak out against the motion, claiming that this was just an isolated incident of intimidation (is this a new standard for the enforcement of civil rights?) and going as far as to defend the New Black Panther Party as a good and honorable organization. (I suppose there may be some in the Obama Justice Department who are sympathetic to this view.) She thinks the Obama Justice Department will prosecute anyone guilty of voter intimidation. (Except in this case?)

Republicans took a different position. Rep. Trent Franks wanted to know what the Obama team is hiding and, contrary to his colleague, labeled the New Black Panther Party as a racist organization. Rep. James Sensenbrenner blasted the Justice Deaprtments invocation of privilege as reason to refuse cooperation and said Congress needs to press for answers. (That’s not happening unless the House changes control in November.) Other Republicans emphasized the egregious nature of the case, which was there for all to see on video tape, and went after the recent testimony of Civil Rights chief Thomas Perez, who claimed there was no interference with career lawyers.

This is what passes for congressional oversight these days. As Rep. Smith says, there are certainly grounds for probing further:

Yesterday, 24 hours before this markup, the Justice Department provided the Committee with responses to the Civil Rights Commission’s information requests. These comprise more of the same non-responsive replies the Justice Department provided the Commission and Congress earlier this year. The Department refused to answer, either wholly or in part, 31 of the Commission’s 49 written questions.

The Department is still either unwilling or unable to answer one simple question: what changed between January 2009 and May 2009 to justify walking away from a case of blatant voter intimidation?

But don’t hold your breath. The Democrats who railed against Alberto Gonzales and insisted on investigation after investigation during the Bush administration to uncover some alleged politicization of the administration of justice are now silent. Trust the Obama team, they say. It seems as though if anything is to be learned about this case, it will come from the efforts of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights or those within the Justice Department who are offended by Obama political appointees’ meddling in what should have been a slam-dunk victory for the U.S. government in enforcing civil rights laws.

The House Judiciary Committee took up a resolution forced by Rep. Frank Wolf, calling on the Justice Department to fork over information on its endless, secretive, and (sources with direct knowledge tell me) quite lackadaisical investigation of the Obama Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the New Black Panther Party case. As expected, the resolution was voted down on a party-line vote of 15-14. The House Democrats don’t really seem as though they need to know why the Justice Department wouldn’t enforce the law fully against all defendants (for whom the U.S. government had a default judgment in hand) who intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day, 2008. As Ranking Minority Leader Rep. Lamar Smith explained in his prepared remarks:

No facts had changed. No new evidence was uncovered. The only thing that did change is the political party in charge of the Justice Department. So why would the Obama Administration suddenly drop charges in a case that had effectively been won? It appears that the Justice Department gave a free pass to its political allies—one of the defendants against whom charges were dropped was a Democratic poll watcher. Despite continued requests from Congress, the Justice Department has refused to give any explanation for dropping the charges. The Department’s silence appears to be an admission of guilt. According to media reports, senior political appointees may have overridden the decision of career attorneys. The decision to dismiss charges against political allies who allegedly intimidated voters on Election Day 2008 reeks of political interference.

An observer at the hearing tells me that only Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee bothered to speak out against the motion, claiming that this was just an isolated incident of intimidation (is this a new standard for the enforcement of civil rights?) and going as far as to defend the New Black Panther Party as a good and honorable organization. (I suppose there may be some in the Obama Justice Department who are sympathetic to this view.) She thinks the Obama Justice Department will prosecute anyone guilty of voter intimidation. (Except in this case?)

Republicans took a different position. Rep. Trent Franks wanted to know what the Obama team is hiding and, contrary to his colleague, labeled the New Black Panther Party as a racist organization. Rep. James Sensenbrenner blasted the Justice Deaprtments invocation of privilege as reason to refuse cooperation and said Congress needs to press for answers. (That’s not happening unless the House changes control in November.) Other Republicans emphasized the egregious nature of the case, which was there for all to see on video tape, and went after the recent testimony of Civil Rights chief Thomas Perez, who claimed there was no interference with career lawyers.

This is what passes for congressional oversight these days. As Rep. Smith says, there are certainly grounds for probing further:

Yesterday, 24 hours before this markup, the Justice Department provided the Committee with responses to the Civil Rights Commission’s information requests. These comprise more of the same non-responsive replies the Justice Department provided the Commission and Congress earlier this year. The Department refused to answer, either wholly or in part, 31 of the Commission’s 49 written questions.

The Department is still either unwilling or unable to answer one simple question: what changed between January 2009 and May 2009 to justify walking away from a case of blatant voter intimidation?

But don’t hold your breath. The Democrats who railed against Alberto Gonzales and insisted on investigation after investigation during the Bush administration to uncover some alleged politicization of the administration of justice are now silent. Trust the Obama team, they say. It seems as though if anything is to be learned about this case, it will come from the efforts of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights or those within the Justice Department who are offended by Obama political appointees’ meddling in what should have been a slam-dunk victory for the U.S. government in enforcing civil rights laws.

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ObamaCare Supporters Sink in the Polls

There is more unspinnable bad news for Obama, as Nate Silver would say:

A new Quinnipiac national survey shows the public evenly split on President Obama’s job approval rating. The 45% job approval is his lowest to date in the Quinnipiac poll, and his 45% disapproval rating is his highest.Overall, Obama’s job approval is now 47.6% in the RCP Average and his disapproval is at 45.8%. The public is equally split at 45/45 on the question of whether President Obama’s first year in office was “mainly” a success or a failure. Among the crucial group of registered Independents, 40% view Obama’s first year as a success while 47% view it as a failure.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that at least part of his problem has to do with the health-care bill he is pushing. In the same survey voters disapprove of his handling of health care by a 35-to-58 percent margin.

And speaking of bad news, more of those for Harry Reid: “Support among Nevada voters for embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reelection has fallen even further following disclosure in a new book of remarks he made about Barack Obama during Election 2008.A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Nevada finds Reid earning just 36% of the vote against his two top Republican challengers.” And again, Reid is not only the most visible tone-deaf politician, but also among the most visible allies of Obama’s on health care:

“Reid’s difficulties stem directly from the fact that he is the Majority Leader of the United States Senate,” according to Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “His responsibilities as leader of the Senate Democrats have placed him in a very visible position promoting an agenda that is viewed with some skepticism by Nevada voters.”

With only 39 percent of Nevada voters supporting ObamaCare (and 80-89 percent of those favoring one of Reid’s GOP opponents), it isn’t hard to see why Reid’s seat is now imperiled.

One would think that nervous House and Senate Democrats could figure this out. There is an uncanny correlation — maybe even a relationship of cause and effect! — between a candidate’s support for ObamaCare and his or her collapse in the polls. Really, why risk it? Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel will get very, very mad if ObamaCare stalls out, but it might be the only thing that could save dozens of House Democrats and a handful of Red State senators.

There is more unspinnable bad news for Obama, as Nate Silver would say:

A new Quinnipiac national survey shows the public evenly split on President Obama’s job approval rating. The 45% job approval is his lowest to date in the Quinnipiac poll, and his 45% disapproval rating is his highest.Overall, Obama’s job approval is now 47.6% in the RCP Average and his disapproval is at 45.8%. The public is equally split at 45/45 on the question of whether President Obama’s first year in office was “mainly” a success or a failure. Among the crucial group of registered Independents, 40% view Obama’s first year as a success while 47% view it as a failure.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that at least part of his problem has to do with the health-care bill he is pushing. In the same survey voters disapprove of his handling of health care by a 35-to-58 percent margin.

And speaking of bad news, more of those for Harry Reid: “Support among Nevada voters for embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reelection has fallen even further following disclosure in a new book of remarks he made about Barack Obama during Election 2008.A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Nevada finds Reid earning just 36% of the vote against his two top Republican challengers.” And again, Reid is not only the most visible tone-deaf politician, but also among the most visible allies of Obama’s on health care:

“Reid’s difficulties stem directly from the fact that he is the Majority Leader of the United States Senate,” according to Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “His responsibilities as leader of the Senate Democrats have placed him in a very visible position promoting an agenda that is viewed with some skepticism by Nevada voters.”

With only 39 percent of Nevada voters supporting ObamaCare (and 80-89 percent of those favoring one of Reid’s GOP opponents), it isn’t hard to see why Reid’s seat is now imperiled.

One would think that nervous House and Senate Democrats could figure this out. There is an uncanny correlation — maybe even a relationship of cause and effect! — between a candidate’s support for ObamaCare and his or her collapse in the polls. Really, why risk it? Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel will get very, very mad if ObamaCare stalls out, but it might be the only thing that could save dozens of House Democrats and a handful of Red State senators.

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Something’s Rotten in the State of Israel’s Legal System

Something is deeply wrong with a justice system when mainstream journalists and politicians take it for granted that a suspect’s political views will affect the legal proceedings against him.

Consider the following sentence from a column that appeared Monday in Israel’s left-wing daily Haaretz: “If the attorney general decides to bring charges against Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister may decide that, in his bid to reach a plea bargain that will keep him out of prison, he is better off bringing down the government, and possibly even the Knesset, and disguising himself as a moderate in a government that has Kadima and Labor [two left-of-center parties] at its center.”

The author, Amir Oren, is no right-wing conspiracy theorist; he’s a veteran, left-of-center journalist and star columnist for a respected highbrow daily. And he considers it patently obvious that if Lieberman wants prosecutors to treat him leniently, he would be wise to swerve Left.

Nor is Oren alone in this belief. In 2007, after then prime minister Ehud Olmert appointed Daniel Friedmann, a well-known critic of the Supreme Court’s judicial activism, as justice minister, Yossi Verter wrote in Haaretz: “The justice system … has two alternatives for coping with this blow: hunkering down in its bunker and waiting for the government to change, or speeding up criminal proceedings against Olmert and working with greater vigor to topple him, which would also bring about Friedmann’s departure.”

Like Oren, Verter is a veteran left-of-center journalist and a star Haaretz columnist. And like Oren, he considers it self-evident that legal officials could and would use their prosecutorial powers to oust a politician whose policies they oppose.

And here’s another star Haaretz columnist and veteran left-of-center journalist, Ari Shavit, writing after the 2006 indictment of then Justice Minister Haim Ramon for sexual harassment:

Twelve hours before kissing the soldier identified as H, Haim Ramon sat at a private dinner and joked that he had to be careful, because something was liable to happen to him. Because something has happened to every justice minister who intended to shake up the judicial system the way he did, something that prevented the minister from ultimately filling the post. …

[Another] senior minister, whose lifelong dream has been to serve as minister of justice, decided at the beginning of the week to concede the coveted position because he was convinced that if he didn’t do so, he would shortly find himself questioned under caution in a police investigation. The senior minister … determined that there was no chance that a person known as a critic of the rule of law would be able to serve as justice minister without the rule of law finding a way to distance him from the public arena on some criminal pretext or another.

That mainstream politicians and journalists believe the legal system biased in this fashion is worrying even if they’re wrong. That so many probably wouldn’t believe it were there not some truth to it is even worse. But perhaps most disturbing of all is the lack of concern: it’s just a fact of life, to be noted casually in a column.

Something is deeply wrong with a justice system when mainstream journalists and politicians take it for granted that a suspect’s political views will affect the legal proceedings against him.

Consider the following sentence from a column that appeared Monday in Israel’s left-wing daily Haaretz: “If the attorney general decides to bring charges against Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister may decide that, in his bid to reach a plea bargain that will keep him out of prison, he is better off bringing down the government, and possibly even the Knesset, and disguising himself as a moderate in a government that has Kadima and Labor [two left-of-center parties] at its center.”

The author, Amir Oren, is no right-wing conspiracy theorist; he’s a veteran, left-of-center journalist and star columnist for a respected highbrow daily. And he considers it patently obvious that if Lieberman wants prosecutors to treat him leniently, he would be wise to swerve Left.

Nor is Oren alone in this belief. In 2007, after then prime minister Ehud Olmert appointed Daniel Friedmann, a well-known critic of the Supreme Court’s judicial activism, as justice minister, Yossi Verter wrote in Haaretz: “The justice system … has two alternatives for coping with this blow: hunkering down in its bunker and waiting for the government to change, or speeding up criminal proceedings against Olmert and working with greater vigor to topple him, which would also bring about Friedmann’s departure.”

Like Oren, Verter is a veteran left-of-center journalist and a star Haaretz columnist. And like Oren, he considers it self-evident that legal officials could and would use their prosecutorial powers to oust a politician whose policies they oppose.

And here’s another star Haaretz columnist and veteran left-of-center journalist, Ari Shavit, writing after the 2006 indictment of then Justice Minister Haim Ramon for sexual harassment:

Twelve hours before kissing the soldier identified as H, Haim Ramon sat at a private dinner and joked that he had to be careful, because something was liable to happen to him. Because something has happened to every justice minister who intended to shake up the judicial system the way he did, something that prevented the minister from ultimately filling the post. …

[Another] senior minister, whose lifelong dream has been to serve as minister of justice, decided at the beginning of the week to concede the coveted position because he was convinced that if he didn’t do so, he would shortly find himself questioned under caution in a police investigation. The senior minister … determined that there was no chance that a person known as a critic of the rule of law would be able to serve as justice minister without the rule of law finding a way to distance him from the public arena on some criminal pretext or another.

That mainstream politicians and journalists believe the legal system biased in this fashion is worrying even if they’re wrong. That so many probably wouldn’t believe it were there not some truth to it is even worse. But perhaps most disturbing of all is the lack of concern: it’s just a fact of life, to be noted casually in a column.

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Pundit, Heal Yourself

Kathleen Parker pronounces of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin that “it is impossible to argue that these two women were not treated unfairly, often cruelly, by both the media and the public — and even by their own campaigns. What gets leveled at women is of a different order than what men endure — and no woman in the public arena would insist otherwise.”

Hmm. Do we have some examples of that? This is what Parker wrote on October 24, 2008:

One does not have to be a psychoanalyst to reckon that McCain was smitten . . .But there can be no denying that McCain’s selection of her over others far more qualified — and his mind-boggling lack of attention to details that matter — suggests other factors at work. His judgment may have been clouded by . . . what?

Suggesting that Palin got on the ticket by seducing (not literally, she hastened to add in her 2008 column) McCain, qualifies, I think, as cruel and of a different order than what men are subjected to by the pundit class. Parker wasn’t a fan of Palin, of course, skewering her in particularly vivid terms. (“My cringe reflex is exhausted,” she wrote in September 2008.) She is entitled to her opinion. But it really takes some nerve to now decry the excessive venom with which Palin was attacked: “What’s clear is that women are held to a different standard than men and, when deemed unworthy, are attacked specifically as women according to stereotypes we pretend to shun.” Yeah, exactly.

Kathleen Parker pronounces of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin that “it is impossible to argue that these two women were not treated unfairly, often cruelly, by both the media and the public — and even by their own campaigns. What gets leveled at women is of a different order than what men endure — and no woman in the public arena would insist otherwise.”

Hmm. Do we have some examples of that? This is what Parker wrote on October 24, 2008:

One does not have to be a psychoanalyst to reckon that McCain was smitten . . .But there can be no denying that McCain’s selection of her over others far more qualified — and his mind-boggling lack of attention to details that matter — suggests other factors at work. His judgment may have been clouded by . . . what?

Suggesting that Palin got on the ticket by seducing (not literally, she hastened to add in her 2008 column) McCain, qualifies, I think, as cruel and of a different order than what men are subjected to by the pundit class. Parker wasn’t a fan of Palin, of course, skewering her in particularly vivid terms. (“My cringe reflex is exhausted,” she wrote in September 2008.) She is entitled to her opinion. But it really takes some nerve to now decry the excessive venom with which Palin was attacked: “What’s clear is that women are held to a different standard than men and, when deemed unworthy, are attacked specifically as women according to stereotypes we pretend to shun.” Yeah, exactly.

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Is It Worth Ruining a Career Over?

Politico tries to figure out why a political operative would commit career suicide. The subject is Steve Schmidt, who seems to be willing to trade any chance to work on a future presidential campaign (perhaps any prominent GOP campaign) for the opportunity to bash the former vice-presidential candidate whom he helped select. He’s been on a tear, even before the campaign ended, to berate and insult Sarah Palin. His behavior is all the stranger because she, of course, happens to be, while a lightning rod outside the party, quite popular within it. This makes his attack on her the equivalent of a “Don’t Hire Me!” sign. And then there’s the crassness, the disloyalty, and the sheer lowness of savaging someone with whom you served as a campaign adviser. So why do it?

Paul Begala is all for it: “He played a real role in putting Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency. I wonder if he feels bad about it.”

But then, Clintonistas aren’t known for loyalty, so it probably doesn’t strike any discordant tone that Schmidt would go after his former client. Still, Begala has a point (by way of Palin-bashing): if we believe Schmidt that Palin was such a horrible choice, then he’s a horrible campaign strategist and should not have aided and abetted John McCain in selecting her.

John Ziegler comes back to the inevitable result of Schmidt’s vendetta: “Why would anyone hire Steve Schmidt? He’s tried to torpedo the most popular Republican that there is after running a horrendous presidential campaign.” Well, yes. But maybe Schmidt just can’t help himself. He was the man, after all, who practically burst into flames when — heaven forbid! — the New York Times treated his candidate harshly. He doesn’t seem like someone who knows when he’s being counterproductive or when to curb his anger. Or maybe he’s following the Scott McClellan route, as Ziegler suggests: “I think he’s trying to create a media career, and there is no easier way to do that then by being a Republican who is willing to bash other Republicans.”

Whatever the reason, it’s a reminder that bad campaign advisers can make problematic candidates worse. And a really rotten one will haunt you for years to come.

Politico tries to figure out why a political operative would commit career suicide. The subject is Steve Schmidt, who seems to be willing to trade any chance to work on a future presidential campaign (perhaps any prominent GOP campaign) for the opportunity to bash the former vice-presidential candidate whom he helped select. He’s been on a tear, even before the campaign ended, to berate and insult Sarah Palin. His behavior is all the stranger because she, of course, happens to be, while a lightning rod outside the party, quite popular within it. This makes his attack on her the equivalent of a “Don’t Hire Me!” sign. And then there’s the crassness, the disloyalty, and the sheer lowness of savaging someone with whom you served as a campaign adviser. So why do it?

Paul Begala is all for it: “He played a real role in putting Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency. I wonder if he feels bad about it.”

But then, Clintonistas aren’t known for loyalty, so it probably doesn’t strike any discordant tone that Schmidt would go after his former client. Still, Begala has a point (by way of Palin-bashing): if we believe Schmidt that Palin was such a horrible choice, then he’s a horrible campaign strategist and should not have aided and abetted John McCain in selecting her.

John Ziegler comes back to the inevitable result of Schmidt’s vendetta: “Why would anyone hire Steve Schmidt? He’s tried to torpedo the most popular Republican that there is after running a horrendous presidential campaign.” Well, yes. But maybe Schmidt just can’t help himself. He was the man, after all, who practically burst into flames when — heaven forbid! — the New York Times treated his candidate harshly. He doesn’t seem like someone who knows when he’s being counterproductive or when to curb his anger. Or maybe he’s following the Scott McClellan route, as Ziegler suggests: “I think he’s trying to create a media career, and there is no easier way to do that then by being a Republican who is willing to bash other Republicans.”

Whatever the reason, it’s a reminder that bad campaign advisers can make problematic candidates worse. And a really rotten one will haunt you for years to come.

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The Presidency Is Not a Debating Society

Politico reports:

The general election presidential debates can elect a candidate or send one home. So, it was standing room only at Café Milano as politicos gathered to watch the transfer of power from long-time Commission on Presidential Debates Democratic Co-Chairman Paul Kirk to former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry.“We’ve got to make [the debates] more relevant so that young people enjoy watching them; that’s what we’re going to be working on between now and 2012,” McCurry told POLITICO Monday.

I’ve got a better idea: get rid of the debates. They not only aren’t relevant to young voters; they really aren’t relevant to the job of being president. Like well-prepped standardized test takers, most politicians can get through one of these things after the practice rounds, the coaches, and a healthy amount of memorization. But the ability to get off one-liners, repeat pabulum on cue, and answer any question with the same prearranged answers isn’t really the sort of thing that makes for great leadership or effective presidents.

Moreover, the debates perpetuate the myth that verbal acuity is the most prized quality in a president. It doesn’t hurt, but is it more important that executive prowess, a well-grounded appreciation of America’s role in the world, and a basic understanding of market economics? We’ve spent the past year learning that the answer is an emphatic no.

But the debates have become rituals of campaigns, as indispensable as the convention balloon drop and the suspense surrounding the selection of the VP. So I really don’t think they’re going to disappear entirely. But I think the angst about how to get more voters to watch is pointless. (Debates already get big TV audiences.) We’d do better to think long and hard about why we’ve let the media mavens and political consultants convince us that this is an effective way to assess presidential candidates.

Politico reports:

The general election presidential debates can elect a candidate or send one home. So, it was standing room only at Café Milano as politicos gathered to watch the transfer of power from long-time Commission on Presidential Debates Democratic Co-Chairman Paul Kirk to former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry.“We’ve got to make [the debates] more relevant so that young people enjoy watching them; that’s what we’re going to be working on between now and 2012,” McCurry told POLITICO Monday.

I’ve got a better idea: get rid of the debates. They not only aren’t relevant to young voters; they really aren’t relevant to the job of being president. Like well-prepped standardized test takers, most politicians can get through one of these things after the practice rounds, the coaches, and a healthy amount of memorization. But the ability to get off one-liners, repeat pabulum on cue, and answer any question with the same prearranged answers isn’t really the sort of thing that makes for great leadership or effective presidents.

Moreover, the debates perpetuate the myth that verbal acuity is the most prized quality in a president. It doesn’t hurt, but is it more important that executive prowess, a well-grounded appreciation of America’s role in the world, and a basic understanding of market economics? We’ve spent the past year learning that the answer is an emphatic no.

But the debates have become rituals of campaigns, as indispensable as the convention balloon drop and the suspense surrounding the selection of the VP. So I really don’t think they’re going to disappear entirely. But I think the angst about how to get more voters to watch is pointless. (Debates already get big TV audiences.) We’d do better to think long and hard about why we’ve let the media mavens and political consultants convince us that this is an effective way to assess presidential candidates.

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Wait Till the ObamaCare “Selling” Starts

Juan Williams says of ObamaCare, which contains, at least in the Senate version, the Cadillac tax on generous benefits that’s likely to smack many union workers, who certainly aren’t rich:

I think it passes, and, it’s interesting, the Democrats are the ones at this point who can stop it, and this kind of discussion doesn’t help. And the question is do the unions get so mad at President Obama and say you didn’t live up to the promises you made to us on the campaign trail. You said this would help the working man, and in fact, this may in a very obvious way penalize working people in the country.

Whoa! I thought that as soon as this thing passes, the Democrats are going to be able to explain what’s in it and “sell” Americans on the wonders of ObamaCare. If discussion about what’s in the bill — an excise tax on those making less than $250,ooo, for example — isn’t helpful, then how’s the sales job going to work? Well, they can tout the millions who are going to be insured. But some of those soon-to-be-insured are young voters who don’t want to buy insurance or are principled liberals and conservatives who don’t think we should be marched into the arms of  big insurance companies to buy something under government coercion. Well, they could talk about all those Medicare “savings.” Oh, yikes — seniors might get the idea that their Medicare benefits are getting slashed. It gets tricky, as you can see.

Simply telling voters that something “historic” has been passed isn’t going to wash with most of them. The Reid-Obama-Pelosi triumvirate has convinced itself that Americans will learn to love the bill once they learn what’s in it. But what if they already know, and that’s why they so dislike it and Obama’s handling of the issue?

Juan Williams says of ObamaCare, which contains, at least in the Senate version, the Cadillac tax on generous benefits that’s likely to smack many union workers, who certainly aren’t rich:

I think it passes, and, it’s interesting, the Democrats are the ones at this point who can stop it, and this kind of discussion doesn’t help. And the question is do the unions get so mad at President Obama and say you didn’t live up to the promises you made to us on the campaign trail. You said this would help the working man, and in fact, this may in a very obvious way penalize working people in the country.

Whoa! I thought that as soon as this thing passes, the Democrats are going to be able to explain what’s in it and “sell” Americans on the wonders of ObamaCare. If discussion about what’s in the bill — an excise tax on those making less than $250,ooo, for example — isn’t helpful, then how’s the sales job going to work? Well, they can tout the millions who are going to be insured. But some of those soon-to-be-insured are young voters who don’t want to buy insurance or are principled liberals and conservatives who don’t think we should be marched into the arms of  big insurance companies to buy something under government coercion. Well, they could talk about all those Medicare “savings.” Oh, yikes — seniors might get the idea that their Medicare benefits are getting slashed. It gets tricky, as you can see.

Simply telling voters that something “historic” has been passed isn’t going to wash with most of them. The Reid-Obama-Pelosi triumvirate has convinced itself that Americans will learn to love the bill once they learn what’s in it. But what if they already know, and that’s why they so dislike it and Obama’s handling of the issue?

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The Tea Party Protesters Were There First

Michael Barone makes an interesting observation: “The Obama enthusiasts who dominated so much of the 2008 campaign cycle were motivated by style. The tea party protesters who dominated so much of 2009 were motivated by substance.” Now in fairness to Obama, his undecipherable “we are the change we are waiting for” campaign pabulum has been replaced by standard-fare liberal statism. It may not be new or have a track record of success, but he does at least have “ideas” — tax more, spend more, regulate more, nationalize more, and borrow more.

The tea party activists have been written off by as rage-filled ignoramuses — just angry, unthinking riff-raff, the liberal pundits and many candidates have told us. But they miss the point. This is one of the more ideologically driven and, yes, idea-rich, populist movements in a long time. These people have a rather well-developed intellectual framework. As Barone explains:

In contrast, the tea party protesters, many of them as fractious and loudmouthed as David Brooks thinks, are interested in substantive political issues. They decry the dangers of expanding the national debt, increasing government spending, and putting government in command of the health care sector. Their concerns have basis in fact. The national debt is on a trajectory to double as a percentage of the economy over 10 years, and the Democrats’ health care bills threaten to bend the cost curve up. Higher taxes could choke off economic recovery and keep unemployment up near double-digit rates for years. Last year’s stimulus bill surreptitiously raised the budget baseline for many domestic spending programs and sent money to state and local governments — a payoff to the public employee unions who spent more than $100 million to elect Democrats in 2008.

Agree with the tea party folk or not, these are substantive public policy issues of fundamental importance.

Obama and his liberal cheerleaders have alternatively ignored and derided the tea party protesters. Perhaps they should focus on their ideas: limited government, the rule of law, personal responsibility, the end of corporate bailouts, and fiscal sanity. Those views are proving to be increasingly popular with both independents and conservatives. Politicians running in 2010 against Obama will try to systematize these, putting them into a handy list or maybe a new “contract” with voters. But those who have been paying attention rather than writing off the tea party activists know that they’ve been talking about these issues for a year. It just took the chattering class a while to catch up.

Michael Barone makes an interesting observation: “The Obama enthusiasts who dominated so much of the 2008 campaign cycle were motivated by style. The tea party protesters who dominated so much of 2009 were motivated by substance.” Now in fairness to Obama, his undecipherable “we are the change we are waiting for” campaign pabulum has been replaced by standard-fare liberal statism. It may not be new or have a track record of success, but he does at least have “ideas” — tax more, spend more, regulate more, nationalize more, and borrow more.

The tea party activists have been written off by as rage-filled ignoramuses — just angry, unthinking riff-raff, the liberal pundits and many candidates have told us. But they miss the point. This is one of the more ideologically driven and, yes, idea-rich, populist movements in a long time. These people have a rather well-developed intellectual framework. As Barone explains:

In contrast, the tea party protesters, many of them as fractious and loudmouthed as David Brooks thinks, are interested in substantive political issues. They decry the dangers of expanding the national debt, increasing government spending, and putting government in command of the health care sector. Their concerns have basis in fact. The national debt is on a trajectory to double as a percentage of the economy over 10 years, and the Democrats’ health care bills threaten to bend the cost curve up. Higher taxes could choke off economic recovery and keep unemployment up near double-digit rates for years. Last year’s stimulus bill surreptitiously raised the budget baseline for many domestic spending programs and sent money to state and local governments — a payoff to the public employee unions who spent more than $100 million to elect Democrats in 2008.

Agree with the tea party folk or not, these are substantive public policy issues of fundamental importance.

Obama and his liberal cheerleaders have alternatively ignored and derided the tea party protesters. Perhaps they should focus on their ideas: limited government, the rule of law, personal responsibility, the end of corporate bailouts, and fiscal sanity. Those views are proving to be increasingly popular with both independents and conservatives. Politicians running in 2010 against Obama will try to systematize these, putting them into a handy list or maybe a new “contract” with voters. But those who have been paying attention rather than writing off the tea party activists know that they’ve been talking about these issues for a year. It just took the chattering class a while to catch up.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.'”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.'”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

Read Less




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